Critter Chat – February 1, 2017

IMG_6610(Critter Chat is published bi-weekly by the Chatham Star Tribune. See the original article here.)

One Saturday evening recently, I received a call from dispatch informing me that a citizen had found a small dog he thought was a Yorkie. He took the dog to the shelter and put him in our after-hours area. The shelter manager went to the shelter and put him inside with a nice blanket to curl up in. The shelter, of course, is heated, but she put him in the isolation; that is our warmest area.

A couple of hours later, I saw a friend’s post on Facebook about how she was frantically searching for the Chinese crested dog she adopted from us. I texted the shelter manager and asked if the dog was a Yorkie or if he could, in fact, be a Chinese crested. She said that the dog was a crested. The dog was reunited with his owner the next day, after spending a warm night at the shelter.

That same week, another citizen found a small poodle wandering around and brought him to the shelter. A couple of hours later, an owner came to look for her parents’ small poodle that had escaped from the house. The poodle went home.

A couple of days later, a person picked up a stray dog in Danville and took him out of the city to try to find him another home. It was only by chance that I saw a picture of the dog on social media, and then mentioned it to the shelter manager who told me she had taken a lost report on the dog. Because the dog had not been brought to the shelter, that dog that was someone’s beloved pet could have been lost to his family forever.

All releasing agencies (public shelters, private shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups) in Virginia are required by law to post an annual animal record report on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ website. It is currently undergoing changes, so the most recent information is for 2014.

That year, city and county public shelters and private shelters (including humane societies) received 88,327 stray animals; 25,826 were returned to their owners. Of that number, public shelters received 69,917 of the stray animals and returned 21,622 to the owners. Foster-based rescue groups received 2,457 strays and returned 103 to their owners.

Lost animals have a much greater chance of returning to their homes if they are taken to public shelters. That is where most people know to begin looking for their lost pets.

Virginia Code 3.2-6551 requires any individual who finds a companion animal and retains it to contact the public animal shelter that serves the locality where the companion animal was found. Specific information is required, including the location where the companion animal was found, a description, and contact information. The same requirements are in effect for rescue groups and other releasing agencies. Violation of this may result in a civil penalty.

Individuals and rescue groups do not have the authority to ask people to produce current rabies vaccinations for dogs, nor do they have the authority to make the determination about who is the legal owner and what veterinary treatment is required of the legal owner.

If citizens find an animal and are interested in keeping it, the best thing to do is to take it to the public shelter. The animal will be held the legal stray time, become the property of the shelter, and then the animal can be legally adopted.

In this day of social media and taking strays out of localities, public animal shelters remain the best hope of reuniting with a lost pet.

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