TAMPA, FL. – The Free Press reported in February that a lawsuit was filed against The Humane Society of Tampa Bay by Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue in St. Petersburg.
Jaime McKnight, Pawlicious Poochie’s founder, filed suit to regain custody of a little chihuahua named “Diggity” whom The Humane Society had held in its possession during 2021.
Diggity was a service dog for a Largo homeless man who suffered from seizures until he died of a drug overdose. Pawlicious Poochie took permanent ownership of him to find him a home and held formal ownership of him, even after he was contractually adopted by Emily Kyle.
McKnight also filed a suit against Kyle for surrendering the dog to The Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Kyle admitted to The Free Press that she did not read her contract stipulating she could only return Diggity to Pawlicious Poochie if she ever needed to surrender him.
She also stated she had never received a copy of her contract although she agreed she signed it.
Kyle told The Free Press that she was ill with COVID-19 when she asked her boyfriend to surrender “Diggity” to The Humane Society in her absence. The Humane Society then took possession of Diggity – who had been re-named “Chulo.”
They adopted him out to two different new adopters in quick succession, according to a new lawsuit filed by The Humane Society and Sherry Silk as an individual against Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue and Jaime McKnight individually.
The lawsuit is a “Libel and Slander” case of defamation per se and defamation, for McKnight to address while she hopes that through own her lawsuit, the courts will demand full disclosure of the dog’s whereabouts.
In McKnight’s lawsuit, The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is accused of using her microchip and registration number embedded in the dog to register new owners for Diggity, claiming The Humane Society knew it was her dog because presumably, everyone these days checks for microchips on domestic animals, so how could they not know it was her chip – and her dog?
However, McKnight’s assumption that The Humane Society checks for microchips (or should) – and her assumption that the new owner attached to her microchipped registration number for Diggity shows proof they knew she owned the dog, is claimed to be incorrect, according to The Humane Society’s counter lawsuit.
It states that “HSTB does not scan for a microchip when an owner surrenders an animal. HSTB only scans stray dogs and cats for a microchip. HSTB did not change or edit any ownership information on Chulo’s (Diggity’s) microchip…When a dog is adopted from HSTB, any new ownership information on a microchip automatically updates to the new adopter’s information through HSTB’s software program and microchip company.”
In other words, The Humane Society claims it is not at fault.
The situation however, begs two questions to be answered, namely, how do The Humane Society’s policies and procedures search for and identify any stolen animals – and search for rightful owners – if they don’t check “owner surrendered” animals for microchips?
The Free Press had arranged an interview with The Humane Society’s CEO, Sherry Silk, to ask these and other questions as an opportunity for her to tell The Humane Society’s side of the story, but attorneys advised her to not comment on any issues at this time.
The Humane Society’s attorney, John Travis Godwin of Tampa was forwarded questions for this report, but there was no response received. Silk did comment to The Free Press, “Diggity is in a happy home and the new owners love him very much.”
The lawsuit against Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue also defended The Humane Society of Tampa Bay against McKnight’s statement that “potential [HSTB] adopters of chihuahuas are sometimes asked if they are associated with [McKnight]. (Pawlicious Poochie works mostly with chihuahuas and other small dogs that are older, ill or injured, or hospice-bound to attempt to avoid their euthanasia by other organizations.)
This statement, with a host of others made by McKnight to The Free Press in February, were all declared in The Humane Society of Tampa Bay’s lawsuit to be categorically false. But McKnight’s lawsuit claims The Humane Society of Tampa Bay holds a vendetta against her.
The Humane Society seeks monetary damages for McKnight’s various direct statements to The Free Press and for remarks and emails generated through Facebook social media after the news articles were posted by McKnight. One of several social media-generated emails to Silk reiterated in the lawsuit states, “What’s wrong with you and the den of immorality and indecency you pretend to run? Revenge at the expense of the animal, such a morally bankrupt human.” Another comment states, “(HSTB) seem to have dirty hands and feet. (Sad emoji). I’ve always contributed to that organization locally. Sad on so many levels. (Depressed emoji).
The lawsuit indicates that on Facebook, there were 501 “sad,” “angry” or “liked” reactions, 161 comments, and 401 shares.
The lawsuit also states that “Upon information and belief, Defendants have also created t-shirts to sell for profit with the words, ‘Return Diggity (aka Chulo), ‘Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue’ and a cartoon chihuahua face.’
The Free Press will continue to report on the lawsuits as the courts decide.