Sitka the husky returned to Steamboat Springs woman, who may face lawsuit
February 6, 2017
Steamboat Springs — Sitka the husky was reunited with Steamboat Springs resident Ashlee Anderson on Friday afternoon, but Anderson's road to legal adoption of the dog — now believed to be 8 years old — may have just begun.
Sitka was first taken to the Routt County Humane Society by Steamboat Springs Animal Control on Feb. 1, after the husky let itself out of a partially open door at Anderson's home in Old Town and was found running on Seventh Street.
When officers scanned the dog for a microchip, it led them to a previous owner of the dog living in Canon City, a town in which Anderson lived in 2013, and the location from which Anderson said she adopted Sitka from a friend, who took possession of the dog from a homeless person.
The husky’s previous owner, a Canon City man whom police have not identified and Anderson has not learned the identity of, is interested in regaining custody of the animal, which is now known to be a purebred Alaskan husky.
Despite the desire of the former owner, Steamboat Springs police determined Anderson did not steal the dog.
Because no crime was committed, the dog was released to Anderson on Feb. 3.
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"It was like being reunited with your baby," Anderson said Monday. "It's overwhelming. It felt surreal."
After the initial relief, Anderson learned that the husky's previous owner plans to file a civil lawsuit against Anderson to get the dog back.
She was also fined $435 for Sitka being at-large and without a dog license and for fees to house the dog for two days and update her vaccines.
On Monday, Anderson also learned that some of the paperwork presented on Sitka from the former owner included a birthdate that would mean Sitka is 8 years old.
If the dog is 8, it means Sitka spent as long as three or four years with a previous owner before being adopted by Anderson in September 2013.
Anderson previously estimated Sitka to be about 4 years old, based on a veterinarian’s assessment that the dog was younger than 2.
Anderson said Sitka was 43 pounds and "puppy-sized" when first adopted and now weighs 55 pounds, and that the dog had ears bigger than her head that she later grew into.
After learning Sitka is likely 8 years old, Anderson said it changed how she felt about the previous owner's situation, but she still believes the dog is best left in her possession.
"I'm thinking about Sitka, and I don't think it's fair to re-root her again for the third time," Anderson said.
Steamboat Springs Police Commander Annette Dopplick called the case "heart-wrenching" for both of the dog's owners.
Dopplick said the Cannon City man submitted puppy pictures and original veterinarian documents to police, and he told them the dog went missing in 2013 from a rural area with no animal shelter.
"I can't imagine what they felt," Dopplick said. "This is just a really difficult situation."
Dopplick acknowledged this was the second time Sitka was picked up by local animal control officers and taken to the shelter. Sitka was first picked up by Routt County Animal Control for chasing horses in January 2014.
She said now is a good time to remind the public to shovel along fence lines, as many dogs are walking over fences thanks to heavy snowfall and then running loose.
She encouraged dog owners to license their pets, as it's the fastest way to have them returned, and consider having a veterinarian regularly check the information linked to a pet's microchip.
With the threat of a lawsuit looming, Anderson is hopeful she can "buy out" the previous owner by offering him about $900, an estimate of what an Alaskan husky puppy might cost.
She raised the money to use for a possible purchase of Sitka and for her shelter fees through a GoFundMe page she set up Thursday.
The page generated $1,500 from 43 donors before Anderson shut it down Monday, having collected the funds needed.
Anderson is also meeting with an attorney to discuss the possible civil case and how to pursue official adoption of the dog if the previous owner accepts Anderson's offer of money.