KINGSVILLE, TEXAS -- A former Harrisburg man who now lives in Texas filed suit on Tuesday for the return of his dog, which, according to Texas law, is being held illegally by a canine rescue group.
Brian Buchanan, who grew up in Harrisburg, is a U.S. Border Patrol agent and dog handler. He's had four canine partners, and a few years ago, he adopted his former canine partner "Endy." On New Year's Eve, apparently frightened by neighborhood fireworks, Endy got out of Buchanan's yard and disappeared.
A neighbor, who did not know Buchanan, reported the dog, a Belgian Malinois, to the Kingsville animal control department. Though Buchanan repeatedly contacted the animal control department about Endy, he was told his dog was not there.
However, documents retrieved from the animal control department showed that Endy, was in fact, in their custody. The date of custody also was apparently mis-entered as Dec. 2 instead of Jan. 2. He was then "rescued" by a group called Kingsville Animal Advocates from being destroyed, though he was given to the group's custody earlier than the three business days mandated by city policy, according to animal control records.
When Buchanan later found Endy's photo on the Kingsville Animal Advocates Facebook page and contacted the group, he repeatedly was told Endy was not his dog. Endy, when he was owned by Border Patrol, had been outfitted with a microchip ID. However, he was not checked for a microchip until much later.
Eventually, Endy was transferred local members of the American Belgian Malinois Rescue.
After Buchanan began to inquire about retrieving his dog, members of the organization began to make claims stating that Endy had been abused and had been subjected terrible living conditions at the Buchanan home.
Buchanan approached the Kleberg County sheriff and district attorney about filing criminal theft charges against the group, but so far, no charges have been filed.
On Tuesday, an attorney retained by Buchanan, Richard W. Sipes, filed suit against American Belgian Malinois Rescue Inc., Marcia Tockson, Roxanne Sandt, Katherine Villareal, Matt Henry (aka Rico Shepherd) Kingsville Animal Advocates (KAA) and the city of Kingsville, Texas.
The suit seeks the return of Endy, citing allegations of theft according to state law, libel, slander and defamation, as well as recovery of damages associated with the allegations.
The director of a retired police dog advocacy group, who has been helping Buchanan, said he doesn't understand why the dog hasn't been returned without resorting to legal action.
"Basically, I don't understand what they're doing," Richard Geraci, director of the New York-based Retired Police Canine Foundation, said. "For the life of me, I don't understand why they haven't got the dog back yet."
Geraci said he's been contacted by former ABMR board members who said they don't understand the group's interest in the dog.
He also said the dog's whereabouts appear to be a closely guarded secret.
"Nobody's seen pictures of this dog, nobody knows where the dog is, and anytime anyone contacts this group, they get the same answer," Geraci said.
Geraci said he had a conversation with one person involved in taking Endy, who acknowledged they were well aware that the dog was Buchanan's, but they had no plans to return him.
"I said, 'This is Brian's dog,' and she basically said, 'Well, it's my dog now,'" Geraci said.
A petition Geraci started on change.org already has garnered more than 150,000 signatures asking that Endy be returned.
Geraci also said ABMR continues to make false claims of Endy's health.
"They're ruining Brian's reputation, claiming he had the dog in abusive living conditions, which is not true. As a dog handler for Border Patrol, he's had four canine partners. He's never had any sort of disciplinary action regarding his canine partners' care," Geraci said.
A representative for ABMR has not yet responded to a request for comment on the suit.
Geraci said he hopes Endy is recovered, and he's lending what help he can in that regard. He's already pledged that his organization will furnish all Endy's future care as long as Endy lives.
"This whole thing is crazy. I guess I'm used to New York stuff. This wouldn't fly here. The whole thing would have ended a month ago," Geraci said.