Leaders of a Lakewood animal rescue group are seeking a court order that would allow them to break into the home of a woman they contend took one of their dogs on a temporary basis but never brought it back.
Purrrsons United for the Rescue, Rehabilitation and Relocation of Animals filed suit last month against Tracee Kirby, who's also known as Tracee Wilson, in Pierce County Superior Court.
The group contends Kirby agreed to provide a foster home for a black Lab mix named Chance this summer but failed to return the dog for an adoption event as agreed. Chance still has not been returned, the group alleges.
The organization, which goes by the acronym PURRR, wants a judge to order Kirby to return the dog. If she doesn't, it wants authority to break into her home or yard to recover Chance, the lawsuit shows.
"Kirby never returned Chance as promised despite repeated demands made by PURRR volunteers," according to the suit, which was filed on the group's behalf by Bellingham attorney Adam Karp. "PURRR has not and does not approve Kirby to adopt Chance."
Kirby told The News Tribune during a brief telephone interview last week that Chance is "in Montana, and he's not coming back."
She said her niece and her daughter obtained the dog from its previous owners and that she had no interaction with PURRR until she learned some of its volunteers allegedly were rude to her relatives. Kirby said she then began investigating the agency for "tax evasion" but ran into roadblocks when PURRR officials declined to turn over financial records.
"I haven't seen anything from them," she said.
Kirby then hung up on a reporter instead of answering further questions about when, where and why her niece and daughter were allegedly treated rudely by PURRR volunteers and how they came by Chance.
"Have a nice day," she said before ending the call.
As part of PURRR's lawsuit, Karp filed into the court record emails he says Kirby sent him during his attempts to have the dog returned.
In them, she denies she has Chance and accuses PURRR of trying to harass and intimidate her because she is investigating the group.
"I have never received a black Lab dog from anyone at PURRR," one of the emails allegedly sent by Kirby states. "Whatever tactic your client and you are attempting to prevent me from investigating the conduct of a public non-profit organization and making all reports I deem necessary to stop corruption and abuses will be reported to the appropriate authorities."
PURRR contends in its lawsuit that Kirby took possession of the dog Aug. 31 during a pet adoption event at the PetSmart in Lakewood.
A PURRR volunteer asked Kirby to fill out a foster agreement, the lawsuit states. The group sometimes allows people to temporarily house animals that are up for adoption.
The volunteer told Kirby she would need to bring Chance back the next day so the dog could be displayed for adoption, the lawsuit shows. The agreement also stated that foster providers get to keep an animal only temporarily. Foster providers wishing to keep an animal permanently must go through a more formal adoption process and pay fees.
Kirby did not go through the adoption process, the lawsuit states.
When Kirby hadn't returned Chance by midday Sept. 1, the PURRR volunteer called a phone number Kirby had printed on the foster application to find out what was going on. A game of phone tag ensued, according to the lawsuit, but the volunteer reported she and Kirby eventually connected.
"She returned my call and asked me to explain the situation," court documents quote the volunteer as saying. "She denied the fact that we had a foster agreement or had ever met and also started getting upset and being rude with me. I politely asked her to lower her voice and tone with me because I was not being rude with her. That is when she became irate and yelling derogatory names over the phone to me."
The volunteer said in a sworn statement that she was so shaken up by the conversation she reported it to police.
Other efforts to secure Chance's return met with similar results, according to pleadings filed by Karp.
The lawyer contends in documents that Kirby tricked Chance's previous owners into signing records "releasing" the dog to her even though they'd returned the dog to PURRR after their adoption of him didn't work out.
Karp also contends Kirby, under an assumed name, launched a campaign on PURRR's Facebook page to discredit the organization, accusations Kirby denied in an email to Karp.
"Sifting away the obscenities and threats left hardly anything of value except to prove malicious intent," the lawyer wrote in a Sept. 4 email to Kirby about the Facebook posts. "If you do not return Chance by 5 p.m., I will sue you and your husband, and anyone else who has colluded with you to steal Chance, defame PURRR, and/or harass its representatives."
She didn't, and he did.
"It is a lot of trouble to go to," Karp told The News Tribune. "But thieves should not be rewarded. And any person who would engage in such alleged misconduct is certainly not an appropriate home for Chance. Ms. Kirby's actions necessitate judicial interference to rectify her alleged wrongdoing. And PURRR is committed to seeing it through."A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 29 in Superior Court to determine whether Kirby is required to surrender Chance immediately, court records show.