Oct. 17, 2007 -- A doggie drama that pits talk show host Ellen DeGeneres against an animal shelter is heating up as the shelter owner says she's received death threats and is afraid for her safety.
The controversy began when DeGeneres adopted a pup named Iggy from Pasadena, Calif.,-based Mutts and Moms animal shelter. But when the dog could not get along with DeGeneres' cats, she gave the dog to her hairdresser's 11- and 12-year-old daughters.
But the shelter stepped in and took the dog back, saying DeGeneres had signed an agreement that if she cold not keep the dog she would give it back to the shelter. In addition, the shelter says it has a policy of not giving puppies to families with children younger than 14.
DeGeneres, who is known for her rambunctious and spirited greetings at the beginning of her talk show, stunned her audience Tuesday when she broke down on air, sobbing as she begged the animal shelter to return the dog to her hairdresser.
"Today is a hard day for me. Today is bad. I am not capable of coming out and pretending to be funny … when things are going so terribly wrong right now," DeGeneres said.
Then the bubbly comedian launched into an emotional monologue.
"I feel totally responsible for it and I'm so sorry," she said on air. "I'm begging them to give that dog back to that family. I just want the family to have their dog. It's not their fault. It's my fault. I shouldn't have given the dog away. Just please give the dog back to those little girls."
'Can We Have Iggy?'
DeGeneres adopted Iggy from Mutts and Moms last month. She said that she spent $3,000 on the puppy to try to acclimate it to live with her cats.
But, DeGeneres said, "It was just too much energy and too rambunctious."
DeGeneres said her hairdresser's daughters, who already have a dog, wanted a puppy.
"They said, 'We love Iggy. Can we have Iggy?'" DeGeneres said.
Weeks later, people from Mutts and Moms came to the family's home claiming to be on an inspection, but instead they took Iggy back.
Police allowed Mutts and Moms to leave with Iggy because DeGeneres had technically violated her agreement with the agency.
"Well, I guess I signed a piece of paper that says if I can't keep Iggy it goes back to the rescue organization," DeGeneres said.
The girls, meanwhile, are heartbroken and want Iggy back.
More On-Air Messages
Marina Batkis, the owner of Mutts and Moms, says she's looking out for the best interests of the puppy.
"If Ellen wants to start her own rescue group then she can decide where the dogs go," Batkis said. "Who is she to say who is a good home and whose not? And who is she to say where I should place my animals and how I should do this? I don't tell her how to run her show."
Batkis' lawyer played a voice mail message for "Good Morning America" that he says is from a DeGeneres public relations representative.
The voice mail says: "We're filing a legal case against you. We're going to be contacting the media. This is not going to be good for your store or your organization."
Batkis says that because of the way she's been treated by DeGeneres, she absolutely has no intention of giving back the puppy.
In response, DeGeneres taped a message that will air later today on her show.
"This has become so insane. It's not even, it's just just the dog just needs to go to the family. It's like the fight should … not be about anything," she said. "It just needs to be in a good home. That's all you're supposed to do is put a dog in a loving home."