By Heidi Zemach for SCN
A friendly, likable 10-year old mix breed dog with a long history of taking off is the subject of an ugly, public dispute between the Seward Animal Shelter, his new owners, and his former owners. The dog, known to the Animal Shelter in Seward as “Tiny,” and by its previous owners in Anchorage as “Brutus,” got loose a little over a week ago in Anchorage. The person that found him took him to the Anchorage Animal Shelter. There, his microchip was scanned. It listed him as being named “Tiny” and belonging to the Seward Animal Shelter.
After a 5-6 day wait period to allow his owners to come find him at Anchorage’s only animal shelter, or to search through their list and photographs of found animals, a worker from Anchorage Animal Control drove him to the shelter in Seward, where he was well known. Tiny had been in and out of that shelter over a period of several years, and Animal Control Officer Shelli McDowell was rather fond of the old guy. He has had several different owners over the course of his life, and had run away from them repeatedly.
As the weather was turning cold, and snowy, and she didn’t have room for him inside, and as the inside pet room in the shelter is currently full of small dogs and cats, including several they received during the flood, McDowell tried hard to find Tiny a new home. As luck would have it, she located a couple in Seward who were looking to adopt a dog like him. So, after waiting several more days, and recieving final word from the Anchorage Shelter that no one had come looking for him, McDowell adopted him out a couple of days ago.
When Anchorage owner Natalie Irwin found out what had happened, she and her husband were “heartbroken” that the dog they had owned since February, a special Valentines gift to her, had been re-adopted. She was amazed that the Anchorage shelter had taken the trouble of driving him “all the way” down to Seward. Natalie made a plea on Craigslist, and on her Facebook page, for people to help her locate his new owners, and let her try to reason with them to get their Brutus back.
“My husband and I are heartbroken and dearly miss our big baby. Brutus is a part of our family and we are desperate to bring him home!” she writes on Craigslist.
But the new owners don’t want to give up their new dog, who they also love, and want to keep, McDowell said. They paid the adoption fee, and charitably took him into their own home believing that they would have a new friend for life. She’s sorry that what happened, happened, however McDowell stresses that there’s no theft here, just an event that occurs with great regularity at shelters across the U.S. with people who lose their dogs. It’s lucky that “Tiny” was returned to the Seward shelter, because had he stayed in Anchorage, or in the Soldotna Animal shelter, which do not have a “no kill policy,” chances are nobody would have adopted an elderly dog, with a history of escaping, and he might have been put down, she said.
For those who may feel sorry for the Anchorage owners, who are complaining bitterly and publically about their loss, McDowell explains the adoption was entirely legal, and according to their regular adoption process. The first mistake the Irwins made was not getting the microchip registered to their own name, which they, and all adoptive pets are specifically encouraged to do. Then, they would have been contacted by the shelter when the dog was found, and could have positively identified him as hers. The last time Brutus ran away from the Irwins in Anchorage, the same thing happened, and the Anchorage shelter had also contacted the Seward shelter, but the owners fetched him home from the Anchorage Animal Shelter in time, McDowell said. The owners also were informed when adopted that the dog had a tendency to run away, she said.
The second thing that the Irwins apparently did not do after he was adopted was to get their dog seen by a veterinarian, McDowell said. That’s what all new adoptive owners are advised to do. They would then have learned that their dog was actually 10 years old, (suffering from arthritis), not four years old, as they stated on their Craigslist ad.
This was a sad affair, but a lesson on the importance of adoptive owners getting their pets microchips re-registered to them, just as car titles and registrations are changed with new owners. But since none of those things were done, McDowell hopes that Natalie Irwin will stop trying to hunt for him and get him back, and realize that his re-adoption is to some extent her own responsibility, and that he is in good hands.