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Arlington man sues Everett over denied access to dog records

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By Eric Stevick
Herald Writer
EVERETT — After learning that Hyde went missing, Jonathan Bander began looking for his furry friend.
His search brought him to the Everett Animal Shelter where he hoped he might find the Pomeranian mix that had belonged to him and his former girlfriend.
Bander hadn't foreseen that his search would veer off to court.
The Arlington-area man sued the city, alleging the shelter denied him access to a public record. The document in question was a sheet of paper with photo of a dog that he thought might have been Hyde.
Bander said he pursued litigation as a matter of principle and for open government and for the love of a dog he described as “a sweetheart.”
As it turned out, the city has acknowledged that Bander was right, that he did have access to the card with the dog's photo and identifying information.
“We made a mistake not accepting the (public records) request at the shelter,” city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said. “He does have the record now. Our plan is to continue to communicate with him to resolve this.”
The city's attorney overseeing public records issues also will be giving refresher training to staff at the shelter to make sure they know what the laws are, Pembroke said.
Bander filed his eight-page complaint against the city late last month.
He said that Hyde disappeared and was likely stolen in January when his former girlfriend went to visit her daughter in north Everett.
On Jan. 22, Bander stopped by the animal shelter where visitors can thumb through binders with photos of stray, runaway or otherwise missing animals.
On the wall, Bander said, is a note that reads: “Missing Pet? Check binder ‘Stray Cats or Stray Dogs in Shelter.'”
It continues: “If you find your pet or think one may be your pet, please take the sheet out of the binder and bring it to front counter staff. We will then have someone escort you to the stray areas. If your pet is here, please be aware reclaiming fees may apply.”
Bander found a kennel card with a photo of what looked to be Hyde.
That's when the trouble began.
Bander said that when he handed the card to a woman behind the counter, she indicated that the owner of the dog was in jail and that was why the dog was brought to the shelter.
The woman told him he could not take a look at the dog in the kennels, Bander said.
Bander said he tried to explain that the man in jail might have stolen Hyde and that he asked for a copy of the kennel card to show his former girlfriend to try to determine ownership.
Bander said he returned to the shelter two days later with two other people, including his former girlfriend, to again flip through the binders of missing pets. The page with the dog he believed to be Hyde was nowhere to be found, he said.
Bander later determined that the dog was not Hyde after obtaining the card and showing it to his former girlfriend.
“Had they just let me look at the dog, I would have known immediately,” Bander said.
As it turned out, the dog was moved to another shelter run by a local rescue group, which could afford some of the medical care it needed, Pembroke said. The dog is recovering from surgery.
This is not the first time Bander has had a public records tussle with the city.
In 2013, the Everett City Council agreed to pay out $17,090 to settle a case involving the failure to provide training records for a parking-enforcement officer.
The payout stemmed from Bander's July 2010 request under Washington's Public Records Act for police department records about a parking-enforcement officer's training. Although the department did supply numerous documents, Bander remained dissatisfied and sued the city in July 2011.
In September 2012, city employees discovered additional training records in an unmarked binder. Those documents were made available 789 days after Bander's original request.
The settlement amount included $10 in daily penalties for that period plus attorney fees.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446;
Story tags » EverettAnimals

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