A Florence County, South Carolina family was finally able to pick up their German shepherd, after he was taken from their yard by animal control officers, but it took 300,000 signatures to do it.
On May 1, Liliana Arellano returned to her home after running errands and rather than being greeted by her German shepherd, Leo, she discovered a green notice from the Florence County Environment Services Division notifying her “We have a German shepherd we think belongs to you. You have 15 days to pick him up.”
It was Friday afternoon so Arellano immediately called the phone number but there was no answer. She then reached out to them on Facebook and was told she had to wait until Monday to pick him up. She said:
“We immediately contacted them on Facebook and they were like you can’t pick him up today,” said Arellano. “So Monday morning, first thing when we arrive, they were like this is a bigger case than we thought and we’d have to go to court to get him back, apparently he was deemed ‘dangerous’ by a neighbor and of course we didn’t understand because this had never happened to us.”
The thing was, Leo had not bit any person or animal and did not have a history of aggressive behavior. He was inside his own yard when he was picked up. Apparently animal control was called because a neighbor was scared of Leo and decided to make a complaint.
“Every time we ask if he bit anyone, they are like, ‘No he just scared the neighbors,’” said Arellano. “I was like, ‘well he’s scared, and what does that mean? What if a person is just scared of dogs?’"
The situation went from bad to worse when on Monday when the shelter allegedly refused to release Leo claiming he was dangerous. The family was told they would have to go to court to get Leo back and a date was set for one month away, despite the law saying the court date should happen within 5 days.
Despite multiple attempts to get Leo back, the human society dragged their feet even differing in opinion on how to handle the case than the sheriff’s department, who did not have jurisdiction.
WMBF New reported, “The Florence County Sheriff’s Office does not have jurisdiction in the case, but they did make recommendations on how it should be handled. The sheriff’s office said Environmental Services decided to go in a different direction.”
In the meantime, Leo was confined to a cell in the shelter. The family expressed their fears that Leo was "scared, lonely, confined to a cell, and was starting to go kennel crazy." They were not allowed to visit, walk, or bath Leo while he was there.
A witness came forward that claimed, “Leo had been on the family's property under the porch when Environmental Services approached him. They reportedly tazed the dog and dragged him to the vehicle.”
In desperation the family began a Change.org petition, reached out to the sheriff’s department, and contacted the Florence County Administrators Office claiming they had no right to take Leo.
After the public got involved, they soon had 300,000 signatures of their change.org petition and Leo was released. However, there is another hearing scheduled to determine if Leo will be deemed a dangerous dog and the family is still pressing for justice for Leo.
"We are continuing to push to hold the facility and County accountable for their actions and their mismanagement of the facility."
If it could happen to Leo, it could happen to any of us. Please share his story with your family and friends.