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Coyote-Dog Grace Gets a Home for Christmas

LITTLE ROCK (CN) - A coyote-dog hybrid that sparked a lawsuit over ownership got a Christmas present of a new permanent home at an animal sanctuary in Texas.

The rare coyote-dog named Grace was taken to a 212-acre animal sanctuary in the Texas Hill Country, attorney Edie Ervin said Monday. The elusive animal spent months wandering Little Rock malnourished and in poor health before being rescued just before Thanksgiving.

"We're just very thankful that we did get the ownership" said Joan Carder, the Arkansas woman who sued Rock City Rescue , claiming the organization swiped Grace from her so it could keep nearly $6,000 in online donations.

"I wish we could have gotten that a lot sooner," she said.

Carder claimed in her lawsuit that Rock City Rescue and its president Casey Carter used a bogus surrender form to claim ownership of the coyote-dog. Grace was severely dehydrated, had sarcoptic mange, eye infections and open wounds, according to the original complaint.

Grace's story was broadcast over local news, on social media, and on lampposts.

Carder said she reached out to Rock City Rescue for help after finding Grace, and that the organization set up an online fundraiser without her knowledge. It collected almost $6,000 in donations on Grace's behalf, but "only a small portion of the funds have been spent for Grace's care," Carder said in the complaint.

"This money is one of the primary motivating factors for RCR and Casey Carter to continue to argue that they have a legal right of ownership to Grace," the complaint said.

Ervin said Monday that Rock City Rescue and Carter "relinquished all claims of ownership to Grace to Joan Carder."

A motion to dismiss was filed in Pulaski County Court on Dec. 23.

Carter and Rock City Rescue did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

Clinton Lancaster, the attorney representing Carter and the animal rescue group, declined to discuss the settlement, but said that continuing litigation would have been a costly endeavor "over a very sick coyote that is illegal to possess in Little Rock."

"I can say that the complaint contains multiple falsehoods about Ms. Casey Carter and Rock City Rescue, Inc.," Lancaster wrote in an email to Courthouse News. "I believe the lawsuit was filed as an overzealous attempt to force an already impending settlement to occur on a faster timetable."

Within hours of Carder's Dec. 18 lawsuit, Lancaster sent a letter to the animal clinic where Grace was receiving treatment, releasing ownership "for the mangy coyote named Grace."

"Casey and RCR is no longer asserting any claims of ownership or responsibility for the mangy coyote named Grace that is currently being held in your clinic," the letter states.

Carder said Grace "did great" in the 10-hour road trip on Dec. 22, from West Little Rock to her new home at the nonprofit Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation near San Antonio, where the coyote hybrid is still hospitalized.

"The place is wonderful," she said.

The facility rehabilitates displaced wildlife and, depending on the circumstances, helps to release it back to the wild or serves as its permanent home. It has a full-time staff of 22 and takes in between 6-7,000 animals per year, according to its website. Grace will remain a permanent resident.

Carder said she received updates from the sanctuary that Grace is eating well but still shy in her new surroundings and not yet very active.

She said Grace could never be successful on her own in the wild because her lack of bottom teeth makes her unable to forage for food. While Grace could never be a traditional domesticated house dog, Carder said, she did form a bond with the animal, who loves chicken tenders and marshmallows.

Coyotes are scavengers, and will eat just about anything.

"You could sit right beside her and she would take chicken tenders from you, and marshmallows," Carder said. "She was so sweet; she's very petite. She was just very sick and I guess on the verge of dying."

She had every type of parasite one could imagine, Carder said, and a mild case of heartworms, for which she is getting treatment.

"She was absolutely malnourished. It was unbelievable," Carder said.

She said coyotes are not uncommon in the West Little Rock area, with new development pushing wildlife out of their habitat and into urban settings.

"I didn't know what it was; it even sort of looked like a deer. But whatever it was, somebody needed to just do something with this coyote, or a deer, or a dog."

She said some neighbors floated the idea that Grace was a chupacabra (goatsucker), a legendary animal that supposedly sucks goats' blood.

"She was in bad condition ... with that sarcoptic mange it's very frightening if you see it," Carder said.

Carder called the situation that led to the lawsuit "a misunderstanding."

"There were a lot of funds that were collected for Grace and it just turned out very badly - the funds part," she said. Carder said her only goal all along was to help Grace.

"We were not in the funds business. We were just in the deal for Grace."

Carder, a full-time nurse and graduate student, said the situation with Grace left her little time for Christmas preparations, including presents. She made donations in the names of family members to Grace's new home, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.

The wildlife rescue operates solely on donations from the public, so Carder encourages others to donate.

Carder said she is confident that Grace will adjust to her new home.

"And if something else like this happens, we're going to try to do the best with that," she said.

A comprehensive test run by the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine indicated that Grace is half coyote and half Shiba inu, the smallest of six Spitz breeds that originate in Japan, a sort of miniature Akita.

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