Manitoba

'We're heartbroken': Winnipeg couple taking animal rescue group to court in battle to get their dog back

A Winnipeg couple who adopted a dog from an animal rescue group is now suing the charity for taking the dog away from them while they were on holidays in Mexico.

Filed lawsuit claiming dachshund was stolen by dog rescue while they were on vacation

A Winnipeg couple is suing a local rescue group for taking their weiner dog Nicolas while they were on a vacation in Mexico last February. (Kevin Jardine)

A Winnipeg couple who adopted a dog from an animal rescue group is suing the charity for taking the dog back while they were on holidays in Mexico.

"We were shocked, absolutely shocked," said Barbara Rudiak who owns three other dogs with her husband Kevin Jardine.

"He was a huge part of our lives and we're just devastated he's been taken. We feel he's been stolen from us," she said.

Rudiak said they adopted all four of their dachshunds from various rescue shelters over the last few years. One of those dogs, named Nicolas, was adopted last May from Before The Bridge Senior K9 Rescue, a group based in Stony Mountain that rescues older dogs that have been abandoned or neglected. 

"So I wrapped him up in a little blanket took him home and told Kevin his story and of course he fell in love with him instantly too," she recalled.

Last February, Rudiak and Jardine decided to take a trip to Mexico. They could only take two of their dogs, so they left Nicolas and their puppy named Jazz in the care of a friend.

"We travel with our dogs a lot," said Jardine. "We wish we could take them all, but unfortunately we can't."

Barbara Rudiak, left, and Kevin Jardine, right, are taking Before the Bridge K-9 Rescue to court after the dog rescue took back, Nicolas, a dachsund they paid $250 to adopt last year. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Not long after dropping the dogs off, Rudiak said she got a call that Nicolas had been bitten by Jazz. She said she was told by her friend the bite was not that serious, so they left for the airport the next morning.

Rudiak said she left instructions for the dogsitter to keep Jazz in his kennel, and away from Nicolas, until another friend could pick up Nicolas.

But after spending almost a week in Mexico, she said the couple received a call from another friend that Nicolas had been taken by Before The Bridge.

"We're heartbroken to be honest, we really miss little Nicolas, he's a huge part of our family."

Rudiak said it was the rescue group that initially approached them about adopting Nicolas because the couple are known for taking in dogs with special needs. Two of their dogs are paralyzed.

"Our lives revolve around all our dogs, I'm home all day with our two cart dogs, they need constant help they can't use the bathroom by themselves, and they need to be moved so they don't get bed sores," Rudiak said.  

She says to date they have not been able to set up a meeting with the rescue group to discuss what concerns they had about Nicolas and why they took him back.

Couple taking case to court

Winnipeg lawyer Kevin Toyne has taken the couple's case because he believes the rescue group gave up ownership of the dog after he was sold.

The couple paid a $250 adoption fee for Nicolas.

Toyne said the couple did not sign a contract but did sign an application to adopt a dog from the rescue in the past.

The application indicates the rescue group can reclaim the dog if it believes the animal is being abused, but he adds that likely won't hold up in court.

"When these lawsuits are brought to the courts rightly or wrongly they consider domestic animals like dogs and cats to be property," Toyne said.

The lawyer for the couple, Kevin Toyne, says in the eyes of the law dogs are considered property. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"So it's not about who's the best parent for the animal or who can take better care of the animal, although those are important issues, it's who actually owns the animal," Toyne said.

"If someone is concerned about how an animal is treated you don't steal the animal," he said. "You make a report to the humane society or to the city of Winnipeg Animal Control, you don't take the law into your own hands."

Bill Gange, the lawyer representing Before The Bridge Dog Rescue said they are in the process of filing a statement of defence and more details will come out when the case is heard in court on June 13.

Gange said it will be up to the courts to decide whether the steps taken by the rescue to repossess the dog were appropriate. 

"It's going to be interesting to see what the courts say," said Javier Schwersensky, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society. 

He said the society does not have clauses or contracts that would allow it to reclaim a pet but adds it's not uncommon for rescue groups to have their own rules when adopting out animals. 

The society believes if an animal is being abused it would take action under the province's Animal Care Act.

"The issue is the Animal Care Act is fairly outdated. The animal needs to be in serious distress in order for the province to say 'yes' you can take it back. That is where the disconnect happens between the expectations of an animal rescue and what the person adopting the animal from them may or may not know, " Schwersensky said.

'He is our baby'

Rudiak says she's also angry they weren't notified by the rescue sooner that Nicolas had been taken.

"So for that whole week [in Mexico] we had no indication that there's something that's gone so wrong," she said.

Jardine says when they got back to Winnipeg they were told by the director of the rescue that Nicolas was taken back for safety reasons.
Barbara Rudiak and her husband Kevin Jardine adopted their weiner dog Nicolas last May. The dog was adopted from Before The Bridge Senior K9 Rescue. The couple is now suing the shelter for taking the dog back while the couple was on a trip to Mexico. (Kevin Jardine)

"They said they feel he was in danger because of the attacks, and having Jazz in our home," said Jardine who added Jazz is not a bad dog.

"Jazz is a puppy and he is still learning," said Rudiak.

The couple says they have since given up ownership of Jazz, in hopes that the rescue group would consider giving Nicolas back.

She said Jazz is now under the care of a family friend who lives on their street who has play dates with their dogs.

"We will not stop because he is our baby, he is our life," said Rudiak.

"To us, this is no different than if parents left a child with a friend to babysit and while they were away, CFS comes and takes your child," she said fighting back tears.

"We are devastated, we can't even imagine what he's going through … he's not a nervous dog but he's more sensitive."

A Winnipeg couple who adopted a dog from an animal rescue group is suing the charity for taking the dog back while they were on holidays in Mexico. 2:52

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