This week has been tumultous. So many directions to search for Piper – so many people to interview.

This week, we were given the opportunity to speak directly with Veronica Covatch and discuss her reactions to the constant defamation and misstatements being thrown around the web in the debate over her beloved Piper.

When she agreed to speak with me, it was with the understanding that since this is now in litigation, we would talk only to set the record straight directly with her words.

Covatch has tried to ignore the constant unfounded criticism directed at her as a “breeder”, as the word is used as perjorative in AR circles and by COSR supporters. From pages appearing on facebook decrying “I Hate Breeders” to more subtle and not so subtle insults and distortions and accusations, an attempt is being made to discredit Covatch because she is a “BREEDER”.

As a bit of background to this interview, perhaps it is worth looking at exactly what makes someone a RESPONSIBLE Breeder of purebred dogs.

Responsible breeders work toward protecting and preserving the standard of their chosen breed of dog. In seeking to better the genetic strength of that breed, hips of babies, then adults are xrayed for signs of abnormalities, if the pups aren’t cleared – they aren’t bred. Eyes are checked by specialists, conformation to the standard of the breed is checked from puppyhood to see if a pup will bring forward the strongest and healthiest traits. Temperament is crucial and is a determining factor in developing a successful line of purebred dogs.

When those who are unaware of the care and consideration that goes into producing healthy, strong and happy dogs make ludicrous statements about the “abuse” of showing, they don’t follow their own senses. Dogs that are not happy and well adjusted just don’t “show” – they are not selected, not chosen as best of breed, best of winners. To be chosen a Champion, the dog must be as determined and driven as the handler and owner – otherwise, the performance in the ring is dull and unsuccessful.

With that in mind, I asked Ms Covatch how it felt to be the subject of so much negativity during her quest to bring her Ch Legacies Pipe Dream home.

Ms Covatch: “I have ignored the defamation directed toward me so not to be diverted from the main goal of bringing Piper home, but now that some brave souls are beginning to come forward to bring the truth out, I feel it’s time to take a stand about the lies being used as an excuse for the continued wrongful and immoral hiding of my cute little dog, Piper.

EB: Ms. Covatch, This has turned into a frenzied battle, it would seem, pitting breeders against rescues, with some people saying they will never give to a rescue again. How do you feel about this debate?

Ms. Covatch: As my Attorney, Lloyd Cohen of the Cohen Law Offices of Columbus, Ohio, said, we support rescues and believe that rescues fulfill a noble purpose. This is just the case of the dog that did NOT need to be rescued – at least, not until Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue got hold of her. The issue is not all rescues, but just one rogue rescue and the focus is just one person who has hidden and concealed my beloved Piper ever since she got control of her.

EB: On Aug. 14th, NBC4i in Columbus aired a segment interviewing you and Mr. Cohen, as well as giving Attorney John Bell (attorney for COSR) an opportunity to respond. Bell’s first comment was “This is a lot over one stray…” 

What was your reaction to that statement?

Ms. Covatch: Piper is so much more to me. Not only is she my beloved companion, she is a real nice looking purebred Show Dog capable of breeding. She is valuable to anyone in control of her. Even though I contacted COSR within hours after they took her in, they’ve publicly acted like she is something that needs to be hidden … but what they are doing in private…  I can only fear.

EB: Bell also made the statement that “once a rescue gets a dog, they have it” and nothing more needs to be said. He made that statement on camera during that interview. And, yet, you have filed a costly lawsuit contesting that position.

Ms. Covatch: This is their real position and the falsehoods are just a diversion. It’s something that many rescues, including the National Sheltie Rescue, do not support. It’s something that everyone with a dog in Ohio is beginning to fear, but according to my attorney, the position is not supported by Ohio Law. I hope my litigation makes this clear and keeps Ohio safe for dog owners and their furry friends.

EB: Sanderbeck/COSR originally claimed that no proof to Piper’s identity/ownership had been given.

Ms. Covatch: Piper’s identity is proven by two documents – those two show absolute proof – (1) an affadavit showing Piper’s Microchip number from the Vet that put the microchip into her, and (2) the microchip scan record of the Franklin County Animal Shelter proving that it was Piper who was handed off to COSR. That is the only thing about which nothing more needs to be said.

EB: In the early negotiations with ASSA through Jim Melton’s efforts, one of the sticking points was the demand that you remove all negative comments from the internet prior to Piper being returned. Did you attempt to do that?

MsCovatch: As has now been made public,  Jim Melton of the National Sheltie Rescue intervened to get all irksome comments and even news articles taken down.  With that done, COSR absurdly escalated demands and stopped talking altogether – like they never wanted to settle! In fact, the only harassing comment made on the internet was Attorney Bell’s open letter defaming me that COSR posted on their website. That letter’s a big reason I am speaking now. Because I must either go after the defamation or go after Piper. I chose to go after Piper and I am having to suffer the abuse while trying to save my dog.

EB: One of the more amazing demands made was for you to solve an alleged burglary that you were even accused of being a part of.

Ms. Covatch: I am so glad that it’s finally out in the news that there are no identified witnesses, no proof of crime, and possibly no occurrence of any event whatsoever! When the dust settles, it will be clear that the only reason that any names got into a police report was the unfortunate fate of being on the other side’s enemy list. There is no investigation being conducted and I have asked Attorney Cohen to make demand upon the police department to cease, through inaction, being complicit in the other side’s defamation and diversion by either charging someone with something or closing the case and making the findings public.

EB: Are you worried about Piper? Many online are asking for proof that she is safe – yet no one has seen any photographs or any proof that she is still alive.

Ms Covatch: not only have I not seen my four-legged companion and furry friend for over four months, no one has come forward to verify that Piper is still alive and well. Instead of bringing Piper forward, the other side’s strategy of repetition has been encouraging others to assume the fabrications are fact even though their excuses and accusations are nothing more than defamation and diversion. The one fact that does stand out is that Piper has been hidden and concealed for over four months without anyone giving a good reason why.

Following my interview with Ms Covatch, several issues stood out that needed further investigation. Under the Sunshine Act in Ohio, I have obtained the full police report of the alleged breakin at Sanderbeck’s home – the alleged “burglary” that Attorney Bell demanded be solved before even considering the return of Piper. Bell also used that alleged “burglary” as an excuse for not allowing another rescue to take control of Piper until this situation was resolved, claiming that any other rescue might place Piper in the hands of a “burglar”.

Here are the facts as we know regarding this alleged “burglary” 

It was reported NOT by Penny Sanderbeck, but called into the Columbus Police Dept. on April 28 at approximately 6pm in the evening. I interviewed the Sgt who had been assisting another call and was in the immediate area. Sgt. Christopher Odem responded to the 2266 Majestic Pl. address where he was met by two women, Tamara Basso and Penny Sanderbeck. As the incident report [Event Information sheet P140341932] states, Basso was at the address checking on the Sanderbeck dogs. She states that Sanderbeck is only ten minutes away.

 Sergeant. Odem stated he was taken into the residence and taken to a back bedroom where one of the women pointed to a window and said someone entered through the window. Sgt. Odem also said the house was full of barking dogs and the residence reeked of urine odor. Sgt Odem also said the house was in a state of disarray. 

When Sgt Odem returned to the precinct, he turned the case over to Officer George White for followup.

A Detective Bowen also was assigned to investigate the alleged burglary. According to both an interview with Detective Bohen and the subsequent FOIA report, the two women claimed that a neighbor saw two women in a grey van wearing hoodies who entered the house from the back window.

The original breakin report claimed papers of no value were taken and $200 damage was done to the bedroom window. On May 7, an addendum was filed stating documents from the Franklin County Animal Shelter (license transfer, shot records, etc) for a shetland sheepdog (sheltie) named (sherry) were taken [Report # 140341932]. (This addendum claimed the breakin was on 4/21/14)

The papers allegedly stolen, however, were already widely published on the internet in multiple sources by April 25th, even though the pages were removed at the request of Melton, the papers had been widely seen and the microchip issue debated.

On May 20, Ms Sanderbeck called Detective Bowen and told him she had taken a sheltie dog into her program and that Veronica Covatch had been calling trying to claim the dog (and after Ms Covatch had also provided her with ample evidence as proof of ownership of Piper). Ms. Sanderbeck’s attorney claimed to have spoken with Ms Covatch and claimed he would be filing a defamation suit against Ms Covatch. Detective Bowen stated in both his narrative and in our interview that he repeatedly asked Sanderbeck to come in and bring in her “witness” – however, she stopped calling him. 

Detective Bowen stated the case is now considered inactive.

Another point to consider: in an interview with Adam Meredith for an article on Dailykos regarding issues involving Sanderbeck and her involvement with his terminally ill mother, Meredith stated that he had multiple personal encounters with Sanderbeck during the period between March, 2014 and July, 2014.

He went to Sanderbeck’s home to retrieve a mattress and box springs stored in Sanderbeck’s basement – when he arrived, he also said the house reeked of urine and had feces all over the floor. The mattress in the bedroom was feces and urine covered and had to be thrown out. He was unaware of any involvement or knowledge of any dog at that time. He also said there were no visible crates in the house and no kennel area. Shortly after the mattress incident, Sanderbeck and Meredith rented a UHaul truck to pick up a hospital bed for Meredith’s mother to replace the damaged one from Sanderbeck’s home. It was at that time she mentioned just having acquired a very valuable dog from the Shelter. Adam recalled Sanderbeck saying she would not return Piper because “the owner was too stupid to go and look for it – and that now that she (Sanderbeck) had it, it was hers and she wasn’t giving it back.” Sanderbeck also told Meredith that she had named the dog “Sherry” after his mother, but would be changing the name to “Mirage” because the owner was calling to reclaim her dog – Sanderbeck described the name change to Adam as meaning “Mirage, because you think you see it, but you don’t”.

At the time this occurred, Adam and Arron Meredith were totally unaware of any controversy surrounding Piper. On the day that Cheryl Meredith died, Sanderbeck was allowed to be present (after being banned by the Hospice earlier). Sanderbeck brought Tamara Basso with her and the two women spent the last hours talking constantly about how the “dog will never be found, she is totally hidden”. Adam said that he and others present felt something wasn’t right, yet it was still several weeks before he and his brother learned of the now raging controversy surrounding Sanderbeck’s refusal to return Piper to her owner.

The Merediths contacted sites writing about Piper to offer information that they had heard in the prior weeks. They also made available a video taken when the Meredith brothers took Police officers to Sanderbeck’s home to recover property she had taken after their mother’s death. One of the most striking aspects of the video is the number of agitated and barking dogs. This reporter’s question is simple: WHO in their right mind would climb through an open window into a house full of loose barking dogs?

The Merediths witnessed Sanderbeck and Basso boasting to their mother the day she died that the dog was so hidden that no one would ever find her.

For more on the video and the tie-in to the Meredith’s and Tamara Basso and Attorney Bell and Penny Sanderbeck, please go read the article on DailyKos.