What started as positive publicity for an animal shelter in Maine has turned into controversy.
The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston, Maine, admits to violating its own policies to allow Gov. Paul LePage to adopt a dog this week.
LePage visited the GAHS Tuesday to see a Jack Russell Terrier, advertised on the shelter's website. The governor's family recently lost its dog, Baxter, to cancer.
The dog he visited at the humane society was not technically up for adoption yet, but the shelter allowed him to take it home that day.
"We need to think about the shelter as a whole and this was a situation where we knew it was going to have a positive impact, for the most part, for the shelter," said operations manager Zach Black.
The GAHS Facebook page posted two photos of the governor with the new dog, which he named "Veto," and social media went wild. Many responses were positive, but at least one person had a very negative reaction to the adoption.
"I just saw the picture and I broke down," said Heath Arsensault.
Arsensault had also seen the terrier on the shelter's website, and called ahead to inquire about it. Arsensault was told it would be available on a first-come, first-serve basis later in the week.
"They told me when, and where, and what I needed to do," Arsensault said, and made arrangements for a friend to stop by the shelter and double check that the terrier would be a good fit.
"He was just the right size for my apartment, and he's just really sweet," said Arsensault, who even took a day off of work to be sure to be at the shelter early in the morning, and first in line to adopt him.
Arsensault, who was a victim of a sexual assault, planned to use the animal as an emotional support dog. Physical contact with people can cause anxiety, and Arsensault hoped having a dog would help ease that discomfort and eventually help repair relationships.
"It wasn't about, 'Oh I wanted that dog and somebody else adopted it," said Arsensault. "It just felt like my happiness was taken away from me. Bettering my relationships — that was taken away from me."
Arsensault reached out to the GAHS to ask why the governor was allowed to take the dog early, and the shelter has expressed willingness to help Arsensault find a dog.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Governor LePage said:
"The GAHS allowed him to take the dog that day," a spokesperson for LePage said in a statement. "He did not ask to take Veto home; GAHS offered. He was very pleasantly surprised ... Veto was pretty excited, too."
The governor's office was sure to blame the media.
"It is truly unfortunate and very sad the media is using unsubstantiated claims from a Facebook page to make it look like the Governor did something wrong by lovingly adopting a rescue dog that had once been homeless," the statement continued. "The attempt to besmirch the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society for doing such wonderful work is just another low blow by the media in their relentless mission to smear the Governor."