BOLIVIA, NC (WWAY) -- A former Navassa police officer was in court this morning fighting to keep the police dog he says is more like a member of his family.
"The Town of Navassa wanted to take our dog. My husband's K9," Lynn Smith, the officer's wife, said. "Our family pet. Our child basically."
For years, Luci served the people of Navassa as a police dog with her handler, Ofc. Kevin Smith, but to the Smith family, Luci was more than just a working dog.
"We have three kids. We have one special needs child, and she gets in the dog's face and gives her kisses and hugs," Lynn Smith said.
But when Ofc. Smith, who did not want to talk about the case, resigned from the Navassa Police Department, it sparked a battle with town leaders over whether Luci had been donated to Smith or the town leaving the dogs fate in the air.
Because he was Navassa's only trained canine officer, Smith says the fight for custody is simply a personal vendetta by Navassa Mayor Eulis Willis after Smith arrested the mayor for drunk driving last year.
"The mayor was arrested for a violation of law, which he has now pled guilty to. It is of no coincidence to us that this happened subsequent to this situation," Police Benevolent Association Executive Director John Midgette said.
Today, a judge heard the case and ordered that Luci remain with the officers family. The dog that was once a member of the force is now just a member of the family.
"She's definitely a good working dog, but she's our child," Lynn Smith said.
We tried to talk to Mayor Willis about the dog debate. He referred us to town attorney Norwood Blanchard, who said the case was brought about by the town council and not Mayor Willis, and that it was never personal.