Family surrenders service dog at center of custody battle

Battle over service dog crosses state lines

UPDATE: Quita Culpepper reports that Secret was handed over to Leander police on Thursday night and will be taken to Colorado.

ORIGINAL STORY: A dog that has been with a Central Texas family for nine months is at the center of a legal battle between the family and the Colorado nonprofit that provided her to the family.

Secret, a cream-colored Labrador, was a rescue that was trained as a service dog by Disco's Dogs, which provides animals to families with autistic children. She was brought to Central Texas in August 2015 to help Julie Bradshaw's 11-year-old son.

"She is amazing for my son. His meltdowns have gone down almost to nothing," Bradshaw said. "She's very bonded with all of us, we love her."

Soon after Secret joined the family, Bradshaw emailed and phoned the nonprofit's founder, Laura Edwards, saying Secret had begun shaking in fear when she went out in public and did not like being outside. They talked about additional training, and even had a session with a dog communicator, but Secret's fearfulness got worse.

Edwards proposed bringing Secret back to Colorado.

"The slide in the behaviors that she's reporting indicate it's a bad situation," Edwards said.

That's when Bradshaw said she stopped responding to Edwards' emails.

"I felt really back into a corner with the way things were handled," Bradshaw said.

Disco's Dogs filed a civil suit in Colorado to get Secret back. Bradshaw started a GoFundMe to raise money to fight to keep the dog, and the nonprofit has spent thousands trying to get her back.

Bradshaw never signed a contract with Disco's Dogs. Attorney Juliet Piccone said the organization was in the process of modifying the agreement.

"The understanding was at some point she'd be asked to sign a contract," Piccone said.

A Colorado court order now states Secret is the nonprofit's property. Bradshaw won't give her up, even after receiving a letter saying a constable and a locksmith would come to her home to take the dog.

In March, the organization sent animal control to Bradshaw's home check on Secret. The officer's report shows the dog was "very afraid and shaking behind the kitchen table."

Edwards believes Secret could get better if she leaves the Bradshaw's home.

"We have rescinded our certification of her service dog status because we need to get her back home to see if she can even be rehabilitated," Edwards said.

The one thing both sides agree on is that Secret needs help.

"She has some timidity and some fear but I will love her through that the same way I love my son through his meltdowns," Bradshaw said.

This is the second service dog Bradshaw has received from the organization. She sent the first one back, saying it was aggressive. Disco's Dogs told KVUE that dog is now doing well with another family.

Disco's Dogs' attorney said a Colorado judge has ordered Secret to be in his courtroom on June 2 for a special hearing. If Secret isn't there, Bradshaw could be held in contempt.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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