On Friday morning, May 25, Ayda & Hunter, two yellow lab siblings, sneaked through an unlatched gate and set out on a journey of their own.
Frantically, their owners began the search, but eight legs proved to be no match for their two legged owners. After several hours of searching, the owners returned home and began the heartache of calling everyone they could think of, shelters, local businesses and neighbors in the area where they were last seen.
When RVAS received their call, we put our PET ALERT system into place. Within hours a flyer was created and distributed to over 500 volunteers, adopters, vets and local law officials to be on alert that these two dogs were missing, and had owners searching high and low for their return.
By Friday evening, there was no sight of the dogs and the owners retired defeated and worried. Many RVAS volunteers searched throughout the weekend, reporting to RVAS, but unfortunately these two weary lives were still on the loose, and time was running out. Statistics show that dogs who are found within 48 hours are usually found alive.
By Monday, Memorial Day, there was still no sign of these two dogs, and the owners began fearing the worst. By Sunday they while still having hope, they started to resign to the fact that their two beloved companions might be lost forever.
On Tuesday, a man entered the Windsor Heights Public Works building, as he does every morning when he goes to work. He noticed a flyer laying on the ground. It was Ayda & Hunter. He telephoned the owners and told them he thought he had their dogs.
The owners took off for Windsor Heights, and sure enough, there they were...scared, cold and hungry. Relieved their owners swept them up, got hugs and kisses and a happy ending resulted.
Or did it? While the dogs did return home, unharmed, the sad news is that the dogs were picked up by Windsor Heights police on Friday at 9:30 am. on Interstate 235 near 63rd street, ONE HOUR after they went missing.
Both dogs are microchipped, however the scanner at the public works department did not read the chips. Apparently the officers only scanned the neck/shoulder area instead of zig-zagging from neck to rear as microchips sometimes will move slightly if implanted into the dog at a younger age. As the dog grows, so does the skin, and the chip moves with it.
This case is a perfect example of how the services that your tax dollars fund, may not be working or being implemented as you think.
Windsor Heights staff spent 6 hours of overtime caring for these dogs throughout the holiday weekend; Owners were heartbroken that their beloved pets were not found, fearing the worst, and volunteers and RVAS supporters spent their holiday weekend searching the areas last seen in hopes that there would be a glimpse of hope that these dogs would be found. A waste of time and money for everyone involved.
The owners DID call the Windsor Heights Lost Pet Number, but not until 5:15 pm on Friday. The office closes at 5:00. The confusion came when the owners weren't sure where to turn next. The Public Works Department serves as animal control for Windsor Heights. At 5:00 pm during normal business hours, the phone is switched to an answering machine and messages are taken.
It is unclear who to call to retrieve or report a lost animal. On the website, there is an animal control number, but this number is also used for the Fire Department, the main office and the parks. After hours calls are SUPPOSED to go to the police department, but they don't have dispatch, so it's sent to the Des Moines Police Dispatch.
They would have been instructed on what to do next, however the Public Works Department wasn't contacted by the DSM Police. It's unclear as to why the protocol wasn't followed, but, Ayda & Hunter, spent their weekend in a tiny cell, in a Public Works Maintenance Shed (that's the Windsor Heights City Pound), with no windows and no air-conditioning, on a cement floor, with only 6 hours of human contact for 3 days. Their owners paid over $300.00 in fines, most of it for boarding, an unnecessary fee, had the dogs been scanned properly.
Whatever the reason for the confusion, the clear picture is there is no standard regulation for lost and found dogs in our City Pounds. The Windsor Heights Public Works Director said that they only hold dogs for 3 days (it used to be 7), and then they turn them over to the ARL, where, depending on their behavior may or may not be put up for adoption. Because of the holiday, the Public Works Director gave these dogs an extra day. It's a good thing he did.
RVAS is now working on a proposal for police departments, city officials and animal control units, to make certain that the guidelines for finding and retrieving a lost pet is easy for the general public to understand. Simpifying the process would definitely help, as the average individual would have no way of knowing the different public officials they'd have to search down to find their dogs. It is our recommendation that you check your local city pound and find out how their animal control system works, just in case you find yourself in this same position.
RVAS is the only shelter/rescue in the metro area that has a 24 hour emergency service number just for cases like this. Our PET ALERT system works, however, it's imperative that ALL animal control, city governments and shelters work together to reunite lost pets and owners. Until that day happens, many more companions will be lost, with less than positive results, or worse, never found and then euthanized because they didn't make an adoption floor.
As for brother/sister...when last updated, they were sleeping well, with full bellies and lot's of love surrounding them. It's a bittersweet ending for sure.
To learn more on how you can become involved with our PET ALERT! program, email or contact 515.577.1745.