Boyd County Judge-Executive Bud Stevens says he is confident the county’s animal shelter staff will not repeat a procedural mistake that allowed a local man’s dog to be released to a person who did not own the animal and had previously been accused of animal cruelty.

“This is the only time this has ever happened that I’ve been approached about,” Stevens said Friday morning.

Ashland resident Rob Baker said the problem began when he recently accepted a boxer with beautiful brindle markings, named “Rocky,” from one of his friends. The dog had been in the Baker family’s home a few hours when his 3-year-old child left the front door open and allowed the dog to escape.

“We only had one night with him,” Baker explained, adding family members searched the area near their home in the Midland Heights neighborhood, “but we went home empty-handed.”

Baker said he called the Boyd County Animal Shelter the following morning with a description of his dog, and asked if the facility had any animals matching the dog’s distinctive description. A shelter worker told him they had no dogs in the logbook meeting the description.

“Later that day a kid we had talked to the night before said a neighbor might have the dog,” Baker said, noting the boy had found Rocky and put him on a leash before going door-to-door to try and find his owner. “He was trying to do the right thing,” Baker said.

A neighbor told Baker she had spotted the dog in a nearby back yard after hearing it “wailing,” and called the Ashland Police Department to assist with the situation after realizing the dog had been secured with a piece of twisted chain that had cut into the animal’s neck. The dog also had wounds on one ear that appeared to have been caused by another dog at the property, believed to be a pit bull. The local dog warden was called in and took the dog to the shelter sometime after 2 a.m., although he apparently failed to list the canine in the shelter’s logbook.

The man who had the dog chained in his back yard allegedly went to the animal shelter after Baker had called with the dog’s description and again claimed it as his own.

“The dog was at the shelter when I called. I gave them my name and contact information, but the girl said he wasn’t there,” Baker said. “So, this man takes the dog again. They essentially released him to the residence where the dog was being killed.”

When the neighbor who heard the dog wailing and called the police asked shelter workers about Rocky, she was told the canine had been released to the man who had claimed it the day before, despite Baker’s call prior to that man’s arrival at the shelter. Baker said he called the shelter and asked to speak with the staff member he had initially contacted and “played dumb” about the situation. Baker claims the staff member lied about the situation and denied any knowledge of the dog.

“People make mistakes. I’m OK with that as long as corrective action is taken,” Baker said, further explaining the shelter worker was dismissive regarding his concerns after he confronted her with his knowledge of the circumstances and essentially told him he could speak to her supervisor if he felt compelled “to try and get her in trouble.

“She got flippant when confronted and continued with the lies. She said, ‘Go ahead and get me in trouble.’ I called with the intention of allowing her a chance to apologize,” he said, adding the shelter staff member told him she thought the dog had been released to him and then insisted he tell her who had told him about the mistake. Baker said he was upset and called the shelter worker “incompetent,” but did not use offensive language during the phone call.

“I was stern, but I didn’t cuss or anything,” he said, explaining the shelter worker allegedly told her supervisor and others that he had visited the shelter and “was yelling and screaming.” The shelter worker then attempted “retribution,” he said, by sending animal control officers to investigate the status of his dog’s rabies vaccination and lack of a tag.

Baker said he believes the scenario may be of interest to anyone who has lost a dog, contacted the shelter and never saw their pet again.

“I can’t believe I’m the only person that’s ever been lied to,” he said.

Baker said he went to the home of the man who had claimed the dog and, following a brief but intense confrontation at the man’s front door, went into the back yard and retrieved his dog.

“I found him cringing. He was cringing until I called his name and he recognized me,” Baker said, adding the dog has never before displayed such behavior.

Baker said he and the neighbor who helped rescue his dog immediately contacted Stevens to report the problem.

Stevens said he visited the county’s animal shelter the day after hearing about the incident and believes the problem will not be repeated.

“I talked to the (shelter) supervisor. Now they have to show proper I.D.,” Stevens said. “It should have been done to start with ... we just dropped the ball.”

Baker said he is pleased to have his dog back, but wants to make sure no other pet owner has to repeat his experience.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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