Another Reason Shelters Should View “Evidence” Dogs as Pets

If a shelter does not list every pet in its care online and make every pet available for the public to see, owners of lost pets may not be able to reclaim their pets. If a pound has a policy that dogs confiscated in dogfighting busts are not available to the public but instead held as evidence until legally released and then killed, owners of lost dogs may not be able to reclaim their dogs.  One very good reason for shelters to list every pet online – including fight bust dogs – and make them available for the public to see is that it allows owners of lost dogs to find them.

Case in point:  A family in NC had their Pitbull stolen from their yard in October.  They searched for their dog, Morgan, but could not find her.  About a month later, local police arrested 2 people on felony dogfighting charges and seized 5 Pitbulls.  When the local paper reported on the story, it was front page news and the paper included a photo of one of the seized dogs at the Cleveland Co shelter.  That dog was Morgan.  The owners saw her face and ran down to the shelter to reclaim her.

I called the Cleveland Co shelter to ask if they post ALL their pets – including fight bust dogs – online and was told they do not.  They do have a page that lists recent impounds but there are no photos.  I asked specifically if the owners had not seen Morgan’s picture in the paper, would they have had any way of finding her.  I was told no, the owners would never have been able to find the dog had her picture not appeared in the paper.

I looked at the shelter’s 2010-2011 annual report and for dogs and cats, the Cleveland Co shelter’s kill rate was 88%.  Nearly as tragic, their return to owner rate was only 4%.  The pound has no weekend hours and, depending on the weekday, is only open either 12 – 4pm or 2 to 4pm.  Clearly the practices Cleveland Co has in place are not working to save pets’ lives.  The lady who answered the phone there did mention they were hoping to list all their pets online in the future and I voiced support for the idea.

In this case, the newspaper photo was key for the owner finding the lost dog.  Obviously most owners are not going to be lucky enough to have their lost pet’s face show up on the front page of the local paper.  What about your local shelter – do they list ALL their pets online, include dogs being held as evidence in court cases?  I am waiting for a response from my local municipal shelter regarding this question and will share what I find out.

10 thoughts on “Another Reason Shelters Should View “Evidence” Dogs as Pets

  1. I totally agree that all animal shelters should be posting ALL their pets on intake to an online site with a photo and pet info — better yet, many online sites.

    Many will say they do not have the man power or time to do this.

    What is the best shelter data management software for this?

    1. The shelters in Charlotte, NC and Reno, NV use Chameleon which uploads the pet’s photo and info upon intake to Actually, at the No Kill Conference in August, Mitch Schneider (Reno ACO) mentioned the ACOs make an effort to do this in the field whenever possible so that if someone is looking for a lost pet and the dog is on the AC truck for 2 hours before they get back to the shelter, the owner can find the pet online before they even arrive. He likes to keep pets from ever having to come to the shelter whenever possible.

  2. I don’t think our local impound posts any pictures online.
    We post all of our strays as soon as they come in, but i don’t think we’ve posted dog fighting bust dogs (i assume this is specifcally the type of evidence we’re talking about- other cruelty cases (like hoarding) typically are offspring of resident pets). Granted- we don’t get too many of those in, but you make a valid argument.

    question- what about if the dogs look pretty messed up (like- photo not suitable for general audiences). How do you get around posting something like that on a (basically) business website?

  3. The shelters here certainly don’t. They usually have a bunch of cats on their petfinder sites with just a few dogs.

    Anne, for messed up dogs, I’d post the pictures but make sure the site has a great big red GRAPHIC warning wherever you can put it.

  4. Brevard County, Florida does not show confiscated animals, owner surrendered animals nor animals that are in quarantine. The animals will show IF they become available for adoption, but not before.

  5. My local little shelter posts pictures of the dogs the same day on their facebook page… if things are not too hectic at the shelter and if the dogs are calm enough for a picture. If they cannot post the same day they will try to post the next day, or the day after that. Pictures take longer to post to Petfinder because the website will not load them for hours or day after they are entered in the database. Also it is hard to find enough quiet time to fill out all the information. But they still seem to find the time within a couple of days to get them all listed. Lots of pets have been reunited with their owners through the posting of pictures on the facebook page, or lost pets are found by others thanks to crossposting lost pet alerts on the shelter’s facebook page. In one instance they had in the county dog license records an old address where the owner had not lived for a year but they took the initiative and knocked on neighbor’s doors asking if they knew where the owners currently lived or how to get in contact with them. Another great thing they do is if a bully breed dog is registered to the shelter’s county but ends up in another county’s shelter they will go get the dog and take it back to this county. This keeps bully breed dogs safe from certain death, and I am so thankful they are so good to our community.

  6. I got a response from my local shelter regarding whether they post ALL pets (including evidence dogs) online:

    We use Petpoint as our management software and Petango for our online pet listings. As long as the animal is listed as “available” then it is immediately posted online. Sometimes, when we have a bad cruelty case and it is a court hold, we don’t mark them as “available” and they are not listed online. In those situations, we do have an owner and they are not a stray pet. Once their court case is settled and if they are adoptable, then they will be marked “available” and listed online and put up for adoption like the other animals.

    If the pet comes in as a stray, they are marked as “available” even though in real-time, we follow the City and County requirements for stray-hold periods, but at least in the meantime they are online for potential adopters because the majority of strays are not reclaimed.

    Of course if someone is being charged with a crime (animal cruelty, dogfighting, whatever), it’s unlikely the person is going to alert authorities that he also stole the dogs but would instead simply allow people to believe he is the rightful owner. So the shelter’s assumption that they know who the owner is and therefore don’t need to list the dogs online is faulty.

  7. The way of thinking expressed by YesBiscuit’s local shelter is the same as Brevard County, FL. Adding to that the Owner Surrenders are also not shown until/if they are available for adoption.

    Austin, TX shows the owner surrenders online. Both Brevard and Austin use Chameleon.

    It is helpful to show all so that rescue groups who may be interested have a heads up.

  8. 90% kill rate in Cleveland County, TN?! This makes me furious! I live close enough to come help do something about this – hope you keep us all posted. The public is watching.

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