The old adage “possession is 9/10 of the law” appears to hold true in Arizona, for the moment, until an attorney forces those sworn to uphold the law to do just that in Florence, Arizona. The story of a capuchin monkey named Latoya being kept from her owner, Bonnie Poe, lends credence to the saying “truth is often stranger than fiction.” Getting an animal returned to its rightful owner should be an easy task – unless the one in possession has other nefarious plans.
It started a little over a month ago when Bonnie Poe noticed her monkey, Latoya, not able to walk or move about normally. Latoya appeared to be partially paralyzed from the neck down, barely moving her limbs. After a couple vet visits, it was decided they were not equipped to deal with Valley Fever, which was Latoya’s diagnosis. Through a mutual friend, Gail, from Arizona Animal Sanctuary, and Bonnie, Latoya’s owner were introduced.
The community of monkey owners rallied around to help get Latoya better, making cash donations and getting an oxygen concentrator available since the Valley Fever had settled mostly in Latoya’s left lung, making her lethargic and weak. It was claimed an MRI was done, along with other tests, and everyone was waiting for results. The MRI had a specific amount attached as “cost” and a push for donations to get it accomplished.
When donors started asking for information, results and basic updates, problems began. The MRI had not been done, according to the veterinarian, and no funds were available in his office to proceed with an MRI. When Bonnie Poe approached Gail Mehrhoff to publicly thank all donors, she was told it was not their business, hers only. That is when the “pure intentions” came into question. Others had received private messages claiming Bonnie abused Latoya and a public claim of “blunt force trauma” was posted, insinuating Poe had done bodily harm to Latoya. With this going on in the background, unbeknownst to the owner, she kept up contact with Gail, the one claiming to help her in her time of need.
The owner went to visit Latoya, as she was told she was welcome and could even bring a friend. A later text claimed it was against the law, she would lose her sanctuary license, which seems shady in itself as there is no “sanctuary license” of note to allow or deny a visit by an owner being helped.
Law sometimes requires a microchip to be placed in an animal to prove ownership, while some owners do so even if not required. This situation begs the question, “Why have this done if a vet can refuse to scan for one and it is not proof of ownership?” Why should owners do this, keep up activation fees through the years, just to be told by a veterinarian “No, I will not scan for it” and to have the situation referred to as a civil matter? Regardless how we feel about our animals as family members, animals are considered property, by law. If you loaned your car to a friend and they decided to keep it, would the Florence, AZ, law enforcement treat it as a civil matter if the one it is lent to refused to return it? You hold the title, proof of ownership, yet they can lock your vehicle away in a garage and you can do nothing without spending money on attorney to retrieve what was already always yours – with proof. Most think law enforcement is meant to uphold the law, not interpret in direct opposition according to an attorney – one educated, a degree – in law – exclusively. Most think Latoya should have already been returned to her owner, and by texts, so did Gail, claiming Latoya would be coming back home within days.
Instead, Bonnie Poe was slapped with a “harassment” claim, though she only went to bring Latoya home.