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'Cash' released from Healdsburg shelter for dog training


Cash, the large dog whose suitability for adoption provoked a lawsuit and questions about the operation of the Healdsburg Animal Shelter, is being released to a dog training facility.

Shelter Director Julie Seal said Monday that the 110-pound Mastiff/pitbull mix would be released to King's Kastle, a Windsor and Cloverdale facility that rehabilitates dogs.

"It's a victory for Cash," said Douglas Keane, the Healdsburg chef who sued to get the dog released from the animal shelter and taken to King's Kastle, the co-plaintiff in the legal action. "I think it's great."

Seal acknowledged the conflict over the adoption of Cash drew focus away from the organization's mission of caring for animals "and left the community questioning the merits and intent of the shelter."

"Although I personally am very concerned about the stability of Cash, King's Kastle is a highly respected organization and is noted for its commitment to rehabilitate the animals in its charge," she said in a statement.

Keane, the chef/owner of Cyrus, the prestigious two-star Michelin-rated restaurant, filed a lawsuit last week to prevent Cash from being euthanized and to have him released from the cramped, 50-year-old shelter on Westside Road.

Keane, a certified dog trainer who has two other dogs he's rescued from shelters, became fond of Cash and expressed a desire to either adopt him, or take him to King's Kastle to train him.

At King's Kastle, dogs are socialized and rehabilitated by becoming part of a dog pack.

Cash has never bitten anyone, and the owner who reluctantly gave up his 4-year-old pet said Cash was well-behaved around children, cats and other dogs.

Cash, described as a "Gentle Giant," was brought to the animal shelter in mid August.

Seal had agreed to put Cash up for adoption. But she became concerned after he started exhibiting some aggressive tendencies.

One of the trainers who said Cash was suitable for adoption had also given good recommendations for five dogs that later bit their owners, or other dogs, according to Seal.

After getting more evaluations of Cash she became concerned about liability issues and balked at Keane's attempts to adopt the dog or have it taken it to King's Kastle. She suggested it might have to be euthanized.

Then Seal said she would be willing to have Keane take responsibility for the animal if he took out a $1 million insurance policy and indemnified the shelter, a proposal Keane deemed "ridiculous."

Keane acknowledged Cash can be intimidating, especially when caged.

"A shelter to a dog is very much like prison," he said Monday, adding that the isolation of its cage, clanking doors and other factors stress the animal.

The publicity over the adoption reached the Healdsburg City Council, which subsidizes the animal shelter by about $120,000 annually for animal control services.

Councilwoman Susan Jones said the controversy underscored ongoing dissension among shelter board members and problems with the organization and its leadership.

Four of the 10 board members have resigned this year in disputes involving Seals' influence, proposed salary hike and other issues.

Seal said in her statement Monday that as someone committed to animals and the community she loves, "not to proceed with an expressed interest in adoption is never a decision I take lightly, and quite frankly is sometimes heartbreaking from a personal perspective."