A Lakeville couple who left their German shepherd at a kennel in Rosemount for a weekend in October and returned to find that the dog had been hit by a motorcycle and had to be destroyed have filed a claim against the kennel and its owner.
Peter and Patricia Fahnlander filed the claim in Dakota County Conciliation Court against the Lazy Leash in Rosemount and its owner, Jo Hall, alleging that Hall or someone who works for her negligently allowed their dog Sheba to run into traffic.
David Hellmuth, an Edina attorney who is advising the Fahnlanders in the case, said he volunteered to help when he heard their story.
“It’s just so wrong,” said Hellmuth, who is a business partner of Peter Fahnlander. “This is a very personal and sad, tragic situation. The dog was part of their family.”
Hellmuth said the Fahnlanders visited the Lazy Leash a few weeks before their planned trip to make sure it had appropriate accommodations for their dog.
They dropped off Sheba on Oct. 12, a Friday, and went to northern Minnesota for the weekend. When they returned home on Sunday evening, they went to the kennel to collect Sheba.
“Jo’s boyfriend was there, and basically apologized to Peter,” Hellmuth said. “He said, ‘Yep, you know what, I screwed up. I tied the dog up rather than putting her in the fenced area. The dog must have chewed the leash, and the dog ran away.’”
A stunned Fahnlander asked when Sheba had escaped, and the man at the kennel told him that it happened two days earlier – the day they dropped her off.
Fahnlander asked why nobody had called him, and said he would have returned to the Twin Cities immediately to look for the dog, according to Hellmuth. The man at the kennel told Fahnlander that someone had called Rosemount police on Friday to report the dog missing.
So Fahnlander began calling around to local police departments. When he spoke to Rosemount police, he discovered that Sheba had run into traffic and had been hit by a motorcycle. Her injuries were so serious that she had to be destroyed.
“When Peter told me what happened, I told him I’d write the woman a letter,” Hellmuth said. “I love animals, and this is a ridiculous situation.”
Hellmuth sent Hall a demand letter, asking her to pay compensation to the Fahnlanders. When he called her to follow up, she claimed not to know what he was talking about, telling him that she had no paperwork proving that the dog was at her kennel.
At that point, Hellmuth prepared a conciliation court action for the Fahnlanders. “The law is such that a dog is considered personal property,” he said. “You can’t get emotional distress damages, or wrongful death damages. But I could do this much for them.”
Hall’s legal woes might not end with the conciliation court action. After Hellmuth filed the action on the Fahnlanders’ behalf, he got a call from Lakeville attorney Art Kosieradzki, who is representing the motorcyclist who hit Sheba and was injured in the crash.
“My client was just minding his business, driving down the road, when this dog ran out in front of him,” Kosieradzki said. “It’s lucky the dog didn’t kill him.”
Hall, contacted by phone, she didn’t know anything about the conciliation court action, and continued to deny that Sheba had ever been at her kennel.
“If there’s no paperwork, the dog was not here,” Hall said. “There was no dog, no paperwork, no nothing.”
Hellmuth called Hall’s attitude “unconscionable,” and Kosieradzki agreed.
“She’s got this goofy story that the dog wasn’t there,” he said. “We will ultimately get to the bottom of it, I’ll tell you that. I don’t know where she thinks she’s going to get by saying the dog wasn’t there.”
The Fahnlanders’ conciliation court claim is for $2,643, which includes court costs and the cost to have Sheba’s remains cremated. According to court documents, Sheba was valued at $2,450.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 11 in Apple Valley.