Dogged pursuit

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July 1996:

HOPKINTON, Mass.––Louise Coleman, founding
director of Greyhound Friends, is the only alleged dog
thief ever honored with the Peace Abbey’s Courage of
Conscience award, accepted from the multi-faith vegetarian
organization at a commemorative ceremony in Sherborn,
Massachusetts, on February 16.
But Coleman and friends may also be the only
alleged dog thieves who ever did the deed in front of television
cameras, with the full cooperation of law-and-order.
Six months later, related crossfiled lawsuits are
still before the Superior Court in Montreal, Quebec, and
may be far from trial. Dog breeder Richard Valiquette, of
Ste. Sophie, Quebec, contends eight of his dogs were taken
illegally last December 19 by Coleman, Greyhound Friends
volunteer Fred Fontaine, and Linda Miranda of the Frontier
Animal Society, located in Beebe, Quebec.

Coleman and friends, who acted with judicial permission,
hold that Valiquette obtained the dogs illegally in
the first place. For about five years Valiquette has reputedly
been trying to produce faster sled dogs by crossing greyhounds
with huskies. “Trouble is,” reports AnnMarie
Timmins of the Concord Monitor, “more puppies die from
the hairbrained scheme than live, and those who survive
grow up boxy-looking greyhounds who don’t win races.”
Undaunted, Valiquette visited the Lakes Region
Greyhound Park in Belmont, New Hampshire, during the
1995 summer racing season, posing as a greyhound rescuer
seeking dogs who would otherwise be “retired,” probably to
euthanasia. Trainer Gary Discolo gave Valiquette seven
greyhounds, violating the Lakes Region track policy that
dogs may only be given to affiliated adoption agencies, such
as Greyhound Friends, and then only after completing
appropriate paperwork. Valiquette took the first four dogs to
Ste. Sophie without incident on July 23, 1995, but on
August 5 a female Canada Customs officer on duty at the
Beebe port of entry became suspicious.
“She photocopied every shred of paper Valiquette
had, and got the dogs’ tattoo numbers,” recounts
Greyhound Friends newsletter editor Joyce Wasson. The
customs officer than contacted Miranda, a greyhound
owner, and asked her if she knew of any stolen greyhounds.
At about the same time, Belmont greyhound rescuer Harriet
Leterier called Coleman to report rumors that Discolo had
given dogs to an unknown purported rescuer, probably
Quebecois. Coleman called Miranda. With the help of the
Sherbrooke Society for the Protection of Animals, they
identified Valiquette as a possible suspect, but his known
address in Ste. Jerome was vacant. They tracked Valiquette
down in October, with the help of a sled-dog-racing
Episcopalian minister from a Montreal suburb, who spotted
a classified ad Valiquette placed in the sledding magazine
Depart/Arrivee. Miranda and a friend responded to the ad,
visited Valiquette in person to inspect the animals they
ostensibly wanted to buy, and found the greyhounds in
unheated, poorly sheltered facilities.
Continues Wasson, “Jill Hopfenbeck, DVM, a
Greyhound Friends board member, put up the
money––$400––for Linda to buy a dog.” Returning to Ste.
Sophie, Miranda found that two of the dogs had now been
outfitted with electric shock collars, to prevent barking that
might alert neighbors. “When the dog Linda bought went
over the border from the U.S. into Canada,” Wasson
recounts, “his rabies certificate was not signed, and when
Valiquette sold Linda the dog, ` he gave her an altered and
forged version of the rabies certificate.”
But Greyhound Friends were initially unsuccessful
in trying to instigate action against Valiquette, either under
the weak Quebec and Canadian humane laws or for alleged
possession of stolen property. Another two months went by
before New Hampshire attorney Jennifer Eber and Montreal
attorney Kurt Johnson were able to obtain an order for
“seizure before judgement” from the Montreal Superior
Court, enabling Coleman and Miranda to take the six
remaining greyhounds Discolo had given Valiquette, the
one surviving puppy from their two litters born in the interim,
and one adult greyhound/husky cross. All were said to
be emaciated and freezing.
Witnesses to the seizure included reporters from
CBC and CFCF television and the Montreal Gazette; a
Montreal bailiff; and about 50 of Valiquette’s neighbors.
As Valiquette wasn’t home, the bailiff broke the lock off the
dog shed with a crowbar. Local police helped push the rescuers’
van after it got stuck in snow. The Sherbrooke SPA
sheltered the dogs that night.
Those dogs are all safe now, but already
Greyhound Friends are wondering who might try to do
something bizarre and inhumane with this year’s round of
“retired” racing dogs––and whether they’ll be alerted in time
to effect a rescue.
[Greyhound Friends welcomes help c/o 167 Saddle
Hill Road, Hopkinton, MA 01748; the Frontier Animal
Society accepts help at POB 83, Beebe, Quebec J0B 3E0.]

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