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Can we keep a cat we found that was microchipped but neglected?

Q:

We have seen a cat around our property for weeks now we thought belonged to a neighbor and was being let out to roam a little. Though we don't agree with this, we don't know who it belongs to so we didn't do anything about it.

Today the cat was curled up under our front porch and would not leave. We pet her and she is very sweet and tame. We took her to a local shelter to determine if she was chipped, and they stated though she is with another shelter, from her state of being (very skinny, matted under fur, nails) she appeared neglected, abandoned and on her own and they did NOT recommend we return her to these owners.

My husband and I agree but we think it's illegal to take someone's pet without permission as they are considered property in PA. However, we would be sick if we returned her and learned she was neglected further.

Can a chipped animal not be returned and released to people who will actually care for her properly? Again, we've seen her for weeks now and she was starving.

A:

A person who finds an animal in poor condition does not automatically gain “ownership” of the found animal. While it is possible that this cat was abandoned and neglected, it is also possible this cat was lost and is skinny and matted because she had been lost for a long time. It is unclear if the cat’s microchip registration is under the cat’s adopter’s name or if the shelter is listed as the cat’s “owner.” Some shelters have a policy of registering microchips under the shelter's name and also keeping animals registered under the shelter’s name (even after adoption) so that if the animal becomes lost, the shelter will know. These shelters (and other shelters too) sometimes have a provision in their adoption agreements allowing the shelter to reclaim an animal who has not been provided with proper care. Perhaps the shelter in this instance would consider reclaiming the cat and offering you the opportunity to adopt the cat. Also, when people neglect an animal, they may not want the animal. These people sometimes do not respond to microchip inquiries and when they do, they sometimes agree to give away or sell the animal.

If an "owner" of an animal found in poor condition can be identified, one may also choose to contact the local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, humane society, or other local agency with the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws, to request that they conduct an investigation. However, cases involving a found animal who appears neglected can be difficult to prove unless an animal is brought to a veterinarian soon after being found so that the animal’s poor condition and the longevity of the condition can be documented. I hope this all works out well for the cat.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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