A Templeton woman claims online that the San Luis Obispo County Division of Animal Services prematurely adopted her lost dog to another family before the five-day holding period had expired.
The woman’s story has spread through social media, perhaps because it echoes a similar 2010 incident in which rallies — fueled by local media — and later threats caused a family to return their newly adopted dog to its original owner.
But the county is defending itself, claiming the dog was held at the shelter longer than the minimum holding period of five days and wasn’t contacted by the former owner, listed on social media as Stacy Venable, until eight days after the dog was legally adopted.
Venable did not respond to requests for comment Thursday morning.
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On Facebook, however, she claimed that the dog, a boxer named Deuce, went missing on July 8 and that she reported the dog missing online.
Jeff Hamm, director of the county Health Agency, which oversees the Animal Services division, said Thursday that the dog was taken to a Templeton veterinarian as a stray on July 7 or 8.
The vet took the dog to the shelter on July 8 and staff noted it had no identifying collar, license or microchip.
Hamm said, according to records, someone expressed interest in adoption during the hold period and an adoption hold was placed on the dog July 13.
The dog was officially adopted July 14.
“We held the dog beyond the legally required holding period and (Venable) never contacted us until after the dog was adopted out of the shelter. In that sense it does sound like ‘Annie the Dog, Part II,’” Hamm said, referring to the 2010 incident.
Hamm said the agency does not have an online form to report missing dogs but does post resources, such as a link to Craigslist, to help people who have missing dogs. He said people who have lost pets must call or visit the shelter to make a report.
However, Hamm said the agency spoke to Venable by phone Wednesday and told her that if she writes a letter to the new owners the agency would act as an intermediary and deliver it. Hamm said staff would also call the new owner and explain the situation before delivering the letter.
Whether the dog is returned is up to the new legal owner, he said.
“That’s why the Annie situation turned out to be so difficult — the owners didn’t want to give her up,” Hamm said. “You never know how owners are going to feel.”
In 2010, after a Pismo Beach man’s Australian shepherd got spooked and ran off and was later legally adopted by a family, local media told the original owner’s story. That led animal lovers to pressure the family until they ultimately gave Annie to the original owner.
This time, the Animal Services Division is getting backlash on its Facebook page, which Hamm said stems from misinformation.
A July 10 Facebook post written by a volunteer and supposedly featuring a photo of Deuce, read: “This sweet boy was adopted yesterday!!”
Venable began telling her story in the comment thread on July 22 and as of Thursday morning the thread had attracted some 30 comments by Venable supporters questioning whether the agency followed its policy.
“Shame on this shelter! This dog was and still is loved by his family and yet you broke your own company policy and let the dog be adopted before the 5-day period, was this just about money?!” wrote Shawntae Rodriguez.
Hamm said the agency is waiting to hear from Venable to see how she wants to proceed.
“We want to reunite (owners) with their pets. That’s our number one thing; adoption is number two,” Hamm said. “If (the dog) had been licensed, we would have gotten it back to the owner.”