A dog named Cash is at the center of a major dispute involving high profile Healdsburg restaurateur and Julie Seal, exective director of
Keane, a volunteer at the shelter and chef-owner of top-rated restaurant, has filed a lawsuit against the shelter in connection with his wish to adopt Cash, an 110-pound, 3-year-old male Mastiff-pitbull mix.
A hearing on the lawsuit has been set for 3:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 1) at Sonoma County Superior Court satellite courtrooms at Empire College, 3035 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa.
According to Seal, Keane said he would place Cash, who Seal said was evaluated as "dog aggressive," in training with King's Kastle, an animal care facility with branches in Cloverdale and Windsor.
"Doug responded –- and I can produce the email –- stating that he was going to send the dog to King’s Kastle until he was safe to come home with him," Seal said in a letter to shelter board members over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
"I responded according to our adoption policies: his other dog would have to meet Cash and his wife would have to be present," she said.
"I also told him Colleen (Combs), the owner of King’s Kastle, was welcome to be there," Seal told the board members in her email. "His response was that I insulted him and I was making him 'jump through hoops.'"
Seal said she and shelter attorneys were in the process of drafting a liability waiver and insurance agreement for Keane to sign before they would allow Cash to be adopted out when Keane filed the lawsuit Tuesday, she said.
Neither Keane nor Keane's attorney, Rex Grady of the Edgar Law Firm in Santa Rosa, could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Seal says Cash has a history of aggression and received two recent independent trainers' evaluations of being aggressive.
She noted, however, that she has absolutely no plans to euthanize Cash, despite claims by some Healdsburg shelter volunteers in emails to Healdsburg Patch and on the Facebook page, Save A Dog Named Cash.
"What once was a wonderful place to watch animals get their new homes and a second chance has now become a high kill shelter," said one volunteer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being shut out of the shelter. "Right now, the community of volunteers and local rescues, a hopeful new owner, and an attorney are coming together for one dog....'Cash.'
"A dedicated, professional trainer has been working with Cash for five months at Healdsburg Animal Shelter," the volunteer added, not giving the trainer's name. "He wanted to adopt him, but for no apparent reason, Julie Seal denied him the adoption and claimed the dog needs to be euthanized."
Seal, however, said Cash has charged and attackedHealdsburg Animal Control Officer Ryan Pelleriti.
"A male animal tech had to pull Cash off him; otherwise, he might have been hurt," Seal said.
On one occasion, Seal said she herself was attacked by Cash when she was standing next to a small dog.
"He lunged at me, or he might have been lunging at the small dog," she said.
Cash came to the shelter in August, after his family gave him up because they had a new baby, and "didn't trust him" not to hurt the baby, according to Seal.
Nonetheless, Keane's supporters claim the dog has no history of aggression.
"All of us love him! Cash has no bite report, no bad history, and he has been to Douglas's house!," another volunteer said. "The shelter let him paint for charity (with his paws) with Ellen Boone from the Paws for Love Foundation two weeks ago.
"All of us walk him and he knows 'sit,' 'down,' 'shake' and 'roll over.'" the volunteer said.
"He is beautiful and smart and Cash doesn't deserve to die!"
The volunteer said the shelter is giving false advertising about its "no-kill" status.
"I am upset that this shelter accepts donations from people in Healdsburg calling itself "no kill" when it's not," the volunteer said. "They've euthanized two dogs in the last two weeks and now they want to kill Cash."
Seal repeated that Cash was not slated for euthansia but that certain procedures had to be followed first to protect the community.
"As the executive director of the Healdsburg Animal Shelter, I do not feel it is morally or ethically right to adopt out this dog to a member of the community, even if that member of the community is a high-profile person engaged in an emotional appeal," Seal wrote to board members in the email, sent out before the lawsuit filing yesterday.
Seal said Wednesday she was not only concerned about what could happen with Cash and Keane's other dog -- or his wife -- but also what might occur if Keane, who volunteered as a dog-walker at the shelter and who also engaged in obedience training with the dogs as part of a requirement for a certificate as a trainer, would later adopt out Cash to another family and Cash would hurt a child.
"That could result in the failure of Healdsburg Animal Shelter," she said Wednesday. "We could be sued for millions."
Seal said two prior dogs at the shelter, Jayda and Sprite, were transferred to the Petaluma Animal Shelter for adoption after a Healdsburg shelter trainer deemed them both rehabilitated. Both dogs were returned to the Petaluma shelter after they attacked either family members or other animals in their adopted families, Seal said.
"I do not feel it is morally and ethically right to transfer this dog to another animal welfare organization who will then think he is rehabilitated and adopt him out into the community," she said in her email to the board.
As reported earlier in Healdsburg Patch, policy except if an animal is very sick or not able to be rehabilitated and is considered dangerous. The shelter is very reluctant to euthanize a dog or cat and has a extended process leading to that, with lots of checks and balances, according to earlier interviews with staff and board members.
"No one wants to see a dog euthanized," Seal said Wednesday. "But no one wants to be responsible for putting a dog in the community that then goes and hurts someone."