Dispute over no-longer-five-legged puppy to go to court (TV court, that is)


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Just when we think the story of a once-five-legged puppy named Lilly can’t possibly get any stranger, it does.

When Lilly, a tan Chihuahua mix, was born in the North Carolina town of Gastonia, then-owner Calvin Owensby says his veterinarian recommended euthanizing her immediately because of her deformity. Owensby refused, and an anonymous donor offered to foot the bill for surgery to remove the fifth leg, which was white, rubbery and not functional.


It looked like the story would end there, but things took a turn when John Strong, who owns a New York-based freak show, offered to pay Owensby $3,000 for the puppy. Owensby, an unemployed electrician, told local media that he couldn’t refuse the offer, and he made plans to sell Lilly to Strong. But when word got out about his decision, animal lovers were outraged, with many calling Owensby to give him a piece of their minds. But one caller, Charlotte resident Allyson Siegel, gave him something else -- a competing offer for the puppy.

Owensby agreed to sell Lilly to Siegel instead of Strong; Siegel paid him $3,000, plus an additional $1,000 to repay a deposit paid by the freak show owner. Lilly came to live with Siegel, and plans were made to have the puppy’s fifth leg amputated as originally planned.

The dust hadn’t yet settled when Strong announced that he planned to fight for ownership of Lilly in court, telling the Charlotte Observer that the situation was ‘like a guy who sells you a car and then later tells you he’s going to sell it to someone else. I was the original owner -- it doesn’t matter if it’s a five-legged dog, a house or a car.’

Siegel took immediate action, pushing up the planned date for Lilly’s leg-amputation surgery so the puppy would lose her appeal to the freak-show owner, who specializes in showcasing animals with additional heads and other oddities. The surgery was a success, and Siegel told the Observer that Lilly’s vet expects her to make a full recovery. Siegel, who has professed to be more a cat person than a dog person, said she planned to give Lilly to her sister, who also lives in Charlotte.

Now, if we owned a freak show specializing in mutant animals, this is the point in the story where we would back off and allow Lilly to live the rest of her life in peace. Strong, however, decided instead to take the matter to not just any court, but a TV court program presided over by Judge Jeanine Pirro. He’s said he’s suing Owensby for $4,000 (that’s right -- $1,000 more than he originally agreed to pay for the puppy). The program is scheduled to air Sept. 21.

Strong says he still wants Lilly, and if he wins in Pirro’s televised court, he told the New York Daily News that he plans to go one step further and sue Siegel for ownership.


Owensby maintains that he and Strong never signed a contract over Lilly’s ownership and says that Strong’s deposit has already been refunded.

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-- Lindsay Barnett