Homeless man and Levi the Lab could be headed for Hawaii

Alan Lord and his dog Levi have been off the streets of Charlotte for the past two weeks after an anonymous donor volunteered to pay for a hotel room while the pair waits for clearance to fly to Hawaii to be with Lord’s brother.

Animal Care and Control of Mecklenburg County said this week it’s assisting the homeless man in completing the necessary paperwork to allow Levi to travel on an airplane and avoid being held in animal quarantine for up to four months. Hawaii, an island state, has strict requirements for pets. Animals without proper health records can be detained for lengthy observation periods.

It’s already been a long journey for Alan, 43, and Levi, a 4-year-old Labrador, and Hawaii is still more than 4,000 miles away.

Earlier this month, the Charlotte Observer reported Animal Care and Control officials have faced increased pressure from people concerned about Levi’s welfare. Lord and his dog have been homeless for nearly one year. Levi spends much of his day inside a travel crate.

Levi’s confinement led to near-daily complaints over the summer to Animal Care and Control. The North Carolina chapter of the Humane Society also says it got calls from people who were upset local animal welfare officials wouldn’t seize the dog.

Lord got his first citation from Mecklenburg County earlier this month, said Melissa Knicely, Animal Care and Control spokesperson. After months of working with Lord, the agency could no longer allow him break a local law that prohibits pet owners from keeping dogs confined to kennels or crates outdoors, she said.

The $40 ticket was paid by a friend of Lord’s, Knicely said. Then, Lord and Levi began staying in a hotel where the crate is not an issue, she said.

Now, the agency hopes the pair will be Hawaii-bound in the next few days to a week. Staff members have helped Lord gather Levi’s health records and complete quarantine paperwork in preparation for their trip. For speedy approval, Hawaii requires dogs be micro-chipped, up-to-date on vaccinations, treated for ticks and able to pass a rabies blood screening.

Levi is also now registered as a service dog, which means Lord can take his dog into most businesses and other places where pets might normally not be allowed. Lord says he’s trained Levi to help him pick up items because he is often unable to bend over due to long-term back injuries.

Lord said this week he’s optimistic about moving to Hawaii and hopes to train more service dogs.

These developments in Levi’s case seem positive, says Erica Geppi of the Humane Society in North Carolina. In recent weeks, she said, she’s had hours of conversation with people who believe Animal Care and Control should have taken Levi away from Lord while he’s homeless.

Geppi said she supports Animal Care and Control’s decision to keep Levi with his owner. A Humane Society director in Hawaii is standing by to help when Levi and Lord arrive, she said.

Ultimately, she said, the people who raised concerns and filed complaints with Animal Care and Control may have helped solutions flow faster for the homeless man and his dog. Their case is also a good reminder for people about the challenges facing both homeless people and their pets, she said. There are no shelters in Charlotte that allow homeless people to bring pets.

“It really puts a face on the issues,” Geppi said. “You can change one dog life or one human life by this community coming together.”