The fate of Cash the dog remained unresolved Friday as both sides in a lawsuit involving the 110-pound bull mastiff weighed counter-proposals that could release him from the Healdsburg Animal Shelter.
Douglas Keane, the chef/owner of Cyrus, Healdsburg's Michelin two-star rated restaurant, made a proposal to have Cash transferred to a dog training facility to avoid euthanasia.
Meanwhile, Healdsburg Shelter Executive Director Julie Seal insisted the controversy over the dog "was blown out of proportion quickly," and said no one ever told Keane he could not adopt it.
"We never said he couldn't have the dog. We're willing to discuss a happy ending," she said.
But her comments Friday belied an email that she sent to shelter directors last week in which she said Cash was not a safe dog and arguably had the most dangerous form of aggression.
"I do not feel it is morally or ethically right to adopt out this dog to a member of the community, even if that member of the community is a high-profile person engaged in an emotional appeal," she wrote.
She also said it was wrong to transfer the dog to another animal welfare organization "who will then think he is rehabilitated and adopt him out into the community."
The struggle over Cash and controversy over his suitability for adoption has raised questions about the shelter's kill policy and its leadership. It also has highlighted ongoing dissension among shelter directors.
Another board member, George Dutton, resigned Friday — the fourth this year on the former 10-member board. He said two more board members plan to submit their resignations in sympathy.
Dutton said he was forced out as treasurer and project manager for the new shelter facility, which is 95 percent complete but stymied by a lack of funds. He said it was because he disagreed with a proposal to give Seal a "significant salary increase."
"The only reason I was given was, &‘You do not get along with the executive director,'" he said of his removal on a 4-3 vote. He explained that he felt it was wrong to approve a large salary increase when the shelter is struggling to find $250,000 to $300,000 more to finish its state-of-the art facility on Westside Road.
Dutton said his wife, Karen Dutton, resigned from the board earlier this year because she objected to a new proposal to allow Seal to help select candidates to the board.
Seal declined to discuss any of the board controversy or Dutton's reasons for resigning, other than to say it was not related to the dog Cash.
But Dutton also questioned the handling of the case, saying "Cash is a dog that people loved."
He said that Seal had also indicated as much in a posting on the shelter's website offering the dog for adoption and describing Cash as "a gentle giant," until she and Keane had a disagreement.
It wasn't "until she and Doug disagreed," Dutton said. "Then the dog became dangerous."
Although Cash initially was put up for adoption, Seal said she had concerns about other dogs that were released and ended up biting people or other dogs when they left the shelter. Cash and those other dogs, she said, were evaluated by the same person.
In court papers filed this week, the animal shelter portrayed Cash as becoming increasingly aggressive after it was brought in mid-August.
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