Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Adoption Contracts - Time for a legal review.........

A bit of background info for today’s blog:

A chapter of Greyhound Pets of America who is currently being harassed and being subjected to social media character assassination by an adopter who has no compunction about ignoring one of the basic rules of greyhound adoption - keep on lead in an unenclosed area - but also common sense of pet ownership - keeping a collar with identification on your dog and having your dog micro chipped. The most difficult thing to understand is why this individual failed to contact the adoption group any of the times his dog got loose and went missing. Yet because the adoption group felt the need to take possession of the dog after its last escape, this adopter is mounting an all-out assault on the GPA-Chapter and its membership, other GPA chapters as well as GPA National all because this adopter failed to follows the rules in the adoption agreement that he willingly signed. And while the greyhound has been returned to this adopter, the hateful attacks have not stopped by the adopter and his supporters who also do not seem to understand the correct care of an ex-racing greyhound so much so that one supporter feels that all the greyhounds shown on Facebook's Greyhound Amber Alert may well be greyhounds that have been stolen from adopters by the greyhound adoption groups.

Time for a legal review……

Several years ago an adopter got arrested and spent some quality time in jail. Upon entering jail this adopter turned over her greyhound to a local shelter. The greyhound adoption program that originally adopted the greyhound to her was able to retrieve the greyhound from the shelter. Upon exiting jail the adopter wanted her greyhound back and sued. I was named in the lawsuit, as at the time I was Greyhound Pets of America’s National President. I had no problem getting myself removed from the lawsuit, thanks to some excellent counsel, but it still required me spending time to show up for court appearances and also legal fees.

The eventual outcome of the case was not what I expected. After all, the group had a signed adoption agreement with the adopter. The court ended up ruling in the jailbirds favor.

We all love our greyhounds, and greyhound adoption volunteers want to do what’s best for the greyhounds. Often times that love can lead to rash decisions that later cause legal headaches.

Now would be a good time for every adoption program to have counsel review documents, and then discussions on how to enforce said documents. Trust me, it is a lot cheaper to discuss with counsel now, than to have counsel try and right the wrongs at the end. It is also safer for the greyhounds if you are using approved legal documents with knowledge of how to enforce those documents.

If I was still on the front lines of greyhound adoption, the lessons I’ve learned in year’s past would have me letting counsel do all the communicating with a problem adopter that is violating the adoption agreement. Of course that would only be after I had counsel review all contracts and advice group on how it can or can’t be enforced.

Every day we have lessons to learn and if we do not take the time to learn from them, we are not doing what we envisioned to do for the greyhounds.

Many moons ago in simpler time’s greyhound adoption were fairly easy for both group and adopter. Yet even back then the best of intentions was not enough as one group learned a very hard lesson. An adoption rep decided to stop by and visit with an adopter and to their horror discovered the address on the adoption application was bogus. A few greyhounds had disappeared and their whereabouts unknown. It has been speculated that the person was getting greyhounds to sell to research facilities.

The group established safeguards to prevent such incidents in the future and out of those changes came the home visit. Today we have many other tools available that at that time were not available to check on an adopter’s claim of address. Be not mad at failure. Be mad if you fail to learn from the failure and make a difference going forward.

We owe it to the greyhounds to do it right so I encourage all groups to have that discussion with counsel before it’s too late for a greyhound or you end up racking up some serious unwanted legal bills that would crush the financial stability of your adoption program.

I think probably the most important forum that should be held at every adoption event should be guidelines for doing it right for our greyhounds here at home. As each year many, many ex-racing greyhounds are in need of being placed in forever homes this is, in my opinion, far more important that hearing about the fate of the galgos in other countries which seems to be dominating focus of greyhound events. Yes, the galgos plight is not a happy one but right now in the United States not only is their greyhound waiting for homes but also thousands of pets in animal shelters and puppy mills who need our attention and assistance.

The greyhound community has some great legal minds as well as many who have lead their adoption groups through successful legal encounters and I'm sure they would be more than willing to participate in forums to help the greyhound community do it right. We owe it not only to our past, present and future greyhound but to the unpaid and unsung volunteers across the country who do the right thing each and every day so that you can adopt an ex-racing greyhound.