Another Custody Case Snares Katrina Dog

Hope/Jazz

Jazz (also known as Hope) is in the middle of a court case. Jazz, a 10-year-old cocker spaniel, belonged to Shalanda Augillard and during Hurricane Katrina, Jazz was left behind. When Augillard returned, she could not find Jazz. Jazz had been brought to a shelter in Austin, and Tiffany Madura saw a picture of Jazz and immediately adopted her. Madura renamed her Hope and she said that the dog was near death when she took her in. Augillard also saw the picture of Jazz on the shelter’s website, but Jazz had already been adopted, and she couldn’t prove to the organization that Jazz was hers. The dog has stayed with Madura for the past year.

Now there is a bitter custody battle over Jazz. After mediation failed to solve the custody battle, the case has gone to court. The hearing was earlier this week and lasted for two days. A California DNA expert was flown in for the trial, two vets testified, and a woman who has a dog that is related to Jazz flew in from Virginia to testify. The judge will decide within two weeks who will keep the pet.

This trial is just one of a series of disputes over animals adopted after Hurricane Katrina.

Some of the new owners were not convinced that the original owners had correctly identified the animals. Others felt that the pets had been poorly cared for by their Louisiana keepers.

Observers say most disputes have been quietly settled in favor of the New Orleans owners once the identity of the pet is firmly established.

“It’s all determined by property rights,” said Marilyn Knapp Litt, a Bexar County woman who started a Web site devoted to reuniting Katrina animals and their owners. “You can’t go into somebody’s house and pick up somebody’s jewelry and keep it. Same with an animal.”

15 Responses to “Another Custody Case Snares Katrina Dog”

  1. NH says:

    This breaks my heart. The person who does NOT end up with the dog will be heartbroken.

  2. elegy says:

    Yet another good reason for microchipping dogs and registering the chip. It wouldn’t solve all the disputes, but it would take away the question of whether or not the dog was correctly identified at least.

  3. Purina Puke says:

    Stories like this make me nuts. A friend of mine had her car stolen with her puppy in it and everyone spent nearly two months trying to find her. With the pressure on the thieves quickly gave the puppy away and the person who ended up with her waited two whole weeks to do the right thing and call my friend because she was getting attached.

    WHY is it so hard to do the right thing?! Yes it’s very hard to give up an animal you have, but if you knowingly keep a pet that you KNOW belonged to someone else, that equals kidnapping in my book. They can call it stealing of property all they want, but pets are family.

    If I somehow lost one of MY pets and someone found them and tried to keep them, you better believe I’d go to court to get them back.

  4. petmommyofmany says:

    I agree that they are family…so why did so many leave them behind? I am not taking about the families that were FORCED out by police or whomever, but those that put their human family in the car and left…leaving the fuzzies behind.

    I would never leave anyone of my critters behind UNLESS there was a gun to my head…even then, they would probably have to shoot me.

    They are my family and my children.

    Ugh. So frustrating!

  5. Purina Puke says:

    I know what you mean petmommy. I’d probably be one to say either shoot me or get out of my way because my babies are coming with me!

  6. molly says:

    I think they’d have to shoot me, too . But I think the people in Louisiana suffered enough. Give her back her dog! Don’t you guys think?

  7. beauxbridge says:

    RE: It’s all determined by property rights,” said Marilyn Knapp Litt, a Bexar County woman who started a Web site devoted to reuniting Katrina animals and their owners. “You can’t go into somebody’s house and pick up somebody’s jewelry and keep it. Same with an animal.”
    _______________________________________________________

    Nor can you claim that something is yours with no proof or proof to the contrary and demand it be given to you. If you lose jewelry, and someone else, somewhere else is given jewelry that looks like your jewelry, that doesn’t make it your jewelry.

  8. Barbara says:

    This is Jazz, no question about it, DNA from her littermate and Jazz matches the dog Hope Floats and was presented in court.
    This dog was taken illegally from Louisiana by a man delivering supplies and against the state of Louisiana head veterinarian orders for dogs leaving the state of Louisiana during the rescue. She was not given the chance to be reunited with her owner because she was not processed through HSUS and put on petfinder so her owner could find her.
    They plasted her pictures all over their rescue website calling her their little hitchhiker and using her for fundraising, then adopted her out. That is the only way she was found by accident and the searching efforts of volunteers.
    I found the black cocker in Dec 2005 on their website and alerted the owner who was constantly looking for her Cocker and she identified the dog as Jazz and contacted them immediately and tried mediation before going to court. The owner has never given up fighting in court to get her dog back although she has been put through delays and stalling.
    You can’t just come in a disaster and take someone’s personal property and not give them back, it is the law.
    She has had Jazz since a young puppy. Jazz was left with her parents and when their place flooded they were evacuated by boat several days later and not allowed to bring Jazz. When they went back in to get her the door was broken and she was gone.
    Many that have helped to reunite these two have waited 18 months for this.

  9. Hurricane Katrina Evacuee Loses Dog Custody Battle | Itchmo says:

    […] fate has finally been decided for her. This 10-year-old cocker spaniel was in the middle of a custody case between a New Orleans resident and an Austin resi…. Jazz was lost by her family in the chaos of Hurricane Katrina, and she was brought to an Austin […]

  10. SSPhilips says:

    Press Contact:

    Phil West, Luminaria Media & Public Relations
    512.945.7493, philwest@gmail.com

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 27, 2007

    NEW ORLEANS DOG OWNER TO APPEAL TEXAS RULING
    DENYING RETURN OF HER COCKER SPANIEL

    Austin-based attorneys hope to reunite woman with dog lost in Hurricane Katrina

    (AUSTIN, TX) – Lawyers representing Shalanda Augillard, the New Orleans-area woman who lost her fight to have her dog returned to her in a Hays County court earlier this summer, have announced they are appealing the District Court’s ruling. This is the first case that has gone to trial in which an owner of a dog lost in Katrina was denied the return of her pet.

    Augillard said, “I put my faith in the justice system, and it failed me. I know without a doubt that the dog in Texas is Jazz. I love my dog, and all I want is to bring Jazz home.”

    This is the latest chapter in a two-year ordeal for Augillard, who was separated from her cocker spaniel named Jazz in the chaos ensuing from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Her parents, who were taking care of Jazz while Augillard was working at FedEx, were ordered to leave Jazz behind by the National Guard when they were escorted from their dry and undamaged home in New Orelans. After the door to their home was kicked in and their home was vandalized, Jazz ended up at a New Orleans-area animal triage center. From there, Andy Odam, the director of Austin-based PawMatch, took the black cocker spaniel to Texas, eventually leaving her in the custody of Tiffany Madura, who resides in Hays County.

    Augillard’s long search for her dog included many trips to Lamar-Dixon, a shelter run by the Humane Society of the United States, where rescued animals were taken for processing. Augillard also listed Jazz’s information on Petfinders.com, the database listing all lost and found animals following the hurricane.

    It was truly miraculous that Augillard found her dog. In spite of the protocol prescribed by various animal rescue groups, PawMatch never listed Jazz on Petfinders.com. In December 2005, a woman in Virginia involved in cocker spaniel rescue noticed a picture of a black cocker spaniel on PawMatch’s website and forwarded the picture to Augillard, who immediately contacted Odam to see see the dog. He refused. By that time, the dog was in the custody of
    Madura. After continued refusals to visit the dog, Augillard eventually turned to the Texas courts for help. The trial concluded on June 13, 2007.

    According to Austin attorney Susan Philips, who represented Augillard in the case, the outcome was incomprehensible, given the uncontroverted and overwhelming evidence that Jazz is indeed Augillard’s dog. who represented Augillard in the case, the outcome was incomprehensible, given the uncontroverted and overwhelming evidence that Jazz is indeed Augillard’s dog.

    “A noted DNA expert, Dr. Joy Halverson, testified that, ’with scientific certainty, I can unequivocally say the DNA samples came from the same dog.’ ” Philips said. “At the outset of the case, we were confident that the court would return Jazz to Augillard. We thought that the quickest way to get Jazz home was to file suit in Texas, in Hays County, which is where the dog was being held. Because the judge limited the trial to four hours, we didn’t have the opportunity to present our case. We were stunned by the judge’s decision.”

    She added, “Since Jazz is now ten years old, it is imperative that we continue to pursue this case at all levels and hopefully reunite her with Augillard before it’s too late.”

    A fund has been set up to support Augillard’s ongoing quest for justice.

    Donations may be sent to:

    Augillard-Jazz Reunification Fund
    Wells Fargo Bank
    Account # 1482693908
    1601 West 35th Street
    Austin, TX 78703

    Timeline of Events

    August 27, 2005
    Shalanda Augillard leaves her home in Kenner, La., and takes her eight-year-old cocker spaniel, Jazz, to her parents’ home on A.P. Tureaud in New Orleans. She is on her way to work at FedEx and knows it will be a long shift as they prepare for the hurricane. Jazz frequently stayed with the Augillards when Shalanda worked at FedEx at the New Orleans airport. Even though the family initially considered evacuating New Orleans, as they and many New Orleanians had done many times before, they decided to stay because they did not want to leave without Shalanda. However, they did move their vehicles to higher ground and made sure they had adequate supplies.

    August 28, 2005
    After working through the night, Shalanda gets off work early Sunday morning and goes home to pack, then goes to her parents’ home. They spend the afternoon making sure they and their neighbors and friends are prepared. Shalanda leaves to take some supplies to a friend west of them and then is unable to get back to her parents’ home because a curfew had been put into effect earlier than expected.

    August 29, 2005
    In the very early morning, Hurricane Katrina makes landfall just east of New Orleans. Within hours, the first of many levees break and parts of the city begin to flood. The Augillards’ home sustains little damage and no flooding. Phone service is disrupted, and the Augillards are not able to contact each other.

    August 29 -September 1, 2005
    The Augillards provide a refuge for neighbors, several of them elderly people with no families.

    September 1, 2005
    The National Guard evacuates the family. As Shalanda’s mother tries to board the boat with Jazz in her arms, the Guard orders her to leave the dog behind. She places Jazz in their second-floor apartment with lots of water, food, and access to a well-ventilated porch, thinking they will return soon. CBS reporter John Roberts is on the boat with the Guard.

    September 1, 2005
    Shalanda succeeds in contacting her parents and learns that they were forced to leave Jazz behind.

    September 8, 2005
    FedEx, which never suspended operations, sent teams to survey hard-hit areas to determine the most efficient way to continue service. Shalanda, as a FedEx employee, is assigned to survey the area in which her parents live and goes to her parents’ home. The door has been kicked out, the home has been ransacked, and the building has been marked with the date of September 7th . Jazz is not in the apartment.

    September 9, 2005
    Shalanda makes the first of many trips to Lamar-Dixon, a shelter established by the U.S. Humane Society, to look for Jazz, who needed her medication for a thyroid condition. She inputs all of Jazz’s information on Petfinders.com.

    September 11, 2005
    Andy Odam of PawMatch and Thomas Darnell of Rivers & Reefs leave Austin with a truckload of supplies to assist in animal rescue after Katrina. They are told by a representative of the Louisiana SPCA that they must deliver the supplies to Jefferson Feed Store, an official animal triage shelter operated by the Louisiana SPCA to process animals. The store was staffed by many volunteers, including veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

    September 12, 2005
    A black cocker spaniel appears at the Jefferson Feed Store Charlotte Lily, a rescue worker, remembers seeing the Jefferson Feed Store Charlotte Lily, a rescue worker, remembers seeing a black cocker spaniel with a group of other animals who had been rescued from the Augillards’ neighborhood. The spaniel had been examined by a veterinarian and had documentation attached to her crate. No one reported seeing any other cocker spaniels that day.

    September 12, 2005
    After being told not to remove any animals from the Jefferson Feed Store, Odam transports a black cocker spaniel to Austin in violation of protocol established by the U.S. Humane Society for dealing with animals displaced by Katrina.

    September 12, 2005
    Jennifer Hays, then a PawMatch board member, posts information about the black cocker spaniel on the PawMatch blog before Odam returns to Austin, stating that he is bringing a cocker spaniel with him and that sponsorships benefiting Jefferson Feed Store will be available. In an earlier posting, Hays stated that PawMatch is a 501(c) (3) organization, which it was not.

    September 13, 2005
    The PawMatch blog recounts Odam’s return to Austin with a black cocker spaniel. Odam later stated in his deposition that he took the dog so that he could provide her immediate medical care and so that he could put a face on his rescue efforts. A picture of the dog appeared on the blog right above a PayPal button.
    September 14, 2005
    Andy Odam and PawMatch place the black cocker spaniel in foster care with Catherine Danie of ARF, an animal rescue group, in Wimberley. At the time of placement, Odam had not provided any medical care for the dog.

    September 15, 2005
    Another ARF volunteer takes Jazz to veterinarian Dr. Thomas House at San Marcos Veterinary Clinic. Dr. House exams Jazz and determines that she has numerous health issues that are all treatable. His tests indicate that her urine contains triple phosphate crystals and that she is heartworm NEGATIVE. He suspects that she has bladder stones and that she is hypothyroid. The ARF volunteer declines any further treatment.

    September 19, 2005
    PawMatch posts that the cocker spaniel needs a new foster home.

    September 25, 2005:
    Tiffany Madura agrees to foster the black cocker spaniel.

    September 28, 2005
    Madura takes the dog to Dr. Barrett Donop at Oak Springs Veterinary Hospital in Austin. The dog had received no veterinary care in the interim. If this is Jazz, she has now been without her medication (for thyroid problems and urine crystals) for almost a month. Dr. Donop says that there is no evidence of stones. He does not check her thyroid.

    November 2, 2005
    The dog undergoes surgery for removal of bladder stones at Oak Springs Veterinary Clinic.

    December 27, 2005
    A tip from Barbara Cotters from Virginia leads Shalanda to the PawMatch web site, which has a photograph of a black cocker spaniel on the home page, along with a link to contribute to PawMatch through PayPal. Shalanda notices that the dog has white markings on her mouth that are very similar to Jazz’s distinctive white markings.

    December 27, 2005
    Shalanda contacts Odam, who refuses to let her see the dog.

    January – April, 2006
    Shalanda continues her attempts to persuade Andy Odam to allow her access to the dog on his web site. She provides the medical records that she was able to retrieve from Jazz’s veterinarians (their clinics had been destroyed by Katrina) to Louisiana Deputy Attorney General Mimi Hunley, who tries to negotiate a meeting between Augillard and Odam. Odam cuts off contact with Hunley.
    March, 2006 – May, 2006
    Many people involved in animal rescue throughout the United States try to arrange a meeting between Shalanda, Odam, and Madura. It is later learned that Madura used at least three different user names to post information discouraging the return of the cocker spaniel to anyone; under one of those names, she asked Barbara Cotters to remove all of the information she posted on her website about the PawMatch cocker spaniel, contending that the dog should not be returned. Some rescue people contacted attorney Mimi Smith, in Alpine who coordinated the initiation of legal proceedings.
    May 5, 2006
    Shalanda obtains a temporary restraining order from the District Court of Hays County to have the cocker spaniel removed from Madura’s home and placed in a kennel at Augillard’s expense. Mimi Smith and Austin attorney Susan Philips, brought in by Smith as local counsel, meet with a Hays County constable who instructs them on the procedure to be followed in enforcing the court’s order. The constable and a deputy remove the dog from Madura’s home and her property and then transfer her to Smith. A confused-looking and apprehensive dog immediately begins wagging her tail and wriggling when she is called “Jazz.” , With the constable leading the way, Smith, and Philips, drive the dog to where Augillard, her mother, and a friend were
    waiting. Before the car stops, with the windows and doors still closed, the dog starts barking frantically and charges out of the car the moment the door is opened. She runs in circles around Augillard and her mother and friend, all of whom have tears running down their faces. For the first time since the hurricane, Shalanda is allowed to see the black cocker spaniel. She, her mother, and her friend positively identify the dog as Jazz.

    They then drive to a nearby kennel, the constable still leading the way, with Jazz riding in Susan Philips’ car, pursuant to the court order and Augillard behind in her car. When Augillard gets out of her car at the kennel, Jazz jumps in and takes her place on the center console, where she always loved to ride. Shalanda lifts Jazz out of the car and says it would be too painful to spend any more time with her, thinking that she would be taking Jazz home on May 16, after the hearing for the preliminary injunction. Shalanda then prepays the kennel costs
    while Mimi Smith stays with Jazz. Shalanda, her mother and her friend then begin the drive back to New Orleans.

    May 5 -30, 2006
    Jazz is held at a kennel at Shalanda’s expense.

    May 16, 2006:
    The first of two parts of the preliminary injunction hearing is held in San Marcos in front of Judge Bill Henry, and Shalanda is in attendance. The temporary restraining order is extended two weeks after the hearing is cut short due to an infestation of tropical mites in the courthouse.

    May 30, 2006
    When the preliminary injunction hearing resumes, Judge Henry is not available. Because Augillard has again traveled to Austin and is eager to take Jazz home, she agrees to a visiting judge, Judge Paul Davis, who is unfamiliar with the case. This hearing is also cut short due to the mite infestation. The Court denies Shalanda’s motion for a preliminary injunction and orders, among other things, that Jazz be returned to Madura because the judge does not want her to have to stay in a kennel any longer. He orders the parties to arrange for DNA
    comparison testing and to return to the court once the results are received.

    June 2, 2006
    Two sweaters and a hairbrush belonging to Jazz are sent to Dr. Joy Halverson, a veterinary geneticist at QuestGen Forensics in Davis, CA. Dr. Halverson is a nationally respected DNA expert who performs DNA tests on dogs to verify pedigrees for the American Kennel Club and provides court testimony in human criminal cases.

    June 7, 2006:
    Dr. Halverson reports that even though she found hairs on the sweaters, there is inadequate amplification. She does, however, find a serum exudate encrusted at the base of the bristles of the brush that yields adequate DNA. She then requests a reference sample from the dog in Texas.

    June 13, 2006
    Attorney for Madura files a motion for a protective order, arguing that Jazz should not be made available for DNA sampling because Augillard, Philips and Smith had access to her on May 5, 2006.

    June 15, 2006
    Even though Judge Davis had ordered the DNA testing, an additional hearing is required to compel Madura to produce the dog for DNA sampling. Judge Henry orders the defendants to produce the dog within one month; Shalanda is at the hearing.

    July 14, 2006:
    DNA samples are taken from the cocker spaniel by Thomas Beckett, DVM, in the presence of Dr. Donop at Oak Springs Veterinary Clinic . The samples were sealed by Dr. Beckett in the presence of Dr. Donop and Susan Philips. The envelopes were signed by both Dr. Beckett and Dr. Donop and sent to Dr. Halverson. Once more, Shalanda makes the trip from New Orleans to Central Texas.

    July 19, 2006:
    Dr. Halverson concludes that the samples from the hairbrush are from the same dog that the samples were taken from in Texas, stating that “with scientific certainty, I can unequivocally say the samples came from the same dog.”

    August 8, 2006
    A hearing is held to determine if the Court would allow Dr. Halverson to testify by telephone. The request is denied. Shalanda attends the hearing.

    September 28, 2006
    Dr. Halverson is deposed in Sacramento, CA.

    October 19, 2006
    Dr. Halverson travels from California to testify at a hearing regarding the DNA test results. Shalanda comes from New Orleans to attend the hearing. Both are present in the courtroom when the hearing is canceled. The clerk reschedules the hearing for December 12.
    December 12, 2006

    Dr. Halverson and Shalanda again travel to Austin for another hearing to introduce the DNA results by testimony from Dr. Halverson in order for the Court to reconsider its decision of May 30, 2006, which returned Jazz to Madura.. Dr. Halverson testifies that “typically, when we have a 17 marker DNA match in a case, the likelihood ratio exceeds a trillion. It’s a trillion times more likely that the match occurred because the DNA came from the same dog as that it came to happen by random chance. Later on in the report, further on, I actually did the calculation, and the number gets –– the actual number is much higher … ten to the 16th, which is a quadrillion or something like that. In a nutshell. it means that to a very, very, very high degree of scientific
    certainty the samples match because they came from the same dog.” Judge Henry makes no findings, denies the request that Jazz be returned to the kennel pending trial, and orders the parties to seven hours of mediation.
    January 17, 2007
    The parties mediate for four hours.

    February 14, 2007
    The parties mediate for an additional three hours but do not reach an agreement.

    March 2007
    To provide even more proof that Jazz and the dog in Texas are the same dog and to refute the vague inferences that samples had been tampered with, AKC records are obtained by subpoena of all of the litters born to the mother of Jazz. A half-sister of Jazz who was born a year after Jazz from a different sire is found in Virginia. Dr. Halverson compares the DNA from the Virginia dog with the DNA of the Texas dog and determines that they, too, are both related to the same female.

    April 2007
    Laura Maloney, director of the Louisiana SPCA, writes to Andy Odam, requesting the immediate return of the cocker spaniel he removed from Jefferson Feed Store in violation of established protocol. Odam never responds to that letter.

    June 12-13, 2007
    Trial is held in Hays County District Court in San Marcos before Judge Henry. The parties are limited to a total of four hours for the trial, and Shalanda’s attorneys are unable to call eight of her witnesses. Dr. Halverson was present and repeated her testimony from December.

    June 29, 2007:
    Judge Henry faxes a letter to counsel stating that the Court renders judgment in favor of Madura. No explanation is provided.

    July 20, 2007
    Judge Henry releases his findings of fact, contending that the testimony of Augillard’s witnesses was not credible and alleging that the DNA evidence had a “high potential for tampering” even though no evidence of tampering was ever introduced.

    July 30, 2007:
    Susan Philips files a motion for a new trial.

    September 17, 2005
    Shalanda’s attorney files a notice of appeal.

  11. Katrinareuniter says:

    I spent months along with Barbara helping Shalanda look for Jazz. How sad that Tiffany refuses to do the right thing and return this dog to her owner - I don’t know how she sleeps at night knowing this dog doesn’t belong to her and doing everything she can to keep Shalanda from getting Jazz back. Judge Henry should be ashamed of himself! This dog is definitely Jazz - and I pray she gets back to the owner who has loved her from a puppy.

  12. CanadianKatrinaReuniter says:

    Very helpful, thanks for posting this. It is obvious that these people, including the judge, have not behaved with integrity.

    This dog does not belong to Tiffany, she belongs to Shalanda and should be returned NOW.

    p.s. — typo on that last date? Should say September 17, 2007 rather than 2005?

  13. CanadianKatrinaReuniter says:

    petmommyofmany, not clear what your comments have to do with this case. The family was confronted by the National Guard, who probably did have guns, who did order them to leave the dog.

    And, some would disagree with you re whether it makes more sense to risk getting shot and killed on a point of principle ” they’d have to put a gun to my head” rather than: doing what they say, leave without the pet as you are ordered, with the hope that you can sneak back later or find someone else to go back and get your animal as some people managed to do.

    After all with the gun to the head routine, if they shoot you dead, your animal will NEVER see you again. And in some cases, if the people refused to leave when directed to do so, the rescuers just shot the dog right on the spot, in front of the owner, and then the pet is dead. How is that good for the pet? Maybe best just to do what they say, to ensure no one gets killed and try to get back later.

    Each situation is unique. Many people were forced to become separated from their family (children, pets, elderly) against their will and are being wholesale blamed for it. Not fair.

  14. DLP says:

    The shelters were full of dogs after Katrina and they were begging people to come and adopt a pet so they wouldn’t have to euthanize them. They didn’t say to come and foster a pet until the owners could be found, they urged people to come and adopt a pet. When you adopt a pet, it’s yours. How does someone come back years after you’ve adopted an animal and say “Oh, that’s my dog, give it back?” And no, you can’t go take someone’s property like jewelry or TVs after a disaster, but pets are different–someone has to go take them or they’ll die! If someone hadn’t gone and “stolen” the dog, it would have starved to death.

    This is just a good reason for me not to get my next pet at an animal shelter. Apparrently, if I go out and buy a puppy, then it’s mine, but if I go adopt one from an animal shelter or rescue group, that means nothing.

  15. NOLApetLover says:

    If you love your pets so much, have a plan ahead of time and don’t leave them to die like many did. The original family should just be happy that at least jazz made it, he isn’t a pile a bones to return to and be remorseful for their negligence. Be responsible and have a plan.

    Sincerely,
    Katrina victim with pets that did not put them in danger.


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