DA's office investigating ownership battle over elderly SA man's lost dog

Rescue agency says the dog is not being cared for and wants to reclaim him

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The battle over ownership of a West Highland terrier now has the Bexar County District Attorney's Office involved.

Someone found 80-year-old veteran Jim Martin's lost dog Olaf and scanned the microchip. The chip was still connected to the agency where Martin adopted Olaf, Lone Star Westie Rescue, or LSWR.

Now, the agency said it's taking back custody of Olaf, citing health concerns.

"He's like one of my children in many ways," Martin said, adding that he lives alone in his home with Olaf.

He adopted Olaf four years ago from LSWR in Carrollton, Texas, which is near Fort Worth.

"Feisty, just full of life, lots of fun, a little too curious some times -- that's what got him into trouble. I was here in the driveway, putting things in the car and he bumped the door between the house and the garage and he came out," Martin said.

On July 20, Olaf got out of the house. When he was found that same day, his microchip connected him back to LSWR. The agency sent a San Antonio foster volunteer to pick him up.

The foster volunteer said he was concerned with Olaf's health, so he took him to a vet.

"The report that came back said he was flea-infested, he's underweight. He had an eye infection with goop in his eye. His ear was so infected, the canal was almost all the way closed, and he had a genital infection," said Karen Claussen, LSWR secretary and volunteer.

Pictures taken by the San Antonio volunteer showed a red and black portion around one of Olaf's eyes and some skin infections on his paws and belly.

Claussen said she had never seen these issues in any of their adopted Westies, but Martin claimed Olaf has had the same recurring skin issues since he adopted him four years ago.

In a letter from Martin's veterinarian, Dr. Larry Wood calls Martin a "model pet caregiver," saying, "Although Olaf has had a few chronic and ongoing health issues, he receives yearly checkups and necessary vaccinations."

On Wednesday, LSWR president Elizabeth Escobar said she does not plan to return Olaf to Martin, because she believes it's in the dog's best interest.

She sent KSAT the contract Martin signed when he adopted the dog. It states the owner is responsible for the dog's health and well-being.  

"LSWR may reclaim the adopted animal without notice if LSWR in its sole discretion determines that the adopting party or others have breached or caused the breach of this Agreement," the contract states.

Willie Ng, Bexar County District Attorney's Office chief criminal investigator, has been tasked with determining if a crime was committed.

"It's early on. There's a lot of stuff we need to see, but right now, just what we're receiving verbally, it looks like this is more of a civil issue than criminal," he said.

If it's a civil issue, the justice system will ultimately decide if the LSWR's contract allows the agency to keep Olaf.

Ng said either way, there is a process all parties must go through in this type of situation.

"You have to go to court, show the judge that this person has violated this contract agreement. The judge has to agree with you and side with you, and even then, you still have more process to go."

Local philanthropist and animal activist Kym Rapier offered to pay for Jim Martin's attorney from The Law Office of Ramos & Del Cueto. Martin's first meeting with his attorney for the first time Wednesday night.

Escobar said Olaf is safe and receiving further treatment at a foster volunteer's home. She said the organization has been receiving threats and did not want to give out any locations or names.

James Martin Signed Adoption Agreement Pg. 1 

James Martin Signed Adoption Agreement Pg. 2 

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