Return Minno to Her Owner of 9 Years! Elevate Pet Theft to a Felony!
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Imagine Minno's owners' ordeal. They loved Minno for 9 years. Minno was in her own backyard July 4, 2015 when her owners put her there briefly while they were eating lunch. When they went to let her in, she was gone. They assume she got out somehow, perhaps under the fence, but it is possible that someone took her out of their yard, or lured her out of their yard. The owners were frantic of course. She was chipped and licensed with the county, so they had hope she would be returned. They searched everywhere. They filed a report with animal control for a lost dog. They put up Craigslist ads and posted fliers everywhere. They continued searching for her for 20 months!
Again, Minno was microchipped and registered with Home Again Pet Services owned by Merck.com, but they never got a notice from them because Minno was found by someone, but was never scanned. Whomever had her kept her. Whomever had her never filed a found report as required in every county.
Pets are personal property in every state in this country, and finders of lost property are required to report the find in every state.
In Washington state, there is a law against taking someone's pet: RCW 9.08.070
Evidently, it does not work or it is not enforced.
20 months after they lost Minno, her owners got an email from Home Again microchip company. Minno had been scanned at a local vet clinic! She was brought to vet clinic as a stray. The owner dropped everything and rushed to get to the vet the day after she received the email, but the vet clinic then told her they already returned Minno to someone who had 2 years worth of records for the dog, even though Minno's owner for 9 years had contact information on the chip. If the people who had her for 20 months had vet records, why did the vet not scan Minno over 20 months? Here is local news coverage of the story http://katu.com/news/local/dog-missing-since-2015-is-reported-found-before-vet-gives-it-away-vancouver-woman-says
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Microchips are sold and implanted by vets. They hold a responsibility for the effectiveness of chips. I understand this vet clinic made a mistake. That happens. I hope they will learn from this one. I don't think anyone needs to be attacked in this case. The dog should be returned to rightful owner. If laws were stronger and clearer, this would not be left up to anyone but the law. Lost pets should be turned in to animal control or county shelter to avoid pet theft. Here are the AVMA guidelines for veterinarians on scanning animals.
"Scanning animals for microchips is necessary for the identification system to be effective. Therefore, every companion animal, bird, and equid presented to a veterinarian should be scanned, whenever possible, for the presence of a microchip…this routine scanning for a microchip not only aids in the positive identification of an animal, but also provides the opportunity to assess if the microchip is still functioning properly and located appropriately, as well as reminding owners to keep their microchip database contact information current."
According to existing laws in Washington state, animals seem to hold no real value as they are not included in felony theft of property. This means that in WA, animals are worth less than 750.00 and victims of theft have little legal recourse. In Minno's case, owners were told by animal control that this is a civil case. However, the "finder" 20 months ago did not file a report with county as required. RCW 9.08.070
We cannot put a dollar value on a pet with any sense of accuracy. More and more states are elevating pet theft to a felony crime because value is indeterminable. Oregon's 164.055 First Degree Felony Theft includes all animals. California's Penal Code 487, a felony, includes all animals. In New York state includes dogs and cats in Section 155.00 of the penal law. This will help prevent cases of people finding lost pets and thinking they can keep them without looking for owner. It will also help prevent outright theft.
Not only should Minno be returned immediately to her family of 9 years, Washington state legislators should consider amending RCW 9A.56.040 to include all animals (wildlife, livestock, companion/pet animals).
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