Despite having worked in the veterinary profession for over 15 years, I was surprised by some of the things I learned while trying to recover my lost dog Junebug recently.
Returning from work to find 11-year-old Junie missing, I immediately walked the fenced perimeter calling and searching for her, thinking she might be in a medical crisis. Then I got in my car and started searching.
It’s unusual for Junie to leave my property or test the fence, and I knew that a neighbor baits and traps animals and turns them over to the shelter. I asked if he’d seen her; he said he had her trapped and had called Animal Control. Even though Junie had her rabies, microchip and ID tags, he refused to let me have her. It goes without saying that we exchanged some heated words.
Once the animal-control officer arrived, Junie was returned to me, and since I had no history of violations, had proof of current vaccinations and she was microchipped, I received only a warning instead of a $50 fine for an unleashed pet.
Another neighbor recently had a similar situation. She repeatedly called the animal shelter inquiring about her cat and sent them photographs, only to be told they didn’t have him. But when she went to the shelter, she found he’d been there for two days and recovered him for a small fee.
Here’s what can happen to your pet and what you can do about it.
• Once you realize your pet is missing, get the word out ASAP:
1) Create a flier with your pet’s photo, identifying features (collar, tags, physical markings, age, sex, neutered/spayed), when and where lost and any reward. Date it and include your contact information.
2) Hand out fliers to your neighbors (it’s illegal to place them in mailboxes). Post fliers in conspicuous locations. Many stores have bulletin boards for this, but ask first. Send fliers to the animal shelters, and post them at pet stores.
3) Call all local veterinary hospitals to see if your pet has turned up, and ask if you can post or fax them your flier.
4) Don’t settle for a phone call: Physically go to the shelter and ask to see if your animal is there. Shelters are busy places, and desk staff often aren’t aware when new pets come in.
5) Call local newspapers and radio stations to see if they do missing-pet announcements.
6) Post an advertisement on Web sites such as www.lostpetswnc.org, www.petfinder.com and www.ashevillehumane.org.
7) Contact an animal communicator promptly: Often, these talented people can see what the animal is seeing, giving clues as to whether the pet is hurt or trapped and where to look.
• Know your rights as a Buncombe County pet owner:
1) A countywide law requires all animals—cats, horses, cattle, ferrets, etc. as well as dogs—to be confined to the owner’s property unless leashed.
2) Know that some people take it upon themselves to enforce this law if an animal comes onto their property.
3) It’s legal to bait traps to attract loose animals onto one’s property but not legal to shoot, poison or harm a domestic pet in any way.
4) It’s illegal to bait, trap, relocate, harm, handle or destroy wildlife unless you’re a certified wildlife officer or rehabilitator. Not everyone adheres to the law, however.
5) If your pet is off-leash, it can fall victim to malicious intent.
6) If private property is posted “No Trespassing” or the owner refuses to relinquish your pet, you cannot legally recover it. If you find yourself in this situation, call the Sheriff’s Office to connect with Animal Control. Let the law deal with difficult situations.
7) If your animal is on someone’s property unclaimed and they are caring for it, it becomes theirs after 30 days.
8) If your pet is picked up by Animal Control, it will be scanned for a microchip and examined for identification. If it has either, the officer will try to contact you and return your pet. If they can’t reach you, your pet will go to the shelter for 10 days while they try to contact you. After that, the animal will either be adopted or euthanized, at the shelter’s discretion.
9) If your pet has no identification, the county is required to hold it for only 72 hours before either euthanizing it or evaluating it for adoption.
10) State law requires that pets have a current rabies vaccination from a licensed veterinarian. Buncombe County holds tax-subsidized rabies clinics the last Saturday of the month offering rabies vaccinations for $6 and microchips for $10.
11) At the shelter, your pet will immediately be dewormed and vaccinated, regardless of current status, in an effort to control infectious diseases.
12) If you want to breed your pet, you must pay $100 a year for a breeding license.
Beware these fees
If your pet ends up at the shelter, you may be subject to the following fees:
• $10/day boarding fee
• $50 leash-law-violation fee
• $15/day quarantine fee for a pet that bites a human and lacks a current rabies vaccination. The quarantine may last up to 90 days.
• $25 reclaim fee in Buncombe County, plus an additional $60 reclaim fee for Asheville residents.
• $200 unaltered-pet fee if your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, unless you have a breeding license.
If you do succeed in recovering your pet, get it microchipped ASAP. Microchips save lives, and microchipped pets are reunited with their owners faster. Keep your information current with your veterinarian and the chip manufacturer. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a microchipped animal whose owner’s contact information is unavailable.
[Donna Tully, a registered veterinary technician, works at All Pets Animal Hospital in Asheville.]