5 On Your Side

Dog dispute upsets Cumberland County family

Posted February 11, 2015
Updated February 12, 2015

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— A Cumberland County family lost their beloved Golden Retriever Bobo, but now he lives with a new family.  

Bobo belonged to Niki Davis and her daughters since he was a puppy.

The dog escaped from the home and ended up in the Cumberland County Animal Shelter where he was legally adopted by another family. Davis and her daughters made a video plea or Bobo’s return.

“I don’t understand them keeping him,” Davis told 5 On Your Side.

She didn’t find out the dog was in the shelter until the day after the adoption.

Dan Smith took Bobo to the shelter after he spotted the dog running toward a road.

"It was well mannered, he was trained and he smelled like he just had a bath," he said, adding he had no doubt this was someone’s pet.

Smith said the dog had a collar, but no tag.

The Cumberland County Animal Shelter, like many shelters, gives pet owners at least three business days to claim their lost pets. Including the weekend, Bobo was at the shelter for 5 days.

Davis says she searched for him in her neighborhood, sent emails and texts to neighbors and friends, and alerted the local fire department, but never thought to check the shelter.

Smith located Davis’s home the morning of the deadline. She had already left for work, but he left a business card on her door.

"I called the shelter and told them that I knew the owner, but they told me if the owner doesn't come down and you don't come down then whoever's on the list gets the dog," Smith said. "That's when I left to head down there and I got there two minutes after nine and they had already gave the dog to somebody else."

Smith said he explained the situation to the family at the shelter and shelter employees, but the adoption moved forward.

We talked with Cumberland County Animal Control Director, Dr. John Lauby. “At 9 o'clock on the morning that the animal is available for adoption, you have to be here at the shelter at the front door, ready to come in the door," Lauby told 5 On Your Side about the clearly posted policy, "If you're first on the list and you're here at 9 o'clock when the door opens, you get that animal."

Monica Laliberte asked once staff knew there was an owner involved, why weren’t things put on hold for a little bit?

Lauby said “in the past we've had those kind of statements made and people saying I'm bringing the owner in and then not show up, and then not be the actual person that owns the dog."

He added “it's a difficult situation figuring what the best process is for that, and we might need to look at our process."

Chris and Robin Eaton adopted Bobo. They emailed WRAL's 5 On Your Side, saying they plan on keeping the dog because "it's in his best interest."

They said Bobo had fleas and an ear infection when they adopted him.

Davis insists Bobo was in good health and well cared for.  She sent a message and photos to the Eaton family through Facebook, but said she did not hear back. The Eatons also asked 5 On Your Side to not contact them "any further."

Dr. Lauby said this is an example of why pets should wear a tag or have a microchip with the owner’s contact information. “That dog would have been back to its owner the next day, said Lauby.

And advice for all pet owners, when a pet is lost, immediately check shelter websites  for a list of steps to take to find them.   

Davis now wishes she had done that. She and her daughters just want Bobo back.

In the plea video, Davis daughter Zeida holds back tears saying,  "He was our first dog and we miss him so badly."


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  • Renée David Apr 8, 2015
    user avatar

    What a lame excuse the shelter gave!! The shelter should be investigated to see how often this has happened!!! It sucks for the adoptive family but they SHOULD give the dog back! Just because someone is sold on micro-chipping and can afford it doesn't make you a better pet owner nor does it make you a worse pet owner. I have three Maltese... they live inside but are allowed to play in the backyard while I'm home. if one dug a hole and got out would that make me a bad pet owner??? This is so rediculous! The shelter should have their rear sewed! The adoptive family is obviously suffering from some sick sense of entitlement! So you have a little bit of money? You have a respectable job so you MUST be the better pet owner!? What a joke! We're all brothers and sisters in "Christ". Yeah remember him!? I'm thinking a "Fund Me" page should be stared for the real pet owners. This way they'll have the funds to handle this in court! It's a shame you have teach adults about morals!

  • Randy Sellers Feb 16, 2015
    user avatar

    Dog should be returned to original owner. The Eaton's have a skewed sense of honor. Do the right thing.

  • Greg Dail Feb 13, 2015
    user avatar

    The Eaton's say they broke no rules, and that's true, but a little common sense and a little empathy might be in order. There are other dogs.
    When your client is guilty you argue law, when innocent you argue justice.

  • Kim Lynch Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Hoping the family will sue and redeem their dog. What a terrible thing to happen to a family and their pet. Glad I don't live in Cumberland County. This just doesn't seem right and how can the people that adopted the dog keep him from those kids...

  • Janet Scott Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Kylie Marie...how do YOU know that the dog is well loved now.

  • Deanna Katz Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    I feel for the people on both sides of this story.
    By law animal shelter only have to hold a dog 3 days. If a private citizen finds and keeps a dog the rules are different.
    Here is the questions I have about this:
    Why was the dog loose? Did it have it rabies tag on? If the owner called the Fire Department to be sure they told the to contact the animal shelter. What was proof of ownership? Was the dog up to date on shots? What about the issue the dog being loose before?
    What if the owner never came forward? What if the new family had not adopted Bobo?
    Why did WRAL post all the info for the people who adopted the dog? What was the purpose?
    Again this is a sad story, but do not be mad at the people adopted the dog. We do not have all the facts just the one side. I cannot say if it was me I would give the dog back.

  • Kylie Marie Summerling Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Yes, if your dog gets out, and you are too useless to get him chipped, and you don't have the sense to contact the shelters to give them a heads up he's missing, then you LOSE your dog. Why is this a debate? Because somehow a woman who obviously cannot take care of an animal has lost it? Get over it. I am sick of hearing about these kids. The dog is well loved now, and CHIPPED. Coulda woulda shoulda been better at being a dog owner.

  • Rob Garner Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    This story makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. One family ends up with three dogs. The other, a mom and her daughters, empty-handed. The world is a cold, cruel place.

  • Bill Niersbach Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    I dont understand how its legal for them to keep the dog?? So if my dog gets out and is gone for 72 hours I have then given up ownership of my dog??? This makes no sense to me?? Its almost as if the shelter had a relationship with the adoptive family in order to rush this through since they already KNEW who the owners were and someone was there to retrieve the dog the same day the Eatons were adopting it and were turned away. Sorry, but I would be taking this to small claims court and let a legal expert determine where the dog actually belongs and who is the owner!! The Eatons already have 2 Goldens, and just happen across this one almost IMMEDIATELY when it was released to the shelter....and now refuse to give it back....its just flat out WRONG!!! And a firefighter to boot, that is a major letdown that someone in that profession would be doing something like this that is straight up dishonorable...

  • Peter Panda Feb 12, 2015
    user avatar

    Who would keep this dog from it's rightful owners?!?!?!?!?