Owners of French bulldogs seized in animal-cruelty case sue Denver to retrieve show dogs


Denver / Monday, November 20th, 2017

Four owners of 10 purebred French bulldogs seized during a raid of a dog trainer’s home have filed a federal lawsuit to stop Denver Animal Control from offering the once-valuable show dogs for adoption.

Raven, one of the French bulldogs named in the lawsuit.

The owners are also seeking compensatory damages after the animal shelter spayed or neutered the dogs, drastically reducing their value, and performed other elective surgeries on them, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Denver U.S. District Court.

The shelter also may have euthanized one of the dogs without notice to the owner, the lawsuit claims.

The trainer, Marleen Elizabeth Puzak , was arrested on July 31 on numerous animal cruelty charges after police received a tip about dogs kept in poor conditions in her home at 2125 S. Irving St. in Denver. Investigators found 35 dogs in the house and a dozen dead dogs in freezers, according to the arrest affidavit.

Now Michelle Tippet, of Batavia, Ill., Kathy Clayton, of South West City, Mo., Patti Sears, of Chandler, Okla., and Dawn Rose, of Penrose, are trying to reclaim the dogs they had hired Puzak to care for.

Chief judge Marcia Krieger has granted a temporary injunction preventing shelter staff from offering the bulldogs for adoption for 10 days, pending a hearing.

Denver Animal Control officials could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. Some of the seized animals, including 12 French bulldogs, were put up for adoption at the Denver Animal Shelter in August.

All 10 of the French bulldogs named in the lawsuit — Raven, Vinnie, Souffle, Bechamel, Champagne, Wyatt, Biscuit, Beignet, Pearl and Nugget — were registered with the American Kennel Club. Because they were spayed or neutered, the lawsuit says, they are no longer eligible for national dog shows and their value has been reduced because they cannot be bred.

Eight of the dogs remain in the care of animal control and two have been returned to their owners, according to the lawsuit filed last week by Animal Law Center attorney Jay Swearingen.

The lawsuit also claims some of the dogs received “unnecessary and experimental” surgeries. One of the dogs, Raven, received nares surgery and a vulvoplasty, the lawsuit says.

“These elective procedures were cruel and inhumane,” Swearingen wrote.

The lawsuit also accuses animal shelter workers of lying about when the procedures were performed.

The Denver District Attorney’s Office charged Puzak, 58, with 35 counts of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, and 12 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals. Investigators said her home was soaked with urine and surfaces were encrusted with feces.

Puzak professionally handled the dogs at breed and conformation shows, the lawsuit says. The plaintiffs had paid her fees to temporarily train, groom and show the dogs, it says.

Rose, who owns four of the dogs, said Puzak called her on July 7 — the day animal control officers arrived at her home — and told her to come and get her dogs.

But when Rose tried to take possession of her dogs she was denied even though the animal shelter had seized documents at Puzak’s home verifying her ownership, the lawsuit says.

The city had not offered any form of hearing or due process to allow bulldog owners to protect their show dogs, the lawsuit says.

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