The Plaintiff’s Side of the Story
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL. – On February 7, The Free Press reported that the former service dog of a now-deceased homeless man had gone missing for the second time in a year. The chihuahua mix, named “Diggity,” first disappeared when his master, Nate Fasolst suffered a seizure at a strip center in Largo last year.
When Fasolst later died of a drug overdose, Diggity was sheltered and re-homed through Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue, Inc., located in St. Petersburg.
Pawlicious Poochie filed a lawsuit against Emily Kyle, who adopted Diggity and renamed him “Chulo” – after she had her boyfriend surrender the dog to The Humane Society of Tampa Bay. It was against Kyle’s signed contractual agreement to surrender Diggity to anyone other than Pawlicious Poochie.
Now, a lawsuit has been filed by Pawlicious Poochie against The Humane Society of Tampa Bay for “Tortious Interference of Contract and for violations under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act,” according to the lawsuit’s Verified Complaint.
According to text screenshots, it initially appears Diggity was adopted in a two-step process, by two separate owners – presumably through The Humane Society of Tampa Bay – using Pawlicious Poochie’s registration number that identified them as the dog’s owner.
According to Jaime McKnight, Founder and President of Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue, the Humane Society never contacted her pet rescue to indicate Diggity was there, and never contacted the microchip manufacturer to authorize changing ownership of the dog, which is considered standard practice. McKnight was able to confirm with The Humane Society that indeed, Diggity – or “Chulo” – had been received. But the call was suspicious to her.
“I called them,” she said, “and wanted to know where my dog was and they put me on hold for 25 minutes while they were scrambling around trying to come up with an excuse and they’re like, ‘Sherry Silk will call you back,’ and she never did, so that’s why I went to social media and I blew the story out of the water.”
Sherry Silk is CEO of The Humane Society of Tampa Bay.
McKnight claims The Humane Society of Tampa Bay has a vendetta against her because of her social media criticism five years ago over a dog named Flower.
McKnight explained, “The dog was adopted by the HSTB. She had burn marks from a spay they had done, she had an eye that was infected and bulging out of her head – about to burst – and the other eye was dead. She was adopted out like that. The adopter handed the dog over to me because at that point when she adopted the dog from HSTB and left, the dog had a fever, she was critically injured…we hospitalized her immediately for a week, we also had to remove both of her eyes, we got her fever down, had supportive care and everything – it was thousands of dollars to get her stable. And that was what started the vendetta because I obviously speak for the dogs and tell their story and went to my social media and told the story about this dog and how she was adopted out.”
McKnight said that to a layperson, it would be assumed the dog’s eye suffered from a cataract, but the adopter soon realized she could not afford to address the pet’s actual needs.
McKnight said she was removed as a vendor in The Humane Society’s “Bark in the Park” events after her public criticisms.
She continued, “What shelter gets a dog turned in with a microchip and they don’t research who the owner is, or who that chip is registered to? Out of procedural and moral responsibilities…it’s not saving your pet (to get it microchipped) if they’re showing up at The Humane Society and they’re seeing these dogs are registered to people and those people are not being contacted…The Pinellas County Animal Shelter confirmed that my name is all over that dog – that dog’s microchip that they scanned, that they transferred (ultimately) to a ‘Pam A.’”
McKnight said she is not allowed to enter The Humane Society’s property, they won’t give her dog back and potential humane society adopters of chihuahuas are sometimes asked if they are associated with her. “That’s how much of a hard-on they have for me, and this was just the perfect opportunity.”
The legal complaint describes Pawlicious Poochie Pet Rescue as a non-profit pet rescue operation that not only accepts surrendered, abandoned, and injured pets for re-hab and re-homing, but also pursues a “special mission to rescue dogs from kill shelters all over Florida that are set to be euthanized and therefore has a vested interest in preventing pets, including those that it has adopted out, from ending up in shelters that euthanize pets.”
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which is a non-profit, independent operation not affiliated with the mission or operations of The Humane Society of the United States, is a multi-faceted operation providing, according to its website, shelter for homeless and at-risk animals, adoptions, hospital, and trap, neuter, vaccine, release services for the general public in and around Hillsborough County.
It is a “No Kill for Space” operation, meaning, animals with unaffordable or incurable diseases may be euthanized.
In 2012, The Humane Society opened a new animal hospital serving the public and homeless animals. It earned the coveted American Animal Hospital Association accreditation in 2014.
McKnight asked The Free Press, “They have this big medical facility that they got. That was one of Sherry’s things because she was so offended because they give top care. But do they though when they’re adopting a dog out like Flower?
Pawlicious Poochie’s attorney is April S. Goodwin of The Goodwin Firm, Largo.
The Free Press will continue to report on this story.