UPDATED: Should Owners Have 30 Days to Reclaim Lost Pets?

Categories: Spaced City

To change the ordinance, or not change the ordinance...
Update: The Houston City Council has postponed the vote until March 26.

The Houston City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a proposal that would eliminate a 30-day redemption period in the animal control ordinance allowing prior owners to reclaim animals that wind up in the city pound.

Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care officials proposed the amendment after the owners of a missing German shepherd sued a rescue group that pulled the dog from BARC and refused to return him. The case exposed a conflict in the existing ordinance, in which BARC -- like all municipal shelters -- has the right to euthanize animals after a 3- or 6-day holding period, but which technically gives prior owners a 30-day period to reclaim the animal.

Allowing the 30-day period to remain could have a chilling effect on personal adoptions and pulls from rescue groups, because BARC could not automatically guarantee ownership, BARC Spokesman Chris Newport says. The ordinance would allow BARC to assume ownership after the holding period, and thus be able to transfer ownership to an individual adopter or rescue group.

"We need to provide the greatest number of animals the greatest chance of getting into a new home. In order to do that, we need to be able to provide a degree of certainty to the rescue groups that work with us, that if they pull an animal from us, it's going to be good to go, and they're not going to get into a fight, or they're not going to be questioned" if an owner comes forward later, Newport says.

But opponents of the proposal call it an egregious governmental overstep that essentially allows missing pets to be seized without due process.

Leading the charge is self-proclaimed "dog lawyer" Zandra Anderson, whose legislative work on behalf of breeders, has made her a polarizing figure in the local animal rescue community. Anderson also represented Leah Purcell, the owner of the notorious dog sanctuary Spindletop, where authorities seized nearly 300 dogs found to be living in filthy conditions in August 2012. Authorities also learned that 38 dogs had suffocated in a building on the property in June 2012. (At no time during our coverage of the seizure did Anderson or Purcell release the names of those dogs; many owners whose dogs were not recovered in the seizure still have no idea what happened to them.)

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What some opponents may not understand is that the city can still lawfully euthanize your dog within the first week of him/her being in the shelter. It's always been that way. There is a 3-6 day holding period, and once that is up, their best chance of getting out alive is through a rescue group. 

The possibility of being euthanized within the first week of arriving at the shelter is high, 30-day redemption period or not. Think about it, folks. You would hope and pray a rescue is able to save your dog's life at that point. And I believe that anyone with proper credentials/proof of ownership & care should not have a problem getting their dog back. Anything can happen but the likelihood of your dog "being stolen" by the city or a rescue is EXTREMELY small. 

And of course no one wants that to happen. Our city has an animal overpopulation problem. If you've ever seen the turn-in line at BARC with people bringing in buckets of puppies, their elderly dogs they have no use for anymore, and all of the strays...you would understand that if rescues are not able to get at least some of these animals out, they all die. It sucks, but this is the way things are right now. How will a rescue be able to adopt out ANY of their dogs? How will they get adopters to sign adoption contracts that are worth a squat? How does this affect the future wellbeing & safety of all dogs that enter the shelter system?  

Pushing for the 30-day period is unreasonable in light of what is at stake. Sorry, property rights are important, but is the very small/undetermined possibility of a rescue refusing to give your dog back to you worth the certain mass euthanasia of thousands of dogs who couldn't get pulled by a rescue? The other dogs WILL die and in large numbers...there is no guarantee your dog will be stolen by a rescue! 

Protect your property interest by getting him/her microchipped. Keep veterinary records for additional proof of ownership and also to show you've cared for your dog. Yes, some "radical" animal rights extremists might actually believe that heartworm positive status means you might not be giving your dog the best care. Protect your property interest. And be grateful for the idea that a rescue could very well be the one to save your dog's life at the last hour they are scheduled to be alive. The 3-6 day initial holding period before euthanizing is the way things have always been and will continue to be. You effectively decrease your dog's chances of getting out alive at the end of this period if a rescue is unable to help. The 30-day redemption period won't mean much if your dog has already been euthanized by the city. 


While on the surface it seems overbearing.  The city does not have the capacity to hold all the dogs that cross through the doors of BARC and after a 72 hour state required hold on strays, they get as many out to adoption/rescue as possible, while even as it is, too many are euthanized. 

Note, if someone finds a dog and holds it for any length of time before turning it into BARC, that time is deducted from the 72 hours.  So if someone keeps a dog for 24 hours and then turns it over to BARC, it then has 48 hours before it can be put up for adoption or sent to a rescue group.  It is not a winning solution for anyone, but fewer pets will die if the city gets ownership of an animal after a short stray hold.  Otherwise, the city and rescues have too much liability for taking strays out of BARC.  The longer they stay there, the more at risk they are for disease and euthanasia.

I do agree that if a pet has not been adopted, in good conscience, the rescue should turn the pet over to its family if the pet owner can prove it is reasonably up to date on vaccinations and in reasonably maintained health.

Because the two families mentioned, sued to get their pets back, the city is trying to cover its liability in a practice that’s been used as long as the 5 years I have been in rescue.  If you feel this is not a good option, please support finding other options.  Keeping animals in any shelter as opposed to adopting or sending to a rescue is never, ever a positive. 


A few years ago, I pulled a dog out of a shelter on the morning that it was supposed to be killed. It was sitting right next to the euthanasia room when I went to pick it up.  The dog had been in the shelter for ten days before I got it. It was a puppy around 7 months old, not spayed, very sweet.  I immediately took it to the vet, had it double-checked for a microchip (there was none), vaccinated, heartworm tested, micro-chipped, physical, fecal exam, and treated for a skin infection, and made an appointment to have it sterilized, purchased heartworm prevention.  The bill came to about $260.

I also looked at various places online to see if anyone was missing such a dog, never found a thing.  About three days later, I received a call from the shelter that an owner had surfaced.  I was told that I needed to bring the dog NOW, right NOW back to the shelter (I was at work).  I asked the shelter if there was proof of ownership being presented and was basically told I did not need to worry about that, just to bring the dog. My response was that I was not leaving working to bring the dog and if it was the real owner then they would have to wait until the next day when I could make arrangements or the shelter could give me their contact info and I would meet them myself. The shelter did not want to give me the information and proceeded to tell me that if I did not bring the dog, they would have an ACO visit my home to get the dog.  Told them to go right ahead, but no one was home so they would have a wasted trip.

The next day, I made copies of all my invoices for the dog, contacted the shelter and told them that the owner needed to bring either cash or a money order to reimburse me for all the vetting expenses plus $10 a day for boarding. The shelter contact went pretty silent when they saw how much the bills were.  I took the dog to the shelter, the alleged owner was already there, the shelter staff did not want me to see who it was, nor would they give me a name. 

I did not turn over the dog until the reimbursement was in my hand--the "owner" was upset and said that he was not told that he had to pay me for costs. I found out that the owner had been in the hospital and left the dog in the care of a family member. The owner had just gotten out and that is when he found out the dog was missing. Like a few folks in the rescue world I had "ass"umed that the owner was probably irresponsible and did not care. The dog was not altered (unfortunately it was to be bred), it was running around loose after all. But the owner really did love that dog, he showed be pics, vet records, and he handed me the cash to get his dog back. 

If I had not picked up that dog that day, there would be no dog. But would it have been right to deny the owner his dog considering the situation? IMO, no. 

Do I wish I could have had the dog sterilized before the owner popped up? Hell, yes.  

Now, as a pet parent myself, would I move heaven and hell to get my furballs back? Hell, yes. 

As a rescue person, I understand why rescues want these assurances, but if you have an owner, pet parent, animal guardian, whatever term you want to use show up seeking their animal, it needs to be decided in an impartial an unbiased forum. Far too many times, our own prejudices, biases, ASSumptions will muddy the waters.  Sometimes, in rescue, we can get too "holier then thou" because of all the bad we see.  Fine line to balance on with no easy answers.


This " story" is utter bunk . If any one of the " writers" at the " news" outlet above lost their pet , they would be the first clamoring to sue a rescue that was holding it . How long should an owner who has been looking for a dog and willing to reimburse costs be able to have an ownership interest and reclaim the animal ...forever . Rescues who take these animals and refuse to return them under the above conditions are dabbling in theft . Take in a dog that doesn't have an owner  , and give the ones that have owners back . The two cases cited were both wonderful homes and owners and the dogs well cared for . Mild heartworm positive is meaningless . More rhetoric and lies from those wanting to keep dogs they are not entitled to.


Perfectly stated. You did the right thing


@jshaver522  "Thanks" for your "comment" and its "awesome" use of "quotation marks," but who exactly are these rescues who are out there snatching dogs from poor, helpless owners? Please let us know of other rescues besides GHGSR that have committed such heinous atrocities. And while I do appreciate the vague mud-slinging without documentation, a little more detail on the "rhetoric and lies" would be "super." 


It doesn't matter if anyone else does it. The option for owners who are looking for their pets and are willing to reimburse reasonable cost of care should always have that option as for my use of quotation marks. Move along


Mudslinging. You should know all about that. Try and stay on topic when you write please. It matters not who or what group takes a dog and refuses to return it to the owners. It should not be allowed to happen. Any owner at any time should be able to identify and reclaim their animals who gave been lost provided they are willing to make reasonable reimbursement for expenses

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