Portland man, Corvallis woman both claim the pooch is theirs
Jordan Biggs loves her dog. So does Sam Hanson-Fleming — and he wants it back.
Biggs, a 20-year-old biology major at Oregon State University, was staying with her boyfriend in Portland in April of last year when the black, brown and white mixed-breed dog showed up on their doorstep.
“We took him for the night,” Biggs said. “The next morning, I started trying to find the owners.”
Biggs says she went from door to door around the neighborhood, put up posters, called veterinarians’ offices and the Humane Society, checked with area animal shelters and looked for lost dog ads on craigslist and other websites.
She didn’t want to take the dog to an animal shelter for fear he’d be put down if no one came to claim him. After more than two months of trying to locate the owner without result, she figured the dog was hers.
When she came down to Corvallis to go to school, she brought the dog, which she named Bear, with her.
Since then, she estimates, she has spent thousands of dollars on Bear, taking him to the vet for shots, neutering and microchipping. She even had him trained as a respiratory service dog who carries her inhaler and has been taught to get help if she has an asthma attack.
“He helps if I go unconscious or if I have trouble breathing,” she said.
“He goes to school with me.”
Biggs had come to consider Bear a permanent part of her life, but now she’s worried she might lose him.
Last Sunday, Biggs was in Portland to visit her family for Mother’s Day. She and her sister were in line at a drive-through coffee kiosk, and Bear was along for the ride.
Suddenly, a man got out of the car ahead of them and approached their vehicle. He said Bear was his dog — only he called him Chase.
Sam Hanson-Fleming said he recognized the animal immediately, even though he had been missing for more than a year.
“I look in my rearview mirror and there’s my dog Chase staring me in the face,” he said. “I would not mistake my family.”
According to Hanson-Fleming, he got the dog in December 2009, when it was six weeks old. In March 2011, Chase hopped over the back fence and disappeared.
Because the dog was tagged and licensed, he hoped someone would find him and turn him in, but that didn’t happen. Hanson-Fleming says he placed ads on craigslist and filed lost dog reports with the Oregon Humane Society and Multnomah County Animal Control.
“We looked for Chase for almost a year before we finally thought maybe he got hit by a car, or maybe someone took him,” he said.
On Sunday, after his chance encounter with Biggs at a Portland drive-through, he thought he would finally be reunited with his dog. But Biggs wasn’t willing to give him up.
“I tried to tell him he’s my service dog, that I’ve trained him in agility,” she said. “He didn’t even care.”
Hanson-Fleming said he offered to give Biggs visiting rights, but he’s not willing to give up his claim to Chase. He and his sons, aged 7 and 13, want their dog back.
“He is our family member,” Hanson-Fleming said. “My youngest son has been asking ever since Mother’s Day, ‘When’s he coming home?’”
But Chase — or Bear — went home with Biggs that day, and she plans to keep him.
“He’s my dog now,” she said.
Hanson-Fleming isn’t leaving it at that. He’s filed theft charges with the Portland Police Bureau.
Under Oregon law, dogs are considered personal property. But it’s not entirely clear just how either Biggs or Hanson-Fleming could prove their title to the animal.
Multnomah County records show that Hanson-Fleming did indeed license a dog named Chase in September 2010 and that he reported it missing on March 27, 2011. The license form describes the dog as an unaltered male Siberian husky mix weighing 44 pounds with erect ears and a black, tan and cream coat.
John Rowton, who manages the Multnomah County Animal Shelter, said he recalls seeing Hanson-Fleming at the front counter, asking about his missing dog.
“He’s done everything right,” Rowton said. “He had it licensed, he filed a report, he’s been coming out here and looking.”
Photos and veterinary records, Rowton said, could also strengthen his case.
But Leslie Cole, a dog trainer who worked with Biggs and Bear, is not convinced.
“There’s no proof that is his dog,” she said.
Barbara Baugnon, communications director for the Oregon Humane Society, said it’s a sad situation but one that might have been avoided if Hanson-Fleming had gotten a microchip ID implant for Chase.
“I’ve heard stories like this before,” she said. “That’s why I love microchips. That’s the number one way a lost dog would get home.”
Contact Bennett Hall at 541-758-9529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.