Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County.More >>
Two elementary schools were directly impacted by a massive tornado in the Oklahoma City area on Monday. It brings to mind a storm from a 1996 tornado which destroyed the Allardt Elementary School in Fentress County. More >>
NEW TAZEWELL (WATE) - Every week, hundreds of dogs and cats that run away or get lost show up at East Tennessee animal shelters. If they aren't claimed by their owners within a certain number of days, the pets can be adopted.
Do you know what the rules are?
So many animals are turned in at shelters that several years ago, the state wrote rules governing what animal shelters can and cannot do with dogs and cats. The laws establish responsibilities for pet owners, such as shots and tags. The rules also say you could lose your animal if you show up too late at the shelter to claim it.
Tammy Bean, a dog owner in New Tazewell, called 6 On Your Side after she tried to get her pet back, but discovered he had been adopted.
Tammy is a certified hair stylist who teaches at Sandra Academy in New Tazewell.
She's also a dog lover. She raised a pit bull named Smoky from birth.
However, he ran away earlier in August. "We were spraying for bugs and weeds at my home and a friend of mine was keeping him for me, and he escaped out of the pen we had him in," Tammy said.
Smoky was turned in at the Claiborne Animal Shelter about eight days after he ran off. He had no rabies tag on him or any registration.
Shelter Director Liza Martz says the clinic is overcrowded and has been since it opened earlier this year. On average, more than three dozen dogs and cats are brought in every week.
If a person finds a pet, they fill out a surrender form when they bring it to the shelter. A form shows Smoky was brought in about mid-month.
Tammy called the shelter about Smoky being missing. "I spoke with a girl that works at the shelter," she said.
She says she left information about the dog, but she never visited the shelter to see if Smoky was there.
Some dogs have microchips that can be scanned so the pet is easy to identify. The chip has the owner's information so she can be notified to pick up her pet.
However, many dogs and cats come in without any registration, and Smoky was one of them.
"If the animal comes in without any identification on it, there is a 72 business hour waiting period. So we have to hold the animal," Martz explained.
The rules say unregistered stray animals can be held up to three days, or 72 hours. After that, there's a catch. "Then it's up to us what we do with it, whether we adopt it or euthanize it if we are crowded," Martz said.
If a stray has been adopted before its owner comes to claim it, the animal can be turned over to the new adopted family. Smoky was adopted before Tammy showed up to claim him.
"We don't play hardball, but we have to do something. We get so many animals in we have to be able to move the animals out of here," Martz said.
"If you lose your dog, you need to go to the shelter and look for it yourself at least every other day," Tammy advised other owners.
Although she called the shelter, Tammy admits she should have visited to see if Smoky had been turned in.
She even offered to pay the $125 adoption fee. The experience has left her bitter. "It's very heart breaking when you raised a puppy from the bottle and they tell you that it's no longer your concern. They won't even tell you where he is going to go or where he's going to end up," she said.
Tammy can't have her dog back since he was adopted by someone else. "We signed a contract with the person who adopted the dog and the legal ownership was transferred to that person," Martz explained.
This is the first time an owner has lost their pet at the Claiborne Animal Shelter under the adoption rule.
6 On Your Side spoke with animal shelter directors in several communities across the state. If you have a pet that's missing, their suggestion is to immediately contact the animal shelter in your area and visit that shelter.
Of course, one of the best ways of getting your animal returned is for it to wear a collar and have a microchip.
If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email email@example.com.