Barbara Laird's Adoption Experience with Gentle Giants
October 21, 2005
Shortly after the death of my beloved Boots, a Lab/Husky mix, I decided that I still needed a dog in my life. So after much research, I decided upon a Great Dane. As I was not interested in starting over with a destructive puppy, I decided that I would adopt an adult Great Dane through a rescue organization.
I did a lot of research before making this decision. I learned very quickly about lots of health problems that Danes are more susceptible to than are other dogs. I also learned about the importance of the dietary intake for the Dane. What high maintenance this "little doggie" will be, I thought, but nonetheless, this is not beyond what is manageable for me and is WELL worth it.
So then I investigated the best brand and type of food to feed my soon-to-be new companion. In the past, I had a great working relationship with a pet food delivery service in Huntington Beach, VIP Pet Food Delivery, run by Cathy Cunningham. So I called her. I discovered that she too has Great Danes. Cathy suggested that I feed my future Dane Eagle Pack dog food. Because of Cathy's experience with Danes, I valued her advice. I also sent an e-mail to more than 200 breeders, handlers, and rescuers and asked them what food they recommended for a healthy Dane. More than 100 of them responded and more than 40 recommended Eagle Pack dog food as well.
I then located a Great Dane rescue organization called Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions in Norco, California, operated by Burt and Tracy Ward. Through this organization I adopted my very first Great Dane on January 30, 2005. He is a three year old neutered male. He appeared to be in excellent health -- not underweight, skin and coat in good condition, very alert and responsive to his environment. He introduced himself to me by gently jumping up, placing his forearms on my shoulders, looking into my eyes and telling me (with his eyes) that he would really LOVE to go home with me. Well, that did it, I fell in love with him. He was the dog for me. On the way home, I renamed him Samson ("Samson" fit … he liked the name too).
At the time of the adoption (January 30, 2005), the rescue organization (Gentle Giants) gave me brief instructions about feeding so as not to cause bloat. She (Tracy Ward) explained about not feeding my dog at least one hour before or after exercise, not free feeding, not a lot of water during meal times, and using elevated food bowls. She (Tracy) also told me that all of her dogs are fed Pedigree and told me to continue feeding "Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites Dog Food" as this food has the appropriate protein and fat count, which is necessary for the health of a Great Dane.
During the next 6 weeks to follow, Samson's transition into his new environment was quite difficult for him. I continued to keep feeding him Pedigree for the first 3 weeks before I gradually integrated the new food "Eagle Pack" into his diet. This transition took over 3 weeks to switch over to the new food. During this entire 6 week period of time, Samson has diarrhea most of those days. This really did not concern me too much, as I know that Samson was under a lot of stress, and stress is often manifested into intestinal conditions like diarrhea. (** See Samson's updated condition at bottom)
In early April 2005, I mentioned to Tracy Ward in an email that I had switched Samson's food. Well - that's what started it all. I had no idea that this "Food Issue" could escalate into a legal battle. Apparently, the Wards seems to believe that they have a "contract" with me that says that I MUST feed my dog according to their feeding protocol, which is the above mentioned Pedigree food. This created quite a heated "discussion" between us (mostly via email). In these emails, they (Tracy) "informed" me that Eagle Pack is BAD for his health and will cause MANY health problems. She "informed" me that Pedigree is the ONLY food appropriate to feed a Great Dane.
I knew this to be untrue and I expressed to them my unwillingness NOT to take "Samson" off of Eagle and switch back to Pedigree. I also "informed" them that their contract does not have any provisions as to what brand or type of dog food to feed my dog, thus they have no say so in this matter. (A Copy of my contract is available for viewing at the bottom of this page)
So on April 11, 2005, Burt Ward sent me via e-mail a "Notice of Violation of Adoption Agreement and Notice of Intent to Repossess Samson. I told the Wards that there was no clause in the adoption agreement which required that I feed Samson a particular brand of food. Nonetheless, on April 13, 2005, I received another e-mail from Burt Ward stating their intention to repossess Samson, because I had changed his food. The Wards gave me 24 hours to return Samson or they would take legal action against me.
This was then followed by a letter from the Wards' attorney reiterating their demand that I confirm that I had switched Samson back to Pedigree food, and their intention to take action to repossess Samson if I did not comply. I received another letter from the Wards' attorney, dated May 12, 2005, which again demanded that I confirm that I had switched Samson back to Pedigree brand food. The letter states further "If this is not the case, my client is adamant about moving forward with repossession of the animal." I then received another letter from the Wards' attorney, dated May 19, 2005, requesting confirmation that I had switched Samson back to Pedigree brand food, or food which could be bought directly from Gentle Giants. He stated that if I failed to comply, his clients would proceed with legal action to repossess Samson
Needless to say, this didn't go over very well with me.
So then, over the period of the next few months to follow, I had communicated my concerns with many individuals and government entities. As a result of my "inquiries", I had received numerous emails back from other people that had also adopted a Great Dane from Gentle Giants and had also encountered many troubles and complications with Gentle Giants Rescue as a result of their adoption. With the permission of these people, I had then made quite a few of these testimonies available for others to view.
I had also created a Yahoo Discussion Group to bring other Gentle Giant Adoptors together to discuss their adoption experiences with each other.
As a result of these activities, on August 23, 2005, I was handed a Summons for a lawsuit filed against me and 3 other individuals by Burt and Tracy Ward and Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions, in an attempt to stop me from speaking out to the public about their rescue operation and about how they have drastically impacted other peoples' lives as a result of adopting Great Danes from their organization.
I did not receive any warning from the Wards or their attorney that they intended to file this lawsuit. Neither the Wards nor their attorney requested that I retract or correct any statements which I had made, nor did they inform me that any of my statements were untrue. The first indication which the Wards gave to me that they objected to any of my statements was when I was served with this lawsuit.
The suit alleges 7 separate Causes of Action:
• Defamation (Libel) of Burt and Tracy
• Defamation (Trade Libel) oft Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
• Intentional Interference With Potential Economic Advantage of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
• Negligent Interference With Potential Economic Advantage of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
• Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress to Burt and Tracy
• Injunctive Relief
After receiving this devastating blow, a friend of my sent me information about something called a SLAPP lawsuit. After reading the information describing a SLAPP, it was a perfect description as to what was happening. To learn more about the California Anti-SLAPP Laws (Stragetic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), visit www.CASP.net (California Anti-SLAPP Project). Through this Organization, CASP, I obtained a lawyer to represent me. What an incredible relief to know that there are advocates out there that really do stand behind a person's right to free speech. Not that I have a lot of interaction with attorneys, but this attorney, Mark Goldowitz and his partner(s), have been a life saver.
I have learned that the State of California (and alot of other states too) has set up laws to protect individuals, like myself, from being sued as a result of informing the public of safety and public concerns.
So .... on October 21, 2005, my attorney has filed a "Special Motion to Strike" because this is a MERITLESS SLAPP.
I believe that the issues underlying the Ward's claims against me are important to the public because people are paying lots money (up to $1,000.00) to adopt dogs from them and then finding that they have to immediately spend great amounts MORE money on emergency medical care for the dogs; and/or the aggressive dogs, that people have unknowingly adopted from Gentle Giants, have injured people and pose a threat to public safety.
I am informed and believe that the Wards have more than 55 dogs (the maximum amount of animals allowed for the Wards to keep at their property, as per the City of Norco) on their premises, as well as cats, horses, goats and pigs. These are far too many animals for three people to care for properly (one of those being their minor daughter). The neglect of animals is of great concern to the public and is particularly galling when the neglect comes at the hands of people who are supposed to be saving the dogs from undesirable situations. Having volunteered for animal rescue organizations for many years, I am personally aware of the need for rescuing animals from neglected and/or dangerous living situations, as well as the great public interest in adopting such rescued animals.
I further believe that I am within my First Amendment right to speak out on these issues and to inform the public as to how the Wards are conducting themselves and how they are operating their Non-Profit Public Benefit Rescue Organization.
I have further developed a website, www.gentlegiantnews.com, to keep people informed about what is happening over at Gentle Giants Rescue and to keep people informed about the progress of this lawsuit.
*** Samson's Condition as of this date:
He doesn't have diarrhea any more ... the diarrhea cleared up about 2 weeks after I put him on his new food.
I kept him on Pedigree for the first few weeks before changing his food so as not to create "new" stress into his life by changing his food right when I got him.
Since the diarrhea continued throughout the entire period of time on Pedigree, then it cleared up after two weeks of the new food ... that tells me that it apparently must have been the food that was causing the diarrhea (in addition to the stress of the move to his new home).
He is doing great on his new Food. Pedigree food had not only apparently caused the diarrhea, but had also appeared to be causing smelly & itchy skin, very bad breath, a staph infection and numerous other things. I took him off Pedigree BECAUSE he wasn't doing well on that food and all of these problems went away.
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Last updated: September 2013
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