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.”