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Take Me Home Rescue v. Erika Luri

August 29, 2012


(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. SC106474) APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Robert A. Stone, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Johnson, J.



Defendant Erika Luri appeals from an injunction requiring her to return a rescue dog for which she was providing foster care, to a rescue organization because Luri failed to have the dog spayed. Luri contends that (1) the written foster care agreement did not require her to have the dog spayed, and (2) Los Angeles Municipal Code section 53.15.2, subdivision (b)(2)(B) grants her an exemption from the spaying requirement of Food & Agriculture Code section 30503, subdivision (a) that requires shelters to spay dogs before putting them up for adoption. We affirm.


1. Factual Background

Take Me Home is a nonprofit organization composed of volunteers that partners with local animal shelters to adopt animals, provide them with food and veterinary care, and find them permanent homes. The spaying and neutering of such shelter animals is part of Take Me Home's mission to reduce the pet overpopulation problem, and is required by Food & Agriculture Code section 30503, subdivision (a)(1).*fn1

On July 6, 2009, Take Me Home adopted a deaf white and black female boxer dog from the Orange County Animal Care Services. The dog was known as "Lilly."*fn2 Lilly was a "rescue only dog," meaning that she could not be adopted directly from the shelter. At the time, Lilly was diagnosed with Demodex Mange, and due to that condition, was not deemed to be suitable for spaying until her health improved. Take Me Home contractually agreed with Orange County Animal Care Services to have Lilly spayed before placing her in a permanent home. When caring for an animal that is not well enough to be spayed or neutered, Take Me Home will place the pet in a foster home until such time as the animal's health improves and the pet can be spayed or neutered.

On July 15, 2009, Lilly was placed in temporary foster care with defendant Luri. Luri had found Lilly on Take Me Home's website, which states that "[a]ll of our animals are spayed or neutered, brought up-to-date on all shots and are micro-chipped." Sarah Ciscil of Take Me Home explained to Luri that Lilly could not be placed for adoption until she was spayed. Luri agreed that Lilly would be spayed as soon as she was healthy enough. Luri signed Take Me Home's temporary foster care agreement. The foster care agreement does not require Luri to spay Lilly, but instead specifies instructions for the dog's care.

Luri claimed that at no time during her conversation with Take Me Home prior to her assuming foster care of Lilly did anyone on behalf of Take Me Home mention the law on spaying and neutering or Take Me Home's policy on foster dogs with respect to spaying and neutering. Luri advised Take Me Home that she did not want to be a foster home, but wanted to adopt. However, Luri was told that she had to sign the foster care agreement first if she wanted to adopt Lilly because Lilly was sick, but she was not told that Lilly had to be spayed prior to adoption or that there was a legal requirement of spaying. Luri understood that the "procedure of being called a temporary medical foster [home was] a mere formality and that [she] was in fact Lilly's permanent owner (with the right of first refusal should I change my mind after Lilly became free of mange), given that I had expressed by intent to [Take Me Home] to become the permanent owner of Lilly . . . ."

Luri discovered that Lilly was very athletic, and because Lilly had a feline nature, she changed Lilly's name to Felina. Luri also decided to train Lilly as an agility dog, and in doing some research, Luri discovered that spaying or neutering purportedly could interfere with Lilly's agility skills. Thus, Luri applied to the City of Los Angeles for an intact license for Lilly that exempted her from spaying based upon Lilly's training as an agility dog.*fn3 Luri did research and discovered that not only did spaying interfere with an agility dog's training, it had negative health benefits for dogs in general, including increased risk of illnesses.

On September 7, 2009, Luri informed Shannon Haber of Take Me Home that she would not spay Lilly because Luri believed it would affect the dog's agility training. On September 10, 2009, Luri met with Shannon Haber of Take Me Home and told Haber that she wanted to keep Lilly and train her as an agility dog. Haber responded that she believed Take Me Home spayed all of its dogs, but she would speak to Take Me Home about Luri's request.

Later, Luri heard from Haze Lynn of Take Me Home, who told Luri that Lilly must be spayed because Take Me Home was a nonprofit organization. When Luri reiterated that she was getting an intact license for Lilly, and did not need a breeder's license because she was not going to breed Lilly, the phone went dead. Lynn emailed Luri, stating that Luri was a foster caregiver and Take Me Home wanted Lilly returned within 48 hours, and that Lynn would call animal care and the police. Several days later the police arrived at Luri's building, but she did not speak to them. On September 22, 2009, Leegie Parker from Take Me Home called Luri and threatened to call animal control and the police. This was Luri's last contact with Take Me Home.

According to Lynn, on September 15, 2009, Luri acknowledged that she had agreed to have Lilly spayed, but Luri had changed her mind because she had done some research and believed spaying the dog was mutilation. Lynn explained to Luri that state law required the dog to be spayed prior to placement in a permanent home, and that Luri had agreed to follow Take Me Home's ...

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