Lucy the chihuahua is back home after spending more than 2 years living with a family who took her in as a stray and has been fighting a legal battle with the original owners for most of that time.
The little dog’s saga may not be over, though.
The family that took in the tiny shivering animal on a cold, wet Sunday in May 2012 plans to appeal the order handed down by Circuit Judge Letitia Verdin and has set up a campaign on the crowdfunding site, GoFundMe.com, to raise money to continue the legal fight.
Dave Watson, a former member of Easley City Council, said the dog that he and his wife, Trisha, call Gracie, is now back with Keith and Kerri Blanton. The Blantons owned the chihuahua they named Lucy up until she went missing while they were on vacation in May 2012.
The judge ruled the Blantons were entitled to have the dog back if they paid the Watsons $496. That’s how much the Watsons said they had spent on the dog between the time they took her in and the time four months later that the Blantons discovered where their dog was living.
The Watsons had offered to turn the 3-pound canine back over to the Blantons for that amount when the original owners first came forward. However, the Blantons refused to pay it, according to court documents. The Watsons also say in their fundraising-site posting that the dog had health problems when they took her in and that they’ve spent $3,000 in “getting her healthy.”
Keith Blanton said he has veterinary records showing the dog was not diseased when she lived with his family. Lucy is doing well back at her original home and is “pretty close to back to normal,” Blanton added.
The Watsons had raised $760 in two days since their online fund-raising appeal went up, according to the GoFundMe.com webpage.
Attorneys for both sides could not be reached for comment.
“I am asking for donations to not only save Gracie, but to bring to the forefront the issue of animal rights,” Trisha Watson says in the fundraising appeal, titled “Saving Gracie, a Small Chihuahua.”
“Hopefully, we can get S.C.’s ridiculously outdated law changed.”
That was a reference to a statute that says a person who takes in a stray is required to notify the nearest magistrate, who will post notices and put the animal up for sale 10 days later.
The circuit judge’s ruling overturned a magistrate’s court decision that found the Watsons had the right to the dog because the Blantons hadn’t paid the $496 that the law says the Watsons were within their rights to ask.
Keith Blanton said in an affidavit that he “felt like I was being extorted and the amount would continue to increase,” so he went to the police rather than pay it.
He said he had been “more than willing” to pay a reasonable amount, but the figure included items such as a Halloween costume for the dog and blankets with the dog’s name embroidered.
Blanton said he had hoped to settle the case quickly in magistrate’s court but the Watsons’ attorney filed numerous motions delaying it and setting it on the circuitous legal route that it took.
“The whole thing could have been eliminated with just a little bit of common sense,” he said.