Woman who had plans to adopt pit bull claimed county defrauded her by killing dog

A jury found Columbia County not at fault for euthanizing a dog a woman in Hawaii had plans to adopt in 2015.

Last month, a jury returned a not guilty verdict in a $25,000 civil suit filed by Debbie Cravatta alleging fraud.

Cravatta filed a legal complaint against the county after the county dog control officer euthanized an adult male pit bull named "Duke" that was surrendered to the animal shelter and kept in quarantine after reportedly biting a child.

A jury returned a verdict on Jan. 10, holding the county harmless.

On a visit to the Columbia Humane Society shelter in 2015 on behalf of Kohala Animal Relocation and Education Services, Cravatta noticed "Duke" in a quarantine area at the shelter.

FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF DEBBIE CRAVATTA - Debbie Cravatta, shown here in 2015 with Duke, filed a civil lawsuit against Columbia County after the dog was euthanized despite her ongoing attempts to adopt the dog. A jury ruled against Cravatta last month.She interacted with the dog and immediately told Dean Cox, who managed CHS at the time, that she wanted to adopt and rehabilitate Duke, making him the mascot of the KARES organization in Hawaii. At the time, KARES was partnering with CHS for an animal transport program that would allow dogs at risk of dying in kill shelters in Hawaii to be flown to Columbia County, where they were likely to be


After a series of emails and phone calls with Cox, Cravatta was left with the impression she would likely be able to adopt Duke, as soon as dog control staff approved. A formal adoption agreement or contract was never executed, and Cravatta never took possession of Duke.

Instead, Duke was euthanized on Nov. 12, 2015.

Cravatta, through her attorney, Geordie Duckler, alleged county staff and CHS deliberately kept her from being able to reach out to Duke's former owners, who surrendered him, to get consent for the dog to be adopted.

"Defendant had a good faith duty to plaintiff to make full and fair disclosures about the [dog's] true disposition, and to avoid making misleading representations..." Cravatta's complaint states.

The legal issue played a role in the county's decision in late 2017 to end its contract agreement with CHS for animal care services.

Before the trial, a Columbia County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the county on a summary judgment motion, removing a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a jury later found the county did not defraud Cravatta by killing the dog.

Court records show the county is entitled to recover $2,500 from Cravatta to cover legal costs and attorney fees.

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