What would you do if......

quirkyquercusDecember 18, 2006

Lets say you adopted a dog from a shelter that was in the range of maybe 3-5 years old or so. And lets say the shelter is a county shelter that holds stray dogs for a week so their owners can claim them if they are lost. You are first on the waiting list for this stray dog then take home your new family member and make him a part of your life. The dog doesn't seem to have any problems at all when you bring him home. No fear or aggression, great personality, no injuries, coat is in good shape, maybe even knows a command or two. And the dog is just plain cute. It doesn't make sense that this dog would wind up in a shelter.

A year passes by.

By this point your dog is well adapted to your lifestyle and you love your dog very much and take exceptional care of him. And like most at this point you will have spent a considerable amount of money for care, food, training, toys... whatever.

You take your dog to the park for a walk and someone comes up and says "Oh my God that looks like.... Oh my... It is... It's Fluffy!" After some tears are shed, this person, who comes across as a very responsible pet owner, explains some circumstance where their dog (formerly known as Fluffy) had been lost. Not that he was kept in the backyard all the time or anything like that. Just something that could have happened to even the most responsible pet owner. Maybe the dog jumped out of a window of the house or was in a car accident with the owner and ran away in confusion.

The person then shows you photos or other evidence that proove Fluffy was indeed their dog for the first 3-5 years of their life. They go on to say that the dog isn't chipped but has a tattoo (blammmo, there it is) and also they lived in a neighboring county so they only check that county's shelter. Not the county the dog was picked up in.

What would you do? Would you give the dog back knowing that this person had the dog for 3-5 years prior and thinking of how you would feel if you were in this person's shoes? Would you say 'tough luck' it's my dog now? Would you take their name and phone number and think about it for a while? Do you avoid giving them your name for fear they will try to take you to court? Visitation rights?

This dog is in your life now and you love him. Handing him over to the original owner would be an extremely difficult thing to do but would it be the right thing to do?

Right about know you're probably thinking "Oh man Quirky, why did you have to ask this... God forbid this should ever happen" and you're right having to make this decision might cause my head to explode. But........ every time we go to the park... every time I get ready to post a photo online... every time we go to petsmart... or the vet... I can't help but think: What if his original owner bumps into us?

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I suppose that could happen. I've certainly taken in my fair share of strays.

I think I'd reluctantly give the dog back to the original owner. Only because I've had the experience of my first husky Aleksander escaping several times over his 11 years. I consider myself a good repsonsible owner, he was just one sneaky fast dog! Even if it had been a long time and I hadn't seen him, I'd want him back. So I'd have to extend that same courtesy to others.

That said, I've had strays for the last 8 years, and I've never run into their previous owner. There was the one dog that we placed at the shelter, and the original owners came in looking for an indoor cat, not being able to deal with the heartache of losing another dog. Lo and behold, almost 5 months after being lost, they were reunited with their fuzzy dog. I would have taken him if his time at the shelter had run out- he was a sweet dog. But you could tell that he was looking for his owners, so I'm glad things worked out for him.

But that's the only one of the dogs I've found that has ever been returned to his original home, out of the 8 I've found (4 I kept, the others found good homes).

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 1:47PM
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I would give the dog back, but I think I would ask for occasional visits or emails on his status. And I would have to feel certain that the owner genuinely did try to find the dog.

This is a good question, I think this is a tough thing to do. My youngest dog, Sawyer, is a foundling...not exactly a rescue, he is one of those lost dogs that found his way to me by fate. So, I have already had to think about the answer to that question.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 1:58PM
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If I had kids who had become attatched I would ask them; if they wanted to keep the dog, I would keep it; no sense in traumatizing 2 families. Other than that, it would have to happen before I could say for sure what I might do.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 2:25PM
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The only fair and right thing to do would be to give him back, and that would be my decision even if I didn't think his previous home was so ideal. After all, who am I to decide who should get to keep their own dog?

Of course, you could always explain how much he meant to your family and offer to buy him or buy them another dog. If they love him, they may decide another home change wouldn't be in his best interest.

On the other hand, you could ask for compensation for the money you spent while caring for him and that might dissuade them from wanting him back.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 3:14PM
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Nope, I don't think I would give the dog back. That really isn't far to my family OR the dog. The dog found a new home and it may have forgotton the old one. Who knows?
I would feel for the other family of course, but they would have most likely already grieved for the loss of their pet and maybe even adopted a new one.
Now, if I "found" a dog that was wondering around and not adopted it from a shelter then I would think differently. this is because if my dog disappeared I would hope that people would send him to a shelter where I would have ALREADY called and told them to look out for my dog. If an animal is in a shelter that gives the previous owners a chance to call and get their dog back. Every dog owner should know to call ALL area shelters to look for their lost dog. If I just took the dog off the street that means the previous owners never had that chance.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 4:57PM
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That's quite a scenario, and if the item was a bicycle or another object, I suppose that's one thing. But I notice nobody thinks of asking the dog.
Is the dog happy to see it's former owners? Does it stick too the claimant and shrinks from those people or even acts indifferent?
There is ownership and relationship, which counts more in your judgement?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 10:17PM
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I would give the dog back, but I think I would ask for occasional visits or emails on his status. And I would have to feel certain that the owner genuinely did try to find the dog.

I couldn't agree more. However, I also agree with another point that was brought up-- I'd have to see that "Fluffy" was just as happy to see his old owner.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 11:29PM
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Not being in that predicament, I couldn't honestly say. My first thought was no way would I give the dog back, but it seems the right thing to do would be give him up, (provided he did recognize his former family and seem happy to see them), ask for reimbursement if you would deem it appropriate.

I would never want to be in that situation.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 12:16AM
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That makes two of us. SOMEONE'S going to get hurt, no matter what.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 8:07AM
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I can't imagine limiting my search to the immediate county only if I had a lost dog. I would be contacting every shelter in the state and sending a pic.

It is VERY common for a dog to get picked up by a kind stranger and then driven to their local shelter.

Honestly, it should be enough for them to know the whereabouts of their dog and be happy he is in a new and loving home.

That would make me happy and give me closure.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 8:48AM
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Quirky, sounds as if you really love the little guy and this has been weighing heavy on you heart. I think it was fate you have this dog.
If it was me, I really couldn't say what I would do until it actually happened.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 10:04AM
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If somebody else posted this topic I wouldn't reply to it since I can't stand to even think about this.
Thankfully my situation does vary somewhat from the scenario that I posted as the vet estimated he was 1-2 years old when I adopted him, probably closer to the 1 year but he was so mature that I'd guess closer to two. Anyhow what this means is that the time I would have the dog is probably equal to or soon greater than what a previous owner would have owned him for and that would be most of the decision for me.
Living with the dog for a year is nothing compared to 3-5 years. But if I had the dog for 2 years and the previous owner had the dog for a year or two then it would be a resounding "tough noogies".

The shelter I adopted him from really does only keep the dogs for 7 days before adopting them out which I think is not very long. Especially since anyone can go and look at the dogs during that period and get on a waiting list so that the morning of the 8th day (I showed up an hour before they even opened!) the dog could be long gone.

In the agreement it says you can't sell the dog so I don't know how the compensation would factor in to it for all the expenses.

This explains why I have only posted pics of the puppy and not the rescue dog in public forums like this!

If this situation where to happen to me I may opt to have others decide what is best. Such as a judge or some kind of jury.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 12:37PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I honestly think that I'd keep the dog unless there were some VERY convincing reasons not to. Legally? I think a judge would award you the ownership of the dog.

The previous owners, already adjusted and past their grief, can learn to be honestly grateful that their former pet has landed in such a wonderful second home. They would have been sick with worry that he had been hurt (or worse), stolen, abused, hungry, cold, etc.

Stop worrying. Those imaginary pet owners already have another beloved pet!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 2:37PM
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That is a difficult one. As pets owners, we both know what it feels like to have a pet, love it, care for it -God forbid lose it. Heck, I am attached in a day... So, my knee jerk reaction is I would have to give the dog back.

That said, I would not stop at the county shelter if one of my guys got out. I would be putting flyers up, ad in the local papers. I would be calling all of the vets in the area, the police, etc. I don't think I would just "accept" that one of my dogs was gone.

I think that is bothering me - how hard did the owner look? Not everyone would be relentless like me and may "accept" that the dog is gone???? Is that a bad thing? I think yes, but what is the litmis test as to what lengths would/should a reasonable petowner take in the event their pet gets loose?

My dogs have definitely gotten out. A gate left open accidentally is the perfect opportunity for a dog to go on a "road trip". My two boys have done it. Fortunately, I have gotten them back. I check the yard just about every 15 minutes when they are out so it doesn't really give them alot of lead time. I don't think the fact that they have gotten out makes me a bad petowner.

I visually check the gates in the yard and have more than once found one open and have averted an escape, but what about the times I haven't had time to take a really good look? We have alot of deer that jump the welded wire and bend it, if the dogs wanted to get out badly enough in the dark, it could happen despite my best intentions.

All that said, reverse the roles. Perhaps it would help.

I would think that if you didn't give the dog back, and the owner wanted the dog back badly enough, they would take you to court for the dog. Costly for them, but it could happen.

I just had to to put dinner on and was thinking about your post. It made me remember something that happened to us about a year ago. How the dog reacts is also a good one.

One evening upon returning from dinner, we found a husky on our back deck. He was lying next to the grill, happy as a clam. He was the sweetest thing. I am scared to death of huskies having been attacked by one as a teen. Fortunately, my love for animals overrides my fear of them.

Any event, he had a tag. I called the phone number and got a machine so I left a message with my name and telephone number. Meanwhile, we put a lead on the dog so he couldn't get away. I brush the dog, give him a biscuit and a nice bowl of cold water. I know I am not keeping him, but I am trying to make him comfortable. I am sitting outside with him petting him.

About a hour or so later I get a call from the owner, give directions to my home. Guy shows up to pick up the dog. Dog is not at all happy to see owner, and owner is angry at the dog, he apparently was having a problem with the dog getting out, and it seemed that the dog was definitely in some deep do do for getting out again, dog is cowering, etc. DH and I are feeling like, oh man what did we do? I had to let the guy leave with the dog, but it bothered us for a long time after that. I could have easily given that dog a home and run into the owner at some point, guy lived a couple of towns over.

So QQ, I could understand if you didn't give a dog back if the dog reacted badly to the owner. I can say that for sure because I have experienced firsthand seeing a dog cower to its owner. Not a good feeling turning that dog over to a guy who had obviously been drinking, was probably going give the dog a hard time once he got him away from me. I don't even want to think about that. It upset me greatly for weeks afterward.

My property abuts a creek and we get alot of "swimmers" that we tie up and call their owners to come and get them. The owners are usually very grateful and also very happy to see their dogs albeit full of mud and soaking wet.

To live in fear is no good either. Gosh what a quandry. Maybe you could just stay away from the parks, not take the dog to Petsmart and live happily ever after?? You did adopt the dog from a shelter, it isn't as if the dog wandered into your yard and you've held it hostage.

This is a good one. I am looking forward to what everyone thinks.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 3:40PM
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I had a friend who lost his golden mix. He believes the dog was stolen from his truck at a work site. He found it a couple years later, after the dog had lived with another family during that time. Not sure how it transpired, but he got his dog back and was very glad to have his furry friend returned.

I have a rescue dog that I often worry is missed by the original owner. The dog was confiscated due to city limit constraints, which does not mean the dog was abused, mistreated or neglected. Very sweet and obedient, I am sure this dog was treated well. I still feel MORE of an obligation to this dog, than my other dogs, though not sure why.

While I feel sorry for the person who lost this dog, I just can't imagine returning it. Maybe within the first six months, but I have grown too attached now...

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 4:21PM
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There was a post the other day in the pets forum about grieving over a deceased pet. This is similar in the sense that the owner would give anything to have the dog back. If a dog of mine went missing for 6 months or a year or more I would really want the dog back. So I can understand that someone else would feel the same way even if I did win the dog fair and square from the shelter.

Labmomma, you did the right thing by calling the owner, I'm sure you know that. You had no way of knowing that the owner was a ______.
I'm surrounded by people that don't treat their pets very well and I wish there was some way that I can make a difference but we just don't have the power to help every dog in need. There are way too many sleazebucket humans out there. On the news tonight they were saying how one of the area's county shelters is at 96% occupancy and will be open on Christmas eve in the hopes that some lives will be spared. ORdinarily they don't want people adopting dogs to be gifts but they came right out and said that it beats the alternative at this point. We need to really pressure our lawmakers to enact some licesning and education programs but that's another topic.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 8:41PM
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I didn't mention, that when I said I kept the dogs I found, that meant after the requisite stay at the shelter waiting for original parents to claim them, ads in newspapers, faxed the other shelters (our counties are very close, so a dog missing in one county could turn up in a shelter 3 counties away, easily), put up fliers in the neighborhood, etc. Out of all that, for 8 dogs, one got returned to original owner. One was a "frequent flyer" Husky like labmomma who had just been bailed out of the shelter on Friday and I found him again on Tuesday. Because of our increasing fees for each time an animal is picked up, the owner could not afford to bail the dog out again. Apparently couldn't afford to fix the fence either. I would have taken him if I hadn't already had 3 dogs- he was super sweet and absolutely gorgeous. But he was saved by Husky rescue, so good for him. One person called about Ana, but gave a completely inaccurate description so we knew they were either lying or we didn't have their dog. Ana is easy to identify, with her crooked rear legs. Nobody ever called about any of the other 5 dogs. I know SO many people with rescued/stray dogs, and none have ever run into that situation, so it must be quite rare.

Oh, if anyone had claimed B'Elanna, they would have had to reimburse me $600 for the heartworm treatment I provided for her on day 1. There's no excuse for any owned dog to have heartworms, IMHO.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2006 at 9:44PM
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Confession of a bad pet owner, I don't give my dogs heatworm medication in Dec.,Jan., Feb., or March. I think the risk is minimal for my climate.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 11:21AM
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I've found loose dogs at a local park a couple of times. Both times the dogs had tags on with phone numbers on them. So, rather than call animal control or leave the dogs there in danger of getting hit by a car, I took the dogs back to my office (I have extra leashes in the car), and called the owners to come get them.

One time, after leaving a couple messages with no call-back, I did a reverse phone number lookup online and fortunately it had a listed address. So I took the dog there after work. A little girl came to the door and nonchalantly said "oh, she runs away all the time."


To get to that park, the dog had to cross several streets - one a major thoroughfare. That time I mentally told myself if I saw that particular dog (a small pekinese mix) loose again, I might not return her. Is that bad?

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 1:27PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

labmomma's story reminded me of something that happened to us just this summer! We were sitting outside (backyard) when a stray came romping up. He was a jack mix, cute and friendly....and oh, so hot and thirsty!

We watered him, rubbed him, checked him all over, and called the vet's number on his collar. An answering machine picked up, but we were distressed to learn that the vet was in a city a couple of hours away! We left a message regarding the dog, and our number.

Poor lost boy! We brought him inside and he thoroughly inspected every nook and cranny of the house, and enjoyed some biscuits I keep on hand for the neighbor's dogs. He asked to go out again, and much to our dismay....took off down the road! Vanished! We were much concerned.

The next morning, we got a call from the vet, who says that the dog and owner had moved to our city and asked if he can have the owner call us. 'Of course!'

Guess what? The darned dog lives one house away from us! He's an actor! I swear, for a dog who lives in pampered conditions, he needs an academy award for his lost and pitiful routine.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 3:08PM
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This is a tough one. I hope I am never in your situation.

You are doing the right thing, asking for guidance.

The way I see it, no matter what you do, people are probably going to get hurt. Not something anyone wants. If you deal with the previous owners personally, you are putting yourself in a bad position.

I would call the shelter. Explain what happened. Tell them that you want to do the right thing, but don't really know what. Ask if they could provide a mediator to meet with all humans, even your kids, and discuss what is best for the dog, not the humans. In the end, that is what all involved really want. If they say they cannot, ask them to refer you to someone who can help you out.

If mediator decides that the dog should be returned, then former masters should go through the same critique that I assume you went through when you got the dog (home visit, vet referral, etc,).

At this point, I really think it is best for you to stay out of negotiations as much as possible.

Good luck! Keep us posted.


    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 6:20PM
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Oh.... oh oh no.
This is a hypothetical question!

I'm not really facing this scenario thank goodness.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 8:15PM
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rhizo - thanks for the laugh! That was a great story.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 3:01PM
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I would allow the new owner to keep my dog.

When I was in junior high school we adopted a poodle from the local shelter, and we'd had him about two or three months when during a walk a neighbor spotted him and told me that our new poodle was her dog. I was terrified that she was going to come and take our family dog away from us. I lived in fear for months that she was going to take the dog from us. She never did, but I would never put someone who had bonded and cared for my dog for a over a year, through that.

Now, I had adopted the dog, and the previous owner came across it I still probably wouldn't give the dog back. Because if one of my dogs got lose, I would thankful they'd found a new home with a person and family who loved them (providing of course that was the case), and I'd chalk it up as a painful lesson for not searching hard enough for my dog or I'd chalk it up to fate.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 2:33PM
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we had a American Bulldog show up on our porch one time, he was thin but yet his collar was beginning to grow into his skin, as we lived out in the country we assumed he was dumped (we got alot of that) he hung around for about a month and my parents decided to get him neutered and his shots, he began to fill out very nicely too, well some people came up to the house and said that was their dog, they refused to pay any of the vet bills my parents had put out on him, said they would be back with the sheriff, mom said to go right ahead, she had the report from the vet on his malnourished state (think she was making that part up to scare them off)
they didn't show up with the sheriff but about a week later he came up missing, so I am sure they got their dog back, hope they treated him better the second time around:(

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 10:39PM
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Well I'd think that anyone missing a dog would check ALL the shelters so I'd have to assume they weren't too worried about finding "Fluffy" if they didn't check all the surrounding shelters! If my dog were lost, I'd go to every shelter with in probably 40 miles or so...dogs can go long distances in a short period of time! I wouldn't be able to give the dog back!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 10:32AM
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This situation IS being played out across the country.

Dogs who escaped or were separated from their owners during Hurricane Katrina went up for adoption too soon and the original owners are finding them and wanting them back.

I read it in People Magazine. Some have gone to court and the judges have given the dogs back to their original owners.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 12:08AM
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If the people who deliberately moved and left my newest cat ever show up at my house trying to claim him, they've got another thing coming.

I found him, put him in the paper as lost, gave him back to them when they called and came and got him and they moved two weeks later and left him.

I fed him on the porch for six months before deciding that they weren't coming back.

I had him neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. He is my cat now.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 12:10AM
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It depends on a lot of things ( and I've never owned a dog,cats 2 but no dog)

First if they fed the dog a good diet, were up on cost/date on vet care, and what's there reason for the dog going to a shelter to begin with. It had better be good!,

I think people who give away their pets, don't really care about them to begin with, or have moral issues they need to work out.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 3:25PM
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This scenario happened to me about 25 years ago. I found a stray cocker spaniel. I checked the lost ads, the pound, etc. I kept him about 3 months. I took him with me to visit a friend and we wound up at a park. An older man and his wife came up and the dog immediately responded to the man. He had a picture in his wallet of the 3 of them together.

I had become attached to the dog. After confirming the story as best I could I gave him back. It was an odd unfortunate experience for me, but seemed to be very fortunate for the dog's original owner. In today's world, depending on how the scenario happened, I might act differently, especially if the dog had been injured or seemed abused.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 11:59PM
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If it were my dog that had been lost, the shelters are the first place I would check & in person. They wouldn't have had the dog there long enough for it to be adopted out in the first place!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2008 at 9:32AM
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If I were the original owner I would want my dog back but I wouldn't expect it. After more than a year had passed, as in your case, I would simply be happy and thrilled to know (a) my dog was alive! and (b) it was loved and happy.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2008 at 11:10PM
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My family had a terrier mix, Bob, that was passed around the family like a bad penny. He was a smart, nice dog. But he pooped in the house, we could never break him of it. You could put him out, walk him, etc, and darned if he wouldn't come in and poop. It was maddening. Anyway, we kept him, first my DB, then another DB, then my parents. He was good-looking and clever, everyone liked him. Another DB taught him several cute tricks. So we were sorry when he ran away one day, we called the pound, animal control, for several weeks.
Fast forward a year or so, DB's girlfriend is driving and sees Bob in a car. She follows the car and informs the man that the dogs was lost, and he says his wife found him long ago and you're going to have to go through my wife/over her dead body. She was apparently attached to him by then.
Girlfriend excitedly tells DB of her discovery and gives him the family's phone number.
Nobody wanted him back, due to the housebreaking problem and the time that had passed. I guess my family felt that if the lady had housebroken him, she must really love him. Looking back, I'm sure his housebreaking problem was due to being bounced around homes where my DB's were single, worked a lot and likely he didn't get let out/exercised properly. In that case, the new family was a better fit for the dog.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 11:38AM
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