Missing dog sparks controversy


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News


Posted on May 28, 2010 at 10:53 PM

Updated Friday, May 28 at 11:40 PM

SEATTLE -- One woman says she was trying to return a missing dog, but ended up wrongfully arrested. The dog's owner says the evidence sure is suspicious, and she wants to know the truth.

Through it all, Leala, a 6-year old Basset-beagle mix who escaped out an open front door without a collar, is still missing.

After Leala got loose last Friday, witnesses spotted her in the rain outside the 7-Eleven on Nickerson Street in Seattle.

Mikey Triano says she and her brother saw other people feeding Leala, gave her a piece of a hot dog, and decided to take her to a shelter, figuring she was a stray.

"The worker lady came out, and she said, 'Oh, are you going to take the dog?' And we said yeah, and she said, "Oh good he's been here a while, and you'll take care of them."

Jerry Smith, the female employee who came outside, gives a different account. Smith said she took down the vehicle's license plate number just in case, and when Anna Morgan, Leala's owner, showed up a few minutes later looking for her dog, Smith gave her the information.

"They said they were taking the dog and I went 'What? Oh, okay...'" she said. "It just didn't seem right that someone should take someone else's animal."

Rather than take Leala to a nearby shelter, Triano says they had planned to take the dog to the Tacoma Humane Society, a place Triano was familiar with that also was in the direction they were headed.

But she said when they stopped at the Albertson's supermarket in Lakewood, she opened the door and the dog ran off. She says they did not chase Leala, and could not find the dog when they came back out of the store..

"He must have a chip, is what I kept saying," Triano said. "I don't even know if it was a him or not, and that was ii. And we didn't hear anything until Tuesday morning."

Tuesday's when a Seattle Police burglaries and theft detective called Triano saying he had video of them leaving the 7-Eleven with the dog.  Triano said at first she thought it was her ex-husband prank calling her, and she hung up on the officer.

On Wednesday, officers from Seattle and Sedro-Woolley, where Triano lives, showed up at her home with a search warrant.  They did not find any evidence of a dog.

On Thursday, officer returned to the home and arrested Triano, taking her to the King County Jail.

"This is ridiculous," said Triano. "I [went to] jail for 'misappropriation of lost or stolen property' because a dog jumped into my car and I was trying to take it to the pound."

Triano said she was "humiliated" as she was arrested in front of her neighbors and had to spend 6 hours in jail before posting bail.

"Why they would drive two hours to come arrest me, and then two drive hours back, and actually put me in jail... for a dog?" she asked.

A Seattle Police spokesman said they deal with each case differently, and that burglary and theft detectives routinely take on stolen dog cases.

Triano believes she was wrongly accused -- but owner Morgan says what evidence they have sure seems suspicious.

"At first she denied taking my dog, then when she was confronted with witnesses and video tape, she said, 'Oh we dropped the dog off at the Tacoma animal shelter," said Morgan.

Triano admits she did telling the detective she had dropped the dog off at the shelter, but again maintains she only did so because she believed the caller was pulling a prank.

She says she would help find Leala however she can, but also learned a valuable lesson about helping supposedly stray animals.

"Never again," she said.

Meantime, Morgan said she doesn't really care about the controversy over Triano's arrest.  She just wants her dog back.

"We have no idea where she is," said Morgan. "She could be here, could be up in Sedro-Woolley. She could be down in Tacoma. It's just way out of hand."

Leala was last reported seen near the Albertson's along Bridgeport Way in Lakewood.  Anyone who find the dog is asked to call Seattle Police.