Wednesday, October 12, 2011

532. Animals as Commodities: The Case of a German Shepherd That Did Not Understand German

By Vincent M. Mallozzi, The New York Times, October 11, 2011

On Oct. 4, Jason Dubin drove to La Guardia Airport to pick up the newest member of his household.

Six days after that first happy meeting, Mr. Dubin returned to La Guardia with that same member, a German shepherd named Emmi, and sent her on a Continental Airlines flight to Seattle with a one-way ticket.
“I just couldn’t control her anymore; it was just time to part ways,” said Mr. Dubin, who made the drive from his Port Jefferson home on Long Island as Emmi, who is 5, fidgeted and barked in the back seat.
Mr. Dubin had bought the 80-pound dog over the Internet for $7,500 from Kraftwerk K9, a company in Rochester, Wash., that breeds, trains and sells German shepherds.
“Emmi was portrayed to us as an obedient, well-trained, even-tempered dog,” Mr. Dubin said on Tuesday. “But within a week, I soon realized that Emmi was an aggressive dog who posed a great danger to my family.”
So Mr. Dubin shipped Emmi back to the West Coast, but there was no one there to greet her when she arrived, safe in her crate, at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on Monday afternoon. After lingering for a time in the company of pushcarts and lost luggage, Emmi was forced to spend a night in a Seattle kennel.
“Why would Mr. Dubin abandon his dog like that?” Wayne Curry, the owner of Kraftwerk K9, said on Tuesday in a telephone interview. “The dog belonged to him. We had a purchase agreement that stated he had 72 hours to return the dog if he was unsatisfied, and that time period had elapsed.”
Mr. Dubin, who ordered and paid for Emmi on Oct. 1, said that he had indeed contacted Mr. Curry and a member of his staff within the allotted 72 hours, complaining to both of them that Emmi, who was born and raised in Germany, was not responding to German commands like “sitz” (sit), “fuss” (heel) and “aus” (let go). Even worse, Mr. Dubin said, Emmi was terrorizing his pet cat, had twice tried to bite his 8-year-old son and had bitten another dog on the face.
“I spoke to someone else there and waited for Mr. Curry to call me back, but he never did,” Mr. Dubin said. “They just waited me out until the return period expired.”
When told of that accusation, Mr. Curry responded: “That’s not even near correct. Mr. Dubin called us the day after he received Emmi and told us that she wasn’t getting along with his cat, but never said anything about wanting to return her to us. It wasn’t until Saturday, Oct. 8, that he expressed a desire, via e-mail, to return Emmi, and by that time, he was already too late.”
The following day, Mr. Curry received an e-mail from a Continental official telling him that Mr. Dubin had booked Emmi on a Monday flight to Seattle. But Mr. Curry refused delivery, saying there would be no one at the airport to pick the dog up. A short time later, Mr. Curry said, Continental followed with an e-mail confirming cancellation of the booking for Emmi. But unbeknown to Mr. Curry, Mr. Dubin rebooked Emmi’s transportation and somehow persuaded Continental officials to ship Emmi the roughly 3,000 miles.
A spokeswoman for Continental said: “We followed all standard procedures, and the animal arrived at its destination safely. We were in accordance with the U.S. Animal Welfare Act, which gives us a four-hour period to wait for a recipient to arrive at the airport before sending an animal to a shelter.”
Mr. Dubin, whose payment for Emmi is being disputed with his credit card company, said that more than a half-hour after leaving her at the airport, he received a call from a Continental official at the company’s headquarters in Houston telling him that Mr. Curry had informed the airline that he would not be meeting Emmi at the plane, which had already taken off and was to stop in Houston before proceeding to Seattle.
“She was already gone,” Mr. Dubin said. “By that time, it was too late for me to do anything about it.”
Eventually, Mr. Curry was told by Continental that Emmi had spent Monday night at the Airpet Hotel in Seattle. He sent a staff member to pick her up, and paid a $115 boarding fee before returning her to his kennel.
Mr. Curry, holding firm to his company’s return-date policy, sent a terse e-mail to Mr. Dubin and his wife, Susan, on Tuesday: “We are picking up Emmi since you clearly abandoned her. Per the purchase agreement no monies are due.”
Despite their differences, both Mr. Dubin and Mr. Curry agreed that Emmi’s safe return was what mattered most in the end.
“I’m glad he picked her up,” Mr. Dubin said. “I was worried that Emmi might be destroyed in a shelter somewhere if no one claimed her. That’s not what I wanted.”

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