Judge issues ruling in Va. lawsuit involving local animal shelter

Published 9:02 pm Friday, April 20, 2018

A judge presiding over a Virginia civil court case dealing with the custody of two dogs which were picked up by the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter in 2016 issued a ruling on Friday granting custody of the dogs to the woman who adopted them from an animal rescue program.

Circuit Court of Wise County and the City of Norton Judge Chadwick S. Dotson issued his ruling Friday after a court hearing that lasted for several hours on Thursday.

The civil lawsuit was filed by Kimberly Buckles, the previous owner of the two dogs, against the woman who adopted them from an animal rescue group, Sandy Blanton.

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The case of Buckles vs. Blanton involves allegations by Buckles that her two Shih-Tzu dogs were illegally seized by the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter and sold to another organization, which eventually adopted the animals out to Blanton.

During a hearing in the case on Feb. 22, the Wise County, Virginia, District Court ruled in favor of Buckles, but the order for Blanton to return the dogs to Buckles was stayed after Blanton’s attorney David Bary filed a request for a de novo review by the Circuit Court.

During the Feb. 22 hearing, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey testified regarding what he claimed was the illegal seizure of the dogs by animal shelter staff as well as allegations that animal trafficking had occurred under a previous director of the shelter.

As a result of that testimony, Bary requested the court to issue subpoenas for several individuals, including three employees of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter and the veterinarian who provides medical care for the animals at the shelter.

Several individuals testified in Thursday’s hearing before Dotson.

Below is a verbatim copy of the ruling Dotson issued on Friday:


In the Circuit Court of Wise County and the City of Norton

Kimberly M. Buckles, Plaintiff


Sandy Blantant, Defendant

This matter came before this court on April 19, 2018, for trial on Plaintiff’s Warrant in Detinue, on appeal from the General District Court. The Court heard evidence and hereby rules as follows.

Plaintiff seeks possession of two female Shih-tzu canines, Kneesaa and Nippet, or their alternative values, which is alleged to be $600.00 each. Judgment is granted in favor of the Defendant (whose last name was misspelled in the complaint; it is actually spelled “Blanton”).

Under Virginia law, “[a] purchaser of goods acquires all title which his transferor had or had power to transfer.” Va. Code § 8.2-403(1). “One who does not have title to goods cannot transfer title to a buyer, even a bona fide purchaser for value without notice.” Toyota Motor Credit Corp. v. C.L. Hyman Auto Wholesale, Inc., 256 Va. 243, 247 (1998). However, “a person who purchases goods from one possession only voidable title can nevertheless receive good title to the goods purchased.” Id. See Va. Code § 8.2-403(1). Voidable title is “[t]itle following loss of possession by carelessness, neglect, mistake, or even fraud.” Adams v. Maine, 75 Va. Cir. 41, 56 (2008), aff’d, 2009 Va. LEXIS 41 (2009).

Here, the canines of Plaintiff, who is a Tennessee resident, were picked up by the local animal control officer and taken to the locality’s animal shelter. While the circumstances under which the officer obtained the canines were alleged to be fraudulent, the evidence presented at trial indicates, to the satisfaction of this Court, that the animal shelter lawfully obtained title to Plaintiff’s canines, pursuant to Tennessee Code § 68-8-107. As a result, the animal shelter was able to transfer good title to a rescue shelter, who in turn transferred good title to Defendant.

The facts certainly present two innocent parties and this Court does not base its decision on any claims of abuse or neglect of the dogs; in fact, this Court finds there was no evidence that Plaintiff mistreated the dogs in any way. However, the law in this Commonwealth is clear that a bona fide purchaser acquires good title against all the world when the transferor had good title. Even if there were fraud involved in this case — and there was no credible evidence of that fraud presented at trial — a bona fide purchaser, “without notice of the fraud, is protected on the principle that when one of two innocent persons must suffer by the fraud of the third, the loss shall fall on him who has enabled such third person to do the wrong.” Obendorfer v. Meyer, 88 Va. 384, 386 (1891).

Therefore, judgment is granted in favor of Defendant.


Chadwick S. Dotson