A 3-year-old German Shepherd named Leo, who was allegedly illegally held by Animal Control in Florence County, South Carolina, has been reunited with his owners following a nationwide outcry and Change.org petition that received more than 300,000 signatures. Leo's story began on May 1, when, according to Kelly Curran, the family's spokesperson, animal control officers with Florence County Environmental Services took Leo from their yard, despite that he did not have a history of aggressive behavior.
In a petition launched on Change.org, Curran explained that Leo had been left in the family's fenced-in yard when they went home for a short amount of time. When they returned, Leo was missing, and a note from Environmental Services stated that they had taken him into their custody, and the family had 15 days to get him. However, the family's multiple attempts to pick Leo up failed. Immediately after finding the note, the family had called the number included, though due to it being after 5 p.m. on a Friday, "no one was answering." The family then attempted to contact the shelter through Facebook but were told that they could not pick Leo up over the weekend. When the family then tried to pick Leo up the following Monday, "they said he had been deemed dangerous and that they would not be releasing him."
According to the post, Leo was taken into the Environmental Services' custody due to "a neighbor who was reportedly scared of him." In Florence County, "a dog does not have to show aggression or attack anyone to be deemed dangerous." The family was given a court date a month after Leo was seized, "despite the law stating it should be within 5 days." In response, they created the Change.org petition in the hopes of getting Leo back sooner, expressing fears that he was "scared," "lonely," "confined to a cell," and was "starting to go kennel crazy."
Along with thousands of signatures, people also directly reached out to the Florence County Sheriff's Office, who addressed Leo's case on social media. In a post, the Sheriff's Office wrote that they had been "contacted by many community members about the situation with Environmental Services." It had "reached out to all of our available contacts in reference to this situation," according to ABC 15 News.
Curran also reached out to the Florence County Administrator's Office in an email, where she pointed out that "State Law says a dog can not be deemed dangerous based upon breed." According to a neighbor who had witnessed the incident, Leo had been on the family's property "under the porch" when "Environmental Services approached him." They reportedly "tased the dog and dragged him to the vehicle." She added that Environmental Services had "denied the family's request to take him out and walk him," as well as "denied them the ability to bathe him."
On May 28, in an update, Curran announced that Leo had finally returned home. In a statement, she explained that "there is still another hearing to decide if the family will be charged with having a dangerous dog" and said that "we are continuing to push to hold the facility and County accountable for their actions and their mismanagement of the facility."