ChaCha: A Letter From The Director of Public Relations

Hello friends and families, it’s your buddy and goofball Michael here. Or at least, I’m usually one’s buddy and I’m usually a goofball – but I have to be honest right now folks, I’m sick and tired. Sadly, I’m not the sick and tired of the variety that will be resolved by taking a tum and taking a siesta. I’m sick and tired for another reason.

The History

For those who may not know, K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. was founded 11 years ago in the March of 2004 by Debbie Fraker – my mother. She stumbled onto the idea of rescue after a tragic loss in our family: my grandmothers sweet and beautiful rat terrier, Missy. Missy was hardly out of puppy stage when she died just two days before my birthday that year, and I can recall how stagnant and sad of a birthday it was. For many weeks, months after she passed I still believed I saw her darting around the house, but sadly…that was my eyes playing tricks on me I’m sure. I’m sure she’s up at the Rainbow Bridge now with plenty of chew toys and my other dogs that have since passed.

Missy’s death turned my mother onto PetFinder, where she found Katie – a Rat Terrier, Beagle Mix who was in Pennsylvania. Early that March, we drove all the way out to Columbus, Ohio to pick up the new addition to our family. Weeks later…K9 Kindness Rescue was born.

We have rescued over 1,000 animals from high risk shelters, abandonment and surrenders at the time of writing this message. We have helped save the lives of dozens more through petitions for fundraising and back-logging expenses in order to help provide emergency care for dogs and even some cats and small mammals. We have adopted to both coasts, pulled from both coasts, and have even set foot on the shores of Puerto Rico to help save lives, and make happy tails.

Countless hours, countless volunteers, limited funds went into this organization. Blood, sweat, tears…there’s been happiness and grief, joy and sorrow – we’ve seen a lot, but have so much more to see. I cannot recollect how many times my mother has said she was going to quit due to pressure. Probably more than I’d care to remember, but she always remembers that it’s not for her – it’s for the animals. So that those who do not have a voice can be heard. That’s how we all feel. While our volunteers and monies may come and go – I believe the lives we change with the owners will be forever remembered, and that the lives we saved with the dogs we rescue will be forever cherished. That’s why I rescue. That’s why we rescue.

The Rant

You can imagine the passion that goes into what we do here at K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. You can probably gauge it just based off of that last paragraph above. So you can also imagine why it may anger or even infuriate a volunteer or a board member when something they believe in so true, is slandered and falsely accused for wrongdoings that did not occur. Why that anger is present when certain matters come to a head that stop your organization from doing what it was born to do. That same thing is what irritates me, that I have to stop sharing upbeat and happy stories with you, or alert you to things going on – to write a message such as this.

With that out of the way, let us begin to dissect what’s eating at me.

The Unplugged Story

First, let me begin by saying that I like to be totally transparent – and when I say transparent, actually meaning what I say. None of this “behind the scenes” stuff, just…flat out, tell a story just how it is. I’m not going to ask you to message me for the “scoop”, I’m not going to talk behind someone’s back – libel and slander are libel and slander, whether it’s in the earshot of one or thousands of people. If something is the truth, just say it. Now I will agree that not everyone can know every detail of every story, some things get omitted. You can’t have one person literally expel absolutely every word verbatim that was said – or at least if you can find that person, I’d like to meet them to help me on an essay or two.

Next, I am just going to go ahead and put this out there…this is a post regarding ChaCha, a Pit Bull Terrier that was conditionally surrendered to K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. Conditionally?

Due to the nature of Iowa Code (both 162 and 717b), K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. cannot function in the way that a typical rescue would. The animals that are surrendered to us are transferred not to the custody of the rescue as an entity, but to the foster homes they are placed in. So if “George” and “Tina” give up Fido to the rescue, the dog becomes “property” of “Bob” and “Kat” – not K9 Kindness Rescue, when “Bob” and “Kat” take the dog into their home to foster. What does this mean? Well, it means that the rescue itself only has ownership of each dog for a very short time – enough time to place the dog in a temporary home until it is adopted by its forever home. K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. is seen by the state of Iowa as a broker. Alas, we don’t live in a state like Illinois, that has actually rescue laws in place.

Why couldn’t you have just found another foster home then?

Actually, the people who surrendered ChaCha to us, legally bound us and prevented us from doing so. How? By an addendum that was published on the adoption contract that they wrote up themselves, and signed.

While in one breath it is redundant, it is also binding that only the specific foster home may claim conditional ownership. It also states that if the dog is ever at risk of going to a shelter – that the ownership returns to the original owners. Our foster parent met one of the original owners who took ChaCha to a boarding kennel. We did not make the arrangements with the kennel, the previous owner did this herself. Three volunteers from our organization supplied funds to board ChaCha…meanwhile, the owners insisted they did not own her. So why did the abandonment notice get sent out?

By definition, ChaCha was abandoned by her original owners. After countless months of talking and attempting to return ChaCha to her owners or work with the owners to find an alternative solution for her, she was turned over by default to the original owners. Again, by the laws of the state and the litigation placed within their own addendum to the contract – they were the owners. When they did nothing for ChaCha at the kennel, she was determined to be abandoned. In other words: ChaCha was abandoned by her original owners as stated in the contract – NOT K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc.

But the rescue didn’t try to work anything out for ChaCha!

Actually we worked vigilantly to attempt to find alternative solutions for ChaCha, right down to paying for three weeks of boarding to assist the original owners. We attempted to work with alternative foster homes and rescues. None of our other foster homes were a good fit for ChaCha, and no other rescue was available to take her. One of the main reasons other rescues did not want to take ChaCha was that they refused to have previous owners involved with the dog once it was surrendered. It was at the initial issue that we invoked the wording of the contract put forth by the original owners. However, instead of being met with an attitude of fellowship in helping the dog, we were immediately turned over to be displayed as “abandoning the dog.”

What made ChaCha so difficult to place?

Initially the issue was related to the ChaCha’s needs, particularly her sporadic temperament with other dogs and cats. While we are aware that was not always the case, the unpredictability of ChaCha’s attitude made placement difficult. ChaCha also required a dominant status in the home, which would not bode well for other dogs that share a similar status or do not understand how a pack mentality works.

The issue later became bad publicity. Generally, rescues aren’t out to “one up” another organization, or if they are it’s usually in friendly sport. Once the drama about ChaCha broke all over the web, things really became more difficult to work with. There were several stories out there, and which one was factual would have been anyone’s guess. With ChaCha having been abandoned by the original owners, but publicly they were still insisting K9 Kindness Rescue owned the dogs – it also fueled confusion over ownership. That’s something else a rescue doesn’t really want to tread on.

What were the actual risks of ChaCha being sent to HSSC or other kill shelter?

There are four separate answers to this question.

Initially – poor. ChaCha could have very easily adapted to another rescue or been replaced into another group’s care that was better equipped for such a job. We were happy to work that out too, and even wanted to increase ChaCha’s exposure to help expedite her chances of adoption.

After the kennel – high. With ChaCha being abandoned by her original owners, the only next step would be for the kennel manager to surrender her over to HSSC or other shelter. K9 Kindness Rescue had put up for three weeks of boarding in good faith that the owners would step forward, but eventually they required registered letters informing them of their abandonment.

On Thursday – none. ChaCha had a potential adopter that was ready to take her right into a loving home. In fact, I was informed they had even gone ahead and purchased toys, treats, food, bedding and dishes for her. They had also made arrangement for rehabilitation.

As of now – it’s anyone’s guess. ChaCha was stripped from her almost golden chance at life – again, and now is at an unknown location. What is in the future for ChaCha, I have no idea.

A reply to one of the owners “Terms of Agreement

Neither K9 Kindness Resuce, Inc. as an entity nor the president of K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. had ownership of ChaCha per Iowa Code 162 and 717b. Per the addendum signed by the original owners, only temporary and conditional ownership of ChaCha was given to her foster home. The agreement signed explicitly states that if ChaCha was put at risk of being turned over to HSSC or other kill shelter, that she be returned to the original owners. This is the definition of a conditional agreement and status of ownership.

Further, K9 Kindness Rescue is staffed entirely by volunteers – many of which work full time jobs and have families. The idea that the rescue has a group of volunteers capable of producing a fundraising event every weekend for a single dog is absolutely asinine and lacks knowledge of the rescue you are working with. Further, it also outlines the lack of information you’ve made disposable to you in regards to your awareness with how a rescue organization operates.

In addition, this “agreement” which was not accepted insists that ownership be totally turned over to K9 Kindness Rescue, however for some reason permission and application still must be obtained by the original owners. This does not make any sense. The dog is either the original owner’s or it is a foster home’s within K9 Kindness Rescue. There’s no in between here and the contradictions within the document is absolutely staggering.

No dog of K9 Kindness Rescue’s ever has received weekly social media bumps, let alone bi-weekly unless the dog is missing. To make a special exception for ChaCha is absolutely ridiculous and in my personal opinion unfair to the dozens of other dogs we have in our care. While I don’t want to short change ChaCha at a shot at life, to put her life that much higher than the others in our group is appalling.

Interesting note to make here, the previous owners were always made aware of ChaCha’s whereabouts, but even though they make a big point of indicating they reserve visitation rights: it took a registered letter for them to go down and claim ChaCha from the kennel where they left her!

But the agreement said they had to approve housing for ChaCha!

We did not agree to these terms. The reason was that legally the decision was already in stone that K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. did not own ChaCha. We validated this with the State’s Attorney, State Veterinarian and with our own attorney. The contract drawn up by the original owners defaulted them as the owner as soon as ChaCha left the foster home. What’s more, one of the original owners indicated she was the owner of ChaCha at the kennel.

So! Let’s reiterate class…

Per the original owners’ addendum to K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc.’s surrender agreement:

“1. The following people will retain the right to review any and all prospective adoption applications and participate in home checks: Rachel Lamb, Mindy Liska, Ken Atwell (The former two of which initialed); and 2. Rachel Lamb and Mindy Liska will retain ownership of ChaCha should she be in a situation where she is to be euthanized for any reason or to be placed in a kill/no-kill shelter (again, the initials of the aforementioned owners).”

This addendum, per the Rescue Transfer Agreement made by K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. on June 30, 2015 effectively returned ownership of ChaCha to Mindy Liska. On the day ChaCha was classified as abandoned, she was owned by Mindy – not K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc.

What does that mean Michael, what are you saying?

Bottom line: Rachel Lamb and Mindy Liska both own ChaCha, and have since June 30, 2015. K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. did not abandon the dog…many attempts were made to help save her life and find a solution. A perspective adopter was prepared to take ChaCha, but was stopped from doing so by Mindy Liska – who took ChaCha from the kennel. K9 Kindness Rescue, Inc. as an entity never “owned” ChaCha, we never received funds for ChaCha, and we attempted to work with difficult previous owners that insisted on being involved.

While we don’t mind the original owners of a dog being involved, to hold ownership over the rescue’s head, but bail when the dog needs assistance is poor ethical standards. It makes placing the dog impossible. It isn’t fair to us, it’s not fair to the dog, nor the other dogs that have to wait to be homed or killed because of how difficult an individual can be.

My last word has to do with slander. I truly believe that both owners do have ChaCha’s best interest at heart. I’m not sure of the motivation or the decisions that have been made by them, but I do think they’re trying to help. However, to slander any organization for following protocol and to try and disrupt rescue operations is deplorable. It’s also reprehensible when two individuals who actively want to act like owners to a dog deny the dog of their ownership. That’s exactly what’s happened here.

We’ve gotten word of many deplorable things that have been said about our organization, our volunteers and our board of directors. Many or all of which are false. I’d remind the offending parties that libel is considered a crime, and that we have not supplied any false information to the public. We have emails with language and words from the owners, we have the documentation of funds coming in and out, we have documentation of ownership, and we are following state statutes as outlined by the State of Iowa.

We have saved many lives, and this whole fiasco fueled by two people who do not know how rescue works has cost enough time, enough money, enough patience, and too many lives.

We will continue to rescue; our intentions are clear. Our mission is clear. I have no additional comments to make on this, as the dog is now out of our hands – I’d assume the rest of the rescue feels the same. Should Ms. Lamb or Ms. Liska want to continue their slander and spreading of vicious lies, let some research show their true intentions and the truth to this story.

As for ChaCha, I pray that she finds a home as good as the one she was cheated out of. The real victim of this story is her, and her alone. If any of us have any remorse for what’s happened here, it’s for her. Good luck ChaCha, god speed.

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