The family of a yellow Labrador that believes their dog has surfaced and was adopted out by a rescue agency.
Anita and Jerry Foley said they were tipped off by someone that there was a male Labrador that looked like their dog, Dakota, on La Mesa-based Labrador Rescuers' website.
The dog in question—named Dallas on the website—was rescued on or around Jan. 18 by the agency from the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, some 70 miles from Murrieta. It had been there since Jan. 10.
"We think he was following us," Anita said, explaining that the family had visited Arizona for Thanksgiving weekend. The route through Hemet on Highway 79 and then through the desert cities was a route they'd often taken with Dakota, she said, because their oldest son used to live off Domenogoni Parkway.
The Foleys believe the dog may have been taken in by someone along the way after it got out of the family's Jerome Lane home in Murrieta, Nov. 26. He then likely freed himself to find them, Anita said.
"Dakota was trying to look for us," Anita said. "If somebody has him, he is getting out. He is going to look. He still may get out and still look for us. We really do believe that."
But Labrador Rescuers claims the dog the Foleys believe is Dakota is not, and has placed the dog with a new adoptive owner—in a legally binding contract.
"Our hearts do go out to this family and their search for their beloved family member," Labrador Rescuers said in a statement emailed to Patch.
"The dog we rescued was NOT microchipped. He was scanned a total of 3 times. Once at the shelter, once when he came to our partner Veterinarian's office and again prior to us implanting a microchip. We use a multi frequency "universal" scanner that is able to identify ALL microchip brands at the three different frequencies.
"The dog we rescued was at a shelter over 70 miles away from the Foley home however, he was also posted, by the shelter on Pet Harbor for 8 days. We rescued him from the shelter after the legal hold time and only after no one claimed him and the shelter added him to the list for euthanasia. The dog we rescued underwent a full vet evaluation, was then neutered and given all his shots. He was then posted on our web site for an additional week prior to any contact from Mrs Foley. Since our inception in 2004 we have saved and re-homed almost 3,000 Labs. We have also had multiple occasions where we have located or identified a microchip the shelter has missed. Our goal is to provide loving forever homes for the dogs we rescue.
"The real conundrum in the present situation comes from the fact that the dog Lab Rescuers saved from the shelter was adopted to a new family prior to any contact from Mrs. Foley. He is no longer our dog nor is he in the possession of Lab Rescuers. Lab Rescuers has no control or legal right to the rescued dog.
"You might ask why we haven't contacted the family who adopted him, she has her own set of tragedies as well. She is recently mourning the loss of her previously adopted lab. He was only 2 1/2 years old and recently passed away after a painful battle with cancer. The adopter is grieving but the dog she adopted from Lab Rescuers is helping to fill that void and ease her heart.
"We rescue many yellow male Labradors in the age range of 1-5 years throughout San Diego and the surrounding counties every year. Like Dakota, most are not microchipped or neutered and are to be euthanized.
"We have spoken to the Foleys on two occasions regarding the situation. The dog we rescued from the shelter has several distinguishing features that make it unclear if this is even Dakota to start with."
Labrador Rescuers said the dog they rescued from euthanasia was 18-24 months old.
"I have met the dog and agree with this age. Our vet concurs with this age range," said Susan Fischer of Labrador Rescuers.
Dakota is just under 3 and a half years old, according to the Foleys.
Fischer said the dog was also significantly lighter in color than the dog in the photos provided by the Foleys, and that the pigmentation around Dakota's eyes and his nose was more of a chocolate brown color.
"The dog we rescued was a darker black color," Fischer said.
Fischer also said the dog they rescued still had his front dew claws and that Dakota appeared not to have his.
But the Foleys believe it is Dakota.
"We just know," Anita said. "It just looks like Dakota. It's his facial expressions."
It's also a blue collar he wore that they claim can be seen in the photo from Labrador Rescuers' website.
Anita said they've asked Labrador Rescuers to allow them a meeting with the dog they believe is Dakota, and have offered their $1,000 reward money to go toward placing a different dog with the adoptive owner.
"We are not going to stop the fight until we get Dakota back," Anita said.
To help in their fight, the Foleys has enlisted the help of New Jersey-based Wish Upon A Hero, a nonprofit organization that aims to grant wishes nationwide.
"They agreed to grant the wish, they just didn’t think it was going to get this far," Anita said.
Kenneth Murphy, a wish ambassador for Wish Upon A Hero, said the Foleys wish came across his desk and he decided to help them get their dog back.
"Just because accidents happen and a dog gets out doesn't mean they are bad pet owners," Murphy said.
Murphy has looked at the photo provided on Labrador Rescuers and the photos supplied by the Foleys.
"...The dog in the picture looked like the description that was given to me...The collar is one for larger dogs. The tags are held on to the collar by screws so they do not get caught in cages or on other things and they can not get lost. You could see clearly that this collar had the screw missing and had a tag on it recently," Murphy said.
"Dakota's name was on that tag—you could see in the pictures where the tag used to be," he said.
Murphy said he has contacted Congresswoman Susan Davis in San Diego. He also has spoken with police in La Mesa and San Diego regarding the situation, as it is unclear where a kennel is located. (Labrador Rescuers has a La Mesa post office box.)
The Foleys have also hired an attorney in the matter, and may file civil and/or criminal charges against Labrador Rescuers.
"My husband and I have said from the very beginning we didn’t want to hurt the organization because in whole, rescuers are a good thing and we do believe in that," Anita said. "We just wanted our dog back. But now it has turned so ugly."