A special judge has ruled that the agreement a Richmond man filled out surrendering his dog to a local canine rescue was not signed under duress despite his claim the police threatened him with jail time if he didn’t give the dog up.
Jim Crazy Snake Blake sued PetSmart employee Jackie Pullum and True Heart MinPin Rescue following a May 5 incident at the Richmond PetSmart. Blake alleged he was forced to surrender his dog, Angel, to the rescue after PetSmart employees told police he was abusing the dog and struck Pullum with a rolled-up newspaper when she tried to intervene.
True Heart MinPin Rescue is a nonprofit group that has been headquartered in Richmond since 2007, according to state business filings. Lana Cheryl Higdon is listed as the president and director of the organization, and Dena Jacques and Tiffiny A. Palmer also are listed as directors in the 2012 annual report.
Special Judge Mary Jane Phelps presided over the case in small claims court after all three Madison district judges — Brandy Brown, Earl-Ray Neal and Charles Hardin — recused themselves stating they had “extraneous information regarding the events surrounding this case and the Plaintiff (Blake),” according to court documents.
After hearing arguments from the both sides’ attorneys, and testimony from Blake and the two Richmond Police Department officers who were at PetSmart that day, Phelps found that Blake had signed a valid surrender document that gave True Heart MinPin Rescue ownership of Angel.
“The court also found that the Plaintiff did not sign this form under duress,” Phelps wrote in her Aug. 15 ruling.
May 5 incident
Richmond police went to PetSmart at 11:57 a.m. May 5 after receiving a call about a customer who had assaulted an employee, according to an RPD incident report written by Officer Paul Hogan, who testified last week at the court hearing.
When they arrived, PetSmart employee Jackie Pullum told police that earlier that morning, a black-and-white pit bull had shown up at the store on her own, the report stated.
Pullum told police this was the third time the dog had come to the store, and they knew the owner was Blake, who lived nearby. Blake was called to come get his dog.
When Blake arrived at the store, Pullum said he “went to strike the pit bull with a newspaper,” the report stated. Pullum told police she tried to shield the dog and asked Blake not to hit the dog in the store, but Blake grabbed her arm and struck her “four to five times with the newspaper,” Hogan wrote in his report.
Two witnesses to the incident, a customer and another employee, confirmed Pullum’s account, Hogan wrote.
Blake denied ever striking Pullum and said he merely tapped Angel on the nose with a rolled-up section of newspaper in order to discipline her for running away from home.
When he did this, Pullum grabbed his arm, told him to stop beating his dog and threatened to call the police, Blake said.
Blake left the store to call the police himself, he said, and when he returned the police were already at the store. Blake claimed the police told him to surrender Angel or go to jail.
Pullum was given information on how to press charges against Blake for misdemeanor fourth-degree assault through the Madison County Attorney’s Office. However, Kentucky statute typically prohibits police from arresting someone for misdemeanor assault if officers do not witness the act.
“I spoke with Mr. Blake, and he denied striking Ms. Pullum,” Hogan wrote in the incident report. “Mr. Blake voluntarily completed surrender forms and gave the dog to the on-site rescue shelter.”
In a copy of the agreement provided to the Register by Blake's attorney, Josh Kidd, the two-page surrender form had “under protest” written twice on it by Blake. However, the original agreement, provided to the court by the defendants, did not have “under protest” written on it.
Kidd said he was not aware that Blake had altered his copy of the surrender agreement until he saw the original that was filed by Pullum and the dog rescue.
The hearing’s outcome
Kidd said his client’s story about what occurred at PetSmart has always been consistent, and he questioned the RPD officers about why animal control officers were not called to the scene that day.
The officers testified that Blake said he didn’t care about giving up the dog, Kidd said. If that were the case, Kidd said he didn't understand why Blake was willing to pay the expense of hiring an attorney and fighting to get Angel back.
“Why would he go through all the trouble he’s gone through?” Kidd said.
No decisions have been made on how to proceed with the case although options are limited, according to Kidd.
“I don’t think we can appeal (the ruling),” Kidd said.
Kathryn Callahan, who represented True Heart MinPin Rescue, said her clients felt “all along (the agreement) was valid.”
Callahan said people sometimes sign an animal over to a rescue group but feel regret about it later.
“People sometimes have remorse, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what they agreed to wasn't true,” Callahan said.
Callahan said Pullum and the people who run the canine rescue are happy the case has been resolved, especially since Blake posted flyers around Richmond claiming True Heart MinPin Rescue and PetSmart had stolen his dog and offering a $1,000 reward for Angel’s return. Callahan said those allegations were defamatory to both Pullum and the nonprofit animal group.
Callahan said she did not know Angel's whereabouts or if she'd been adopted by a new owner.
“I do know she's very well-cared for and is happy,” Callahan said.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed
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