A little lost dog named Copper is in the middle of a bureaucratic snafu stemming from a mistaken identity that involves city and county governments, Frankfort police and others.
“We don’t take coyotes,” a Frankfort Humane Society employee told a Frankfort police officer, who brought an animal later identified as Copper to the Kentucky Avenue shelter.
“If it’s a coyote, either shoot it or release it back to the wild,” Wildlife Solutions told a police sergeant who called the business for advice after Copper was turned away.
Animal activist Trudi Johnson summed up Copper’s dilemma: “This story just goes downhill and at the bottom of that hill lays the Humane Society’s inability to recognize a dog from a coyote.”
“People would say when Copper was young, she looked like a fox with her pointy ears and red coloring,” said Copper’s owner, Lori Goodlett, about her Sheba Inu, a female officially registered with the AKC.
“But no one has ever mistaken her for a coyote.”
The debacle, which could end badly, began Saturday, July 3.
Goodlett said she returned to her Cloverdale home around 3 p.m. after being away for the night to find Copper gone from her fenced yard. A veterinarian friend told her to call the Humane Society to see if Copper had been turned in.
Goodlett says the person who answered said, “We haven’t gotten a stray dog today,” and that ended the conversation.
Goodlett phoned again to leave her name, number and Copper’s breed.
“I was able to get out the breed of the dog, but the person reiterated they didn’t have one and once again hung up.”
Goodlett says she’s unsure how Copper could have escaped since the gate of the chain-link fence has a clip that has to be released to open it. She also checked to see if Copper had wiggled under the fence but found nothing.
“I’ve had her 11 years, and she has never jumped the fence.”
On Sunday, Goodlett posted missing signs along with Copper’s picture around the west Frankfort neighborhood.
Monday, Goodlett said she was gone with her children to King’s Island for most of the day.
A Frankfort Police officer patrolling Cloverdale saw Goodlett’s posted signs and took one to the downtown station.
According to Maj. Fred Deaton, Copper was indeed the dog picked up by a police officer.
The veteran officer and his captain drove to the Goodlett home and related the chain of events.
“Honestly, if the police had not come to my house I would have not known any of the events,” Goodlett said. “They have been so forthcoming and offered so much help.”
A Frankfort police officer had been summoned to a Gramma Drive address on Saturday morning to take a dog from a woman’s yard. The officer put the dog in his car and waited until after noon when the Humane Society opened and took the dog there.
According to Deaton, the dog did not wear any identification or a collar. However, he said he doubted if the animal were a coyote it would have gone peacefully with the officer.
Animal Control Officer Mark Pardi, who normally responds to calls, was on vacation that weekend.
The officer left the dog at the Humane Society only to be called back and told the animal had to be removed from the shelter because it was against the law to shelter a coyote.
The police officer, currently on military leave, refused to take the dog back.
His captain, Ray Kinney, was called and was told by the Humane Society Director Regina McDaniel that the coyote had to go, according to Deaton.
In the meantime the police, since the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources was closed, contacted Wildlife Solutions, a private business, and were told a coyote was considered a nuisance and could be shot or returned to the wild.
The officer took Copper to the open fields behind Home Depot, removed her from her carrier and let her go.
According to Goodlett, the captain and the veteran officer at her door were upset with the chain of events.
“They continuously apologized, and they gave me a computer disc with all the pictures that had been taken to document the event.”
“Fortunately,” Deaton said, “The officer had the foresight to photograph the dog.”
On Tuesday, Goodlett was joined by several police officers in a field search behind Home Depot. Pardi, back from his vacation, also went looking for Copper and set cages in hopes of capturing her.
Deaton says Kinney returned a second time “off the clock” to continue looking for Copper.
“I in no way blame neither the officer nor the city police,” Goodlett said. “The officer tried to do the right thing. Throughout this whole matter, the police department has been forthcoming, honest and deeply apologetic.”
Goodlett does blame the Humane Society.
“How anyone there could have mistaken Copper for a coyote is beyond me. If nothing else every employee needs training in breed recognition. They also need training in responding to the public; the handling of my two phone calls was totally unprofessional and inappropriate.”
Goodlett said she has also made a trip to the Humane Society in hopes of at least getting an apology.
“That visit went about as badly as my phone calls.”
As it turns out, according to a police report on the matter, Goodlett’s calls to the shelter looking for Copper fell into the same time frame that the police officer was there with her.
There’s another dimension to the story. Copper was purchased years ago as a friend to Goodlett’s other Sheba Inu, Trigger. He’s now 15, with a serious heart murmur and, according to Goodlett, mourns for his little lost friend.
“Both dogs split time between being inside and outside. But when I leave for just an overnight, they remain outside, since Trigger has grown incontinent. Neither of them has ever left the fence unless a gate has been left open.”
Goodlett has since talked with the woman on nearby Gramma Drive who called the police. She told Goodlett she had no idea how the dog wound up inside her fence. She also told Goodlett because she too was leaving town, she did not want to leave Copper fenced in her yard.
Second District Magistrate Phillip Kring says there’s a breakdown in the system.
“Normally if Mark (Pardi) is out of town, the county’s animal control officer is called,” Kring said.
According to Kring that officer is attached to the sheriff’s office.
“Plus we (Fiscal Court) pay an assistant. Someone had to be on call.”
Kring said to his knowledge Fiscal Court does not have any oversight of the shelter nor does it require accountability from it.
“We pay the animal control officers and give the Humane Society roughly $50,000 a year to take the animals that are picked up in the county.”
Otherwise, according to Kring, the Humane Society is a private non-profit that has its own board of directors and hires its own manager.
City Commissioner Sellus Wilder said the city provides $55,000 to the Humane Society out of its police budget.
“The city needs to hold the Humane Society more accountable for the public funds they receive,” Wilder said.
According to Joe Johnson, a board member of the Humane Society, to his knowledge the board is totally unaware of the situation that occurred in early July.
“We just held a board meeting Saturday and none of this was brought to our attention.”
John Forbes, board president, said he stands behind the decision made by the manager.
“If our manager (McDaniel) assessed the animal to be a coyote, then it is against the law for it to be at the shelter. We rely on the people who work there,” Forbes said.
Trudi Johnson, the animal activist, sent a letter to the county judge, fiscal court members, mayor and city commissioners advocating that both bodies request a designee be placed on the Humane Society board to provide accountability.
“I advised them of the latest incident that has occurred and hope they will be responsive to this latest situation,” Trudi Johnson said.
“There was no reason for this situation to occur, except someone did not recognize a dog from a coyote. That is a stretch for people who are supposed to be professionals.”
Johnson said there is a local group organizing who will do another search in the area behind Home Depot.
“I know in my head Copper is gone for good, but in my heart I would like to think some nice family found her and took her in,” Goodlett said.
Anyone who might have any information about Copper may call Goodlett at (502) 226-2580 or Frankfort Police.