Idaho Falls
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Make sure you own your dog

Idaho Falls

IDAHO FALLS – If you got your pet from Craigslist, a friend, or if you picked up a stray, you may want to find out if it’s registered to someone else.

Your pet could have been stolen or lost and it may legally belong to another person.

Even if the animal was given to you, there’s a chance it won’t matter if it’s picked up by animal control.

Jackie and Nina

Jackie Stilwell knows the situation all too well.

Last summer, she received her Olde English Bulldogge, Nina, from someone who had asked her to pet sit for her. The dog had been microchipped and registered to the original owner.

“During the two weeks that I was dog sitting, the owner was arrested and put in jail,” Stilwell said.

Stilwell has been caring for Nina ever since.

But on July 13, the dog was picked up by Idaho Falls Animal Control. City employees say the dog was at a neighbor’s house.

“I happened to walk by my back window and saw the animal control truck leaving the alleyway,” Stilwell said. “I noticed my back gate was open. I knew they had my dog because she was gone.”

Stilwell said she called the animal shelter before her dog arrived at the facility and told workers Nina’s chip was still registered to the former owner, who is incarcerated.

The animal shelter

Irene Brown, the Idaho Falls Animal Shelter supervisor, told when an animal is registered to someone other than the current owner, there are certain steps the shelter must take.


“We get the animal in here, and we don’t have any idea who’s taking care of the animal and who’s not,” Brown said. “All we know is that the animal either has a microchip or a license or even a name tag with somebody else’s name.”

In those situations, the shelter first attempts to call the person who the animal is registered to.

“Until we actually talk to a person, that animal is considered not available for adoption,” Brown said.

If the shelter staff are unable to make contact with the owner, they send a letter to whatever address is listed on the microchip.

The shelter then waits five days for a response from the registered owner.

If there is no reply, the dog or cat then becomes property of the shelter and usually is put up for adoption.

“Under normal circumstances, if somebody does come forward and say, ‘I’ve had this dog for the last two years,’ or, ‘I have had this dog for the last year,’ that person gets the first right to get the animal back,” Brown said. “We put them as number one on the adoption list.”

What could happen

In Stilwell’s case, Nina was adopted out to someone else before Stilwell went to pick her up.

After learning about the situation, the woman who adopted Nina decided to give her back to Stilwell.

Stilwell said she is grateful to the woman, but is upset with the animal shelter.

“They didn’t even call me,” Stilwell said. “They adopted her out to the second person on that list and I was like, ‘What the heck?'”

Brown said they don’t always have time to make follow-up phone calls, but they are reviewing some of their policies.

“I suggest to anybody that has gotten a dog to go a vet or come to us and find out if that dog has a microchip that’s registered to somebody else,” Brown said. “Because, literally, it could save them a lot of heartbreak.”

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