By John Anderson
At Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Manager Julie Jacobson read a lengthy statement to clarify facts relating to a column written by Clive McFarland and published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on Friday, February 20, 2015. Jacobson also allowed an interview yesterday morning to answer additional questions.
The column related to the arrest of Willard Cheng for shoplifting at the Auburn Mall and the subsequent impoundment of Abby, a 9-month-old female Border Collie. The Town Manager took issue with what she described as misinformation advanced in the column, but this is really a story about the dog. Mr. Cheng will have his day in court in April.
Mr. Cheng informed the arresting officer of the dog in the back seat of Cheng’s vehicle, and his car was left running with the heat on before it was transported to the police station and placed in their heated garage.
Abby was found in a small metal crate covered with blankets and stolen merchandise. According to Jacobson, “The dog was cowering in the small crate with no food, a frozen dish of water, and was soaked in urine.”
Auburn Animal Control Officer (ACO) Aimee Contois was called to the station, and Acting Director of Development & Inspectional Services Darlene Coyle went along as well.
Mr. Cheng could provide no health records for the dog, although Abby was micro chipped and had not been reported stolen. Cheng was informed that the town would house the dog, but it must be reclaimed with 7 days. He was also given the contact information for both Contois and Coyle.
In accordance with M.G.L. Chapter 140, Section 151A, Animal Control Officer facilities are obligated to hold animals for a period of 7 days. After those 7 days, if an animal is not reclaimed, then the city or town reserves the right to adoption, transfer, or disposal of said animal.
On the 8th day, January 22nd, a letter was sent by certified and regular mail to Mr. Cheng at the Worcester County House of Correction. He was advised that he had until January 28th to pay the town the fees associated with the impoundment and reclaim the dog.
In an extra effort to reach the prisoner, the ACO contacted Cheng’s court appointed lawyer on January 23rd. The town had generously extended the deadline by 7 days due to the incarceration.
On Monday, January 26th, and with an impending blizzard set to arrive the next day, department heads met with the Town Manager for a preparatory meeting. The long check list includes the animal shelter that contained one cat and the dog.
To ensure that Abby received proper feeding and exercise during the storm, she was place with an unnamed foster family. When this occurs, per the foster agreement, that family has the right of first refusal should the dog become available for adoption.
On February 3rd, Abby became legally available for adoption, 6 days after she became property of the Town under the extended deadline, and the foster family wanted to proceed. They agreed to have Abby spayed which is the last step in the adoption process. That will cost them about $300.
Abby did very well in Auburn’s shelter and flourished with the foster family. The shelter incurred $216.50 in medical bills, $19.98 for a new collar and leash, and $130.00 for boarding the dog for 13 days. The boarding charge is well below area kennel rates, and is scheduled to be updated in upcoming Town bylaw changes.
On February 4th, Mr. Cheng contacted the ACO looking for his dog as he had finally posted bail. At this point, he would have had to apply for adoption since Abby legally belonged to the town.
One requirement of pet adoption is the need for a permanent address, and Mr. Cheng’s car did not fill the need. Abby was also with a loving and caring family in a warm house, with adequate food and water, and a place to run around, something border collies need.
Finally, Mr. Cheng is not facing a shoplifting charge as stated in the McFarlane column. Cheng is facing two felonies related to the $8,802 in stolen merchandise recovered from his car by the Auburn Police Department.