Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mutts and Moms Under Fire

On Tuesday October 16th, 2007, Ellen Degeneres made a tearful plea on her television show for the return of a dog named Iggy that was seized by the operators of a local Pasadena dog rescue after Ellen had given it away to a new family. Ellen had adopted Iggy through the rescue, and found the dog a new home a few weeks later after determining that the dog was not compatible with her existing menagerie of cats. After the operators of the dog rescue, identified in media reports as Marina Batkis and Vanessa Chekroun of Mutts and Moms discovered that Iggy had been placed with another family, Batkis took it back.

I'm not a big Ellen fan, but that's because I'm not part of her target audience. As television shows go, hers is a pretty good one, and I will watch it on those occasions when a particularly interesting guest is making an appearance. I happened to see this particular show because of media reports that made me curious about the incident involving the dog rescue, and I remain interested in the outcome for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my own great affection for dogs.

As celebrities go, Ellen is one of the most congenial and affable. Even in this particular instance, she was not playing the blame game. Rather, she accepted responsibility for placing the dog with a new home without consulting Mutts and Moms, and pleaded with them to return the dog to what was apparently a loving home.

Why did Mutts and Moms take Iggy back? The only reason offered was that Iggy's new family had two girls under the age of 14 in the household. That may be a valid concern sometimes, but it didn't seem to be a real issue in this particular case, and an objective observer would almost certainly conclude that Mutts and Moms did not have the dog's best interests at heart.

Did Mutts and Moms have the right to take Iggy back? That depends on who you ask, but I don't think they did, notwithstanding Ellen's alleged failure to live up to the letter of the contract as set forth in the Mutts and Moms adoption agreement. If and when it comes to a legal battle, Mutts and Moms will be very hard-pressed to explain their failure to insure the compatibility of Iggy with a household that already had a large collection of cats. Moreover, they will be very hard-pressed to explain why they chose to employ a "self-help" remedy by seizing the dog without getting a court order that allowed them to do so.

When Batkis of Mutts and Moms showed up at Iggy's new home, she did so under the pretense of checking out the suitability of the home, then she grabbed Iggy and held onto him until the police arrived. Why did the police allow her to leave with the dog? The dog was chipped, and Mutts and Moms had not yet changed the ownership information, as they were legally obliged to do several weeks earlier. But for this clerical oversight, Mutts and Moms would have had no verifiable legal claim to Iggy, and they would have had to go to court to prove that Ellen had actually breached the terms of the adoption contract. Even then, a court would probably have left Iggy with his new family.

Courts can, and often do, more than rubber stamp and enforce the terms of a contract. Indeed, many of the contracts that people enter into everyday are not legally enforceable, and this is supposed to be one of the first inquiries that a court makes. Similarly, the various terms of a contract might not be legally enforceable, making the actual terms of the contract very different from the one that was signed. And then there's the fact that courts often get things wrong and/or choose to ignore the law and/or rule however they damn well please.

Given that Ellen is not a particularly litigious individual, Mutts and Moms is probably safe from any sort of legal exposure, although the new adoptive family (the truly injured party) may yet file suit; I know that I would. Meanwhile, in the court of public opinion, the verdict is in, and Mutts and Moms has lost. To wit, over 95 percent of the people who have expressed an opinion in polls on the topic think that Iggy should be given back to the new family that Ellen found for it. And some people have not stopped there: A large number of death threats and arson threats have allegedly been made against the operators of Mutts and Moms, who defiantly refuse to give in to any sort of bullying.

Did Ellen use her show as a bully pulpit against Mutts and Moms? Perhaps, but I have no pity in my heart for Mutts and Moms. They knew they were dealing with a celebrity when they first placed Iggy, and they should have known better than to remove Iggy from a loving home. When all the sound and the fury eventually passes, Mutts and Moms will have set back the cause of animal rescue at least 20 years. What sort of idiot would choose to empower sanctimonious control freaks like these when they can get a dog for free outside of a grocery store?

Pets become a huge part of our lives when we adopt them and oftentimes we consider them family members. If you've adopted a dog or cat find out if pet insurance is right for you. You can go right on line to compare pet insurance plans, which can protect your cat or dog.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mutts and Mom's should thank God that Ellen gave the dog to somone that would take good care of it. What about the dogs that are out there that are not taken care of by anyone or abused,and the ones that stay in shelters. Get a LIFE you have WAAAAAY too much time on your hands MUTTS AND INSANE
Shame on YOU!!!

8:41 PM, October 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

clearly mutts and moms represents animals who don't actually need homes. If they have the leisure of removing animals from stable homes, then clearly the animals they represent are not actually in need...people would be much better off adopting from an organization that actually rescues animals who desperately need loving homes, rather than pampered pets who could basicaly give or take a home if one happens to come along.

6:26 AM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger Brother Joe said...

Sorry, I just don't agree. As you saw in my post, rescue folks can be sanctimonious and can tend to look at animals as more like people than pets. Not all of them, but some do. They also have a list of folks ready to adopt the animals they get, just like people adoption agencies. That's another part of the reason the adopters require you to agree to give the animal back if the placement doesn't work out--often times there's another family in line for the pet.

Had I had a young child at the time we adopted our rescue dog, we would have been an unsuitable household. However, 3 years' working with our pooch has made him a fabulous indoor/outdoor dog who is wonderful with children--but it took 3 years of work.

Regardless, when you go to deal with these organizations, you quickly get a feel for who you're dealing with and we "normal people" can either decide to play ball or head out.

Because Ellen is a celebrity she was able to choose a third option and a non-profit organization that rescues animals and places them in suitable homes has had to shut its doors.

12:21 PM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger Laura Sweet said...

My biggest comment to you (in addition to my entire post defending Mutts & Moms in this situation on my own blog, If It's Hip, It's Here) is to respond to your repeated questioning as to 'why' Mutts & Moms insisted on taking the dog back to find an appropriate home after it was GIVEN UP by Ellen and Portia (regardless of to whom they may have given up the dog).

BECAUSE THEY SIGNED A CONTRACT! what part of that don't people understand? You can't just willy-nilly give a dog to whomever you want if you signed a piece of paper, that, as the adopter, if under any circumstances you cannot keep the dog, it is to be returned to Mutts & Moms so that, with their expertise, they can interview and place the dog in the proper home.

You also mention that you feel the police would side with the family that was illegally given the dog by Ellen. Since when do police side with the illegal activities of those who break signed contracts? No way! That's the whole reason for the contract.

1:24 PM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger summerhorse said...

I'm a rescue person so normally I would support a rescue contract. HOWEVER I agree that this was just FUBAR from the start. Sometimes you have to use a little COMMON SENSE. The dog was FINE where he was, I bet that Ellen and or the family would have paid the fee AGAIN for them to keep him. Using 14 as a "young children" age particularly when the "rescue" does not enforce that "all the time" which means it means nothing anyway is just ludicrous. A young child is 6 or 7 and under. Maybe 8 or 9 if they have um, social issues. But by that age I was taking care of all of the family pets (and this was a family pet and they had another dog). So you fill out the paperwork with them and move on to a dog that REALLY needs rescuing.

This "rescue" sounds as much like a rescue as a certain horse rescue up in the NW does.

$600!!!!! I know it's Hollywood but that isn't an adoption fee, that's a SALE!

2:20 PM, October 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I've posted elsewhere, we can debate the issue of whether animals should be treated as people or not (and I'll confess that our dog is certainly treated as family in our house) from now to the end of time. However, the fact is, according to the law anyway, "pets" are not people, but are in fact property. And as such the "contract" that most people sign when adopting a pet is legally un-inforceable (as any good attorney would tell you)...People can trade, sell, or even give away the property they own at will without much legal consequence if any at all.

Now, before any pet zealots get all crazy on me and bring up the term "abuse," I'll remind them that in this particular instance abuse is NOT the issue, ownership is...and it's pretty damn clear (to me anyway) that "ownership" of Iggy was transfered to the hairdresser and her family by Ellen lawfully and that Moms and Mutts had no legal right to remove the dog from the owner and have in fact committed the crime of theft and probably should have a complaint filed against for that legal offense.

8:25 PM, October 18, 2007  
Blogger Tracey said...

Iggy wasn't Ellen's dog, he was her "rent-a-puppy" leased from an organization operating illegally. That's why they were shut down. If guidelines to adopt rescue animals are that strict, why aren't the rescuers screened more carefully to make sure the rescuers aren't fur-brained, insane control freaks? I love my dog dearly, but we and he know that he is the family dog and NOT my third child.

11:42 AM, October 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The owners of Mutts and Mom's.


There should be more compasionate people in charge of such organizations.

Would you like for someone to come and take your pet??

5:14 PM, October 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very sad that people have no respect for rules and regulations anymore.

Whatever the rules of Mutts and Moms, however dumb they may seem - it's irrelevant.

Ellen DeGeneres signed a contract saying she understood the rules of the pet adoption. Then, she turns around and violates it. And then she goes on her show and says, "I know I was wrong to do that, but pleeeeeeeeese give the dog back."

Grow up, Ellen. Not to mention, Ellen spent thousands of dollars to train this dog and it still couldn't get along with her cats. Behavioral issues, much? The rules of Mutts and Moms obviously exist for a reason. If Ellen doesn't like it, she needs to suck it up and go buy her friends a new dog. And quit using her public platform to get her way.

7:34 PM, October 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mutts and Mom should be shut down and sent out of the state on the raillines. As a breeder i know the diffrence between an adoption fee (usually around 200.00 and the animal is spayed or neutered and socilized) then a sale for around 600.00 and unaltered. This was a sale to Ellen and she paid an additonal 3k to get the dog socialized and altered. NOT MUTTHEAD Brackis or what everver her name is. When we retire one of our breeding dogs after its fourth litter and thats 1 litter per female ever year to year and half then they are spayed and neutered by us and adopted we ask and i say ASK them to return the dog to us if they cannot keep them but we dont keep any paperwork like the microchipping in our name. After the dog leaves our home its the new owners dog. But we will help them find a new home that they think is fit.
We dont go in and yank a pup of dog from a childs arms. UNLESS THE PUP HAS BEEN ABUSED THEN WE WILL.
What she did was wrong, its as bad as what the CHINESE DID TO THEIR PEOPLE AND KILLING THE DOGS.

BE a responcable pet adoption agency and RETURN THE DOG

8:06 PM, October 19, 2007  
Anonymous Dylan T. said...

The whole concept of this baffles me to the third degree. I completely understand that a legitimate pet adoption agency would want to know that they are adopting out to families that are going to give the best care to the pet, as their name is, to some extent, on the line. Yet, I would think that any legitimate agency, who claims to view animals as living beings, would want to cause as little stress and emotional stress on both the care taker, and the pet.

In this instance, it seems that neither the pet or the caregiver's emotional well being was taken into consideration - let alone just common regard. I'm not saying that people should go around breaking contracts and hoping that it goes without notice (and Ellen took full blame for not doing it by the 'book'), but people who claim to really care about the wellbeing of all parties involved should overlook what wasn't done - and try, themselves, to do the right thing.

In this instance, I feel that the agency didn't exercise that concept. Maybe they felt they had a ticket to take power of celebrity, or maybe someone of much too cold a heart to work for the welfare of others was at the wheel - but we all need to realize that laws and contracts are supposed to be put into effect for the betterment of the beings affected.

It seems to me, as we are resulted with a sad family, and a dog that is now being forced to travel the country as a runaway/hostage, that no one was bettered - and that no one was benefited from a few words that weren't meant to help but have only harmed.

10:44 PM, October 19, 2007  
Anonymous D.T. said...

I left a huge comment on this article - unfortunately I think that it didn't post with success.

10:50 PM, October 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I have watched this Mutts and Moms woman on television repeating over and over again that she has no money. Mind you, she's repeating that in Coco Chanel eyeglasses as she climbs out of her SUV. She also makes it a point to mention celebs and preferential treatment that they get. Sounds more like someone trying to prove a point about celebrity than someone worrying about adopting their animals. I would think they would be more than willing to give Iggy to the family and just sign a new contract and accept a new application, unfortunately this girl wanted media coverage and instant celebrity and a little bit of PR for her business. It just went the wrong way and now she's whining. If you're going to take a stand, take it strongly, don't hide and cry about how poorly it's turned out in the end. She obviously isn't concerned about the other hundreds of dogs that "she's paying for herself and she has no money" or she'd be showing some faith and compassion with this instance.

8:05 AM, October 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its really sad that I have to say what should be obvious to everyone. Ellen intends to shut down a rescue group. Why? Because she doesn't care about dogs. She KNEW these women would be threatened- she doesn't care if their home is burned down, their business is ruined or their lives murdered by one of her insane groupies. She is selfish.

Lets start at square one. Ellen had the dog for TWO weeks ONLY. She failed to buy a baby gate and work with the dog and instead DUMPED it on the first person who asked for it.

This is the SECOND dog they adopted from M&M. They returned the last dog, they knew the contract and understood it.

The adoption group tried to work with the family- was even willing to bend the rules if it was a good home environment. The family REFUSED and when the rescue group came out to met them, the mother tried to PHYSICALLY HARM the rescue worker. The daughter Ruby is on tape saying "Its a good thing I am here or else mommy would hit her" I wonder what else mommy hits in her free time.

Contracts are there to protect the dog from going from home to home only to end up in a shelter again. Dogs are not a handbag or a piece of jewelry. They are alive and they HAVE RIGHTS. The right to NOT be passed around, the right to a safe environment.

Ellen also knows less people will adopt from rescue groups because of her pretend sob story. She doesn't care if dogs die because of her actions. She had DUMPED many dogs in the past two years.

The only mistake M&M made was ever adopting to Ellen in the first place.

9:03 AM, October 20, 2007  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Mutts & Moms charged $600 for an 'adoption fee', yet Ellen still had to pay to have the dog fixed herself? What adoption agency doesn't fix their animals to prevent additional unwanted animals - and for a much lower fee? Summerhorse has it right. It was a f***ing SALE...NOT adoption.

And after a month, they STILL hadn't changed the name on the microchip in Iggy's neck? Did they do that on purpose in case this situation ever came up again? And do they do that on all their adoptions in case they 'need' to repossess an animal six months down the road (just on principle, of course...the animal's well-being is a good excuse even if you're not really going to consider it.)?

Not only that, the Mutts & Moms corporation has been suspended by the California Secretary of State and was suspended at the time of the adoption/repossession (still is as of 10/19/07)!

How big a hypocrite do you have to be to repo a dog because Ellen broke a rule and yet, you can't follow the rules yourself? I feel sorry for the dogs and of Mutts & Moms.

1:54 AM, October 21, 2007  
Blogger Coni said...

Ellen is such a nice person and if they had ever watched her show would see that she is very sensitive, and not just on this issue. I don't understand why Mutts & Moms couldn't have tried to work out a solution rather than take drastic steps to remove the dog! I just can't imagine that this whole thing couldn't have been worked out.. But then again, I guess that is how wars are started!!

9:11 AM, October 21, 2007  
Anonymous Michelle in Illinois said...

I find it totally ridiculous that every nitwit on here that is bashing Ellen shows up as anonymous. Mutts and Moms wants to make money, that's all! They dont care about that dog. I just "adopted" a black lab for $800 and I can guarantee that the "toy-type" dog taken from that family was not "adopted" for free! They just wanted to make more money and didnt really care whether that dog was properly taken care of! Mutts and Moms should be shut down if they only care about money!

9:34 PM, October 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the person who wrote this article feels differently now since they have more time to think sensibly. I am and always will be on M&M's side. I'm tired of listening to people using the same excuses to support Ellen, the children's hurt, it's a loving family, the agency is power tripping, they are in it for the money, they are greedy, they're crazy, Ellen is a pet lover so she know more than all pet rescue agencies do, contract is not enforceable, etc. Are those facts or is it just your educated guess? Hey, maybe Ellen should be appointed to head and direct all rescue agencies in the world because we are certain that whichever home she decides to place a dog with, it will definitely be with a good family and they will not abandon the dog later like she did. She is such a great example. Who is she to decide who to give the dog away to like its a freakin gift? Isn't there any new FACTUAL reasons you can give me than just your bias opinion? Who are you people to tell an agency that's been doing this more than most of us will ever do in our lives what to do and how to do it? It's their dogs that they rescued, they can adopt out to anyone they want in order to ensure the safety and care of their rescued dog. If they don't want to adopt to you, too bad. You are not suitable in their eyes. My God, grow up people. Take your rejection like an adult and live with it! So does it mean every rejection I get is from someone who has it out for me or is discriminating against me? Get a life! It's their right to take the dog back for the reason they claim, no family with children under 14. It's not something they just made up at that time just to piss Ellen off. It's on the contract whether you think is stupid or not. They didn't lie about their reason because they can prove their reason. As an adult, I can accept my consequences in not reading the contract no matter how much I disagree with it. I follow rules and laws because w/out it, the world will be in chaos. Exceptions can be made, true. If I'm lucky to be forgiven for breaking the rules, I am thankful. If exceptions is not granted to me, I accept my mistake. Can any of you accept it? You can't tell a business how to run their business as much as you would like anyone to tell you how to run you life and raise your children. Was anyone abused or die when M&M took the dog back? No. For those who thinks the dog should have stayed with the hairdresser's family because now it has been pushed around from one home to another, I say, you just answered your own question as to why the dog must be returned to the rescue agency if the adopter doesn't want the dog anymore like Ellen. They didn't want the dog to be given away to the Hairdresser, then the Hairdresser give the dog away to some other home, etc. No one is saying the Hairdresser will do that but can anyone be certain of that? I'm not going to attempt to vouch for someone I don't even know personally. If you blindly trust Ellen from just her persona on TV and not even know her personally, you are giving away the most important thing you are born with, your brain. I'm not going to say I know my family completely and know what they will do in certain situations. Even I surprise myself sometimes about things I was so sure I was not ever going to do, but I end up proving myself wrong. You never know what you'll do at that particular moment until you have to face the situation. You don't know the Hairdresser's family won't get sick of the dog or find out they just can't keep the dog because of his personality. I also feel for the children and I don't blame nor hate them. It's you so-called adults who hide behind your children as an excuse to get what you want. Children get hurt by many things you do to them in their lifetime. Believe me, this is not the only time they feel hurt or disappointed by something they can't have. Most of their tears are probably caused by their parents not giving them everything they want. As a parent, do you think your rule is valid? What if someone tells you that you are a bad parent because your rules are stupid so your kids should just ignore it? Get a life and stop attacking an agency that's doing their job. It's their decision, it's their right! Not you self-absorbed spoiled people.

10:38 AM, October 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What kind of a rescue will send a dog to it's new home without spay and neuter first. They should have had the dog pulled from the rescue due to the fact that they didn't do their part first. The only reason a rescue group should be worried about where and what happens to a dog after it leaves there rescue is due to abuse. What kind of control freak tells people that they can not have a dog because the kids are under age? Did they all have to wait to get their first dog until they were 14? This looks like a case of greed. This was not about the best interest of the dog.

I work at a Humane Society and adopt dogs to people with young children all the time. Kids need dogs too. We should all be doing our part to get as many dogs into homes where the people are going to do there part to love and care for and find them a home and not leave the problem to the humane society or rescue to find a home when they can no longer keep the pet. To often people think that we want them to bring the dog back to the shelter and that is not what we want. We would want them to find a loving home in that case. The rescue with this policy is sending out the message that we want to deal with this. We have no choice we have to deal with it. There are so so so many dogs out there that need our help why mess with the ones that the people really want to care for and focus on the ones that have nothing or no family . Wake up and realize that rescue is for dogs in need.

12:14 PM, November 02, 2007  

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