Korey Wetherell left his beloved pet Chewbacca in the care of roommates when he went out of town at the beginning of the month. The dog was accidentally lost and a roommate began searching for him after notifying Korey, who immediately posted a lost dog ad on Craigslist. After learning that Chewie had been picked up by the Denver Animal Shelter, Korey called and emailed the facility, explaining that he wanted to reclaim his dog but was out of town. He sent a friend to pick up Chewie but the friend was turned away because he could not prove ownership.
When Korey arrived home, DAS was closed. He then had to go out of town again before the place re-opened. He called the city’s 311 line to explain the situation and reiterate that he wanted his dog back, he just wasn’t able to get there in person to reclaim him. Worried with concern for Chewie, Korey again sent a friend to DAS to try to bail the dog out, asking the friend to have staff call him on the phone and/or do whatever was necessary in order to prove ownership. When the friend arrived, he was told DAS had adopted Chewie to a family:
“Because animals are considered property, that animal was considered abandoned,” Jill Brown with the Denver Animal Shelter said.
The shelter said the 5-day window for owners to retrieve their lost pet had passed, so Chewbacca went to a new home.
There is clearly no excuse for this egregious betrayal of the human-animal bond by the Denver Animal Shelter. A hold should have been placed on the dog and/or an arrangement made to release the dog to the owner’s representative. DAS knew Chewie was owned and loved, that the owner wanted him back but was out of town, and that he had sent someone to try and reclaim the dog on his behalf. They sold him anyway then, when confronted by the local news, refer to the pet as abandoned property.
DAS contacted the people who adopted Chewie but that family has declined to return the dog. Korey is heartbroken and made an appeal to the family on the local news:
“You’re doing a great thing adopting a dog, but help a dog who really needs it; because Chewbacca doesn’t need a new set of arms to hold him. He has that here,” he said.
If you are the person, or know the person who has him, please contact me. He has never been to the shelter before, and he got out while I was out of town. Had I known the City of Denver could and would do this without notifying me, I would have crossed heaven and hell to get him back. He is an amazing dog and I want the best for him, but we have 4 years together and I don’t think anyone knowing the circumstance would do this to somebody. Please contact me if you know any information.
I asked Jill Brown (quoted above) and DAS executive director Alice Nightengale why Chewbacca wasn’t placed on a hold after the owner contacted DAS and said he wanted to reclaim his dog but was out of town. Neither immediately responded. I will update this post if I receive any response. DAS has not responded to my queries regarding their mistreatment of animals in the past and the staff seems particularly wrong-headed but we’ll see how long they feel confident hiding behind their “abandoned property” defense on this one.
Denver taxpayers deserve better. If the shelter isn’t a safe place for lost pets whose owners are known to the staff, it certainly doesn’t bode well for how stray pets of unknown ownership and feral cats are handled. I hope DAS starts doing its job to protect lost and homeless pets and that Korey is reunited with Chewie very soon.
(Thanks Davyd and Clarice for sending me links on this story.)