Woman hopes new owners return lost service dog after Dearborn shelter adopts him out

Dog lost while family visited for funeral

The owner of a dog is hoping to get her beloved pet back home after the dog was adopted by someone else.

DEARBORN, Mich. – The owner of a dog is hoping to get her beloved pet back home after the dog was adopted by someone else.

Latonya Everhart lost her 14-year-old dog named Mr. Tipps the day of her mother’s funeral, March 13. Family was visiting her home when he made it out of the house.

When she located the dog a short time later at a Dearborn shelter, she was told he had recently been adopted and there was nothing she could do.

“That’s a part of my family. It’s not just a pet, you know, he’s part of my family,” Everhart said. “Someone left the door open accidentally and he got out. And we were looking for him.”

She spent a week searching everywhere for Mr. Tipps -- a registered service dog that helps her with medical issues, alerting her when her blood sugar is off.

“When my sugar would go high he would know before I would. He would lay on my feet, you know, and keep nudging me with his nose,” she said.

After visiting many nearby shelters, making signs and searching online, she found a Facebook post that led her to the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit in Dearborn. When she arrived she was told it was too late and she couldn’t have her dog back.

Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit Facebook post about Mr. Tipps. (WDIV)

“They were kind of cold, like they really didn’t care,” she said.

The dog was initially found by Dearborn police. Video shows an officer locating the dog near Fairlane Mall about 10 miles from his home.

The dog is not microchipped and it’s believed his ID on his collar fell off while he was roaming the area. He was taken to the shelter and put up for adoption.

Local 4 spoke with Kim Cross, the CEO for the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit.

Cross: Well, we did everything legally, Hank. We held the dog for the legal amount of time, we looked for the owners, and then once the dog is adopted out there’s really nothing we can do.

Hank: So then why did you make a decision at some point to call the family that adopted the dog to let them know that the rightful owner had come forward?

Cross: Well, because I was afraid that this woman was going to cause a lot of problems.

Everhart owned the dog for more than 10 years. She relies on him for help with her medical condition. Shelter officials said the family still refused to return the dog despite knowing its history.

Everhart said she provided documentation and showed Cross his service animal registration. She said she begged Cross to contact the adoptive family on her behalf and request they let her dog come home.

“She said, ‘Well. The family said they don’t want to return them.’ So, I’m like, ‘Did you explain to them?’ I don’t think she explained to them,” Everhart said.

Hank: It’s just so hard for me to believe that a family would be contacted and say, ‘The rightful owner came forward, she relies on him for a medical condition,’ and that family just said, ‘Too bad, so sad.’

Cross: Yeah, they said that they fell in love with her, or him, and that they want to keep him.

Weeks after the dog was given to the adoptive family, Local 4 contacted Dearborn police about the situation. That is when Cross was told Local 4 was working on this story.

It was only then that anyone from the shelter actually reached out to the adoptive family and notified them that the rightful owner had come forward.

Hank: And at that point did you tell the owner the rightful owner has come forward?

Cross: Uh, not at that point.

Hank: You didn’t tell them until the police contacted you recently and said that there was a TV story.

Cross: Well ...

Hank: No, that’s true.

Cross: Yeah.

Hank: Let’s get on the same page here. So, that’s the part that really bothers me here. The person who adopted this dog should be told the rightful owner came forward. And not only that, even though the time has passed -- This is a service dog that helps this woman to live. And she’s had the dog for more than 10 years.

Cross said she explained the situation to the family but they have decided to keep the dog. Legally, they are allowed to.

Two months have passed since Everhart lost her beloved dog. She said it feels like yesterday. She is devastated and hopes the family will change their mind and let Mr. Tipps return home.

“I just don’t understand it. I don’t understand it at all,” Everhart said.

READ: More Help Me Hank coverage

You can visit the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit online, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.