Usually stories involving lost dogs that are later found result in happening endings. However, when Chase, a mixed-breed dog, was lost and later found by his owner, an unusually bitter custody dispute erupted between the owner and the finder. Currently, neither the finder nor original owner has possession of the dog, and both are the subjects of criminal investigations.
According to the Oregonian, in December 2009, Sam Hanson-Fleming adopted Chase when Chase was a puppy. Chase grew up into an athletic dog and unfortunately jumped over Hanson-Fleming’s backyard fence and ran away on March 27, 2011. The owner immediately started searching for the dog and taped fliers around the neighborhood, posted adds on Craigslist, and filed a lost dog report with the county Animal Services. In addition, the owner repeatedly visited animal services hoping that the dog would show up.
Meanwhile, Oregon State University student Jordan Biggs found Chase on the day the dog was reported lost. Biggs later told police that she tried to find Chase’s owner by calling the Oregon Human Society and the county animal services. After a month passed and no owner came forward, Biggs figured that the dog was hers. Biggs then spent thousands of dollars training Chasing as a service dog for Biggs’ asthma.
The dispute truly erupted at a coffee drive-thru in Southeast Portland on May 13, 2012. While Hanson-Fleming was waiting in a line of cars, he spotted Chase in Biggs’ SUV. He approached Biggs, and she allegedly indicated that she would return Chase to the original owner. However, two days later, Biggs told Hanson-Fleming that she would not return Chase. Hanson-Fleming followed up by calling Portland police and the district attorney, demanding that Biggs be arrested and his dog returned.
Hanson-Fleming waited about two months for police to arrest Biggs and take custody of his dog. During that interval, he was allegedly approached by a former Portland police detective who was working as a private investigator for the Biggs family. The private investigator allegedly offered Hanson-Fleming $1,000 to give up the custody fight, but Hanson-Fleming immediately refused the offer. According to Hanson-Fleming, the private investigator then warned him that he would never see Chase again.
Several days later, police arrested Biggs for first-degree theft of a dog. However, right before Hanson-Fleming was scheduled to be reunited with his dog, he learned that he would not be able to pick the dog up because he was being investigated for alleged animal abuse and neglect. The Oregonian reports:
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office opened the investigation after Biggs’ attorney, Geordie Duckler, informed prosecutors Thursday of a person or people who’ve come forward to say Hanson-Fleming hit, kicked, bit and urinated on the dog and kept the dog “in an unclean environment with feces and urine.” In a news release sent to media by Duckler, Duckler said that “Hanson-Fleming regularly and deliberately made the dog ‘Chase’ inhale significant amounts of marijuana smoke in order to amuse himself and his friends, and to psychologically torment the dog.”
As a result, the prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into allegations that “have at least a superficial credibility,” prosecutor Norm Frink wrote in an email. But, Frink said by phone Saturday, “I want to be clear, we’re not making final judgments here. …We’re all going to have further discussions Monday.”
Hanson-Fleming said Saturday that all of the allegations of animal abuse and neglect against him are lies conjured up by Biggs’ camp, who desperately want the dog to stay with the college student.
“They’re just trying to turn the tables on me,” Hanson-Fleming said.