A Randolph County couple has filed a civil lawsuit against the county humane society, the county dog warden and the county commission, demanding the return of their dog.
The suit also alludes to a supposed conspiracy, implying that the Randolph County Humane Society seizes pets in order to sell them to animal rescue organizations outside the state.
The lawsuit, filed March 19 in Randolph County Circuit Court, states that Verda B. Wiseman and Charles E. Wiseman are the owners of Nikki, a 9-year-old female boxer mix. On Feb. 3, the dog was on the porch of a neighbor, Archie Hoover, a quarter of a mile from the Wisemans' property, when Dog Warden Jim Cain seized Nikki and took her to the humane society's animal shelter, according to the suit.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Verda Wiseman, her granddaughter and other members of her family picket the Randolph County Animal Shelter in February in hopes of getting their dog back home.
The Wisemans went to the shelter later that day to claim the dog, but received a "hostile reception" from Cain, who told them that if they requested the return of the dog, they would be charged with three misdemeanor violations, arrested and fined more than $600, the suit claims. The Wisemans said they did not have that much money and left.
The Wisemans "were treated as common criminals," the suit alleges, adding that the couple "have never been charged with any offenses related to that dog before or after Nikki's abduction."
On Feb. 4, Hoover asked to adopt the dog, but when he returned to the shelter on Feb. 8, he was "advised by Cain, 'I have changed my mind. That dog is going to New York,'" the suit claims.
According to the filing, the Wisemans had their adult daughter, Amanda Shook, go to the shelter and ask to adopt a dog fitting Nikki's description. She was allegedly told, "There is no such dog available."
The suit states that the Wisemans believe their dog, which has an alleged market value of approximately $500, was taken from the shelter and given to an animal rescue organization. The filing states that the couple has researched websites for animal rescue organizations and found that "animals are being advertised for substantial sums in what appears to them to be a profit-making scheme."
The Wisemans "cannot yet prove what, if any, material benefit Mr. Cain gains by having these animals removed from the state and sold elsewhere. They suspect, from the unusual behavior, that the benefit to him is material," the suit states.
The couple "cannot yet prove, but suspect, that dozens of animals are being taken from the state of West Virginia, to geographical areas of greater economic prosperity, and being sold under the guise of 'rescuing' the animals, when some of these animals have loving owners who simply cannot afford to pay extortionate fees to recover their animals," according to the lawsuit.
"Surely the county commission and the dog warden have enough abandoned strays to look out for than to take beloved, well-cared-for animals from their legal owners," the suit states.
The list of defendants in the suit include Cain; the Randolph County Humane Society and its manager, Kelly Scheidegger; Marla Kostakos, listed as the president of the humane society; the Randolph County Commission and the individual county commissioners, Mike Taylor, Joyce Johns and Chris See; and PetSmart Inc., PetSmart Charities Inc. and PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin' Program.
The Rescue Waggin' program is a non-profit organization which gathers animals from shelters, including the Randolph County Animal Shelter, and transports them to shelters where there are a lack of adoptable animals.
The Wisemans are represented by attorney J. Burton Hunter of Buckhannon.
The suit seeks "the immediate return of Nikki in the same condition she was in when stolen" as well as "reasonable damages" for emotional distress and mental anguish, and exemplary and punitive damages.
The suit also requests that "an order be entered upon a full hearing enjoining and prohibiting the Randolph County Humane Society from doing business with PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin, or Jim Cain; and from seizing any animals in Randolph County, and from the removal of any other animals in Randolph County, without due process."
The Wisemans and their three young grandchildren staged a picket outside the Randolph County Animal Shelter in February.
Scheidegger told The Inter-Mountain at the time that the Wisemans had received several warnings about letting the dog run free, and that a neighbor had filed a complaint. The dog had no rabies or tax tags, which led to the citations, officials said.
Scheidegger said in February that Cain refused to allow Hoover to adopt the dog because Hoover and the Wisemans are neighbors. "Cain said he felt Hoover was getting the dog for the owners and trying to avoid paying the citations," Scheidegger said.
Officials said in February that the dog had been "sent out to rescue" because the five-day waiting period had expired and the dog had not yet been adopted.