FOX UNDERCOVER - A woman who says her dog was taken from her six months ago for no good reason by Salisbury Animal Control officers was reunited with her pet Wednesday after local officials decided the removal was improperly done.
"I thought I'd never see her again. I thought she was gone," said Leslie Hinton, the owner of a female boxer named Shelby.
A Salisbury animal control officer took Shelby and a relative's dog from her yard last October, accusing Hinton of neglect and then demanding exorbitant fees for this incident and an earlier one.
"They came and picked the dogs up and said they had been outside for 48 hours alone, that it was raining and they had no food, no water, no nothing and I'm like, ‘That's bull because I'm looking right now at the two bowls of food and water,'" she said in February.
"At this point, how much money did you owe them?" FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet asked.
"It was over a grand," Hinton replied.
Hinton's plight was shown on a FOX Undercover investigation this past February that sparked a state investigation of animal control in Salisbury.
The father-daughter team of Harold Congdon, and Tina Boucher are the animal control officers in Salisbury. Except in the winter, they keep dogs in Congdon's kennel, located in a junkyard owned by Congdon. Because it's his kennel, he keeps the kenneling fees.
In an earlier interview, Congdon, who is also running for selectman, admitted the kennel isn't much to look at but says the dogs are taken care of just fine.
"He gets fed, eh gets watered, he gets walked three times a day," Congdon said in February.
"Do you like the animals?" Beaudet asked.
"The animals are better than the people. If they're voting I'd get elected tomorrow," he said.
After the original FOX Undercover investigation aired in February, Salisbury officials moved to stop Congdon from housing animals he and his daughter seize at their shelter, calling it a conflict of interest. The state Department of Agricultural Resources, which oversees local animal control officers, also started an investigation. A department spokesman said Thursday the investigation is still ongoing.
As for Hinton and Shelby, the animal control officers claimed that Hinton never tried to get her dog back, which Hinton denies.
The dog was then adopted by another family.
But since our original story aired in February, town officials determined that proper procedure wasn't followed in taking her dog, and tracked down Hinton and the dog's adopted family.
Hinton and her husband, who just returned from military service in Afghanistan, were reunited with Shelby on Wednesday.
"Getting her back now, what's that mean to you?" Beaudet asked.
"It's awesome. It feels like my family's together again, especially with my husband coming home and everything," Hinton said.
"Do you think this man should still be the animal control officer?" Beaudet asked.
"From what I've seen and what I know, no. Now if he made some major changes, made a fit kennel, and an area for animals to be safe, a different area away from all that rubbish, then yeah," she said. "I know deep down he has a passion for the animals but he's just not doing it the right way," she said.