WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) - Ilario Pantano claims the president of a puppy rescue group is harassing him and his family and has thrust his Goldendoodle puppies into a political battle.
Jacquie Yorke, the President of the Doodle Rescue Society in New Jersey, says the Pantano family volunteered to be a foster-family for two Goldendoodles. That was all well and good. But when the Pantanos officially adopted the dogs, York eventually found out they didn't meet the requirements the society has for adoption.
Yorke tells us when she called the Pantano's vet, the doctor said another one of their pets was not up to date on heartworm medication, which was an automatic disqualifier. She also says the rules of adoption also state that the family cannot have children under a certain age or be a first-time pet owner.
She says the Pantanos also let Illario's mother Merry take care of them. Yorke claims she doesn't qualify either because she was a first-time owner.
So, Yorke asked for the Pantanos to return the puppies. She says the Pantanos refused, and the argument escalated from there. She admits that she left some pretty nasty messages on their voice mail, alluding to Illario's service in Iraq and his shooting of two Iraqi citizens. She's also called the Pender County Animal Shelter and the Pender County Sheriff's Department looking for help.
We asked Yorke why it was okay for a family who didn't meet requirements to foster the puppies but not okay to adopt them, and she admitted she didn't have a good answer.
Thursday afternoon, Pantano issued the following statement, claiming York is a liberal political activist out to get him and his family. Yorke contends she just wants the puppies back.
ILLARIO PANTANO'S STATEMENT:
Pantano Family Rescues Puppies and Faces Harassment by Liberal Activists
When Jill Pantano responded to a request to rescue puppies from a litter in Charlotte whose owner could not manage the dozen baby animals, she never thought she would be sued over it. But then politics entered the equation - the silly season has begun early this year!
Jill Pantano, wife of congressional candidate Ilario Pantano, has rescued animals before and was eager to help. The owner of the puppies was paid by the Pantano family and is happy that the dogs are in a good home. Case closed, right? But instead of thanking Mrs. Pantano, radical animal rights activists in New Jersey have cursed her, harassed her, and are threatening a lawsuit - all because of her husband’s conservative politics.
The activist that has targeted the Pantano family is Ms. Jacquie York from Montclair, New Jersey. She has left the Pantanos threatening voicemail messages, has made false claims and false 911 calls to trigger visits from local law enforcement on Pantano’s wife and his mother. Ms. York made these harassing phone calls from 600 miles away in New Jersey with no actual knowledge of or regard for the care that these puppies were receiving with the Pantano family and their two young children.
“These puppies are for my children and their grandmother. They were in need of a home, and we stepped up. We paid for them and are caring for them. My 6 and 8 year old sons have named them 'Jack Jack' and 'Tallulah.' Now, some New Jersey activist with a political score to settle against my husband is ultimately trying to harm my kids. My two boys should not be paying an emotional price for their father’s politics. It makes me sad,” said Jill Pantano. “This activist has a long history in the animal rescue community of bullying dog owners, picking fights with families, and filing frivolous lawsuits. Now, she has left harassing and threatening phone calls for us and others (which we have saved, by the way) although the language is too profane for my kids to hear. I’m not even comfortable transcribing them.”
Merry Pantano, mother of congressional candidate Ilario Pantano, has sent a cease and desist order asking that the harassment be stopped since the puppies were purchased outright from the owner and the activist group has no claim to the animals and no grounds for further harassment. But that didn’t stop Ms. York and the activists in New Jersey that have now hired lawyers in Raleigh and are threatening to sue the Pantanos in a further effort to smear their name. The Pantanos are represented by a Wilmington attorney and have vowed to fight for their puppies and their children.
Ilario Pantano released the following statement: “The facts of the case are simple: the puppies needed to be rescued and my family stepped up. Now an animal rescue group in New Jersey is trying to deny my children these pets because of who I am. We were simply going to adopt the animals, but when liberal activists in New Jersey found out who I was, my conservative beliefs made me a target. Instead of listening to more of her harassing and threatening phone calls, we decided to purchase the puppies outright from their lawful owner. Why is this harassment and nonsense continuing? Because I am a conservative Christian Republican Marine who hunts, I have been targeted by animal activists that have called my wife and I terrible names and profanities, which we have on a recorded voice mail. This activist has literally threatened to 'smear my family’s good name all over the internet.' Sadly, this isn’t about the puppies we bought for my children, this is about the politics of personal destruction. Please pray for my family as we endure yet another round of slings and arrows from folks 600 miles away from Wilmington that seem intent on harassing my family and hurting my children and our good name. I didn’t know that you had to be a Democrat to adopt a puppy. ”