In the last few weeks, I’ve written the following posts about what I consider questionable dog adoption practices by PURRR Rescue and the organization’s effort to keep up to 2 dozen of its dogs hidden from the public:
When Brynn Grimley at the Tacoma News Tribune first broke this story in December, she noted that the City of Lakewood denied PURRR Rescue’s request for a business license.
Through a public records request I obtained a copy of a letter sent from Lakewood Assistant City Manager M. David Bugher to PURRR Rescue’s attorney Adam Karp explaining why the city denied PURRR’s application.
Dated September 11, 2014, the letter documents several confrontations between Lakewood Animal Control and PURRR Rescue director Diana VanDusen and outlines the specific reasons why the city denied the license.
The letter reveals that Lakewood received “multiple complaints relative to Ms. VanDusen’s/PURRR Operations” and, in my opinion, indicates that PURRR Rescue put dogs into peoples homes without conducting proper behavior assessment evaluations on them.
Assistant City Manager Bugher said that the City of Lakewood denied PURRR Rescue a business license because it believed “the issuance of a City of Lakewood business license to PURRR would be injurious to the public health, safety, and welfare” of the city.
Here are some of the incidents Mr. Bugher highlighted as the reasons the city denied the application followed by the entire letter:
On May 12, 2014, Lakewood Police were dispatched to Ms. VanDusen’s home after someone reported two dogs were at large. An Animal Control Officer cited her for two counts of “animals at large on private property and one count of animal license required.” She was fined $200 but as of September 9, 2014, “no part of (the) fines (had) been paid.”
On July 16, 2014, Animal Control Officers from Lakewood and Tacoma arrived at Ms. VanDusen’s home “to serve a potentially dangerous dog declaration” to her. The dog, a pit bull named Daisy Mae (she was listed as Sadie Mae in other stories), was deemed potentially dangerous because soon after it was adopted from PURRR, it “promptly killed a Tacoma family’s two cats.”
When the officers knocked on the door, the house “erupted with barking dogs.” One of the officers saw “8-10 Dachshund/Chihuahua type dogs” in the house, and one of them “heard a voice telling them to be quiet.” He also said “it sounded like someone was putting dogs in other rooms.”
Sadie Mae is now kept as a foster dog at a boarding facility on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
On August 2, 2014, Lakewood Animal Control Officer Mathies was dispatched to an apartment building for a “dog-on-dog attack.” His investigation revealed that a pit bull named Chico “killed a Pomeranian.” Chico was “a PURRR rescue dog.
Later that morning Officer Mathies went to PetSmart in Lakewood to talk with Ms. VanDusen. When he contacted her “he discovered that she was selling animal without a valid business license.”
Chico’s owner later told Officer Mathies that Ms. VanDusen told him “she could change the breed of his dog on paper so the pit bull could be accepted at an apartment complex that didn’t allow the breed.”
Adoption papers showed that Chico from a kennel in the Los Angeles area and was surrendered “for what we understand are animal aggressive behaviors.”
Chico was surrendered to Lakeside Animal Control and euthanized.
On August 17, 2014, a woman named Diana Sullivan reported that a gray pit bull “attacked a small Shih Tzu mix named Sweetie that was being walked by its owner.” The dog sustained severe injuries and had to be euthanized.
During the course of their investigation, Lakewood Animal Control learned the dog, whose name was Mama, “was also a PURRR rescue dog.”
Mama’s owner told officers that on the afternoon of the incident, “she began receiving calls and text messages from PURRR volunteers and/or affiliates.” One of them who identified herself as Lisa said that “she was a friend of Ms. VanDusen and and that she would take the dog down to California for training.” Lisa also asked her to “tell police she had a friend who was a dog trainer” and “specifically asked (her) not to reference PURRR in her discussions with law enforcement.
(A woman named Lisa Cowan in California sent me several messages threatening to sue me about my PURRR Rescue posts. She lives in California butI don’t know how she is connected to PURRR. I can’t say for sure if she’s the same woman that contacts Mama’s owner, but I doubt it’s a coincidence.)
The report also noted that “subsequent contacts were made with (Mama’s owner) by individuals ostensibly acting on PURRR’s behalf coaching her what to say to the police; requesting that any medical bills be forwarded and that fundraising would take care of them, and that the microchip would be changed.” Someone also told her “a new owner would be found for the dog.”
An investigation revealed that the dog was “surrendered for aggressive behavior” to the animal shelter for the city of San Bernardino, CA. The report noted that “this information was not disclosed to (the dog’s owner) or her family.
Mama was euthanized at the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County on August 27, 2014.
Here’s a summary of the three reasons the city of Lakewood gave for denying PURRR’s business license application:
1. “PURRR and/or its principal, Diane VanDusen has engaged and is likely to continue to engage in illegal activity, causing a nuisance, and in violation of the Code meriting license denial.”
2. “PURRR and/or its principal, Diane VanDusen, has failed to pay a civil penalty/civic judgement.”
3. “PURR has failed to cooperate in an investigation” the city of Lakewood conducted to determine if it should approve its application for a business license.
It is disturbing to me that PURRR Rescue has had multiple confrontations with animal control officers. I’ve never heard of a rescue adopting out dangerous dogs that killed other dogs and cats, coaching what adopters should say to animal control, and, as noted in the report, accused by a municipality of “(engaging) in illegal activity” and “causing a nuisance.”
If you plan to adopt a dog from a rescue, please do your research carefully. Rescues that have had lots of problems with animal control or law enforcement should raise red flags.
There are plenty of reputable groups with spotless records that have great dogs waiting for a good home.
Here is the entire letter from the city of Lakewood to PURRR attorney explaining why their application was denied: