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Dog gone is valuable, says Long Island man who claims animal shelter wrongly gave away his lost Belgian Malinois

2020-01-07

A barking mad Long Island man says he lost his valuable dog — and claims that instead of keeping it safe, a Bay Shore animal shelter let it be adopted.

Clifton Benjamin, a TSA dog handler, says the shelter wrongly gave away his Belgian Malinois pooch — who goes by the name Eto — in what he calls a “ruse, scam and a scheme.”

Benjamin’s $1 million federal lawsuit says that Eto, who he imported from the Netherlands and was worth up to $40,000 fully trained, was sold through a shady deal involving the Bay Shore shelter’s staff after workers stymied his efforts to recover the dog when he became lost on Sept. 18, 2018.

Even worse, Benjamin suspects the shelter wrongfully neutered Eto, meaning he can’t make money off of the desirable dog’s bloodline.

“The outrageous behavior of those sworn to reunite animals with their owners cannot go unpunished. We must find Eto. We know he is out there and we demand him back," said Benjamin’s attorney, Vesselin Mitev.

Mitev said the 2-year-old pooch had no business being adopted from a lowly animal shelter.

“This is the equivalent of finding a Ferrari at a used car dealership,” he said.

The Malinois is a renowned working dog popular among law enforcement. The Secret Service uses the dogs to guard the White House. A Malinois trained by the the U.S. Army famously chased down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria in October.

On Oct. 14, 2018 Benjamin visited the shelter and was told Eto had been adopted. His suit claims that shelter supervisor Teri Giacolone spearheaded the dastardly deed.

Benjamin believes shelter workers told him to produce more ownership paperwork simply so they could “smuggle the dog out to a private adoption, for an undisclosed sum,” the suit states.

A spokeswoman for the Town of Islip, which includes Bay Shore and operates the shelter, said a canine custody battle was at the root of the dispute.

“There were multiple claims for the dog, none of whom could prove ownership. The plaintiff had no physical paperwork in his name, and what he did have, included inaccurate information including a chip number that did not match the chip number in the dog. The plaintiff admitted to giving the dog to a third party,” the spokeswoman said.

“The dog was ultimately adopted out to a retired NYC police officer with no relationship to the Town of Islip. This is a frivolous lawsuit and will be vigorously defended.”

Benjamin says the caper got hairy the moment he went to the shelter to pick up his lost dog. Staff told him to provide proof of ownership, which he did, according to the suit. But no amount of paperwork resulted in the shelter relinquishing Eto, who Benjamin describes as a “loving companion.” He had planned to use Eto in his side business training security dogs.

“A loving, high-drive kind of dog," Mitev said, describing Eto.

"He had a real high hopes for this dog. He bonded with it.”