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Canine custody battle ensues after woman claims potential buyers refuse to pay adoption fee

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Posted at 5:20 PM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-15 18:05:02-05

A complicated canine case out of Stark County, where a dog trainer is planning to take legal action against a couple she said kept the dog she was trying to adopt out -- without paying for it.

Tricia Michel, a dog trainer, wanted to “re-home” or adopt out a German Shepherd named Dago that she said was given to her by its owner and that she had trained in the past.

After putting up an ad that received more than a dozen inquiries, Michel said an interested couple came to her home to meet the dog. She liked them so much, she offered to let them keep Dago for two nights to see if he would be a good fit for their family.

When she reached out about the $350 re-homing fee, Michel said the couple wanted to negotiate it down to $175.

She refused and asked that the dog be returned. She said she then didn't hear back from the couple.

“In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, did they ship him away somewhere? Has he bitten someone? Have they euthanized him? There are so many different scenarios that could have happened that I know nothing about,” Michel said.     

Michel said the purebred German Shepherd was initially purchased for $3,000.

Under state law, a dog is considered property, so when Michel went to file a police report with Jackson Township Police earlier this week, she was initially told it was a civil matter, not a criminal case.

Police told News 5 Friday that they were now completing a police report and sending it to the prosecutor’s office to determine if any criminal charges would be filed.

Meanwhile, the couple has said that Michel is not the dog's original owner and that the dog's original owner signed a "bill of sale" for $0. They have also retained an attorney. 

"Basically, it comes down to the fact that it wasn't her dog," the couple told News 5. "The owner signed the bill of sale, the owner signed the AKC papers." 

Stark County Dog Warden Jon Barber said it is a reminder to everyone to make sure you get things in writing — or get the cash upfront.

“Make sure you have something contractual, something on paper, something that is signed,” Barber said.

Michel said she has also retained an attorney and plans to pursue the matter in civil court.

“All I want is the dog back,” Michel said. “I don’t want money, I don’t want to press charges, all I want is the dog back.”