Carolyn Lynch says she learned a lot from dogs in her past 11 years as an animal-control officer, even when to fight her employer.

"I'm notorious for finding things and then fighting for them, but you have to push me to that point," says Lynch. "If [dogs] are backed into a corner, they either retreat and give up or they come back at you."

Lynch filed a lawsuit against the Memphis Animal Shelter earlier this month for the possession of one dog with an approximate value of $50. The animal, which was impounded by the shelter on February 28th and adopted by Lynch on March 6th, was given back to the original owner on March 8th.

"I just want the dog," says Lynch, who's been working for the city for four years. "I legally paid for it. I followed all the policies. Shelter employees have to wait an extra 24 hours before they can adopt an animal. I followed that. I followed all the rules."

When stray dogs are picked up by the shelter, the policy is to give the owner three days to come claim the dog. After the three days are up, the animal is available for adoption by the public. Shelter employees must wait an extra day to give the public the first opportunity to adopt the animal.

After adopting the dog and paying the fee, Lynch left the animal at the shelter to be neutered; it was during that time that the original owner came back to claim the dog. Lynch says during the days following the adoption no one would tell her exactly when the dog would be ready to take home. It wasn't until March 11th that a supervisor told her the dog had been released to its original owner two days after she had adopted it and that it was unwritten shelter policy to do so.

"I also want the policy in writing," she says. "[The supervisor] was bragging that he's done this to the public all the time ... apparently the public doesn't know any better."

"If they do this to the public, it will only discourage them from coming back and getting another dog. Adopting an animal should be made as easy as possible. And if you'll do this to your own employees," says Lynch, "what are you doing to the public?"

Donnie Mitchell, the city's director of public services and neighborhoods, reached by phone on Monday, saw things a little differently.

"If a citizen has an animal that is rightfully theirs," he says, "I would prefer to give the animal back to its original owner, rather than an employee, unless it has been proven that the home was an abusive situation and I will have to deal with the consequences of that."

Both the city and Lynch seem to agree on the basic facts, but there seems to be some discrepancy over whether Lynch received a refund for her abated adoption. Lynch says her check was cashed the same day the dog was given back to its original owner. Shelter records obtained Monday have the word "void" handwritten next to Lynch's $37 adoption fee and $8 rabies shot.

"No, I haven't gotten my money back," says Lynch. "They haven't even offered."

Upon learning of the discrepancy, Mitchell said the money would be refunded if it had not already been.

Shelter records say it was the second impoundment from the original owner's address. He paid $179 in fees to retrieve the dog.

The case is set to go to General Sessions Court April 22nd.


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