CAMANO ISLAND, Wash. - A Camano Island dog, named Franklin, has become the focal point of a passionate cross-country controversy.
Some dog lovers feel he is unfairly stuck in captivity, and they want him adopted out.
Franklin is a relatively rare breed, a Thai Ridgeback, who stole Sarah Connor's heart.
"He's just so gorgeous," said Connor, who lives on Camano Island. "He was just wonderful and I fell in love."
But Connor's adoption of Franklin fell through because she didn't have a secure fence. She admits Franklin "comes on" a bit strong.
"He appears a little intimidating. He has a very, very loud bark. I can see, when someone looks at him, they might be intimidated by that," said Connor.
Indeed, Franklin's demeanor did concern some Camano Island residents, who e-mailed CASA (Camano Animal Shelter Association) board members.
Board members say the e-mailers labeled the dog as "aggressive," although he has never bitten anyone. The Island County Sheriff's Department confirms they have no reports against Franklin.
"He is no longer up for adoption until we can evaluate him and determine that he is truly adoptable to the public," said board member Carol Wilkerson.
CASA Board Pro-Tem President Barbara Peterson expresses affection for the dog, saying she would adopt him herself if she could. Both board members confirm that the public is not allowed access to Franklin, that he is attended to only by board members or staff. They would not detail the e-mail allegations that lead to CASA's concern about Franklin.
According to CASA, Franklin has gotten around in his three short years. He was bred in California and originally adopted by a Floridian. CASA doesn't know what compelled Franklin's Florida owner to return the dog to its breeder. Then, from California Franklin was apparently purchased again, this time by an owner in Washington State.
However, Franklin was picked up as a stray on Camano Island and brought to the CASA shelter. His owner never claimed him. Franklin was originally up for adoption there, when Sarah Connor met him. But the dog's status has since changed to presently unadoptable.
CASA's board says he will stay there until he's evaluated by an animal behavioralist. That evaluation will determine whether Franklin will go to a dog sanctuary, a rescue group, or ultimately be adopted.
Franklin has already been at the CASA shelter at least five months.
In the meantime, animal rescuers in Illinois got on the case, and created a Web site devoted to Franklin's freedom (www.free-franklin.com).
Jessica Ingles, Rescue Coordinator for Thai Ridgeback Dogs of the U.S.A. feels Franklin is unfairly targeted. She says hundreds of people signed the organization's petition urging CASA to release the dog to them. Rescuers say they are even willing to sign a waiver.
But CASA Board Pro-Tem President Barbara Peterson responds: "We don't want any doubt. We don't want to be worried about liability, that we didn't do our full job."
Peterson and Wilkerson confirm that Franklin's case contributed to the resignations of two of their colleagues on the CASA board.
Sarah Connor admits, she gets emotional over Franklin's plight.
"I just think it's incredibly sad that we can't find him a good home," she said.