BAY SHORE, Long Island (WABC) -- A TSA canine handler has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a Long Island animal shelter, claiming it secretly adopted his prized dog for a large sum of money.
The Town of Islip strongly disputes the claim, describing the lawsuit as frivolous.
Clifton Benjamin says his Belgian Malinois was smuggled out of the Bay Shore Animal Shelter while he was given the run-around for weeks.
According to the lawsuit, the 1-year-old dog, Eto, was lost and turned into the animal shelter almost immediately, on or about September 18, 2018.
He says he showed up to get the dog back and provided proof of ownership, including the dog's passport and importation documents from the Netherlands, but he was told he need more paperwork.
"I told them, if they need anything, just let me know, whatever else you need to see to prove he's my dog, just let me know," Benjamin said.
Benjamin claims he provided the requested proof but was still denied his dog, until he went to the shelter nearly a month later and was told Eto had been adopted out at the direction of the town attorney.
Shelter workers claimed the dog's implanted chip code was not a perfect match.However, Benjamin doubts that and has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
"The outrageous behavior of those sworn to reunite animals with their owners cannot go unpunished," attorney Vesselin Mitev said. "We must find Eto. We know he is out there, and we demand him back."
The Town of Islip issued a statement denying the accusations.
"There were multiple claims for the dog, none of whom could prove ownership," the statement read. "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 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 by the Town of Islip."
The shelter confirmed the dog was brought in on September 14, 2018, and was adopted on October 5, 2018.
"We received several inquiries," town officials said. "We did more than our due diligence in looking for a responsible owner."