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Are we entitled to get our lost shelter dog back from its original microchip owners?

Q:

Hi my question pertains to my dog who we adopted from a shelter 3 years ago. Recently, he ran away, was found and scanned for his microchip (we didn't know original owners info was on it) and given back to original owners. Since he was at an animal shelter and we officially adopted him and have had him for 3 years, shouldn't we be entitled to get him back?

A:

Generally, when one adopts an animal from an animal shelter that has held the animal for the time period required by law, the adopter “owns” the animal, not the previous “owner.” However, if a microchipped dog was lost and ended up at a shelter and the shelter failed to check for the microchip prior to adopting out the animal, a court might be sympathetic to the person who lost the pet (not likely though if the dog was surrendered to the shelter by the "owner"). In Illinois, the law states that shelters must check for a microchip but the relevant laws in most other states are not as specific in large part because most of these laws were written long before microchipping was prevalent. Nevertheless, many laws, while not specifically mentioning microchips, require shelters to hold on to identified animals for longer than unidentified animals and to contact the “owners” of the identified animals. Many shelters check for microchips just as they do for tags, tattoos and other means of identification so that they can reunite animals with their “owners.” If you and the original “owner” cannot agree on custody, your option is to sue for the return of the dog. Courts will consider the evidence presented (not just the microchip) in determining who “owns” the dog now.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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