A family in Virginia is suing animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for more than $7 million in damages after two employees allegedly took away a little girl’s dog in October 2014 and euthanized it. The family says the chihuahua, Maya, was intentionally stolen.
Court papers filed Monday in Norfolk allege trespassing and emotional distress, reports Wavy TV, an NBC affiliate in Virginia. Maya was a Christmas gift from Wilber Zarate Llaven to his daughter Cynthia in 2011. The Zarates say PETA employees lured Maya away from the family mobile home on Oct. 18 2014 and loaded her in the back of their van.
According to the lawsuit, a security video shows a PETA worker seizing the dog off the porch, after first trying to have two children in the neighborhood help lure it down.
PETA was reportedly invited to that area to help residents dealing with abandoned dogs and said Maya had been accidentally taken as part of a round-up of stray animals, according to Wavy TV. PETA was fined $500 in February by the Commonwealth of Virginia because it did not keep the dog alive for the length of time required by law.
“We want to hold them accountable for what they do and we look forward to a trial in this case,” Zarate family attorney William Shewmake told the affiliate by phone Tuesday.
PETA’s general counsel Jeffrey S. Kerr said in a statement that the lawsuit was filled with “outright fabrications.”
“It is a money grab against a charity that had been called in to help a community, did its best, and made one tragic mistake for which it has tried hard to make amends,” he said. “Those efforts have been refused. PETA will mount a vigorous and aggressive defense.”