Carnival show owner threatens suit over five-legged puppy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lilly, the five-legged puppy, may still end up in a New York freak show if John Strong gets his way.

Strong, who owns a Coney Island exhibit featuring unusual animals, says he'll file a lawsuit today in Charlotte to stake his claim for Lilly. He's retained a local lawyer, he says, but wouldn't name the attorney.

Strong contends he's the rightful owner of Lilly because the pup's original owner, Calvin Owensby of Gastonia, broke an implied contract to sell him the dog.

The two had agreed on a price and Strong paid a $1,000 deposit. But Owensby decided to sell the pup to a Charlotte woman after media reports of the freak-show deal sparked an outcry from animal advocates.

"It's like a guy who sells you a car and then later tells you he's going to sell it to someone else," Strong told the Observer Wednesday. "I was the original owner — it doesn't matter if it's a five-legged dog, a house or a car."

Owensby questions the merit of Strong's threatened lawsuit: "We didn't have no contract. We didn't sign any papers or anything. I don't see why he'd do that; I refunded his money."

Strong acknowledges he got his money back, and last week said he was disappointed but could live with the outcome. He told the Observer: "Sometimes, you just gotta say: 'OK, I still have nine live, two-headed animals,' and move on."