Denver pulls half of French bulldogs from adoption event as breeders threaten to sue, lawyer says

The Animal Law Center claims that some of the dogs did not belong to Marleen Puzak, even though they were taken from allegedly cruel conditions in her house.
4 min. read
A French bulldog confiscated in Denver. (Denver Environmental Health)

A French bulldog confiscated in Denver. (Denver Environmental Health)

Thousands of people have excitedly announced their interest in taking home dozens of French bulldogs in Denver on Saturday, but a local animal law group warns that it will try to stop some of the adoptions. In response, the city is reducing by half the number of dogs up for adoption.

The Animal Law Center, a law firm, claims that some of the petite dogs did not belong to Marleen Puzak, even though they were taken from allegedly cruel conditions in her house.

"We will be challenging Denver for adopting dogs that did not belong to the woman who relinquished them," the Englewood-based firm announced on Facebook. "Our owners are very committed to getting their dogs back."

The city originally announced that 24 of the Frenchies would be up for adoption this weekend. The city has since agreed to remove about a dozen dogs from the adoption event, according to Jay Swearingen, an attorney who is challenging the adoptions.

A city spokesperson confirmed that some animals were being held back from the event, but could not immediately give a number.

The Animal Law Center earlier said that it would file a federal lawsuit and an injunction to stop some of the adoptions. "If you adopt these dogs, they will be subject to federal litigation. You will be in the mix," the firm warned

However, that lawsuit is now "on hold," and Denver is keeping the contested dogs out of the adoption event, Swearingen said late on Friday afternoon.

In other words, the dogs that are up for adoption on Saturday should be free-and-clear, unless someone else raises a challenge.

"Due to this ongoing investigation, dogs that have potentially unresolved ownership will not be made available at the adoption event," city spokesperson Kerra Jones wrote in an email.

In either case, it appears that the odds of adopting one of the hyper-popular dogs at this weekend's event have gotten even lower.

What happened?

A Denver police officer found 35 living dogs and a dozen frozen canine cadavers in a search of Marleen Puzak's home in Denver last month, most of them Frenchies, according to court records.

The home's odor was detectable from eight feet outside the door, the officer said in a sworn document, and the city says many of the dogs were suffering from serious infections.

Many of the dogs actually belonged to enthusiasts who had temporarily sent them to Puzak to prepare them for breeding or for dog shows, according to Swearingen.

"Puzak was a major show handler and also did breeding with French bulldogs. It would be quite common in the dog show world for people to send their dogs to a handler to be prepared for shows," the attorney said, citing another case where a handler had 85 dogs.

"That would be a fairly normal thing in the dog world."

A French bulldog up for adoption in Denver. (Denver Environmental Health)

He's representing four women who collectively claim ownership to 11 or 12 of the seized dogs, Swearingen said.

"The fact that Denver animal control checked the dogs and thought they were in danger, and took the dogs, is not an issue that we’re contesting," he said. "What we’re contesting that they’re not knowing who these dogs are actually belonging too."

The Animal Law Center has won some notable earlier victories. In 2015, the firm won a financial settlement for a client in the police shooting of a German shepherd in Erie.

One challenge, he noted, is that the little dogs all look quite similar, and only some have microchip identifiers.

"They tend to all look alike. We're trying to get more input," he said. "There might be a little light spot on one ear."

You can still adopt one.

The remaining French bulldogs will be available for adoption at a requested fee of $400 beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Denver Animal Shelter.

A French bulldog up for adoption in Denver. (Denver Environmental Health)

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