Lost, Microchipped Pets – Emphasis on LOST

In theory, microchipping your pet is an excellent way to help get him back home should he ever get lost.  In reality, microchips are useless if the organization taking in lost pets doesn’t scan for them or contact the registered owner (and the alternate contacts, if necessary).  There have been a spate of stories recently involving microchipped lost pets being found and the owner not being contacted.

A Pennsylvania family who left their microchipped German shepherd Sophie with a relative while they went on vacation this month only found out she had gotten lost on July 4th after they returned home on the 13th.  They immediately called the HS of Westmoreland Co and learned their pet had been impounded on July 6 and adopted to a new owner six days later.  The HS says it tried to reach the registered owner (whom the family obtained the dog from) listed on Sophie’s microchip but the voicemail at that number was not set up.  After the 48 hour holding period elapsed, they offered the dog for adoption.  The original owner disputes the shelter’s claim about her voicemail.

Either way, if a chip’s first phone number doesn’t yield results, there are always the alternate contacts as well as registered mail and good old knocking on door.  But I guess that sounds like work.  The HS claims the adoption is legal and that the family never legally owned Sophie anyway because they hadn’t licensed her.  So stuff it, basically.

***

In Sonoma Co, CA, a lawsuit has been filed by the original owner of a 10 year old tuxedo cat who was microchipped at the time he went missing several years ago.  The current owner, who says she bought the cat 5 years ago from a rescuer she met through her veterinarian, only found out the cat was chipped last year when she took him to a new vet who scanned him.  She attempted to register the chip in her own name, prompting the chip company to contact the original owner.  The original owner says she bottle fed the kitten from birth, searched for him extensively when he got lost and still wants him back.  The current owner loves him too and doesn’t want to give him up.

Had either the rescuer or the first vet scanned the cat at the time he was found, he could have been returned to the original owner.  Now two people are heartbroken over the matter and a cat is caught in the middle.

***

The city of Alton, IL recently eliminated funding for its ACO position, turning those duties over to police.  This week, Alton police responded to a call about an injured dog in a store parking lot.  The 15 year old dog, called Buster, had wandered away from home and apparently hurt his rear leg.  His owner had filed a missing pet report with the police department including a description of Buster and his microchip information.

A witness says she saw police coax him into their car with bologna.  State law requires the officers to take the dog to a vet’s office to be scanned for a microchip.  Once the chip’s information had been read, the owner could have been contacted.  Instead, the officers reportedly drove the dog to the AC facility where one shot him twice with a .12 gauge shotgun and the other put two bullets from his .40 caliber Glock 23 into the pet.  After Buster was dead, a chip scan provided his owner’s information and the owner was notified of his pet’s killing.  Oh and the police love animals:

“We know what our protocol has been up to this point,” said Emily Hejna, public information officer for the Alton Police Department. “We were presented yesterday with some law saying something that might contradict what what we have been using as practice.”

Rather than task the police department with figuring out how to work compliance with some law into their protocol, the city voted to reinstate the ACO.  Hopefully the ACO has – and uses – a chip scanner.  While animals are still alive.

***

(Thanks to everyone who sent me links for this post.)

Shelter Sold Owned, Microchipped Lost Dog to Strangers While Owner Searched

Jingle and Toby, a pair of Schnauzers owned by Anita Sloan in Bedford, Texas, wandered away when someone accidentally left a gate open at the family’s home.  Ms. Sloan raised the pair from pups and considers them family.  She began searching for them immediately, hoping the microchip she had implanted in Jingle would help the family get reunited.

Ms. Sloan visited Bedford Animal Services but did not find her pets.  She was given a lengthy list of shelters to search.  She dutifully visited each one although there was some confusion about the two shelters in Keller:

Sloan explains she visited all but one shelter in Keller. The number printed for the shelter on the list she has, got her nowhere.

“The person you are trying to reach is not available,” a recording says when she dials the number.

The city apparently has two shelters:  Keller Animal Services and Keller Regional Adoption Center.  As it turns out, Jingle and Toby had been picked up by police and left at Keller Animal Services.  The city says it checked both dogs for chips but found none.  After the mandatory holding period, the dogs were transferred to the Keller Regional Adoption Center which is run by the HS of North Texas.  Staff there did detect Jingle’s chip but sold the dogs to a new owner anyway.  Because it’s not their job to return dogs to owners:

“At that particular facility we don’t handle lost and found animals. We just handle adoptions,” says Whitney Hanson, Director of Development & Communications.

Hanson explains that the facility would have only been looking at finding homes for the pets since Keller Animal Services had already processed the animals.

[…]

The Humane Society of North Texas says there is no existing system that allows all municipalities to communicate.

There is no existing system which allows all municipalities to communicate.  Fair enough.  But the HS knew Jingle was chipped.  Finding that chip should have prompted the HS to check the transfer paperwork and see if Keller Animal Services had followed up on the chip and what the outcome was.  The HS had an obligation to verify that the chip was a dead end before proceeding.  A statewide communication system is not required for that – just a phone call or email to Keller Animal Services to ask about the chip’s status.

And while it may not be the Humane Society’s job to return animals to their owners, common sense would dictate that a pair of schnauzers, typically a professionally groomed breed purchased from a breeder, aren’t walking the streets because they are homeless and just happened to meet each other in an alley and decided to pal around.  There would be every reason to suspect Jingle and Toby were owned, likely by the person who registered the chip, whom the HS never bothered to call.

Jingle and Toby are now living with people in Houston.  The HS of North Texas says that “according to Texas law, the schnauzers are the legal property of their new owners”.  The situation has been explained to the new owners and Ms. Sloan has offered to reimburse them for any expenses if they would return her family members.  They are reportedly considering what to do with the dogs.

Keller Animal Services failed to detect a lost dog’s microchip.  The HS of Texas detected the chip but made no effort to find out if Keller Animal Services had attempted to reach the registered owner.  The city says no one is at fault.  The situation looks bad.  It looks like the first shelter is either incompetent or lying and the second shelter is a money-grubbing doggie retail outfit where no one could be bothered to slow down in the rush to sell a bonded pair of little purebred dogs.

It’s 2015, Keller.  Time to step outside the Only This Thing is My Job and I Do Only This Thing box.  You may not have a statewide shelter communication system but I’m guessing there is such a thing as phone service in Keller.  Shame on everyone involved in the needless break up of this family because apparently no one at either shelter knows what the right thing to do is when it comes to pets.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Discussion: How Have Pets Helped Make Your Community Better?

SnoopyA recently published study in Australia found that pets help connect people within communities:

“We found that people who had a pet were more likely, than those who didn’t own a pet, to get to know people in their neighbourhood that they didn’t know before,” says [Associate Professor Lisa Wood from the University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health], adding that people from all walks of life were brought together.

“The great thing about pets is they are a really great leveller.”

And it went beyond pets breaking the ice and leading to a simple wave or a chat.

“Having a pet can actually lead to more meaningful relationships between people,” says Wood.

She and colleagues found 42 per cent of pet owners received practical or emotional support from others they had met through their pets.

And a more tightly knit community benefits everyone:

If you’ve got a street where dog owners help each other, they may be more likely to keep an eye on others in the street as well, whether they own pets or not, says Wood.

“There seems to be a ripple effect.”

What are your experiences?  Have you received support from someone in your community whom you met via a pet?  Do you perceive a ripple effect within your community stemming from relationships established via pets?  What other community benefits have you observed which you believe originated from the presence of pets?  Does your local shelter maintain a strong presence in the community in order to protect and promote animal welfare and the subsequent benefits to people?

The Irresponsible Public Comes Through When Pound Manager Fails to Protect the Human-Animal Bond

Last year the Everett Animal Shelter in Washington “rescued” 110 cats and kittens from a 32 foot trailer and killed them all.  And the response to panleukopenia at the facility has been mass killing.  It’s not a good place for cats.

Kali, as pictured on the website of the Everett Herald.

Kali, as pictured on the website of the Everett Herald.

Lisa Shelly, an area resident, has been struggling to keep her family together.  Her husband suffers from some very serious medical issues and she has been unable to find work.  The family lost their apartment 2 years ago along with most of their personal possessions.  They’ve been living in week-to-week motels and do not have a car.  At Christmas, all Ms. Shelly’s 9 year old son Ronan wanted was a kitten.  His Christmas wish came true and he named her Kali.

Kali recently got out through an open window and Ms. Shelly began looking for her immediately.  She eventually learned that Kali had been impounded by the Everett Animal Shelter.  Ms. Shelly went to the pound to reclaim Kali but was told she’d have to pay $205 to get her pet back.  She didn’t have the money:

“I had to come home without her,” Shelly said, and tell her son she couldn’t get Kali back. “He cried so hard.”

When contacted by the local paper, the pound manager was all about the law:

Dee Cordell, the operations coordinator for the Everett Animal Shelter, said $165 of the fee is charged by Snohomish County, because Kali came from an unincorporated part of the county. The remainder covers the shelter’s costs of getting the cat spayed, vaccinated and tagged with an identification chip.

“By law cats need to be licensed. Since the cat was not spayed and not chipped, the fee is $40,” Cordell said.

A local blogger pointed out that under the Everett municipal code, the manager is “authorized to reduce or waive any fee” except the licensing fee.

But since the manager was apparently uninterested in getting Kali back with her boy, Ms. Shelly enlisted the help of a friend to set up a donation page for the redemption fee.  After the story ran in the local paper, people began donating.  And they continued to give, long after the $205 was raised.  Because irresponsible public.

Thank you once again to the unwashed masses for protecting the human-animal bond, getting a beloved pet reunited with her family and for generally being an alright sort.  Now if Everett taxpayers had some people like that working at the shelter, the community might really shine.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Detroit AC: Quit Focusing on the Dog You Love and Just Get Some Other Dog

Detroit ACOs, whom you may remember from such exploits as Dragging Dead Dogs Whose Guts are Falling Out in Front of Neighborhood Children, are once again dazzling the kiddies with their animal handling skills.

Jenga, as pictured on freep.com.

Jenga, as pictured on freep.com.

Last week, local media reported that a friendly stray dog who was beloved by children and teachers at the school where the dog had been hanging out, was captured and hauled away by Detroit ACOs while the kids pleaded for the dog they named Jenga to be spared.  The incident was so upsetting to everyone who witnessed it that a fifth grade class is writing a letter to Detroit AC to express their feelings.

Teachers at the school immediately began making calls to various city offices to try to keep Jenga from being killed but all they got was the runaround.  One teacher offered to adopt Jenga outright or at least place her name on the dog as an interested party but AC refused, citing the 4 day holding period.  And she won’t be allowed to adopt Jenga from the pound after the holding period either:

[Harry] Ward [head of AC] said the department must keep stray dogs without identification for four business days. If they are unclaimed, animal control evaluates the dog. Dogs fit for adoption are made available to the Michigan Humane Society; the rest are put down.

The Humane Society visits Detroit Animal Control weekly and decides which dogs to accept into its adoption program, Ward said. The animal control department does not run an adoption program, he said, conceding that an outdated website says otherwise.

Oh swell.  Also, shame on those kids and their teachers for falling in love with a stray dog and caring what happens to her:

Ward suggested those concerned about Jenga’s fate adopt a dog from the Humane Society to make room for more dogs in the adoption program.

“Do something for all the dogs, instead of getting focused on the one dog,” Ward said.

[…]

“I know to the world this one dog is important. I want the world to know there are 38 other dogs that will come in over one or two days,” Ward said. “People need to pull back and look at the bigger issue.”

The bigger issue is that the head of Detroit AC doesn’t understand that dogs are not interchangeable widgets.  Pets are family.  Humans bond with them.  It’s actually the kind of thing AC should be encouraging, especially with children.

Unfortunately for Jenga, her only hope at this point seems to be a transfer to another pet killing facility.  Perhaps media attention will help save Jenga from the fate of so many other stray dogs in Detroit whom rescue groups say they try to help but must battle AC in order to do so.

(Thanks Clarice and Karen for the links.)

Weekend Jade

When one of us leaves the house, Jade keeps watch at the window.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ― A.A. Milne

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
― A.A. Milne

Police Department in CT Leads by Example

Zeus, as pictured on Facebook.

Zeus, as pictured on Facebook.

There have been far too many tragic stories on this blog where police officers needlessly kill pets and are not held accountable by their own departments despite the irreversible damage they have inflicted upon families in their communities.  But there are occasional stories where police do right by pets and I like to bring attention to those too.  In this case, Ridgefield police are doing right by one of their own.

Zeus is an 11 year old German shepherd dog who served in the department’s K-9 unit from 2006 – 2014.  He had to be retired from duty last year due to a severe hip disorder and went to live as a pet with the officer who was his handler on the force.  Zeus had an impressive career:

Zeus assisted with 250 narcotics arrests, tracked 50 missing or wanted people, located six people in life-threatening situations and found six suspects on the run after crimes, police said. He also helped police discover 10 pounds of marijuana in 2006. The department also did many demonstrations with the police dog for members of the public.

Zeus’s health has declined greatly this past year and he is scheduled to be euthanized today.  Many pet owners who make that difficult decision like to do something special with their beloved family member on that last day.  And in keeping with Zeus’s years of public service, the Ridgefield police department has announced a final ride for the dog:

Retired Police K-9 Zeus will be honored on Wednesday April 15, 2015 with his final ride. The ride will began at Police Headquarters at 4:45 pm and take the following route: West on Governor Street, North on Rt. 35/Main Street, North on Rt. 7, ending at Ridgefield Veterinary Hospital. Ridgefield officers will be joined by local law enforcement agencies to pay tribute to Zeus during this final ride.

Members of the community are asked to gather on the sidewalks of Main Street along the route if they wish to pay tribute.

This is leading by example.  This is how police engage the community and show that pets are family, deserving of respect and love in life and in death.  This is a police department giving recognition to the human-animal bond and the role it plays in our communities.  Well done.

I am grateful for Zeus’s service and for the fact that I know he feels loved today, just like every other day.  More police/pet stories like this please.

NC Dog Owner Files Lawsuit for Return of Her Pet Sold by County Pound

Bobo, as pictured on the WRAL website.

Bobo, as pictured on the WRAL website.

A lawsuit has been filed by a dog owner against Cumberland Co and the couple who bought her dog from the county pound, despite all parties knowing the dog had an owner who wanted him back.  The lawsuit provides a detailed timeline of events but I’ll provide a summary.

Bobo the golden retriever wandered away from his home on January 21, was found by a Good Sam and taken to the Cumberland Co pound.  The Good Sam said he would take Bobo back after the mandatory 3 day holding period if no one claimed the dog because he felt certain there was a local owner due to Bobo’s excellent condition and manners.

Meanwhile Bobo’s owner was physically searching for her family’s lost pet and networking with neighbors, including the local fire department.  Through the owner’s efforts, the Good Sam was made aware of her name and address while he was on his way to pick up Bobo from the pound on January 26.  He stopped by the owner’s residence but she was not home at the time.  He left his card and called the pound to advise he was on his way and to provide them with the owner’s name and address.  The staffer he spoke with told him if he didn’t arrive within the next 10 minutes – when the 3 day holding period expired – the dog would be sold to someone else.  The good Sam arrived at the pound 12 minutes later and found a man there in the process of adopting Bobo.  The Good Sam explained again to pound staff that the dog’s owner was known and told the potential adopter as well.  The adopter said he could provide a better home for Bobo than the actual owner and decided to move forward with the adoption, which the staff agreed to process.

State law and Cumberland Co code require pound staff to make reasonable efforts to contact the owner of an impounded pet, which the lawsuit alleges the county did not do.  And:

Like many shelters, Cumberland County gives owners three business days to claim a pet from the shelter. A county ordinance requires that timeline be extended another 72 hours “if the owner is known.”

The lawsuit alleges that the county only held Bobo for the initial 3 day period then ignored information regarding the owner’s identity and sold him improperly.  Bobo’s family is heartbroken and tried to get their dog back without resorting to legal action but both the county and the couple who bought Bobo ignored communication from the family’s attorney.  The couple reportedly stated in an email to WRAL that they had narrowly missed out on some previous attempts to adopt other rescue goldens and so placed their name on the list for Bobo.  They further stated that they could not return Bobo to his family “in good conscience” because it’s not in the dog’s “best interest”.

While the buyers seem to vaguely allude to some perceived lack of fitness upon the part of Bobo’s owners, the county was more specific, and in typical fashion, and put the blame for Bobo’s loss on the family:

“Cumberland County Animal Control followed its procedures in dealing with the stray dog dropped off at the Animal Shelter with no identifying tags or microchip. The impounded animal was not claimed by its owner after the required three-day holding period and no owner’s name or address was provided to the department. The dog then became available for adoption and we followed our procedures for that process.

“It is upsetting to lose a pet and we sympathize with the Davis family. We encourage pet owners to have their animals microchipped. All pet owners should make sure their pets are wearing proper vaccination and identifying tags. Should your pet go missing, contact or visit Animal Control immediately.”

Although it’s not 100% clear to me, it sounds as if the county may be denying the Good Sam provided Bobo’s owner information over the phone within the 3 day holding period and that when he arrived at the pound to provide it again, he was 2 minutes past the holding period and the county was within its legal rights to sell the dog.  And despite the county’s obvious attempt to smear the owners, the worst they could come up with is an implication that the owners failed to have tags on the dog (which is denied in the lawsuit).

It seems obvious what the right thing is here.  It should have been obvious to both the county and the buyer at the time the adoption was being processed.  Cumberland Co killed 63% of the dogs and cats it took in last year so perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that staff failed to do right by a pet in its care.  I don’t know what the buyers’ excuse is except for the fact that they didn’t get some previous rescue goldens they wanted and were apparently determined to get this one, even if he didn’t need rescuing.  The pettiness and mean-spiritedness from both the county and the buyers is shameful.  And poor Bobo has been needlessly separated from his family all these months.

Bobo’s owner is seeking his return in the lawsuit.  If the court rules in her favor, perhaps Cumberland Co will think twice next time about breaking up a family.  One hopes anyway.  Watch this space.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Family Believes NC Pound Illegally Killed Their Lost Cat

Burley, as pictured on the WCNC website.

Burley, as pictured on the WCNC website.

The Caldwell Co pound in NC is a cat killing machine.  In 2014, the pound killed 94% of the 1448 cats it impounded.  The facility’s website states that owners can look for their lost pets on Petfinder (and emphasizes the pound staff does not want owners calling the place).  But when I clicked through to Petfinder, it said no animals were listed.  The website does have 3 cats listed as adoptable but none have photos.  They’re doing the best they can, prolly.

When the family of a lost cat named Burley found out their pet had been impounded by the Caldwell Co pound the day before Good Friday, the staff had already gone home for the long holiday weekend.  Burley’s family went to the Caldwell Co pound when it reopened on Monday to inquire about him and were shown paperwork on 5 cats – 1 of whom matched Burley’s description.  When they went to look at the caged cats, 3 of the 5 cats were missing, including Burley.

Burley’s family believe he was killed by staff at the Caldwell Co pound.  But the director told a local news reporter that he thinks the cat escaped his cage somehow and then the building.  Somehow.  No word on whether the other 2 “missing” cats were also in on this great escape.

Burley’s owners consider him family and believe the people paid to protect him killed him in violation of the mandatory holding period, then fabricated a story to cover up their wrongdoing.  I can’t help wondering about the 1354 cats killed by the Caldwell Co pound last year.  How many of them had owners who wanted them back, just like Burley?  How many were held for the mandatory holding period – is anyone monitoring that?  Where are the other 2 cats who were discovered “missing” along with Burley?  How many owners of lost cats in Caldwell Co suffered heartbreak, never knowing what happened to their pets, and are now contemplating what tragic ends they may have met at the pound?

Caldwell Co taxpayers must demand better from their pound.  As it stands, they are funding a cat extermination facility.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for the link.)

The War on Cats: Arizona Edition

sb1260az

Portion of SB 1260 in Arizona

SB 1260 is currently awaiting the signature of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.  If signed into law, the bill would eliminate the mandatory holding period for cats lacking “discernable identification” who are found outdoors and brought to a county pound.  Those cats, including lost pets whose owners are looking for them and friendly, socialized cats who could be adopted, would be neutered, vaccinated, and dumped back on the street immediately after impound.

This bill serves to destroy the human-animal bond by breaking up families when owned cats get lost.  Taxpayer funded shelters are the very institutions which should be fighting to protect that bond, not trampling it.  It also endangers friendly cats who may lack the necessary skills to survive outdoors and should be adopted to a home.  The bill says eligible cats must be “living outdoors” but there is no way for a county pound to make this determination in most cases.  A friendly cat who is socialized to humans in fact may have lived indoors, even if he was found outside.  Further, the bill discriminates against cat owners by treating them as second class citizens behind dog owners, whose pets will still be protected by mandatory holding periods.

And finally, I can’t help but think of all the cats run through the spay mill at the Maricopa Co pound, who will be dumped back on the street after they wake up from surgery and potentially have their guts fall out in an alley somewhere.  They won’t be counted among Maricopa Co’s official dehiscence stats of course, since no one will ever know about the suffering deaths of these poor cats.

Cats deserve the same protections at our public animal shelters as dogs.  Cat owners love their pets just as much as dog owners love theirs.  Shelter staff should be required to do their jobs to reunite lost pets of all species with their owners and adopt socialized homeless pets to new owners.  It is a slippery slope to discriminate against cats while excusing shelter staff from performing their duties for an entire species.  Shame on the organizations who promote and defend this heinous practice.

If you are an Arizona resident and wish to contact Governor Ducey to demand equal protections for cats and dogs in public shelters, keep your comments respectful and visit this page for contact information.

(Thanks Anne for the link.)

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