Fairfax Pet Owner Seeks Return of 17 Dogs Seized by Animal Control

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The owner of the Fairfax pet store where a former employee was recorded throwing a puppy across a room is suing the city of Los Angeles, alleging 17 dogs were illegally seized by animal control officers and police in January after the business was served with a search warrant alleging poor operating conditions.

Shannon von Roemer, owner of Bark N' Bitches Dog Boutique LLC, brought the complaint Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court. She is seeking a court order for the release of the dogs and for payment of her attorneys' fees.

A representative for the City Attorney's Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The suit includes a copy of several citations issued by Los Angeles Animal Services against the Fairfax Avenue store, as well as a letter stating that her request to renew her operating permit was being denied due to unsanitary conditions and overcrowding of dogs were seen by LAAS officers during a Nov. 14 visit.

However, the suit also includes a copy of a $290 check that von Roemer maintains she used to pay for renewal of the permit in November and that it was cashed by the city.

Von Roemer opened the store in May 2006 and since then has found homes for more than 7,000 dogs that otherwise may have been put down in animal control facilities, according to her court papers, which say her efforts won her a certificate of appreciation form the office of City Councilman Paul Koretz in 2014.

In referencing the video of the former employee throwing the dog in early November, the suit says that two animals ``got into a scuffle with each other'' and that the worker was trying to separate the smaller pet from the larger one before the former was injured.

By mistake, the employee picked up the smaller animal and ``tossed the dog out of the enclosure ...,'' the suit states. A veterinarian who examined the smaller dog concluded the pet was unhurt, the complaint says.

The incident was captured by someone in the store who recorded it on video, which was widely seen and prompted accusations of animal abuse ``without any context,'' according to the plaintiff.

Von Roemer, who fired the employee, was later told by an animal trainer that the employee acted properly and prevented substantial injury to both dogs, her suit says.

The suit states that despite the city letter regarding alleged unsanitary conditions at the store, none of the four citations make such claims, nor is there any mention of poor care of the dogs.

Before the 12 adult dogs and five puppies were seized on Jan. 17, an Animal Services employee posed as a customer played with the animals before approaching a worker and ``waving a search warrant in the employee's face,'' according to the complaint.

LAAS workers loaded the dogs into vehicles ``like cargo'' and also seized pet medications from the store, the suit says.

Less than a week later, the LAAS sent von Roemer a ``notice of lien'' demanding she pay $5500 or the animals would be deemed abandoned, the suit states.

Von Roemer maintains the citations wrongly state that she needed a kennel permit. She also maintains she was denied due process when her permit renewal was denied.

To date, about 30 people have told von Roemer they would like to provide temporary homes for the dogs and she fears that other animals in LAAS facilities may be put down to maintain kennel space for her animals, according to her court papers.

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