5 On Your Side

Family files suit for return of dog they say was wrongfully adopted

Posted April 9, 2015
Updated April 10, 2015

— The dispute over an adopted dog is headed to court after a Cary lawyer, moved by the case, offered to work for free for one of the families.

In February, Bobo left the Davis family home, got lost and turned up at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter. Three days later, The Eatons, Chris and his wife Robin, adopted him. Now, both families are claiming ownership.

Like many shelters, Cumberland County gives owners three business days to claim a pet from the shelter. A county ordinance requires that timeline be extended another 72 hours "if the owner is known."

About 10 minutes before the initial deadline, shelter staff learned that the Davises were looking for Bobo, but they still adopted him out to the Eatons that same day.

The story so incensed Cary-based patent attorney Steve Terranova that he agreed to represent the Davises in their quest to get the dog back.

According to the civil complaint he filed April 1, the adoption was "improper and not valid" because Cumberland County Animal Control "became aware of and did not attempt to locate or contact the owner." The lawsuit also alleges the "Eatons improperly adopted Bobo knowing the owner ... had been identified."

Terranova said he tried first to resolve the issue without filing suit. He reached out to the Eatons, Animal Control Director Dr. John Lauby and the county attorney. When they didn't respond, he filed suit.

Bobo's original owners, Zeida and Lorelai Davis and their mom, Niki, are simply heartbroken.

"I don't understand them keeping him," Niki Davis said.

Terranova said it was the devastation of the two girls that bothered him most.

"It is unfortunate that it's come down to this, but this is the route we'll have to take," he said.

Lauby defended his employees. In a statement to WRAL News Thursday, he said:

“Cumberland County Animal Control followed its procedures in dealing with the stray dog dropped off at the Animal Shelter with no identifying tags or microchip. The impounded animal was not claimed by its owner after the required three-day holding period and no owner’s name or address was provided to the department. The dog then became available for adoption and we followed our procedures for that process.

“It is upsetting to lose a pet and we sympathize with the Davis family. We encourage pet owners to have their animals microchipped. All pet owners should make sure their pets are wearing proper vaccination and identifying tags. Should your pet go missing, contact or visit Animal Control immediately.”

Niki Davis said the lawsuit, while an extreme measure, is her way of doing everything she can for Bobo and her girls, who she says ask about him all the time.

Robin Eaton declined to comment Thursday on the lawsuit. She previously said keeping Bobo was "in the dog's best interest."


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  • Dana Haulbrook Apr 19, 2015
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    Daphne what are you talking about?! He has been with a family for two years and very well taken care of! Accidents happen. The shelter broke the law and have a relationship with the Eatons. All this will be proven in court and Bobo will go back to his REAL family.

  • Dana Haulbrook Apr 19, 2015
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    Jeff where did you get your information from? Neglected? Disease? What are you talking about?

  • Jeff Abbott Apr 17, 2015
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    Bobo is much happier now that he is not neglected and is free of disease, fleas and ticks. Want another pet?..buy a rock as that is all the Davis family should be caring for. Disgusting how they are trying to get this animal back.

  • Daphne Green Apr 15, 2015
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    The original report on this story was not that the original owner had searched a lot for the dog, but that a neighbor had. Second, what is in the dog's best interest? Why should he be uprooted from the home of probably good people who went to a shelter to adopt? And sorry, but no, using kids does not tug on my heart strings.

  • Jacob Smith Apr 13, 2015
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  • Anthony Snark Apr 13, 2015
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    Dogs do get out of yards, etc. Him being loose isn't real the issue here. Doing the right thing is.

  • Arthur Raleigh Apr 13, 2015
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    Why was the dog running lose? We have laws in the city where dogs must be in fences or on a leash and not allowed to run lose!

  • Janet Scott Apr 11, 2015
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    Great comment Tim Dean. Eatons...there is nobody who agrees with you. I don't think that the attorney should pay for another dog for you. Actually, I don't believe that you should ever have a pet again. You are not worthy of the love of any animal.

  • Jennifer Tomlinson Apr 10, 2015
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    I suggest the attorney in the case look at teh FEDERAL Animal Welfare Act's recent amendments. It was recently, with 'recently' being defined as "in the last three years", been changed to make it a FEDERAL requirement that shelters, rescues, etc. must hold ANY fund animal FIVE BUSINESS DAYS,. and animals identified with a tattoo, microchip, collar and tag, or other means for TWO WEEKS before they can dispose of the animal in any way, including sale, donation, euthanization, or barter.

  • Jacob Smith Apr 10, 2015
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    Could be that he is just a concerned citizen offering services "gratis".

    It is not like they will need a "change of venue" due to "pretrial publicity".