It wasn’t the perfect start to 2020 for Savannah Marino. Shortly after the start of the New Year, she and her family returned from their grandmother’s house to find that their Maltipoo, Byron, was missing from their Houston home.
The Marino family stayed up until nearly 3 a.m. looking for Byron before deciding to continue their search in the morning. Byron was microchipped, and the family made sure his contact details were up to date and marked Byron as missing in case he was found.
The research continued for another 14 months.
“Always check out wherever we can think of like the Nextdoor app, whatever,” Marino told USA TODAY. “We spent countless hours on the streets looking for him.”
It was March 2021 when Marino’s younger sister Brianna decided to verify the microchip information again. But when she did, family information was no longer recorded with Byron.
“Someone else’s name came up, and they said this chip is already registered for this new owner,” said Savannah Marino. “We say, ‘Whoa, wait. What is happening here?'”
The family delved into why the microchip belonged to someone else and discovered that Byron was found in February 2020. He was given to a new family the same month.
Byron’s chip was registered by Michelson Found Animals. Savannah Marino’s dad contacted the microchip recording company to ask what had happened but was told the recording company would not get involved as it was a matter of property.
Michelson Found Animals did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.
After lobbying the company, the family learned that the new information on the microchip had been uploaded by Poodle Rescue of Houston. They tried to contact the rescue group several times and got no immediate response.
When Poodle Rescue of Houston contacted the family, the Marinos said, the organization told them that the submitted microchip number belonged to one of their dogs. There were other obstacles the Marinos overcame before the rescue shelter understood their history. When they discussed the situation, things did not go as the family had hoped.
“Basically, they were like, ‘The other family don’t want to give up on it. Would you accept a puppy instead of Byron? ‘ ”Said Savannah Marino.
The Marino family refused and the rescue organization decided to ask the other family if they would agree to take the puppy. The other family said they wanted to keep Byron, who had been renamed.
When Byron was found, Poodle Rescue of Houston told NBC-KPRC Houston that he had tried to contact the dog’s owners, but they were “unreachable.” When no calls were returned, the organization said, Byron was determined to be dropped.
But Savannah Marino says her family has never been contacted by Poodle Rescue of Houston in those 14 months.
Poodle Rescue did not respond to multiple requests for comment from USA TODAY.
The Marino family filed a lawsuit Monday against Poodle Rescue of Houston, Michelson Found Animals and the new owners of Byron.
The family also sought a temporary injunction against all of the accused and demanded that Byron be immediately returned to the Marino family.
Courtney Gahm-Oldham, attorney for the Marino family, told USA TODAY that legal action will be taken “if that’s what it takes to reunite the family” with Byron.
“We just want Byron to come home – that’s all that comes down to it,” Savannah Marino said. “Whatever it takes, we’ll fight to get Byron home.”
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.