Dog wanders off, then gets adopted despite calls to SPCA

A Red Deer family is distraught an animal control operator adopted out their pooch after it went missing a week earlier.

Colleen Setter holds her remaining dog Buddie. Bert

Colleen Setter holds her remaining dog Buddie. Bert

A Red Deer family is distraught an animal control operator adopted out their pooch after it went missing a week earlier.

Colleen Setter and her husband John and their three teenaged children learned that their missing eight-year-old shih tzu Bert was adopted by another family through Alberta Animal Services.

Setter said they’ve had their dog since he was six weeks old and since then he’s become a member of the family.

On July 17, she was giving Bert and his brother Buddy a bath and then let them dry off outside.

Their collars with ID tags were not on them when they found their way out of the yard.

They ran down the back alley. But only Buddy returned after about 10 minutes.

The family put up “missing” posters and Setter phoned the non-profit Red Deer and District SPCA animal shelter.

Setter said she phoned the shelter several times and gave them the particulars about her dog, but there was no mention of checking with Alberta Animal Services. The City of Red Deer contracts the company to provide animal control.

After dropping off a photo to the SPCA, an employee told her about Alberta Animal Services, which Setter had not heard of before.

Setter phoned Alberta Animal Services immediately on July 23 and found out that Bert had been there, but was adopted by a new family and they had given him the new name of Koko. He was also neutered.

She received a phone call from staff at Alberta Animal Services the next day saying their rules had changed overnight and that they had agreed to call the new owners. The family has indicated it needed a week to think about giving their new pet back or not.

“I said I would pay the fees that the new owners paid, if I could have my dog back,” said Setter.

“We’re still in shock and devastated. We just can’t believe this has happened.”

Setter said their dog Bert has a medical condition as well, so they were careful what they give him for food.

Legally, Alberta Animal Services only has to wait 72 hours before the pet is considered its property, so it can be euthanized, put up for adoption or transferred to another centre. That’s if they don’t have a microchip or tattoo or in the case of a dog, a licence.

A representative with Alberta Animal Services declined comment, saying that news media calls were to be forwarded onto the City of Red Deer.

City of Red Deer Inspections and Licensing manager Howard Thompson said he believes that Alberta Animal Services acted within the guidelines of the city dog bylaw.

“Alberta Animal Services is trying to be intermediary with the new owners or tried to provide other options for them,” said Thompson. “It’s a very unfortunate situation.”

Thompson said he feels that there’s good communication between the SPCA and Alberta Animal Services, and they do refer to each other on their websites.

“There’s always opportunity for education,” said Thompson.

Thompson said the dog control bylaw includes the 72-hour waiting period. This is something that city council could always review, he added.

SPCA executive director Tara Hellewell said she hopes the family who adopted the dog will have a change of heart.

Amy Corpe, animal care manager for the SPCA, said it’s important that pet owners know what resources are on hand in the community.

“We leave it as a seven-day (waiting period) process in the hope that owners will come forward and reclaim,” said Corpe. “We don’t want to adopt someone’s animal out.”

Corpe called Setter’s case a “really unfortunate circumstance.”

“I would like to believe that this doesn’t happen very often.”

“Our staff is trained when taking lost reports to refer them to Alberta Animal Services,” said Corpe.

Hellewell said she’s not sure what happened in Setter’s case because typically SPCA and Alberta Animal Services work well together. The SPCA tries to fax off reports to Alberta Animal Services, but that’s not always consistent in the shelter that’s so busy and has little staff.

Hellewell encouraged owners to have their pets microchipped or tattooed. Any animal shelter or clinic would look up the number and find out the identity of the owner.

People are also encouraged to register through online database Petlynx.