Discussion: A New Twist on Oops-Actions at a PA Shelter

When Jason Watkins’ and Tamara Hopkins’ microchipped male Boxer, Tyson, accidentally got loose in Pittsburgh, Ms. Hopkins began calling Animal Rescue League daily to ask whether an intact male Boxer had been brought in.  Every day she says she was told no.  The owners had planned to mate Tyson with a female Boxer they had recently purchased.

Records from Animal Rescue League show a male Boxer was brought in as a stray on August 16.  A microchip scan turned up negative.  On August 19, the dog underwent a behavioral evaluation and was re-scanned for a chip.  This time the dog’s chip was located.  But the owners were not contacted.  Instead, ARL scheduled the dog for neuter surgery the next day and placed a new microchip in the dog.

When Mr. Watkins and Ms. Hopkins ultimately learned Tyson was at Animal Rescue League, they came to claim him:

“They handed us the paperwork and said they re-chipped our dog and neutered our stud dog,” Watkins said.

The ARL said a microchip doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your lost pet back.

The ARL director said in a statement, “ID tags and microchips can help expedite returning an animal to its owner, but they’re not foolproof. Collars and tags can be removed. Microchips can escape detection.”

The director reportedly told the owners he was sorry and it was a “mistake”.

Although microchips can escape detection, in Tyson’s case a re-scan found the chip but ARL never contacted the owners.  Do you think this case can accurately be described as a “mistake” or was something more nefarious afoot here?

We’ve had way too many stories on the blog involving oops-killings where the owner is trying to find their lost pet and the shelter kills them “by mistake”.  Thankfully that tragedy did not befall Tyson.  But does it seem plausible to you that Animal Rescue League oops-told the owner the dog wasn’t at the shelter, then oops-failed to contact the owner once the chip was found, then oops-neutered the dog and oops-microchipped him with their own chip?

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

38 thoughts on “Discussion: A New Twist on Oops-Actions at a PA Shelter

  1. “The shelter said owners should report a missing pet by visiting in person.”

    Sounds like, “Hey, you didn’t care enough about your dog to come look for him in person, so we figured you aren’t a good enough owner to have an intact dog.”

    The fact that they rechipped him is just…weird. Were they thinking that he could just be adopted out and no one would notice? Did they want the fees in case the owner reclaimed?

    The first thing I would do is have that second chip surgically removed and bill the shelter for the surgery. Then I would sue them for…what? Vandalism of property? Loss of future income? Theft? Something.

    In any case, it’s very clear that this wasn’t an accident or a mistake. It was someone at the shelter made a decision that this owner wasn’t responsible enough for an intact dog and that they thought that the dog should be rehomed – no balls, new identity, new chip (which…damn, that’s stupid because the old chip is still there and likely to be found by someone at some time). How depressing is it that my first thought was, “At least they didn’t kill him to punish the owner.”

  2. I live in the state , I know when you have a microchip it’s supposed to identify you as the owner you can even buy a lifetime license, shelters and rescues in the state of Pennsylvania put a microchip in the dogs with their name which means they are the owner I guess when you adopt them you’re only renting even if you have a license which is mandatory in this state which again means you’re the owner, but if your pet decides to explore the neighborhood and the shelter or rescue picks them up they get them back, and claims ownership, even remove your microchip and replace it with there’s which should be illegal but they do it and get away with it then they want money to support their cause, they are overcrowded come up with bullshit story on why they need to put them down( I like to say execute) its all money games that should be against law, they should be prosecuted and go to jail for theft and fined !

  3. PS. The only reason that dog is still alive is because apparently its a good looking dog and is capable of being adopted, otherwise it would be killed !

  4. Shelters are paranoid about releasing intact dogs back to owners. I want to decrease pet population, but not at the cost of losing potential adopters by altering their dog w/o permission. This shelter KNEW this dog was owned. Shame on them for playing God Almighty.

    1. I was at a limited admission shelter one time (adopting a dog) when a lady came to reclaim her intact female dog. The shelter was refusing to allow her to reclaim the dog unless they spayed her first. The woman was crying, clearly overwhelmed, as she had a small child with her who kept asking where the dog was. It was extremely uncomfortable to be in that lobby.

  5. It doesn’t seem at all plausible. That they found his original chip on the second pass and re-chipped him anyway? That’s telling. There’s no evidence of a good-faith effort here.

    I’m guessing that at some point early on, Tyson’s owners mentioned their intent to breed him to the ARL, and it snowballed from there.

  6. would help if we used the correct terms here.. the dog was not “adopted” dogs are bought and sold.. this dog was purchased as a stud dog.. he had a reason for being plus being a pet the shelter” had knowledge to contact the real owners. they did not do that and took valuable property away from the owners.. time to sue.. if animals have rights they certainly have the right to keep their reproductive organs

  7. Oh yeah. I guarantee that when the microchip was found, someone expedited the surgery. “Quick, get him neutered before the owners realize we have him.” I know rescue people who would do this. I love rescuers but man we can be so judgey.

  8. I, for one, am glad that he was neutered and not killed. We certainly don’t need even more dogs being bred. We got a bunch of them here down south, they can take if they’ve ran out of pets in shelters locally. I think of this as a positive story, since, for once, the owned animal wasn’t “Oops killed”. A number of shelters do that here. Pet become a stray? They are going to be spayed or neutered. The issue is making sure that even with that surgery, it is affordable to reclaim the animal. It is sad when the reclaim fee is a couple of hundred dollars but it is $25 to adopt to a new home fully vetted, upon the first escape.

    1. I’m sorry, I completely disagree. The shelter had NO RIGHT to make decisions on behalf of the owners, and that they didn’t take the issue even further by killing the animal doesn’t make it a positive story…merely less tragic.

      I can absolutely guarantee that there are people who think the shelter should have never returned the dog at all because he came in unneutered, and that is a toxic mindset. An animal being intact does not alone make the owners irresponsible, and the shelter community’s refusal to admit this is part of what drives people away. In fact, more and more research indicates that delayed spaying and neutering is actually healthier for the pet. If I made the personal decision to delay s/n for my own pet and a shelter decided that choice was invalid and altered my pet without my consent, I would in no way view that as a positive action.

      Breeding that boxer is not what will keep animals dying in shelters and pounds. BAD shelter and pounds are what keep animals dying, and one of the ways they do so is by discouraging people from adopting from them. If I knew a shelter pulled this in my area you can be sure I would never adopt from them…if they have so little respect for a pet’s owner, then I already know they have just as little respect for the animalsin their care.

    2. Deciding which pet should be bred and which should be operated on should never be left up to the shelter authorities.

      Obviously, you have never owned a hunting breed which is being kept intact to preserve hunting heritage. If the owner or breeder is unaware of the dog’s ability, sometimes they will jump over a 6′ fence, then even with a 8′ or 12′, some of them can still scale them. Even with a chain or a running trolley, they can still chew out of their harness or slip out of their collar.

      Even if you decide to play the double-standards and say working and hunting dogs should be exempted, how would you determine which dogs are exempted? There are famous working and hunting kennels which specialize in cross-bred dogs. There are even rare breeds which look like mixes as well. Not to mention, at what point would you decide a breed is not used for work?

      Crying about pet over-population is a piss-poor excuse to advocate for neutering and spaying, especially when one consider there are cultures where only 10% of dogs are fixed (eg. Finland, Sweden, Norway) and they don’t have a stray, overpopulation or shelter problems.

      Not to mention advocating for spay-and-neuter is a way of refusing of looking at and dismissing the real causes of over-population problems such as: access to dog-parks and green-space, access to veterinary care in the inner cities, public transportation, income inequalities, affordable housing, affordable healthcare (for animals and humans), quality nutrition, accessible education (many countries have tax-payers’ education funded by the government) and many more.

    3. Victoria,

      Let’s not lower the bar to the point where the absence of an oops-killing in a shelter is something to celebrate. A shelter is supposed to protect pets from harm until the animal can be reunited with the owner or, if there isn’t one, until a new owner is found. ARL’s failure to do this for Tyson is a failure at the most fundamental level. We can not celebrate it.

      On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 12:48 AM, YesBiscuit!

  9. The owners showed responsibility by just getting the dog microchipped – intact or not. Who would automatically know he was to be used as a stud? And what business is it to anyone else? Like someone said, what if they had delayed surgery? What if he had an allergy to anesthesias that could have killed him? And, what if he had had a vasectomy? Absolutely ridiculous. Missing the chip and not calling after the rescan are fishy enough. But purposely double-chipping the dog? Come on!
    And FYI, to my understanding, the microchip having a shelter name on it is not the “owner” but rather the “distributer” of the chip. If an animal adopted out by our rescue ends up at another shelter, the shelter “clears” the chip by cross-referencing and contacting the owner the chip is registered to. If they don’t make contact after X amount of time, or the owner says they don’t want their pet back, THEN the shelter tells us they have it and we pick it up. Not sure where the idea of the shelter still owning the animal applies.

    1. There are shelters and rescues who DO NOT ALLOW the new owner of the dog to put their information in the owners spot on the chip info. Infact the new owners info frequently doesn’t go on the chip at all. The ONLY ones contacted if the dog is found and scanned is the original shelter or rescue.

  10. That’s just a few too may “OOPS” for me! These people need to be brought up on charges and made to PAY these people for what they did! I’d have them in court so fast it’d make your head spin! OOPS my ass!! Someone would pay for what they did to MY family!! PERIOD!!

    1. I totally agree! Without consequences they’ll continue doing as they please and the animals pay the price! These people have no business working in a shelter! OOPS shouldn’t be a free ticket!

  11. If they hadn’t found the chip on the re-scan I’d not have a problem with what was done.

    But they found the chip, they KNEW the dog had an owner. Never mind apparently lying to the searching owners about not taking in a boxer. As the owner of an intact dog I have a HUGE problem with this. There’s a HUGE number of reasons why a dog may be intact, and breeding is only one of them (nor is breeding an automatic “HORRIBLE OWNER” determiner). And frankly shelters and rescues insistance on “not neutered = bad owner” costs them GOOD homes for the cats and dogs in their programs.

    Did you know that as the owner of an intact dog many many many shelters and rescues will not adopt a CAT to me? At least it ALMOST makes sense to not adopt a dog into a home with an intact dog (its stupid, since in 95% of the cases the dog needing a home is already spayed/neutered, but at least there’s SOME bit of sense there). But a CAT?? Do you understand how stupid that is? And then these same rescues and shelters can’t figure out why the general public turns to craigslist or the BYB down the road to get their pets…..

    1. I would still have a problem with it, without the rescan that found the second chip. Here’s the thing: according to the story, Tyson’s owners contacted ARL early on, and possibly after that – I’m not clear on the timeline. But either way, ARL should have had the call on record, and called as soon as they realized they had a boxer – any boxer – at the shelter. That’s just basic good practice, or should be. Cripes, even the city pounds of my youth did this much, and they weren’t anything to brag about.

      1. Oh definetly, the fact that the owners were calling and calling and didn’t get told “yes, we picked up a boxer like dog come see if its yours” pisses me off. But not as much as the fact that they FOUND the chip, and basically ignored it…..

    2. The thing that gets me with the insistence on s/n as the ONLY solution to overpopulation is that research is starting to indicate we may be negatively affecting our pet’s health. Delayed s/n may lead to longer life spans in some breeds…there’s still much more research to be done, but things aren’t as cut and dried as we’ve always been told. But what disturbs me is that many people are advocating that such research should not be discussed with owners because it’s simply assumed they won’t be responsible enough to keep an intact animal without oops breeding it. They’re basically saying valuable knowledge that can help owners make educated choices about their pet’s health shouldn’t be shared because shelters are failing at their one job. The mind boggles.

  12. If the shelter wanted to transfer ownership of this dog, they would have had to contact the microchip company which would have contacted the owner. So instead, they put in their own chip so they could avoid detection. There is no other reason to place a second chip. None.

    1. I agree it was very wrong of ARL to put their own chip in this owned pet, knowing he was already chipped. The burden is now on the owners to pay for (and the dog to endure) surgery to find and remove the second chip. If they do not force the dog to undergo this surgery and he ever escapes again, the finder might locate the falsified chip and not the one implanted by the actual owners. In which case, the dog would be sent to ARL. Who knows what dirty tricks they might have up their sleeves if they got their hands on this dog a second time?

      On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 10:51 AM, YesBiscuit!

      1. I’ve been thinking that it should be possible to just re-register the chip to Tyson’s owners. All that would be needed would be for ARL to cough up the forms, and really, it’s the least they could do.

      2. Yes, I can see that – I might not either. But in this case I think it’d be simple enough, if tedious, to supervise: have the vet scan the chip and get the number, cross-check with the forms, and then contact the chip company to double-check. Along the way, I’d let the chip company know what the problem was and why this was necessary, as they ought to know about incidents in which their products are misused.

        I’d also search for nonspecific chip registries like Petlink.net, and make sure ARL had made no claims on them there. Not that I’d expect it. My vet tells me a lot of the time, the chips she scans aren’t properly registered anywhere.

      3. Tangentially related: I happened across a chip registration confirmation on one of my dogs the other day. Just about every single thing on it was wrong, including the breed, which they had listed as “Flea-Treated Retriever”. They charge for corrections. I really think there should be a central registry for pet microchips – one that does a reasonably decent job.

        On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 12:20 PM, YesBiscuit!

    2. I would think a Flea-Treated Retriever would be a very in-demand breed! Just think…no more monthly applications!

      I really wish there was one central registry, and that all scanners were required to detect all chips. The system we have now allows so much room for error.

      1. Agreed. My cat came from the shelter chipped by a former owner, but the shelter’s two scanners could not detect the chip at all…fortunately, my vet’s scanner could and we got it registered in our name.

      2. I’ll add a me, too. We’ve three pets with three chips from three different manufacturers and registries. And one of them has shifted significantly. I don’t know about the others, but it’s likely.

  13. Pittsburgh ARL — sounds about right.

    These are the bastards who have a deal going with PETA. An animal shelter. Allied with PETA.

    Anyway, this is not the first time they’ve pulled a fast one.

    And they are not as bad as the private dog-killing facilities that the little towns and boroughs contract with for “animal control.”

    If you live in southwest PA, *do not lose your pet.*

  14. As this is horrible that the shelter did what they did, I have to say I am glad the dog was fixed. There are too many dogs in all of our shelters.

    1. Neutering this dog won’t change that. Nor is there any basis to suggest that allowing the dog to breed will impact shelter population one iota. This is a myth we must work to dispel.

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