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DENVER — A dog owner said she’s livid the Denver Animal Shelter spayed her prize-winning French bulldog without her permission, making the dog ineligible to compete in the future.

China was one of two dozen French bulldogs rescued after investigators said they found them living in deplorable conditions at Marleen Puzak’s home.

Michelle Tippets sent her dog China to Puzak’s home to be shown in competitions. Tippets said Puzak did an excellent job with China at competitions, and she had no idea what was happening inside Puzak’s home.

“I would say probably hell,” Tippets said.

Tippets started working to get China back when she found out the dog had been taken into custody and was staying at the Denver Animal Shelter.

On Friday, she showed up to pick up the dog, only to find she faced a $600 fee and China had been spayed.

“My dog was spayed. My dog was not supposed to be spayed. I shouldn’t have to pay for something that shouldn’t have been done,” Tippets said. “I can’t believe this.”

Tippets said she contacted the shelter mid-August about China. A shelter spokesman said the dog was spayed on Aug. 24, two days ahead of an adoption event.

Tippets’ attorney Jennifer Edwards said the animal shelter was out of line; veterinarians should not have spayed a dog knowing there were discussions in the works that the dog was already owned by someone.

“It’s deeply disturbing to us,” Edwards said. “They should have held off. They should have exercised a lot more discretion.”

A shelter spokesman said because the dogs had been in Puzak’s custody for more than six months, Puzak became the legal owner.

When Puzak relinquished the rights to the animals, they became property of the shelter.

The spokesman said the dog’s microchip was not registered to Puzak’s name. The spokesman said the shelter gave Tippets 10 days to provide proof that she owned the dog.

As it drew close to the adoption event, the spokesman said the shelter spayed China so she had a good shot at being adopted, given that officials still didn’t have proof Tippets owned the dog.

Edwards said her legal team plans to take Puzak to court to get reimbursed for the fees Tibbets had to pay for the dog staying in the shelter.