The fight to “Free Chuckie” has come to a close. Chuckie, a 10-year-old yellow lab that has been held by the First State Animal Center and SPCA (FSAC & SPCA) for the past 6 weeks, has been released, but not to his owner.
On Thursday, the FSAC & SPCA posted on their Facebook page a photo of Chuckie (also known as Ralph by a previous owner) with the statement “Today we said goodbye to Ralph. Godspeed to your next life.”
Hope for Delaware Dogs
, a Facebook page that works to reunite dogs with their owners and find forever homes for adoptable dogs in Delaware, clarified that Chuckie was picked up by a representative of the House of Hope Animal Rescue in Elkton, M.D. on Thursday. Tacia McIlvaine, administrator for the page and an advocate for having Chuckie released, says that Chuckie was transported to Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday.
He is going to live with Stacey Denman of the Texas Little Cuties Rescue. Chuckie resided at the Texas Little Cuties Rescue before he was brought to Delaware.
Chuckie was brought to the FSAC & SPCA as a presumed hit-and-run case. As Chuckie’s photo circulated on the Internet, his Delaware owner, Michael Jopson, was found. When Jopson attempted to pick up his dog, the Director of FSAC & SPCA Kevin Usilton allegedly threatened to euthanize Chuckie and stated that Jopson would never get Chuckie back.
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Jopson was then charged with animal cruelty and neglect for failure to seek proper veterinary treatment. He says he was treating his dog for a pre-existing condition of acral lick granuloma, where animals will lick to the point of creating open wounds on their bodies in reaction to stress.
Captain of Delaware Animal Care and Control Sherri Warburton said that the wounds, which were initially mistaken as road rash commonly caused in hit-and-run accidents, were never properly treated, leading to the charges against Jopson.
On Wednesday, Jopson decided to sign an agreement signing over all rights to Chuckie to the House of Hope Animal Rescue. The agreement released him of all charges.
“I knew I’d win if we went to trial, but how long would that take?” Jopson says. “Chuckie could have died of old age or stress during that time, and I couldn’t do that to him. I had to let him go so that he could be free of that place [FSAC & SPCA].”
However, Jopson will still have to pay the entirety of the bill, including all boarding and veterinary charges, from Chuckie’s time at FSAC & SPCA. The bill, which was $826.10 in late June, will most likely total to be over $1000.
“In order to save my dog’s life, not only did I have to give him up, [FSAC & SPCA] got exactly what they wanted,” Jopson says. “It was a win-win for them, they get paid and my dog was taken from me.”
Jopson had the chance to visit with Chuckie one last time before he was taken back to Texas.
“I got to give him back his teddy bear,” Jopson says. “He came with this teddy bear when I adopted him. Any other toy I gave him he’d rip to pieces, but he never mauled that teddy bear. I was able to give it back to him to take to his old home.”
Though he is no longer Chuckie’s owner, Jopson wants to help other dog owners who may be facing the same challenges with the enforcement methods for animal cruelty laws, in particular how quickly investigations are conducted in these cases.
“My trial was set for October, which is months from now,” Jopson says. “Chuckie could have died by that time…the bill would have been thousands. Especially for older or anxiety-ridden dogs, investigations [into animal cruelty] should be kept to a couple of weeks so that the dogs can be taken out of shelters and to permanent homes that are healthier environments for them.”
McIlvaine also wants to see reforms in the laws regarding certain shelter policies in Delaware.
“In most of these cases, the dogs being held [at shelters] are people’s beloved pets,” McIlvaine says. “We just want to give the dogs a voice since they can’t speak for themselves.”
NBC10 contacted FSAC & SPCA and Delaware Animal Care and Control for comment, but no immediate response was given.