Court rules in favour of ‘rescued rescue’
In a fourteen page judgement a QC found that Lunar was some 27% over target weight at the time she was taken back into the care of the Trust in October 2006.
Lunar, now five years old, enjoys country walks with her adoptive family
A YEAR-LONG dispute over the ownership of a rescued Labrador was resolved late last week when a County Court Judge ruled in favour of the Rescue organisation that removed the dog from its adoptive owner’s care last October.
As previously reported in OUR DOGS, yellow Labrador bitch Lunar was adopted by Salvation Army major Alexandra Hughes from the Sussex-based Labrador Lifeline Trust in May 2004. Miss Hughes said how she was left distraught when Lunar, was taken away ‘without warning’.
Miss Hughes, commanding officer of the Eastleigh branch, told the court how volunteers from the charity took the four-year-old dog, citing that it was overweight, its claws were too long and it had allegedly been left in a car in high temperatures whilst Miss Hughes was making official visits on behalf of the Salvation Army.
Miss Hughes, who adopted the dog in May 2004, denied those claims in court, saying that Lunar was like a child to her and that the whole experience had left her traumatised.
Earlier this month, Guildford County Court heard the trust repossessed Lunar arguing that as Miss Hughes had only adopted the dog, the trust still legally owned the dog.
Miss Hughes was visited in June 2006 by Trust representative Penny Medland, who deemed Lunar to be overweight and discovered that Miss Hughes regularly left the dog in a car while conducting home visits and ceremonies. Although Lunar was seen to be otherwise healthy, the Trust representative was concerned about the dog’s welfare and advised Miss Hughes of her concerns.
The court heard that on a second visit on October 18th the Trust representative still believed nothing had been done to solve Lunar's weight problem so the decision was taken to remove the dog immediately.
Giving evidence to the court, Penny Medland, area co-ordinator for the Trust, said: ‘I made the decision purely on a welfare basis. She was being left in a car for long periods, she had the demeanour of a dog double her age, she was rather dull with not very much spark and overweight.’
Alexandra Hughes told the court that after the June visit she had taken Lunar to the vet and started her on a vet controlled diet and that Lunar was never in the car for longer than an hour.
Miss Hughes, of Eastleigh, said: ‘I was doing something about her weight and Lunar was losing weight steadily and doing well.
‘I didn't notice that she was overweight until a member of the public took a photo of her in June and I thought: Gosh, my dog is looking a bit overweight.'
His Honour Judge Reid QC took just over two weeks to deliver his written verdict, which was given on Friday September 21st. In a 14-page judgement, Judge Reid ruled in favour of the Labrador Lifeline Trust and ordered that the dog was, in fact, the property of the Trust.
Anne Carter, Administrator of the Labrador Lifeline Trust commented:
‘The Trust would at the outset like to thank His Honour Judge Reid QC for his detailed consideration of the issues at the full day’s trial and subsequently in preparation for the delivery of his judgment today which runs to some 14 pages.
‘His Honour’s decision is clear, the dog Lunar has been owned throughout by the Trust and not Mrs Hughes. In his judgment His Honour highlighted the concerns of the Trust as to Lunar’s welfare in October 2006 which justified her removal from Mrs. Hughes care. His Honour’s finding of fact that Lunar was some 27% over target weight at the time she was taken back into the care of the Trust in October 2006 needs no further comment.
‘The Trust is pleased to confirm that Lunar has been successfully re-homed, has regained target weight and is the picture of health. Her new family continues to receive support from the Trust as is offered to all of those who assist the Trust in its charitable objectives.
‘The Trust is deeply disappointed that it has been obliged to deal with these lengthy and costly proceedings in respect of the only dog which it has had to compulsorily retrieve in the 11 years of its existence, during which time it has re-homed approximately two thousand dogs.’
Mrs Carter added that Lunar had now been formally adopted by the family that had fostered her during the past year whilst the legal dispute was ongoing.
‘She is one very happy dog who loves her holidays and walks in the Lake District and enjoys playing with other dogs, a very different dog now but this has been achieved with much love and encouragement from her