Four dogs owners are suing the city of Denver in an effort to have their French Bulldogs returned to them.
The animals were seized from Marleen Puzak's southwest Denver home back in July. Denver Police officers responded to her home on South Irving Street after someone called 311 asking the city to “check on 15 dogs that she believed were kept at this location in poor conditions,” according to court documents.
In all, they recovered 35 dogs from Puzak’s home – twenty four were French bulldogs, one was an English bulldog and three were Boston terriers. Some of them were already adopted out to new families.
Dawn Rose, Michelle Tippet, Patti Sears and Kathy Clayton say they're the rightful owners of at least 10 of those dogs. None of them have been charged in relation to the the animal cruelty case.
The Animal Law Center has filed a lawsuit on their behalf in federal court in an effort to have the dogs returned. They were also granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the dogs from being adopted.
Court documents show they are the owners of Raven, Vinnie, Souffle, Bechamel, Champagne, Wyatt, Biscuit, Beignet, Pearl and Nugget.
According to the suit all of the plaintiffs had agreements with Puzak for her to have temporary possession of the dogs for "training, grooming, and showing the dogs at dog shows."
"She wanted to show a dog, which it's a lot of fun and I had some extra puppies that I wasn't doing anything with," Patti Sears told 9NEWS by phone from Oklahoma. "Kind of like guide dogs for the blind, they send them out to foster homes, they get to raise them and train them and have fun with them and then they go back to their owners."
Sears says she visited with her dog, Wyatt, several times during dogs shows.
"We would meet up and spend the day together and things. I did see him, 4, 5 times a year and spent time together," Sears said.
According to the lawsuit, Denver seized records regarding the dogs, "which contained ownership information showing that persons, including the plaintiffs, other than Ms. Puzak were the actual owners of the dogs."
In her case, Sears says Wyatt has a microchip, but admits she never registered that chip with her name until after she found out Wyatt was at the Denver Animal Shelter. All of the dogs are however, registered with the American Kennel Club.
"AKC requires me to have my dogs chipped for identification if they come in and inspect me I have to be able to say this dog goes with these papers," said Sears.
She says she also has provided photos of Wyatt as a puppy in her home and has DNA tests done on all her dogs to prove parentage.
"They still say that is not enough proof, but they can't tell me what is enough proof," said Sears.
The plaintiffs also allege that the city spayed or neutered the dogs "significantly lowering their value and eliminating the ability to of the plaintiffs to ever again show their dogs competively."
We reached out to the Denver Animal Shelter and received the following statement:
The City has a standard procedure for establishing the ownership of animals impounded at the Denver Animal Shelter. Based on the City’s initial determinations, the individuals alleging ownership of the French Bulldogs have not provided sufficient information to prove ownership. There is an ongoing legal matter concerning the ownership of the dogs and the dogs must be held until the legal matter is resolved. City staff understand residents’ concerns and remain committed to the protection of all animals throughout the City and County of Denver. Denver Animal Protection will continue to provide the same responsible, humane and compassionate care for the remaining French Bulldogs that is provided to every animal that enters the shelter. We appreciate your concern and patience as we continue to respect the legal process.
The Denver District Attorney has charged Marleen Puzak, 58, with 12 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals as well as 35 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals.
Puzak’s arrest affidavit states in July 2017, officers finally entered her home and found 35 living dogs, mostly French Bulldogs, and 12 dead dogs in two different freezers. Investigators said the dogs lived in a feces-infested environment with urine-soaked floors.