Trial will determine whether county committed fraud dispatching dog slated to be mascot

A lawsuit filed against Columbia County in 2015 over a euthanized dog will go to trial next week.

Debbie Cravatta, a Hawaii woman who says Columbia County dog control officers euthanized a dog she planned to adopt after visiting the Columbia Humane Society shelter, filed suit against the county in 2015. PHOTO COURTESY OF DEBBIE CRAVATTA - Debbie Cravatta is seen kissing Duke a pit bull held at the Columbia Humane Society in 2015. Cravatta filed a lawsuit against the county after the dog was euthanized by county staff, despite her plans to adopt him.

A summary judgment hearing held Tuesday, Jan. 2, resulted in Columbia Circuit Judge Cathleen Callahan siding with the county to throw out a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but a trial will be held to hear Cravatta's claims of fraud against the county.

Cravatta, who visited the St. Helens animal shelter in 2015 on behalf of Kohala Animal Relocation and Education Services, or KARES, said during her visit she spotted a pit bull in the shelter's quarantine area named "Duke" who was surrendered by his owners. Duke was reportedly surrendered by a St. Helens family after the dog bit a small child in the face.

Cravatta knew the circumstances, but told CHS staff she wanted to adopt the dog and rehabilitate him, making him the official mascot for KARES. At the time, CHS was partnering with KARES in a transfer program to get adoptable dogs at risk of euthanasia in Hawaii off the island and into the local shelter, where they would have a greater chance of being adopted.

Cravatta corresponded with Dean Cox, who was managing the CHS shelter at the time, to work out an arrangement for Duke's adoption. Cox, who is no longer with the humane society, told her it could probably be worked out, but he had to check with Roger Kadell, the county's animal control officer.

Despite several emails to Cox, Duke was euthanized on Nov. 12, 2015.

Cravatta, who never had a written contract with the county but corresponded by email and phone after she returned home to Hawaii, claims she was misled about the circumstances and the dog's death was not disclosed to her until long afterward.

"The true information was kept hidden from plaintiff throughout the course of the interactions between the parties, such that plaintiff's change in position was part and parcel of defendant's success in continuing and completing its overall fraudulent scheme," the lawsuit states, claiming the county, through representatives at CHS and Columbia County Dog Control, is guilty of common law fraud.

Columbia County's legal counsel countered, saying it euthanized the dog per the original owner's request. Cravatta says the county failed to accurately inform the former owner that Duke had a potential adopter.

The case played a role in the county's recent decision to sever its contract with CHS. County officials said the ongoing lawsuit is the result of CHS failing to indemnify the county.

Cravatta's attorney, Geordie Duckler of the Animal Law Practice, declined to comment specifically on the case. He clarified the status of the case, however, saying a judge determined the county did not intend to inflict emotional distress, but noted "the

fraud claim is going forward to trial."

A jury trial is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 9.

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