Editors note 4 p.m. 9-19-22: CitizenShipper did respond to our questions, saying that the pickup that occurred was unauthorized by their company. See below for details.
Terri, like many other dog owners, thought she was doing the right thing. Her 11-month-old Pomsky puppy was getting overwhelmed in the company of Terri’s other dogs. She decided to return Scooby to the care of his breeders, Lisa and Israel Moyet, in Hollywood, Florida. With the rising temperatures and increased delays, Terri did not like the idea of Scooby flying. She concluded that her only other option was a dog transportation service.
Terri (who asked to only be referred to by her first name) chose CitizenShipper, an online company that connects shippers with couriers and provides animal transportation services. The shipping service quickly matched her up with a courier, who according to the company, was a man from the Bronx named Isaiah Gonzalez.
However, when Scooby was picked up from Terri’s residence on June 20, a woman showed up on her doorstep.
The woman said her name was T.J. Terri welcomed her in, giving her food and drink, and allowing her other dogs — three mastiffs and one French bulldog — to meet their guest.
“She was very friendly, well-spoken, she did nothing that would raise my spidey-senses,” Terri said. “The only thing that I thought was weird was her U-Haul.”
According to Terri, the U-Haul smelled like urine. TJ told Terri she usually stayed in the U-Haul with the dogs during overnight stops in transit.
TJ stayed in contact with Terri throughout the early stages of transportation, even sending photo updates of Scooby. Then on the morning of June 22, Scooby’s estimated arrival, all communication came to a halt.
Terri attempted to contact who TJ had said was her dispatch for the business, a woman named Taylor. There was no response from TJ or Taylor. After several Facebook searches, Terri realized what was happening.
TJ’s real name was Tiara Alsaid, there were several Facebook posts discussing her services. Customers of her services claimed that Alsaid either failed to deliver the dogs or delivered them in seriously neglected conditions.
Alsaid was arrested in The Woodlands on August 30 by Montgomery County sheriff deputies on charges of animal cruelty and theft.
This morning, Alsaid, who has remained in Montgomery County Jail, is slated to appear for her hearing to obtain counsel.
“When you read their [CitizenShipper] ad, it says they do background checks and all that, so that is what I thought I was paying them for,” Terri said.
The Houston Press contacted CitizenShipper concerning the switch between couriers
but hasn’t received a response. Update: A representative of CitizenShipper issued this statement Monday afternoon in response to the Houston Press inquiry:
“We operate as a two-way marketplace, facilitating the connection between shipping customers and drivers. Drivers are independent contractors and never employees of CitizenShipper. We offer shipping customers powerful resources — such as driver background checks, driver profiles and reviews from past customers — so they can gain insight when selecting their transporter, but we’re never involved in the actual shipment. We also provide our shipping customers with Pet Protection Coverage — an industry first — and in the last year, we’ve helped facilitate over 30,000 successful transports throughout the country.”
CitizenShipper Customer Service
Terri paid $116 to CitizenShipper for these security services. She was supposed to pay Alsaid $450 in total for the transportation services but paid her only $154.50 up front. Terri had told Alsaid she would provide the rest after Scooby’s safe arrival.
Terri was finally contacted around 2 a.m. on June 23, by Lisa Moyet, one of the breeders who was taking Scooby. He was dropped off to his destination, dead and already decomposing in his crate.
“Immediately, the breeders where he was dropped off called me,” Terri said. “They told me Scooby was dead and I told them to call the police.”
Terri called everyone she knew. She contacted CitizenShippers, the Broward County police department in Florida and the Houston Police Department.
According to Sgt. Jason Smith of Montgomery County Constables Office Precinct 2, sheriff’s deputies ran the plates of Alsaid’s U-Haul and pulled her over once they confirmed the vehicle was listed as stolen.
The deputies performed a routine stolen vehicle inspection, finding four dogs in the back of the U-Haul covered in feces, urine, and without food or water.
“Our primary focus was making sure we got the dogs cared for, then trying to identify who the dogs belonged to,” Smith said.
According to Terri, Smith contacted her in the days following Alsaid’s arrest. He had found a bottle of Scooby’s pills with her name on it. Terri agreed to help in the investigation.
The Montgomery Police Department found multiple notified complaints to the Houston Police Department concerning Alsaid’s dog transportation services. They also uncovered outstanding drug warrants in Brazos County.
“Our agency had no knowledge of her until she was arrested,” Smith said. “The investigation that we are looking at now are any other cases that she has done this type of behavior.”
Smith has been in active contact with CitizenShipper and several of the customers of Alsaid’s transportation services. He has also forwarded the information to the IRS Criminal Investigations Division, as Alsaid funded the business through a $20,787 PPP loan granted to her by Cross River Bank in February 2021.
Cross River Bank did not respond when asked to comment on the contents or application process of acceptance of the loan.
The night of the arrest, Alsaid was accompanied by Houston resident Anthony Johnson. Johnson was arrested with Alsaid for possession of marijuana. According to Smith, the department is looking into the level of involvement he had with Alsaid’s business. Despite other media reports, it has not been confirmed that Johnson is an employee of Alsaid’s.
“We don’t know exactly what his official relationship with her is yet,” Smith said. “I expect it will probably take several months before we get completed with this case.”
Investigators have identified three of the dogs’ owners. The county has the last dog because officials have been unable to determine the owner. If the fourth dog is not relocated, it will go to Montgomery County Animal Shelter in hopes that it will be matched with an adoptive family.
Others affected by Alsaid’s services are still asking questions. Dyaisha Jordan, a resident of Palmetto, Florida is still missing her Belgian Malinois-German Shepherd, Blackie. Upon finding all the information concerning Alsaid’s activities, she has contacted the shelter multiple times. Blackie has not been registered through the shelter’s relocation services.
“It is just a question that we have no closure for,” Jordan said. “We are hopeful he will be turned into the shelter, but we still don’t have a clue as to whether he is even dead or alive.”