CAMDEN — A writer who has frequently visited Camden to host events has filed a lawsuit against the PAWS Adoption Center in Camden and two of its employees, alleging shelter staff refused to give her up her purebred hound even after she proved it was owner.
Eva Morris filed the lawsuit in High Court in April through Camden attorney Christopher MacLean and lists PAWS and employees Meghan Austin and Shelly Butler as defendants.
PAWS has filed a response to the lawsuit dated April 20 denying the claims against it.
Morris, who lives in Arkansas, is an author and owner of Tiger Publishing. He visits Camden to host an annual literary event where writers read their stories to a local audience.
On February 8, 2022, Fabio, her 3-year-old bloodhound, ran away from her friend’s workshop in Lincolnville and was taken away by PAWS. According to the lawsuit, when Morris tried to get her dog back from the shelter, employee Meghan Austin wouldn’t let her have it. The dog had been a gift to Morris and at the time of the gift was named “Rambo”, but she changed the name to “Fabio”.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Austin and his PAWS co-worker, Shelley Butler, contacted Camden police and made false statements that Morris was an animal trafficker.
Morris made several attempts to get his dog back from PAWS by bringing documents including veterinary records and a copy of his purebred registration and bringing friends to guarantee his ownership.
The lawsuit states that on February 15, 2022, Butler and Austin recorded a meeting with Morris and his friend David without their knowledge or permission.
“During the meeting, Butler and Austin were condescending, rude, confrontational and intimidating towards Eva, who was only looking to get her dog back,” the lawsuit says.
In June 2022, she filed a small claims lawsuit and learned that Fabio had been adopted, bit someone, and was returned to the shelter, according to the lawsuit document. In the lawsuit, Morris claims the dog had never bitten anyone before. After the PAWS situation, Fabio bit other people, including a staff member at the shelter.
The lawsuit describes this as “further evidence of the stress, confusion and mistreatment PAWS subjected Fabio to.”
“In August 2022, Eva learned that Fabio had been transferred to a SPCA shelter in Portland, Maine, where unadopted animals or animals with problem behaviors are euthanized, and the plan was to euthanize him the next weekend. week,” the lawsuit says.
Morris had to pay $3,000 in fees to get the dog out of this Portland shelter.
“The kill shelter was upset with PAWS for not informing them of Eva’s property, felt cheated by PAWS and contacted PAWS advising them never again to send a dog to them without disclosing that the dog’s owner was known,” court documents state. .
In the end, the lawsuit establishes that Fabio was a shell of himself, showing no eye contact, appearing sad and disinterested or receptive to physical affection. Morris had not fixed the dog because he was a purebred dog that could be used for breeding, but during his stay at shelters, he had been neutered, which lowered his value.
“In March 2023, Fabio mutilated Eva, causing severe facial scarring and ongoing damage to her hands,” the lawsuit states.
“Fabio is very different from the dog he once was,” Morris said on May 1. “I can’t take it with people, in the car or off the property. I have to treat him with kid gloves, and his anxiety has turned him into a smaller, skinny dog. But I love him. And I have faith.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, punitive damages, legal costs, damages for pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
PAWS, through Waterville attorney J. William Druary Jr., has filed a response with the court denying the charges. In addition, the center offers defenses that are not detailed in the court documents, but are named as: Failure to file a claim; comparative negligence; lack of mitigation; pre-existing or subsequent condition; intermediate event; and credit for advance payments made to or on behalf of the claimants, if any.
It also offers as an affirmative defense: “Plaintiff’s claims are barred or limited by the doctrine of charitable immunity.”
PAWS issued a statement on May 1 through attorney Robert Rubin saying:
“PAWS is deeply concerned that a lawsuit was filed over an incident where PAWS staff were simply following city and state laws regarding stray dogs. While the agency is confident that the allegations will turn out to be false, the time and money that will need to be spent to ensure this outcome will be significant. In the meantime, PAWS will continue to serve the community with the same continued excellence as always. We would like to take this opportunity to remind our out-of-state visitors bringing their furry friends to ensure they have proof of ownership and up-to-date rabies certificates, as required by Maine law, in the event their animals are lost. Unfortunately, the plaintiff in this lawsuit did not. When the plaintiff finally came to PAWS with legal credentials, he abruptly left without the dog when he learned that he would have to pay state-authorized fees to pick up the dog. He was sent the required 10 day notice and did not respond. PAWS would like to point out that all licensed shelters in Maine are ‘no kill’ shelters unless an animal is dangerous or terminally ill.”
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