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Why won't Riverside Animal Control let Indy go home?

Elizabeth Brinkley adopted Indy as a puppy to a woman in Riverside, but has been prevented from reclaiming the now six-year-old dog.
Dante Kennels

Breed rescues and animal shelters are often critical of the breeders of purebred dogs, but what happens when breeders attempt to enforce the contracts and take back the dogs that might otherwise end up in shelters? In Riverside, at least one breeder is frustrated in her attempts to reclaim a dog.

The AKC believes that "a responsible breeder is responsible for life." The American Shetland Sheepdog Association lists guidelines for ethical behavior and includes: "The ASSA encourages all Sheltie owners that breed Shelties to assume more responsibility for dogs produced throughout their lives rather than just until the first sale."

Elizabeth T. Brinkley, owner of Dante Kennels in Virginia, sold a male blue merle Shetland Sheepdog to Ginny Dennis about six years ago. Brinkley wrote in an email: "Ginny Dennis answered an ad I placed to sell two pups from a litter as show pups. I checked her references through the American Shetland Sheepdog Association and some local breeders. She was a long-time breeder and well-respected. "

That dog was: Dante's Act One of 1776 or Indy. Act 1 Shelties was the name of Dennis' kennel. The sale took place in 2008.

Ginny Dennis might be more familiar to some as the wife of the late Matt Dennis. Matt Dennis died in 2002 at the age of 88. He wrote an early hit for Frank Sinatra, "Everything Happens to Me." His 1953 "Angel Eyes" is considered a jazz standard. Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins recorded his "Will You Still Be Mine."

His wife, Virginia Maxey, now Ginny Dennis, is listed on IMDb as a singer, composer and author. As an actress she has three credits including "Trail to Laredo" and she is included as a performer on the soundtrack "Go West Young Lady." If her birthdate on IMDb is correct (Sept. 4, 1923), she will be 91 in September.

Although initially the animal control claimed that the dogs were all in good condition and the original photograph showed the dogs to at least be fairly clean evidenced by their white collars and feet, that initial good news changed around July 25 when reported that the director of the Riverside County Animal Services "planned to seek animal cruelty charges against the owner." The cruelty was evidenced mainly by the lack of oral hygiene.

Although director Robert Miller claims the dogs "were living in filth" it's not clear how this constitutes cruelty. Other reports state that none of the dogs had to be shaved down or treated by hot spots (likely to result from flea infestations). Yet one person lamented how soon after having been groomed the dogs were again dirty from being kenneled at the Riverside Jurupa facility.

The City of Riverside animal codes defines: "'Abused dog' shall mean any dog which is mistreated, beaten, tormented or teased, or is deprived of water or food or shelter; or is kept under unsanitary conditions; or is abandoned; or is trained for fighting other animals;"

However, section 8.04.025 only discusses feces, uneaten food and things that encourage the breeding of insects: "Every person owning or occupying any property or premises where any animal or bird is kept shall keep such premises clean and sanitary. Any feces, uneaten food, or other matter that emits an offensive odor or encourages the breeding of flies or other insects shall be collected daily and not allowed to accumulate."

In one of the first articles Welsh commented, that he did not know specifically why the owner chose to relinquish the dogs, but if the house was uninhabitable because of the fire, the owner may not have been able to feed and care for the dogs on the property. She could have paid the county to board them until she could make other arrangements, but Welsh said the bill to care for that many dogs for even a few days would have been steep."

KPCC reported that Riverside Animal Services public information chief was calling Dennis an "animal collector" and although he claimed he didn't want to use the "H" word (hoarder) he might as well have just said it. He admitted that the residence didn't have the foul odor or the noise problem that generally is associated with hoarding situations.

If poor oral hygiene, fleas and ticks are consider animal cruelty, then Riverside must give out a lot of animal cruelty citations.

That KPCC report also fails to note two things: Dennis' age and that she had contracts that require the dogs to be returned to their breeders. The KPCC account does mention that the shelter is taking care not to return to what they call "secret agents" but not that they have denied the validity of the breeders contracts, even though this is the kind of responsible behavior animal shelters and rescues encourage in breeders.

Brinkley is still trying to reclaim Indy, writing that "My contract specifically stated that the dog would reverted to my ownership if it ever was turned over the a shelter."

Because she is located on the East Coast, Brinkley asked that Diane Turner be allowed to check on Indy and the Riverside Animal Shelter wouldn't allow her to see them. Turner is a Sheltie breeder located in El Toro.

Brinkley wrote, "I have asked them to release him to an agent designated by me with a power of attorney who would have the dog checked by a reputable vet who would say when he could be shipped to me. I have offered to pay the adoption fee and cover all costs to have him shipped to me."

Some blogs have accused the Riverside Animal Shelter of trying to cash in on a windfall of high demand. There are also claims that Brinkley's requests aren't the only ones that are falling on deaf ears.

Dennis might have been a well-respected breeder of show quality Shetland Sheepdogs, but this wouldn't be the first case when age, eyesight and growing infirmity resulted in a lower standard of care for pets. One blogger wondered if this wasn't elder abuse, but that's another issue and one easier to ignore without actually interviewing Dennis.

Indy's contractual owner wants him back. If animal shelters and breed rescues want breeders to act responsibly, then why would they hinder them from doing just that?

What will it take to bring Brinkley's Indy home? If you think Riverside Animal Shelter should release Indy, call them at (951) 358-7387 (PETS) or Toll-free: 1-888-636-7387 (PETS)or send an email.

If you know of other breeders who have been similarly turned away or have other stories, contact me at

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