Army couple's legal team files suit against animal rescue for return of Spot

Army couple's legal team files suit against animal rescue for return of Spot
Nadine Butler, with the Tri-County Animal Rescue, handling Spot.
Nadine Butler, with the Tri-County Animal Rescue, handling Spot.

TAYLOR COUNTY, GA (WTVM) – The legal counsel for the Army couple embroiled in a battle with an animal rescue for their surrendered dog has filed suit on Wednesday.

Ed and Penny Furr, of Furr Legal in Decatur, GA, filed a six-count civil action suit for an injunction to return Spot to Blake and Ashley Lechner, and for fraud, among other claims, in Superior Court of Taylor County – State of Georgia.

The documents name the defendants, Thomas Hoffman, his mother, Andrea Hoffman, and Tri-County Rescue Inc. The first hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8 at 9:30 a.m. in Taylor County.

The filing says that because of the "impending military orders" of Blake Lechner, the couple made a "hasty decision to surrender Spot," on Nov. 7. After they left the rescue, the filings claim that the Lechners regretted their decision, and wanted to act on their 12-hour window to get Spot back, but calls on the following Sunday weren't returned. It wasn't until Nov. 9, when Blake Lechner returned to the animal rescue that he was told it was too late to get Spot back.

The forms make many claims against the Hoffmans and Tri County Animal Rescue, including that the surrender form, that legally gave Spot to the animal rescue, was altered after Blake Lechner signed it.

The suit also claims that the Hoffmans have "absconded with Spot, in order to profit from his eventual sale or adoption-for-a-fee."

"The defendants had already advertised Spot's availability for adoption before the sun set over Fort Benning on Saturday evening, Nov. 7, 2015," the documents said.

In a Google cache of their Facebook page for Fort Benning Animal Shelter, it shows that Spot was an "owner surrender" that was "adoptable" before the post was deleted; the page was also deactivated due to an outpouring of negative comments about their handling of Spot.

The suit also is asking for punitive or exemplary damages for an undetermined amount. Penny Furr, one of the lawyers representing the Lechners, says the couple is stressed and overwhelmed with what's happened since surrendering Spot on Nov. 7.

In previous interviews, Thomas Hoffman said based on what Blake Lechner wrote on the surrender form, that Spot was not leash trained and did not get along with their other dog, that it would not been safe to return Spot to the family.

Thomas Hoffman also said that when he was taken to the facility as a surrender, Spot seemed so traumatized, that he had to be carried in.

When reached for a comment, Thomas Hoffman said he and his family did not want to make one at this time. Nadine Butler, Thomas Hoffman's sister, has started a new petition on change.org, advocating for Spot's well-being with #SpotDeservesBetter.

The Lechners started a GoFundMe page to help pay for their legal fees.

Penny Furr made a statement, saying:

This family does not now nor have they ever wanted to be a party in a lawsuit. However, this appears to be the only way they have a chance of getting Spot, their beloved dog, back. If there were other options they would be taking them.

Through interviews, both sides have advocated for the best interest for Spot.

On Tuesday, the Tri-County Animal Rescue posted that due to social media threats, they are no longer releasing the location of Spot, but that Spot is still under the care of the rescue. Thomas Hoffman said that Spot is not up for adoption at this time.

You can read the full civil suit by clicking here.

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