Saddened that the stray pit bull they found in June was destroyed, a Houston couple filed a fraud suit on Nov. 15 against four individuals who allegedly had a role in circumstances that led to the dog’s death.
Jeff and Lydia Caldwell allege they were “shocked and devastated” when they learned the stray dog they found on June 1 and named Juno had been taken to Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP) on July 8 and was “killed” there on July 9.
The defendants named in the petition are Amy Walther, Shelby Kibodeaux and Bruce Padilla, all of Houston, and Natalie Bustillos of Albuquerque, N.M. The plaintiffs bring fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy causes of action against all defendants, and conversion and theft liability act causes of action against Walther.
Walther, Padilla and Bustillos did not return telephone messages. In a telephone interview, Kibodeaux says it’s true he did make up a story that Juno was adopted by Bustillos’ family in New Mexico, but only because Walther had told him she “lost the dog” and he wanted to help her “buy time” to find it.
“We did something to help a friend and now we are being sued,” Kibodeaux says. “For about two weeks, we — myself and Bruce — looked for this dog and looked and looked and could never find the dog and that’s when Amy I guess let it be known that she had brought the dog to a pound.”
As alleged in the petition in Jeff Caldwell, et al. v. Amy Walther, et al., the Caldwells found the stray dog on June 1, and they took him to a vet clinic for vaccinations and boarded him there until June 4. At that time, the Caldwells allege in the petition, they entered into a “foster arrangement” with Walther to take care of Juno while they made arrangements to find a home for Juno.
The Caldwells allege that on July 4, Lydia Caldwell notified Walther she would pick up Juno on July 11 “and retain possession until he was placed into a permanent home,” and Walther did not advise her of any issues or problems with their arrangement.
However, the plaintiffs alleged that on July 11 Walther advised Lydia Caldwell that Juno had been “adopted by a family in New Mexico.” They allege that all four defendants “engaged in an elaborate plot to deceive plaintiffs by use of email and telephone” and told them Juno had been adopted by relatives of Padilla. Also, the Caldwells allege, they were told that Bustillos was “one of the alleged adopters” and Bustillos later “contacted Plaintiffs by email from New Mexico and fraudulently asserted to Plaintiffs that she and her family adopted Juno.”
The Caldwells allege that on July 17, Kibodeaux made a written offer to return Juno to the plaintiffs for $192.50, and they accepted the offer. However, they allege Kibodeaux ceased communication with them after that and never returned Juno.
The plaintiffs allege that on July 8, Walther took Juno to CAP and “advised the staff that she could not care for Juno,” and signed paperwork acknowledging that “Juno would most likely be killed the following day.”
“CAP then killed Juno on July 9, 2012, two days before the date that Plaintiff Lydia Caldwell advised Defendant Walther that she would pick Juno up,” the plaintiffs allege in the petition.
The plaintiffs allege that for several weeks, “Defendants strung out their lies and painted a picture of Juno living in an idyllic home for 6 weeks” and the plaintiffs spent many sleepless nights and many anguished hours worrying about the fate of their defenseless puppy whose care they had entrusted to Defendant Walther.”
On Aug. 10, in response to a written demand sent by a lawyer for the Caldwells, Kibodeaux “admitted that Juno’s adoption was a made up story and claimed that he never met Juno,” and he claimed Walther “advised him that Juno had slipped out of her yard.” They allege Walther never responded to a demand for information about Juno.
However, after the plaintiffs posted flyers seeking help in finding Juno, an individual employed by CAP advised them that CAP had killed Juno on July 9, and they learned the dog had been brought in by Walther.
“Defendants’ conduct was extreme and outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the plaintiffs allege in the petition.
Christiana Dijkman, a shareholder in Phillips ★ Akers ★ Womac in Houston, who represents the Caldwells, says, "It's not really that much about the money as making sure something like this never happens again."
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys