I don’t envy the job of Animal Control officers. Yesterday’s post brought up a good question by a sharp reader- the dog in question was microchipped, but did the rescue follow up on this? (Still waiting to hear from my friend.)
People get their dog microchipped, and subsequently forget to follow through with the all so important address changes. And then you wind up with stories like this one, from my local paper today.
Here’s the gist:
1. Family finds dog running around, takes a shine to dog.
2. Takes dog to shelter. Dog is microchipped, but the phone number is disconnected. Family waits requisite 5 days, then officially adopts dog.
3. On day 6, previous owner shows up at shelter. Had forgotten to update the microchip information. Dog apparently functions as an unofficial therapy- type dog to a person with disabilities.
4. Shelter asks new owners to return dog. They refuse, which is their legal right at this point.
5. Newspaper blogger gets involved. Chaos ensues.
I can see both sides of the story here. The family did everything correctly. Should they have returned the dog? What if it was 7 days instead of 6? 14? A month? What determines ownership?
I’ve seen a few similar custody cases gone bad- one involving a woman who found an unmicrochipped dog, waited a week, adopted the dog, got her fixed, vaccinated, etc. One month later, the prior owner saw the dog getting groomed in Petsmart, called the cops- and again, chaos ensued. It gets ugly.
When someone brings in a ‘found’ pet to me, I always scan him or her, then tell the person to call the shelter and follow the rules about found pets. I’ve had no problems myself, but I’ve heard some horror stories of vets who scan said pet, find a microchip, and the new owner refuses to allow them to contact the number. This puts the vet in a bind. Are we liable for not following the owner’s wishes and having the pet potentially taken away? Are we liable for not contacting the previous owner and letting them know we saw their pet? The answer to both is maybe.
As an owner, there are a few big steps you can take to avoid such a nasty mess should you and your pet become separated:
1. Make sure your microchip company is updated with every change in address and phone number.
2. Have your vet scan your pet yearly; microchips can migrate, and occasionally, malfunction.
3. If you do lose your pet, don’t just call the shelter. Workers are often overwhelmed and not sure of every pet that comes through. Go there in person, daily. Bring pictures of your pet. Fax pictures to all the local veterinarians as well.