Imagine if your dog or cat went missing. You go to the shelter, file a missing dog report and hope that your pet is returned safely…. What if you later found out that your dog was adopted out to another family only days after your report was filed?
It is no secret that things have been a little chaotic at the Boone Area Humane Society (Boone, Iowa) since their previous shelter director was fired with no warning, and with the board having no known plan for a future director. Rumors have been flying about the safety of the animals in their care, as many employees quit after the firing.
On September 16, 2012 the Riker family dog of two years, Stella, ran away from their backyard after supper time. The family looked all around, talked to the neighbors and had no luck- as they are in a rural part of the county. Ultimately, the Riker children had to go to bed without their beloved pet. Due to the shelter’s hours, Marc Riker called the Boone Area Humane Society first thing the next morning and filed a missing dog report. Stella hadn’t been spotted, but Marc was assured that if a dog came in that matched her description, he would receive a call. After weeks, the family had started to lose hope that their lost dog would never return. They were never called by the shelter, there were no sightings or reports from neighbors. The family had started to fear that she had been hit by a car or worse.
A month after the initial report, while Marc was out with his sister, there was Stella sitting in someone’s backyard!! She was alive and safe! As it turns out, Stella had been found two days after she was reported as missing! After talking more with the elderly couple, Marc learned that the family adopted Stella from BAHS three weeks before- she had come in as a stray.
Immediately, Marc called the humane society and asked why he was never contacted when a white stray was brought in, as he was previously told that was the protocol. An unidentified worker at the Boone Area Humane Society, confirmed what the elderly man had told Marc. The dog was found 1/2 a mile from the Riker home two days after the missing report was filed, but said that Stella came to the shelter in bad shape- covered in cockle-burrs and had feces all over her. Because of her condition, the shelter officials considered her to be a stray. The “found” report was dated September 19th.
Marc went back and had a long talk with the elderly couple about Stella and each side considered their options. Both families are great homes for her, but they both love her dearly and neither side wants to let her go. In the end, the couple left it to Marc to decide. Like any loving pet owner would do, he decided to bring Stella home the next day. When Marc and his family went to get Stella, they were shocked to learn that the couple would not be returning her. The husband called the shelter earlier that day and was told by the director that Riker never filed a lost dog report, and since Stella was adopted- she is legally theirs.
Confused and hurt, Riker, again, made a trip to BAHS and requested copies of the lost dog report that he filed, as well as the found dog report that was filed when Stella came in. One of the workers quickly made him a copy of the lost report when the phone rang. Jane Elsberry, the BAHS board president was on the phone and told the worker that if Marc Riker came in not to give him anything, instead Riker should call her. After calling, Elsberry said that there is nothing BAHS can do for the Riker family. The dog was legally adopted out to this new couple and, per the shelter’s lawyer, they couldn’t discuss matters further. However, Elsberry did offer the family a free dog to smooth things over. Sadly, as it stands, Stella remains in her new home and the Riker family remains heartbroken, although, relieved to know that she is alive and healthy.
So what happens from here? Does the new family have the legal right to keep their new pet- or do they part with their family member? Should Marc and his family be forced to give up any and all claims to their lost dog?
What would you do if it were your dog?
Should the Boone Area Humane Society get out of this whole thing guilt free?
Please leave your thoughts below as I am sure we all have our own opinions about this incident.
And, if you so choose, contact BAHS and beg them to bring Stella home!
Phone: (515) 432-6112
This story has an important lesson for all of us. PLEASE microchip your pets! It is an easy way to ensure that your lost family member can find its way home!
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**UPDATE** I just received word from Marc Riker that Stella is home and safe!! The BAHS board voted unanimously to keep Stella in her current adoptive home (according to Jane Elsberry). However, due to the public pressure surrounding this ordeal, the new family returned Stella to the shelter and she found her way back to the Rikers. The family did have to pay all of the fees for a stray pet, including some vet bills because the new family went to get her spayed- although she already was.
Throughout this whole ordeal, the Boone Area Humane Society never admitted their fault in this.
**Editors note” the shelter refused to make a statement or comment on their story, per their lawyer**