Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division
JAMIE F. PATTERSON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
ROUGH ROAD RESCUE, INC., STEVE SVEHLA and LINDA SVEHLA, Defendants-Appellants.
from the Circuit Court of Perry County Honorable Craig D.
LAWRENCE E. MOONEY, JUDGE
dog must have his day." And today is Mack's
a three-year old dog, believed to be a boxer-mastiff mix. He
was rescued by Rough Road Rescue, an animal-rescue
organization located in Perry County, Missouri. Rough Road
Rescue was founded by Steve Svehla and his wife, Linda
Svehla, with the purpose of caring for stray animals and
placing them with good families. The rescue group placed over
one hundred animals with adoptive families since its
inception in 2013. Jamie Patterson adopted Mack from the
rescue in early 2015. The rescue group, however, reclaimed
Mack after he bolted and escaped from the Patterson yard. The
group asserted that Ms. Patterson violated the adoption
contract, and that they had the right to retake Mack. Ms.
Patterson disagreed. And so the parties went to trial to
resolve this dispute.
2014, Ms. Patterson stopped at the rescue facility with her
son, so that he could donate some blankets he had made for
the dogs housed at the rescue. While there, they met Mack,
and instantly fell in love with him.
Patterson expressed an interest in adopting Mack. The rescue
group informed her that they had a lengthy process for
adoption that included several visits at the rescue facility,
and then if those went well, a home visit. The rescue group
also performs background and reference checks on the
potential adoptive family. The only other matter the group
mentioned to Ms. Patterson was that Mack would have to be
neutered. Ms. Patterson believed that if she was approved for
adoption, she would own Mack. And so she began the adoption
Patterson made two further visits to the rescue facility. The
first time she and her son visited, to once again see Mack,
and to ask Mr. Svehla a little more about Mack's
personality. The second time, Ms. Patterson brought her other
dog out to meet Mack, to see if the two dogs would get along.
Svehlas brought Mack to the Patterson home for a visit on
January 24, 2015. The visit went very well. Mack was very
happy, and the Pattersons were very happy. The visit went so
well, in fact, that the Svehlas decided to leave Mack and to
complete the adoption that day. This came as a surprise to
Ms. Patterson. Based on what the rescue group had told her,
she expected this visit to be just a home visit and that the
adoption would take place at some later date if the home
visit went well.
complete the adoption process, Ms. Patterson paid a $40
adoption fee and a $15 microchip fee. She also signed a
document entitled "Animal Adoption Contract And
Spay/Neuter Agreement." Ms. Patterson testified that the
rescue group never told her that she would be required to
sign anything before getting Mack. During the home visit,
while Ms. Patterson and her children played with Mack, Mr.
Svehla and Ms. Patterson's husband spoke about erecting a
fence, and Mr. Svehla said that he would add that provision
into the contract. Other than a fence, Mr. Svehla and Mr.
Patterson did not talk about any other contractual terms.
According to Ms. Patterson, the Svehlas neither read through
the document with her before she signed it, nor told her what
was in the document, other than reemphasizing the need to
neuter Mack. Most particularly, the Svehlas did not review
with Ms. Patterson the paragraph stating that Mack could be
reclaimed by the rescue group if the Pattersons did not
comply with the adoption contract. The process was so rushed
that Ms. Patterson did not get a copy of the document she
the adoption process completed and Mack in her possession,
Ms. Patterson believed that she owned Mack and that she had
gained all rights to the dog. Ms. Patterson believed that the
rescue group's use of the word "adoption" meant
full ownership, and nothing less. Ms. Patterson did not know
that the rescue group would claim the authority to take Mack
away from her. Had she known this, Ms. Patterson would not
have signed the contract. Ms. Patterson only became aware of
the provision some eleven months after adopting Mack, when
the rescue group reclaimed Mack and refused to give him back
to the Patterson family.
adoption contract used by the rescue group states in
pertinent part that the adopter "acknowledge[s]
receiving custody of the above described animal from ROUGH
ROAD RESCUE, INC., " and that the adopter "agree[s]
to abide by the following conditions...." The contract then
lists ten enumerated conditions, the most relevant of which
1. I will have my adopted pet spayed/neutered within 60 days
of the spay/neuter date above. After which, I will provide
proof of Sterilization to Rough Road Rescue, Inc. Missouri
Law requires the spaying or neutering of animals adopted from
this and similar facilities.
3. I will provide humane care, giving the animal proper food,
water, shelter, exercise and love. I will provide competent
veterinary care in case of illness and injury. I will have my
pet inoculated ...