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Finders Keepers?


I serve as the Midwest rep for Catahoula Rescue Inc, a national, nonprofit rescue group. Recently, one of our volunteers in Texas was contacted by her vet because a woman brought in a Catahoula puppy she had found. The woman had no intention of looking for the owner, even though the puppy was in good health and had clearly belonged to someone. The vet wanted to alert our rescue in case the original owner was searching for their lost puppy.

As a professional and authority figure, wouldn't the vet also have an obligation to alert the local animal shelter and insist that the woman place a free found classified ad in the paper? I don't know how this woman can live with herself, knowing that her way of thinking ("finders keepers") is as mature as that of a two year old. Not to mention she is possibly causing a lot of heartache to a family somewhere by not giving them the opportunity to claim their puppy. If she's that cold hearted, maybe the threat of possible legal action (say someone recognized the puppy and alerted the family to its whereabouts) would get her attention and make her do the right thing. But it shouldn't come to that.

Have you ever found a dog? What did you do?

Julia Kamysz Lane

January 28, 2008 in Current Affairs, Legislation, media | Permalink


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About a year ago, I picked up an old Lab that was wandering in a busy street on a wintry Sunday afternoon. The Lab seemed to be having health problems (couldn't walk very well, had a hard time standing up), so I ended up taking the Lab to an emergency vet clinic. The clinic was able to give the dog fluids and a pain killer, but couldn't provide a lot of care for the dog since I wasn't the dog's owner. The clinic receptionist told me that the city shelter would take possession of the dog.

The next day, I read online that the dog was at the municipal shelter, where pets needed to be claimed within three days....

On Tuesday, I drove back to the neighborhood armed with signs about the dog to post around the area. Later that day, I called the city shelter and learned that the dog had been claimed by its owner. I was so happy the sweet old dog was taken home but sorry the owner was stuck with fines.

I think the ethics of dealing with a healthy, lost dog are pretty simple. We should assume that someone loves the lost dog and try to reunite the dog and the human.

What is trickier is how we should deal with a dog who is underfed and neglected and who frequently escapes in search of food and attention. Another Lab in this situation from years ago haunts my memory now. I'm pretty sure I would deliver this kind of "lost" dog to a rescue organization these days and not feel one bit of guilt in my mostly law-abiding conscience.

Posted by: Mary | Jan 29, 2008 6:36:54 PM

Numbers published by the HSUS suggest that roughly 17% of people get their pets from animals they find, which is also number of people who adopt from shelters.

The implication is that nearly 35% of animals are acquired as lost or surrendered animals. I can't believe that all or most of those animals (I think the numbers are specifically for dogs) are feral or abandoned. Many must be lost.

This, combined with observations that many shelters don't even bother to scan for microchips at any point, even before they euthanize, is troubling.

Stolen pets - and that is a theft - and killed pets that actually have homes that miss them and are searching for them.

Posted by: Border Wars - Christopher | Jan 28, 2008 8:23:57 PM

I saw a pekingese wandering down the middle of the highway in a rural area. I stopped and picked it up, and went to the homes that were close by (the dog was old and blind, I didn't figure it could have traveled very far). No one knew where it came from or who it belonged to. I put and ad in the local paper, and contacted Pekingese rescue. No one answered the ad, so Pekingese rescue took the dog. If I had left it on the highway, it would have either been run over or eaten by coyotes.

Posted by: Janet Johnson | Jan 28, 2008 8:17:02 PM

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