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Whose Doggie Is It? Rightful Ownership of Dog Hotly Disputed

Sam Hanson-Fleming and Jordan Biggs both say it's their dog.

Portland, Oregon – On March 27, 2011, Sam Hanson-Fleming lost his dog, Chase. On the same day, Jordan Biggs found her dog, Bear. The problem is, Chase and Bear are the same dog. Both Hanson-Fleming and Biggs claim rightful ownership, and the dispute is getting nasty.

Hanson-Fleming, 30, adopted the husky mix in December 2009, when Chase was just a puppy. Last March the dog jumped the fence of Hanson-Fleming’s back yard and was lost. On the same day, Biggs, 20, found Chase near Hanson-Fleming’s home and picked him up. She kept him, renamed him Bear, and trained him to be a service animal (Biggs has asthma). Two months ago, Hanson-Fleming spotted the dog in Biggs’ car in line behind him in a coffee shop drive-through lane. He got out of his car and approached the SUV, calling out “Chase!” The dog jumped out of the car, apparently recognizing Hanson-Fleming, and greeted him with affection. Biggs acknowledged at that time that the dog was Hanson-Fleming’s and agreed to return him the next day, after she and her family had said goodbye.

Those are the facts that are not in dispute. And this is where things get ugly.

After being briefly reunited with Chase, Hanson-Fleming went out to buy a bag of dog food, then joyfully returned home to dig out the leash and dog bowls he had stored away after believing Chase to be gone forever. He told his sons, 7 and 13, that Chase would be returning home.
But it wouldn’t be that easy. Biggs had gotten attached to the dog she named Bear, it seemed, and didn’t want to let him go. Hanson-Fleming continued to call her, requesting the return of his dog. Biggs became more insistent that the dog was hers, telling Hanson-Fleming that she had spent “thousands of dollars” on Bear through veterinarian visits and training. She eventually stopped answering or returning his calls.

In the meantime, Hanson-Fleming had contacted every entity he could think of for help in getting his dog returned. He called the Portland police, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, Corvallis police (Biggs lives in Corvallis), the Benton County District Attorney’s Office and finally, Multnomah County Animal Services. Animal services director Mike Oswald, like a modern-day Solomon, had to make a determination about who was the dog’s rightful owner.

Hanson-Fleming provided all the proof of ownership he could find: Chase’s Multnomah County dog license; a copy of the lost dog poster; a copy of a Craigslist ad that he had posted; photos of Chase with Hanson-Fleming and Hanson-Fleming’s sons. He also provided Oswald with photos of “Bear” that had been posted on Biggs’ Facebook account, and a photo taken of Biggs and Bear published by the Gazette-Times, to prove to Oswald that they were the same dog.

Oswald was convinced that Chase and Bear were one and the same. He was also persuaded by Hansen-Fleming’s evidence that Hansen-Fleming was the original owner of the dog (although he noted that a simple microchip would have proven ownership and identity beyond a reasonable doubt). He requested proof from Biggs that she was the rightful owner, but even after giving Biggs a one-week extension to provide documentation, he received no response.

At this point, the law was definitely on Hanson-Fleming’s side. Not only did he prove original ownership, but previous disputes over pet ownership had prodded the county to create legislation to deal with a person’s failure to return a pet to its rightful owner, prescribing steps that must be taken before the finding person can legally keep the pet. The law requires that the finder file a “found report” with animal services and publish notice in the newspaper once a week for at least two weeks. If no one claims ownership after 180 days, the finder can be declared the new owner. Oswald found no evidence that Biggs followed these steps. With these facts in front of him, Oswald ruled in favor of Hanson-Fleming on July 10 and ordered Biggs to return the dog.

Biggs still did not relinquish ownership. Hanson-Fleming threatened to sue. The standoff continued until Hanson-Fleming escalated matters by filing charges against Biggs for theft. She was arrested on July 20 and the dog was placed in a shelter. There he will remain until the matter is decided – which probably will not be soon because Biggs has now sued Hanson-Fleming, alleging that Hanson-Fleming abused and neglected the dog while Chase/Bear was in his care.

At some point in the dispute, Biggs had hired animal rights attorney Geordie Duckler, who first perused public records to try to find evidence that Hanson-Fleming was an unfit pet owner. He did not find anything, so he hired a private investigator. The investigation reportedly found eyewitnesses who claim that Hanson-Fleming abused the dog. He also says he received calls from other witnesses alleging abuse and neglect.

Duckler says the claims are that Hanson-Fleming kicked, slapped, beat and urinated on Chase in order to show “who was in charge;” that Hansen-Fleming’s home was unsanitary; that he kept the dog in a cage that was too small for lengthy periods of time; that he never took the dog to a veterinarian; and that Hanson-Fleming often made the dog “inhale significant amounts of marijuana smoke in order to amuse himself and his friends, and to psychologically torment the dog.”

Multnomah County prosecutor Norm Frink says the allegations “have at least a superficial credibility,” but Hanson-Fleming denies all the allegations, saying that they are lies manufactured by Biggs and her supporters. “They’re just trying to turn the tables on me,” he said.
For her part, in addition to the claims of abuse and neglect, Biggs contends that she came by ownership of the dog she calls Bear honestly and legally.

She says was staying with her boyfriend in Portland in March 2011 when the dog showed up on their doorstep. “We took him for the night,” Biggs said. “The next morning, I started trying to find the owners.”

According to an interview with the Corvallis Gazette-Times, she says “she went from door to door around the neighborhood, put up posters, called veterinarians’ offices and the Humane Society, checked with area animal shelters and looked for lost dog ads on Craigslist and other websites.”

She says was reluctant to take him to the pound because she was afraid he’d be euthanized if no one claimed him, especially given his breed. She says she tried for more than two months to find the owner, but since she had no luck, she decided to keep him.

Since he was now her dog, she invested what she estimates is thousands of dollars, getting him vaccinated, neutered and microchipped. She says she also had him trained as a service dog to help with her asthma. He knows to get help if she has an asthma attack and carries her inhaler in a pocket on his service dog vest.

She says when she encountered Hanson-Fleming, she tried to explain all this to him, thinking that since the dog had been with her for over a year, he should remain hers.

“I tried to tell him he’s my service dog, that I’ve trained him in agility,” she said. “He didn’t even care.”

Now it’s up to the authorities to decide both who is the legal owner of the dog, and who is the most fit.

On July 23, prosecutor Frink had no timetable for the investigation; he only said they “hope to do it as quickly as possible, consistent with doing it thoroughly.”

Story by Mikki Hooven

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Emily
Emily
10 years ago

The dog should be returned to his rightful owner, and  Hanson-Fleming should pay her for the vaccination and the neutering (should only be one vaccination since she’s had him a year)..  Her “getting him trained” was her choice and the cost is on her.  She stole the dog, since the dog was just outside his fence and still at or near his yard if she had truly attempted to find the owner it wouldn’t have been hard to find him.  She more than likely saw the dog, liked him, took him home and thought nothing more of the matter.  I’ve returned many dogs in my lifetime and it’s a fairly simple process.  She didn’t follow the process and now it’s her loss.  Sorry miss, do the right and legal thing.

Christine
Christine
10 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Look at how this dog has grown. Maybe he was taken by less than honourable means, but maybe some of the story above is true and it WAS honourable, who knows? But this has turned into a battle over principle for the original owner not love.  Look at the big picture. This is a service dog committed to helping his new owner. Let Bear live an honourable life. Why upset that? Throw a little cash at Hanson-Fleming and I’m sure it goes away.

Emily
Emily
10 years ago
Reply to  Christine

 The dog was with him for 2 years, and with her for 1 year.  The dog was obviously happy with him or the dog, being a fully trained service dog (a bit of sarcasm there) jumped out of her vehicle and ran to him wagging and happy to see him.  THAT is love.  The man looked for months for his dog, only to be foiled because he had been stolen by this woman.  I am looking at the big picture and in the final act of this film she stole his dog, and now won’t give the dog back.  I am sure it’s not about cash or they would have already discussed this.  It’s OBVIOUSLY about money for her when she says she’s spent “thousands” training the dog to be her service animal (doubtful) and he just wants his family pet back.  I know what would have happened if it were my dog and she never would have taken him home from that parking lot to “say good bye” to him.  The woman in this situation stole the dog, took him home, likely never looked for his original owner, and now is peeved because she messed up and is now going to have to let it go.  She has asthma, not epilepsy or falling issues, or something more severe.  Asthmatics can tell when they are getting an attack and unless she is on oxygen she can put her inhaler in her pocket.  It may be an incurable disease but for years Asthma sufferers got along fine without a service dog to carry their inhalers.  and least you think I am against people with disabilities getting service dogs, my husband is a disabled vet and we have been looking into getting him set up with a service dog.

Peoplecanbesomean
Peoplecanbesomean
10 years ago
Reply to  Christine

 Read more…Someone DID try to throw cash at him and even threatened him.  It hasn’t gone away because he truly cares for the dog.

Sig22069
Sig22069
10 years ago

It is obvious to me that Ms. Biggs should have Bear as she has taken the time and love to care for him correctly by getting him neutered first than vaccinated and micro-chipped. If the other owner got the dog as a puppy and hadn’t ‘lost’ him till he was 2yrs then he should have already been at least neutered and vaccinated as a good owner does. Ms. Biggs having done so after not finding the owner and keeping the dog should be awarded the dog as she is the rightful owner by caring for him properly from the beginning. Also the fact that Bare was trained as her service dog and is now a very important part of her continuing good health.

Peoplecanbesomean
Peoplecanbesomean
10 years ago
Reply to  Sig22069

 She had him micro-chipped and registered just days AFTER she was seen with the dog by Hansen-Flemming.  If she cared that much for him, why did she wait an entire year to do this?   She found him the same day he went missing and did nothing to find the owner.  Whereas the owner posted flyers, posted on Craigslist AND reported to MUCA a lost dog report.  What did she do? Nothing, she took the dog to Corvallis a couple of days after ‘finding’ him…with his registration tags on.  Learn to read.

Lori62199
Lori62199
10 years ago

If he never bothered to take the dog to the vets,that tells you all you need to know.

Peoplecanbesomean
Peoplecanbesomean
10 years ago
Reply to  Lori62199

 Who says he never did?  He was tagged and registered.  He wasn’t neutered because he was to be bred.  It happens and it doesn’t mean a neglectful owner.

Nezumi
Nezumi
10 years ago

The dog should be returned to the original owner.  He was able to provide all necessary documentation to prove ownership.  The fact that the dog wasn’t neutered was a moot point as a lot of people don’t neuter their dogs until they’re older and are still responsible owners.  As to the vaccination situation, we have no info on that.  Considering that the dog had a county license, it more than likely was current on vaccines since rabies is required by law in most states (and they do last significantly longer than your vet would like to admit).

To assume that the original owner is insufficient in some way is ridiculous and unsubstantiated at this point.  

I understand that he has been trained as a service dog, but the fact of the matter is that the dog wasn’t hers to begin with and if she was able to manage before the dog arrived, she can manage after the dog has left.  Heck, she can even get another dog – yes, I understand training can be costly, but in this situation it’s her own fault.  They obviously live in the same general area as the dog was ‘found’ near the original owner’s home, and spotted in a coffee shop drive through in that same town.  Part of me thinks this comes down to the guy having tattoos and looking like a ‘hooligan’, and the girl having asthma and looking like an angel.

Peoplecanbesomean
Peoplecanbesomean
10 years ago
Reply to  Nezumi

 I question the whole service dog thing.  If she really had need of a service dog, why didn’t she have one already?

Serenity
Serenity
10 years ago

Biggs should get the dog if there is any possible truth to the abuse allegations. The dog appears to be serving a greater life purpose than to be caged all day long. Case closed, get the dog out of the shelter and award custody at least temporarily to the girl.

Scarlet_jester
Scarlet_jester
10 years ago

Wow…I don’t understand any of these arguments.  Chick broke the law.  End of dispute.  If she’s so worried he’ll be an unfit owner she can check in on him from time to time to prove it.  Dogs run away, not all owners fix their dogs, and she has no idea what shots the dog had before she found him.  Finding a cute dog does not constitute ownership, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend.  She should do time for theft, if she thought the dog had been abused sooooo bad she should have taken proper steps to start off with, not wait till she’s losing in court.  And if people really saw this dog being so badly abused why aren’t they getting in trouble for doing NOTHING about it when it happened?

K9amma
K9amma
10 years ago

Really? This doesn’t seem like it’s about the dog at all.The judge should offer to cut the dog in half and each get half, than lets see who really cares about the dog.I sure wouldn’t want my dog to be  and would rather see the other person get it then even consider it. By the way this is not a serious option, obviously,for those of you that take everything literally.

kkbshorty
kkbshorty
10 years ago

Yes, he should have taken the dog to the vet and, yes, he should have had the dog fixed.  But the fact remains he proved that the dog did originally being to him.  On top of that, she did not follow proper procedure for filing a lost dog report.  Initially I would have said that he should pay her back for the vet bills since she had him (but not the training as someone above had mentioned that was her choice, not a necessity).  However since she did not relinquish the dog at the time the law got involved, I don’t think he owes her squat.  This a horrible situation in which she got attached to what sounds like an awesome dog, but she could have prevented this if she had followed the lost dog procedures mentioned in the article. 

As far as the matter of the abuse, I don’t buy it…it sounds like a last ditch effort to keep the dog.  However if there is any PROOF of it, past, present or future, the dog should be returned to her and his @$$ should get thrown in jail!

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

Has anyone picked upon the “asthma” issue? That’s the first hint that something is not kosher. I have asthma, and I have 3 dogs, but I carry my inhaler either in my pocket or in my purse. None of my dogs have to “help” me get my inhaler. What crock. Ms. Biggs found a dog, got attched to it and made no attempt to find the owner, thinking “finders, keepers”. As for the legal battle, she appears to be a vindictive little a-hole and she is trying to protect her investment. Calling her b… would be unfair to the female canine. Chase should go home to Hanson-Fleming.

Emily
Emily
10 years ago

The allegations of abuse only came up AFTER he tried to get his dog back.   That’s all they are.  Allegations.  Seriously, take the dog in a room with him and watch how the dog acts.  If he abused the dog then the DOG will tell you if he did or not.  Dogs have a lot longer memory than you give them credit for.  As for the “service” dog aspect.  While I am not going to poo-poo the use of service dogs for those who need it, at 20 years old she should be able to know when she’s having an attack and put her inhaler in her own pocket.  It’s not like she’s having to pack oxygen around or it has an unknown trigger.    and no, just because someone doesn’t get thier dog neutered/spayed does not make them a bad owner.  I have a spayed female and an intact male.  I am a responsible owner and people love to see my dog.  He doesn’t go carousing, and he isn’t unhealthy.  Ask my vet!  lol.  (which is where my dogs are right now as I’m currently out of town on a family emergency.)  The vet techs there clap when they see me coming for boarding or appointments.

Cashley550
Cashley550
10 years ago

Did the dogs have tags? I’ve found several dogs and returned some an kept some. I always go out of my way to return a dog if possible but if it doesn’t have tags and is out loose near a road, than I’d say (at least in this case) she should keep the dog.

RightIsAlwaysRight
RightIsAlwaysRight
10 years ago
Reply to  Cashley550

The dog did have tags and license when he escaped.  In fact, read her lawsuit, she claims someone else in the neighborhood put temporary tags and collar on him previous day when he was found wandering around.  Seriously???  How many of you keep spare collar and tags just in case you find a lost dog without them, and then, not call the animal control, but just put the temporary tags and collar on him and send him wandering away.  And she is lying about checking Craigs List, Sam has proof he posted Lost Dog on Craigs List.  We found a lost dog near our dog park last week, someone let it in the park so it didn’t get hit by a car, but they also went around park looking for an owner.  Someone agreed to take the dog home that night, and called the humane society the next day, and took it in to be scanned.  It didn’t have a microchip, but they took the people’s info, and allowed them to take the dog back home with them.  4 hrs later, owner called them, dog escaped from a new house it had moved to.  Dog was returned to it’s rightful owner.  Had Biggs done the same, Sam would have his dog back.  She ignored the collar and tags that were on the dog, the lost dog posters, the lost dog Craigs List ad, and the calls Sam made to animal control, and took the dog a week later to Corvallis.  Open shut case.

Peoplecanbesomean
Peoplecanbesomean
10 years ago
Reply to  Cashley550

 It did have tags even according to Biggs.  I recently found a dog who didn’t have tags on because somehow his collar was lost during his ‘wandering’.  He was reported as a lost dog, I walked him around the neighborhood to find his owners and I checked Craigslist.  Found a posting on Craigslist about him being lost and guess what…he’s home now with his wonderful family and little boy.  All within a day.  It’s easy enough to find owners when you want to.

Elyse
Elyse
10 years ago

There is no such thing as an asthma service dog, and to teach a dog to fetch an inhaler is nowhere near thousands of dollars. It is a ploy to keep a dog who does not belong to her.

Emily
Emily
10 years ago
Reply to  Elyse

 Actually, because of the wording on service dogs there ARE asthma service dogs.  A “Service” dog is any dog that is trained to perform a particular service.  dogs trained to stand while you balance, or lay between you and other people because you are claustraphobic or have social anxiety…  These are legitimate service dogs.  There is no one registry for service dogs, and you can register any dog that fulfills the guidelines of whatever registry you wish to use.  Training can be done at home to fulfill your particular need.

Peoplecanbesomean
Peoplecanbesomean
10 years ago
Reply to  Emily

 I fully agree with you about service animals.  The thing that raises my eyebrow in this situation is that if she really needed a service dog, why didn’t she have one already?  Also, why didn’t she register the dog until after she was found with him by Hansen-Flemming?  If she was so responsible, why didn’t she do all of this before?  I would like to see her receipts for training.  As you said, it can be done at home but she paid thousands?  I’m not buying it.  I would also like to see her registration for him being a service dog.  It’s just all suspicious.

Emily
Emily
10 years ago
Reply to  Elyse

 I forgot to add, that I agree that it doesn’t cost thousands to train a dog to fetch an asthma inhaler or tell you when your breathing is off.  My dogs both can tell when my husband is about to have a dizzy spell at home, and the larger braces so my husband can brace on him when they hit.  Without ANY professional training.

Henry
10 years ago

Cashley550 Wait a minute if the dog didn’t have tags and was out loose???? Have you ever let your dog run naked? or taken them off the give them a bath? or maybe he slipped out of his collar?? To say because a dog doesn’t have a collar makes him fair game is not fair. A dog can slip out of its collar easily at any time and be on the streets. The person who found the dog is responsible for making a honest attempt to find the real owner before claiming ownership. 

Dogs are family
Dogs are family
10 years ago

So no one reported or suspected any type of abuse or neglect prior to her losing the first court battle? If the dog was so badly abused, would the dog really have jumped out of an SUV window and run up to him excited and happy to see him?

Fuznuts35
Fuznuts35
10 years ago

Give the dog back you stinking thief!!!!! You admitted he wasn’t you dog, now your just being a butthole!!!!

Freevillefilly66
Freevillefilly66
10 years ago

Give Chase back to the rightful owner !! The Hanson-Fleming Family as they miss him and I’m sure Chase feels the same !!  The lady is NUTS !!!!!

Gayle
Gayle
10 years ago

None of her stories are legitimate if you ask me. I think she found the dog, fell in love and is coming up with every excuse not to give him back. Service dogs do not cost thousands to train. It’s nice that he’s doing a job for her, but so will another dog. Just because a dog is not neutered, does not mean it’s not being cared for. Just because a dog is found without a collar, does not mean that it doesn’t have an owner. My dogs play together without collars because they can become entangled. Just because someone saw the dog in crate, does not mean that it’s being abused. Plenty of dogs have crates and love their own private dens.  Dogs escape, dogs are found. Be brave, thank him for the year of love and give the dog back to his rightful owner. 

Brandon Myers
Brandon Myers
10 years ago
Reply to  Gayle

I’m in support with giving Chase back to his rightful owner, but just a correction on your comment. True service dogs do cost thousands to train and get certified. I’m a veteran and have one myself. I don’t believe that dog is a true service dog though or at the least is a poorly trained one as a service dog would not leave its owner’s side when called by somebody else. Regardless of if they knew them.

Emily Yelton
10 years ago
Reply to  Brandon Myers

guide dogs cost thousands. Most service dogs haven’t had the same amount of training. ADA states that service dogs can be trained at home, by their owners. Depending on what they are doing for “service”. The article states that this dog carried her inhaler. My dog can do that with no training at all. I totally agree if he had “thousands” spent on his training then he would never have jumped out of the vehicle.

lanie sheeley7
lanie sheeley7
10 years ago

I have taken every dog and cat that i’ve ever owned to the vet to get their shots and be checked out, plus i know a couple guys who have abused their dogs and the neighbors knew it, but i was the only 1 who cared enough to turn these guys in. IOne gave the dog away and the other 1 gave theirs to the spca, They didn’t want to face the charges so they gave up their dogs. That sure showed they were guilty. I could never imagine being abusive to my 2 little dogs or giving them to someone else. They are our babies.

Houseofjax
Houseofjax
10 years ago

Just a bad situation. Have no idea  what is right, but I would fight for my dog, right or wrong

San Diego Dog Wash
10 years ago

That is one messy case. From a superficial standpoint, it looks like the dog should really be returned to his original owner. But if her allegations were right, how can they prove that the dog was abused?

Emily
Emily
10 years ago

It sounds like this woman is a bit of a scheming wench. It’s obvious she just wants him because she wants him and doesn’t truly care about the dog’s happiness. Chase belongs to Sam, and should go back home to him. These abuse claims are down-right stupid, no man who put that much effort to find his dog would have abused it.

Bring Chase back home to his daddy!

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