Communication Breakdown

California:  In June, a 7 year old dog called Annie got spooked by something while out with her owner, causing her to bolt.  The owner searched for her in the area but couldn’t find her.  He checked the county shelter’s list of stray pick-ups but Annie was not on it.  After 3 weeks, he was about to give up the search when the county shelter called him.  Annie was there.  Come on down and pick her up.  But when the owner arrived at the shelter, he learned Annie had been adopted out a week prior.

Details are sketchy but what I would guess happened is that when the owner was checking the county’s list, Annie wasn’t on there and when she was, he wasn’t checking.  I would further guess that the person who was supposed to be contacting owners of found dogs was woefully behind in his duties.  Annie was apparently at the shelter for one week before being adopted out.

The owner’s co-workers say Annie is “his life”.  They’d been together for 7 years.  The shelter contacted the adopters and explained the situation, asking if they would allow Annie to be returned to the owner.  They declined.  They’d already bonded with the dog.

The author of the article tosses in his two cents on what Annie’s adopters should do:

Annie is not my dog, and I don’t know what I would do in these circumstances. But I have talked to other animal lovers, and I think I would follow their suggestion: Send Annie back to [the owner], and rescue a different pooch from the shelter.

There is no shortage there of dogs looking for love.

I feel for both families in this situation.  And while I understand that Annie’s adopters took her into their home in good faith, I would tend to agree with the reporter.  What do you think?

18 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown

  1. If they’ve already bonded with her, then they know what her real owner is feeling, and what they are doing is, quite frankly, heartless.

  2. This is why you GO TO THE SHELTER and look for yourself to see if your dog is there. You cannot trust shelter workers to know if a dog is brown or black, a shepherd mix or a terrier mix, a Shiba Inu or a coyote, etc. You MUST go see for yourself.

    That said, yes, they should give Annie back to the original owner, of course. Pretty heartless not to.

  3. In fairness, many people are under the impression that shelter staff are dog “experts”, just as many think PETA helps companion animals. You and I know better, of course.

    I wish the adopters would at least agree to a meeting. Let them see how Annie reacts to being reunited with the owner. Let them talk to the guy and feel reassured he took good care of her, is a good guy, etc. Once they know that Annie really doesn’t need them to be her hero, they can go back to the shelter and be a real hero to another dog.

  4. You aren’t “bonded” with a dog after a week.

    No. You. Are. Not.

    This is ego projection. “MINE!” The adopters have likely invented a fanciful history of abuse and deprivation for Annie.

    1. That’s not ego projection. You do not get to create the subjective marker for when a dog is bonded with a person. If you think it takes more time for YOU to bond with a dog or for a dog to bond with YOU, that’s your business. For others, it’s much shorter or longer. There isn’t a big blue book for bonding time.

      1. Maybe there isn’t a big blue book, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the kind of bond you feel with a dog after one week does not compare to the bond that forms after seven years.

        Living with a dog day after day, nursing them through illness, knowing their quirks and personality traits – that takes time. You can love a dog after a week, sure – no one is denying that. But don’t tell me it’s the same bond you get from living with a dog for years.

      2. I didn’t say that, please don’t put words in my mouth. I responded to the claim you can’t bond with a dog in a week. You can. Lots of people have done it.

        There are plenty of folks out there who don’t bond with their dogs, these people may spend 7 years with a dog and still not have the bond another person creates in a week. These might be the people who would drop off a 7-yr-old dog at the shelter. I don’t know about the original owner, but he doesn’t sound like that type of person.

        Ultimately, it’s not black and white.

  5. It should be obvious that the new adopters should return her to her owners.
    Just as it should have been obvious that the adopters of Katrina dog orphans should have returned those dogs to their owners as soon as it became possible.

    oh wait….

  6. This sort of thing happens way too often. There’s another version that I call “relinquisher’s remorse”…
    It’s not too far off from that “shelter” that killed the dog with the bumb leg (because they couldn’t afford to fix it?)
    I just took in a little dog from an elderly lady, she was heartbroken to relinquish, but she couldn’t care for the dog. The dog is rather neurotic (been living in her apartment his whole life, hasn’t even been on grass in a year or two!) I could easily see her wanting the dog back. Or wanting a family member to have the dog.
    Might help if Annie’s first person offered to pay the second family a substantial reward for “saving” his dog because he was too slow in finding her himself. Money fixes egos a lot easier than it breaks bonds.
    We all get angry when Animal Control euthanizes a dog “by accident”…but that’s actually EASIER on them than making this mistake! Now they have TWO families pissed off, and still no resolution. When the dog is dead? “Oh Well, so sorry (problem solved…)”
    Is it any wonder the mistakes just keep on happening?
    Imagine shelter staff are saying: “Don’t EVER call anybody again about a found dog here…if they can’t follow-up and come looking for their dang dog, they don’t deserve to have it anyway.”
    After all, it’s the guy’s fault for losing the dog, and the new adopters paid the legal adoption fee. (Are dogs property, or are they family?)
    Our Animal Control doesn’t pass along adopter info. Too many incidents of dogs being stolen or “pet-stalking” happening…remember, I said this sort of thing happens a LOT around here.

  7. i’m curious to know how the shelter knew Annie was the missing dog. I’m a shelter worker and i 100% agree with mikken up above- the owner is responsible for finding the lost pet. I’m pretty knowlegeable about breeds, but i am amazed every day how owners describe their lost animals. Brown tabbies are grey with black stripes. Orange or Buff Tabby is an Apricot Cat with light white stripes. A blue nosed pitbull is described as a Manchester Terrier (i LOLed at that one when even google agreed there’s no such thing). A whippet is described as white with spots (no indication of what color these spots are). Add to that the dozens of stray animals that come in every day and the dozens of lost and found reports that are posted, and even the most diligent and intelligent staff member is hard pressed to keep up. We always tell customers that if they are missing a pet, to post it online and come into the shelter in person frequently to view the pets.

    That being said, i disagree with Heather’s statement that you cannot bond with a new pet immediately. Time and again i see new adopters discover something unkown about their pet, but they would never think about returning it because they love them immediately. Shame on you for your cynical view on love and the power of the human-animal bond.

    That being said, they should return the dog- it’s the right thing to do (even though it will break their hearts). The shelter should refund their adoption fee or offer a free adoption (better because another animal gets a new home).

  8. correction- the pibble was listed as a ‘Westchester’ terrier. I am familiar with the min-pin looking Manchester terrier. My bad

  9. Annie belongs with her original owner. She should not be the victim of stupid bureaucracy. The new owners are being selfish and short sighted.

  10. Have you seen the documentary “Mine” which follows post-Katrina custody battles? It addresses this same issue, but for many of the owners, it was months before they were able to find out what happened to their dogs. It’s an excellent film.

    Unless the previous owners were abusive, it’s selfish not to give Annie back. How would they feel if someone took her away from them in seven years? Sure, you can bond with a dog after a week, but that’s nothing compared to the relationship developed over years.

  11. Excellent idea to return Annie to first guardian and adopt another dog from the shelter.

  12. There have been some lawsuits about this issue. Animal control laws usually give “title” to the shelter after so many days-but in order to get title they usually have to follow protocol in looking for the owner. Did they? But why should it come to that? There are so many dogs out there neeeding homes.

  13. these people are not being a hero at all to Annie. return this dog to the owner and be a real hero not only to her but to to the next dog, a dog that really doesn’t have anyone there for it.

    I’ve put this scenario in front of everyone I’ve run into today (about 30 people) everyone says they would return the dog.

  14. I agree that, at the very least, a meeting should be set up between Annie’s previous owner and her current legal ones. They might see what Annie’s clear preference is and rescind their “you cannot have back” order.

    If that does happen, I hope Annie’s previous guardian gets her a collar with a tag and microchips her. This whole sad fiasco could have been prevented with minimal effort on her owner’s part.

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