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Rescued Coyote-Dog|Stirs Up Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK (CN) - A woman who says she rescued a coyote-dog hybrid sued an animal rescue group, claiming it swiped the animal from her so it can keep nearly $6,000 in online donations.

Joan Carder sued Rock City Rescue and its president Casey Carter , in Pulaski County Court on Friday, accusing them of using a bogus surrender form to claim ownership of the coyote-hybrid name Grace.

Carder says Rock City Rescue set up an online fundraiser without her knowledge and has 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."

"(T)his 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," she says in the complaint.

Carder says the coyote-hybrid will eat from her hand, walk on a leash, and lets her scratch her ears and rub under her neck. She says she is the animal's only regular visitor and that Rock City Rescue has "a vengeful desire to keep Joan from Grace."

Carder wants Grace sent to a nationally accredited sanctuary that accepts coyote-hybrids but "she cannot move forward with that option, or any other option, because RCR and Casey Carter refuse to give up their claim of ownership over Grace."

The controversy began when Carder discovered what she assumed was a wounded stray dog wandering her Little Rock neighborhood. She sought help for the animal just before Halloween, on social media pleas, by posting pictures, and asking neighbors.

Carder and a neighbor found the coyote-dog on Nov. 22, managed to get Grace into a crate and took her to an emergency animal hospital.

"Although Casey Carter talked by phone with Joan Carder on November 22, 2015, Casey Carter and Rock City Rescue were not present at any time during the efforts to catch the dog. Casey Carter stated she was not available to come to help transfer her to a dog crate. She also was not present at any point in time after she was taken to receive emergency medical attention," Carder says in the complaint.

It continues: "The dog was very frightened and weak. She was severely dehydrated, had sarcoptic mange, eye infections, open wounds, and her eyelids had folded over."

Carder says her neighbor's name appears on the animal hospital's paperwork because she arrived first. But Carder says she paid the medical bill and made the decision on the Do Not Resuscitate clause of Grace's admission document.

According to the intake form, attached as an exhibit in the complaint, Grace was listed as a mixed canine, though Carder indicated on the form that "people thought she was a coyote."

"More than one biologist" with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission assured Carder that the animal was a dog, but on Dec. 8, Rock City announced that Grace was a coyote based on a test "that it had secretly performed," according to the complaint.

Carder says that a comprehensive test, for which she paid, conducted by the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, shows that Grace is a coyote hybrid.


"The fact that Grace is not pure coyote explains why Grace was such a failure on her own in the wild. It also explains why Joan has been able to make such progress with Grace and to establish a bond with her," the lawsuit states.

"While at the Emergency Clinic, Joan decided to name the dog 'Grace' because by the grace of God, she finally had been caught."

Rock City entered the picture when a neighbor told Carder she could get a discount through the nonprofit from another vet. On the same morning Grace was transferred, Carder says, Rock City began an online fundraiser without her knowledge.

"On the morning of Monday, November 23, 2015, without ever seeing Grace and with no cognizable claim of ownership, Rock City Rescue, through or at the direction of Casey Carter, established an online account to raise money, allegedly for the purpose of helping Grace," according to the complaint.

The fundraiser has collected $5,915.

"Initially, RCR attempted to control the funds donated directly to AAC [Kiehl Ave. Animal Clinic - the second clinic], even allowing those funds to be applied to RCR's outstanding accounts payable to other animals. This was stopped only after it was pointed out that the funds donated directly to KAAC by supporters of Joan Carder should be used only for Grace and not for outstanding bills owed by RCR," the lawsuit states.

Of the nearly $2,000 in veterinarian bills, Rock City has contributed only about $500 to the clinic, Carder says.

"The $500 was not contributed until December 11, 2015, following inquiry from donors complaining about RCR's fundraising practices and interference with Joan Carder's claim over Grace," she claims.

Carder says that before testing confirmed the animal's heredity, she discussed with Carter keeping Grace as a pet, and asked whether Rock City could foster Grace until she was ready to be permanently placed at her home.

"A dispute arose between Joan Carder and Casey Carter after Casey advised Joan that she had no right to make medical decisions about Grace. Unbeknownst to Joan Carder, Casey Carter was representing to KAAC and veterinarians and staff that RCR owned Grace and that Joan Carder had no ownership rights," the complaint states.

Rock City then told Carder that she had surrendered Grace to it, according to the complaint.

Carder claims that Carter backdated the surrender form with the neighbor whose name appears on the paperwork, "in an effort to create a claim of ownership over Grace and also to create the appearance that RCR had some ownership interest in Grace before it set up an online fundraiser to start raising money for her care."

Carder says the organization refuses to admit she rescued and claims Grace because it would have to pull the online account "and explain to their donors why they have not used the money to help Grace and why they kept the account up and running even though they knew that Joan was claiming ownership of Grace and agreeing to be responsible for her care."

She says she has been by Grace's side at the animal clinic continuously since Nov. 23 and "has made great progress in earning Grace's trust."

Carder seeks declaratory judgment that she owns Grace, and an injunction prohibiting the organization from interfering with custody.

"Time is of the essence because each day Grace remains in the kennel is harmful to her. Additionally, the kennel is soon to be full with boarded pets for Christmas and this produces additional noise and constant barking, creating even more stress to Grace."

Carder is represented by Edie Ervin with Friday, Eldredge & Clark.

Carder says that tests indicate Grace is half coyote and half Shiba inu, the smallest of six Spitz breeds that originate in Japan, a sort of miniature Akita. Coyote-dog hybrids are rare, as most domestic dogs have an inborn fear or seeming hatred of wild coyotes.

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