We often talk about the legal rights of a pet owner when their pet goes missing and today we want to touch on the subject once again. It is our experience that when an owner loses a dog, most people will help them search, share their post on social media, comfort the owners and vow to move heaven and earth to help them in their search for their missing pet for as long as it takes. But when a dog turns up as found and the owner isn’t immediately located, sometimes something different happens. The finder views the dog as an object without an owner and believes they have the right to keep the dog or give it away. Why do we have a hard time making the connection that this pet that was just found most likely has an owner out there frantically searching for it just like the owner we just vowed to help? And if we could communicate with a dog the same way that we do people, would they tell us to please help them find their owner and to share their post to help them get home? If they could speak, would we do more? Would we comfort them in the same way we do humans and would we move heaven and earth to help them get home?
This disconnect and mindset of keeping found pets before searching for their owner is standing in the way of many of our lost pets getting back home to their family. Keeping a pet or giving it away without doing the required search for the owner is not only morally wrong, it’s illegal. In Georgia, pets are considered the legal property of their owner. If a pet is lost and found by someone other than the owner, that pet still legally belongs to the original owner. Being lost does not sever ownership. And under those same laws, a finder is required to conduct a search for the owner.
A reasonable search will consist of calling your local animal control unit and filing a found report with them and posting flyers in the area the dog was found. Your county shelter will advise you on the guidelines for your county. Some shelters will require you to bring the dog in, but most will allow you to foster the dog in your own home while you search for the owner. Most county shelter's we’ve spoke to require a 30 day search before a pet can be kept or given away.
So this brings us to Gracie’s story. Gracie was lost on July 17 in Conyers, Georgia. Her owner went out frantically looking for her. She immediately filed a missing report with her local shelter and listed her with us as well. We posted her flyer on our page and shared it to the local community. Over the course of 11 days, her owner came back to our page several times and asked us to keep sharing her flyer. She was desperate to find Gracie.
Fast forward to this week when the owner got the break she had been hoping for. Someone saw Gracie's flyer and knew where she was. It would seem that a happy reunion was about to take place. But that’s not how this story ended. When Gracie's owner tried to reach this person who had her, they refused to give Gracie back. They had become attached to her and decided to keep her. 11 days after Gracie went missing, the finder decided to keep her.
The owner quickly did a little research and got a lead on where Gracie may be located. She then contacted us for advice. We knew that Gracie still legally belonged to the owner and she had every right to go reclaim her. We advised her to gather photos as proof of ownership, her listing with us to prove the lost date and that she was actively searching for her and any information she had on the finder. We then advised her to enlist the help of the local police in recovering Gracie. And then we waited. And last night we were thrilled when we got the alert that Gracie was BACK AT HOME!!!!
Dogs don’t just fall out of the sky. Most have owners out there frantically searching for them. We move heaven and earth to help owners search for their missing family member so why not do the same for the dogs they are so desperately searching for. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law!!!
A note from Gracie's owner: "A woman saw my Lost Dogs flyer, contacted me, and told me who had my dog. Unfortunately, the people who had her did not want to give her back. However, with the help of the sheriff's office, we got her back. YAY!!!!! The Lost Dogs flyer got this ball rolling! I had many people contact me. Lost Dogs and the awesome people who work for this organization were a vital part in the rescue of my dog. Thank you for creating an organization where lost pets could be posted in a central location with so many branches! I am forever grateful!?
Great job to you for not giving up and to all those who helped by sending tips. Without those tips, Gracie would not be home today.
Welcome home, Gracie!