Powell couple suing Disney to get back their dog

Powell couple suing Disney to get back their dog

William and Melinda Robinson claim this dog appearing in Disney's "Eight Below" is their pet, Kolby. William and Melinda Robinson claim this dog appearing in Disney's "Eight Below" is their pet, Kolby.

July 17, 2006

6 News Reporter

POWELL (WATE) -- A Knox County couple is suing Walt Disney Entertainment and a laundry list of others because they claim their dog was taken from East Tennessee and cast in a blockbuster motion picture.

"The dog's getting older every day. I want him to be with me as he's getting older," says William Robinson.

The Robinson's dog, Kolby, is a pure-bred Alaskan malamute.

In the summer of 2004, the Robinson's claim Kolby broke free from his leash attached to a dog run in their yard. They haven't seen him, in person, since that day.

But on February 14, nearly two years later, came a frantic phone call from a family member.

"We've seen your dog in the paper, there's a big story about Kolby in the paper," said William, recounting the conversation.

The story was an article in the Knoxville News Sentinel. It was a review of the movie "Eight Below" and it discussed the K-9 allegedly Kolby as ".. a former Knoxville stray who was rescued and then discovered during a casting call."

The film is about eight sled dogs who become stranded in Antarctica. The movie grossed more than $120 million worldwide.

Watching the "bonus features" section of the DVD, William's wife, Melinda, says she has no doubt that the dog purported to be "Shadow" is actually her Kolby.

"There's people who said that kind of dog looks the same, but you just know your dog," says Melinda.

According to the lawsuit, here's what happened:

Kolby ran off two years ago. He was wearing a collar with his name and owner's phone number.

Kolby allegedly ended up at the Young-Williams Animal Shelter in Knoxville.

"They (Young-Williams) represented they would call my clients if the dog showed up," said the Robinson's attorney Mike Shipwash. "They committed fraud. They lied. My clients went to the shelter seven or eight times. I think they're in cahoots."

According to Tim Adams with the shelter, and Sidney Sachs with the Sled Dog Rescue of Tennessee, the Alaskan malamute at the shelter remained for the legal waiting period of three days, and then was released to the sled dog rescue in Spring City.

"The dog was emaciated, half dead and full of worms," says Sachs, who is named in the suit.

"If (the Young Williams Animal Shelter) knew this dog had an owner, they would have called them in a heartbeat," says Sachs.

However, that's one of the main points of the lawsuit.

"The plaintiffs requested of Young-Williams Animal Shelter that if Kolby came to be at their shelter, that the Plaintiffs be contacted so they could retrieve Kolby. Young-Williams agreed to do so," the lawsuit reads.

"The animal shelter called her (Sachs and Sled Dog Rescue) instead of us when our dog come in here. We don't know why that happened," said Robinson.

Sachs says the law clearly states that a person has 72 hours to locate their dog at an animal shelter. After that time, the dog is available for legal adoption, or can be euthanized.

"The defendants did not attempt to obtain the correct identity of (Kolby), and in fact, purposefully decided not to research, but rather hurriedly place the dog into a movie to make money," reads the lawsuit.

Following the News Sentinel article, Sachs claims, "four people called and said it was their dog."

The Robinsons were among them.

"I told them the dog is in a wonderful place and was legally adopted through all the channels. He's very well off," said Sachs.

As for actual physical proof that "Shadow" is in fact Kolby, William Robinson says, "My wife kept an old collar of his and its got a bunch of his hair on it."

And that means DNA tests could prove whether or not the dog in the movie is, in fact, Kolby.

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