published Friday, June 1st, 2012

Soddy-Daisy sniffs out problem with drug dog

Soddy-Daisy is suing an Arkansas man for selling it a drug dog three times older than advertised and with multiple health problems.

In a Hamilton County Circuit Court lawsuit filed last week, Soddy-Daisy city attorney Sam Elliott wrote that the dog, a Labrador named Lucy, was purchased by the city for $4,950 and delivered to police in July 2011.

The city is suing for $6,856.37, which includes the price of the dog and veterinary bills incurred so far.

Anthony Smith, owner and operator of Little Rock K-9 Academy, listed Lucy's age as 18 months in paperwork provided to the city, according to court documents.

But after health problems such as a mammary tumor, leg pain and an ear infection cropped up, two veterinarians estimated the dog's age between 6 and 8 years.

Smith could not be reached for comment, and a business number listed on the Internet was disconnected. The Arkansas Better Business Bureau Branch rates his business as A+ and said it has been in operation since 1983.

The dog's age disparity creates a major work issue, said Soddy-Daisy Police Lt. Mike Sneed.

"They have to retire them after they get so old," Sneed said Wednesday.

Paperwork referenced in the court documents estimates that, if Lucy were 18 months old, the police department would get five to seven years of service from her.

At Lucy's real age, City Officer Ryan Wilkey also would have to retrain with a replacement dog within a couple of years, he said.

Sneed said the city's K-9 program has been in operation for three years and officers have another dog to conduct drug searches when Lucy isn't available to work.

Before filing the lawsuit, the city requested a replacement dog. But, according to court documents, Smith said that, because the dog now weighed 79 pounds, it was classified as obese and would have to lose at least 14 pounds before being returned.

Because of health problems, Lucy hasn't been able to exercise, according to documents.

Though the city hasn't retired the dog yet, Sneed said when it does, Soddy-Daisy likely will give the dog's handler the first option to adopt. If that officer doesn't want the dog, the city will put the animal up for adoption to private citizens, he said.

Elliott said there wasn't much he could say since the case is still pending. Once Smith has been served with notice of the lawsuit through the Tennessee secretary of state's office, he'll have 30 days to respond.

The case has been brought under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Elliott cites the act and says Smith's claims are "an unfair and deceptive act."

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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