Twenty years ago, Miles D. Thomas was a successful stockbroker, and president of the school board in Harrisburg, Pa.
In the past two years, life has been less kind.
He lost his wife to Alzheimer’s in late 2007. Then, unable to pay the bills that had mounted for her care, he lost his house and turned to living in a series of cheap motels, or sleeping in his car.
Last month, authorities seized his dog, a 7-year-old collie named Baron, when Thomas left him in his car while getting a bite to eat. Because he’s homeless, apparently, he hasn’t been able to get him back since.
Hearing of Thomas’ plight, an attorney filed a suit in federal court on behalf of the 73-year-old former Harrisburg School Board president, seeking to get the dog back from the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area Inc. The agency maintains that the dog is being held as part of a cruelty case but has declined to release details, and Thomas has not been charged with any offense.
“To me, he’s the greatest thing I have in the world,” Thomas said of his dog, the fourth in a line of collies the family has owned. “I love him so much, yet they try to keep me from him. I can’t understand that.”
Thomas says it was 76 degrees on the day he left Baron in the car, with the windows open, and that he was gone less than an hour.
When he returned, the dog was gone and an officer with the Humane Society informed him his dog had been seized.
Last week, U.S. Middle District Judge John E. Jones III issued a temporary restraining order barring the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area from destroying or transferring ownership of Baron. A hearing is scheduled Sept. 3.
“I couldn’t imagine letting this man go without his dog,” Attorney Andrew Ostrowski told the Harrisburg Patriot-News. “He cares deeply for the dog, and he’s seriously affected by this. In my view, it’s a federal, constitutional civil rights issue, and I won’t shrink from it.”
Ostrowski said he’s also pursuing a civil suit that seeks damages.
Amy Kaunas, Humane Society of Harrisburg Area executive director, said that Thomas’ dog was seized as part of a cruelty investigation initiated by a referral from the Middletown police.
She declined to discuss specifics of the case, but said animal-cruelty statutes require that animals be provided with adequate shelter and access to food, water and veterinary care.
Thomas fell more than $100,000 in debt after his wife spent three years in a nursing home, the Harrisburg newspaper reported. But he insisted he always took care of his dog. “I took better care of him than I did myself,” he said.
Since early August, Thomas has been living with Stephen Conklin, a friend of attonrey Ostrowski’s, who took Thomas in at his farm in York County.
Now that Thomas has a stable home situation, Conklin said the thinks the Humane Society should return the dog to him.
Ostrowski, contends that the animal agency pressured Thomas into signing over his rights to Baron two days after the dog was taken by the agency’s canine officer, threatening him with a $750 fine and up to 90 days in jail unless he turned over the dog.
(Photo: CHRIS KNIGHT, The Patriot-News)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alzheimers, animal control, baron, bills, car, collie, cruelty, debt, dog, federal court, harrisburg, homeless, humane society, judge, lawsuit, medical, miles thomas, president, school board, seized, stockbroker, taken