Friday, December 17, 2010

Finders Keepers - NOT!

The other day I was walking along the sidewalk in downtown Milwaukee and I saw a bicycle leaning against a building. It was a bit sad looking - it's paint was faded and chipped, it's tires looked like they needed some air, and the seat had seen better days.  Poor thing. I glanced around for an owner but saw no one. It had been abandoned. I decided to take it home and give it some love. I was going to give it the life it deserved! I was going to be a hero! I was going to be a bicycle rescuer!   What a wonderful thing I was doing.  I would be able to tell the story for years to come to my friends and family about the poor neglected, abandoned bicycle that I had saved.

I hope you see where I'm going with this.  Of course I wouldn't take the bicycle. That's called STEALING.  Bicycles are property. Cars are property. A wallet is property.  Dogs are property.  Why do people think that it is somehow okay to keep a dog that they have found?

We very seldom have dogs intentionally stolen (premeditated theft) in Wisconsin.  But lately we have had several cases of lost dogs that have been picked up and kept by well-intentioned, but misinformed Good Samaritans. These are lost dogs that have owners who are desperately looking for them.  This is illegal. Let me say it again. Dogs are property.  We have a very clear law that states how lost property must be handled in Wisconsin and how you must make every effort to find and return the property to its owner. The details are spelled out and I encourage you to read them.

As we work through these cases with Lost Dogs of Wisconsin we smile and delicately and diplomatically negotiate the return of these dogs (if we know where they are).   But behind the scenes - my head is about to explode with the words "GET YOUR OWN DAMN DOG".  It isn't like there's not enough dogs in our shelters and rescues that need a good home.

I have two shy, sensitive dogs. They're also very physically fit. They would only have to be lost a couple of days and I'm sure they would appear underfed and abused - cowering and thin.  Would someone find them and assume I was a horrible owner and didn't deserve them back? Would they keep them and call themselves heroes - not even trying to reunite them with me?

In the big picture - this is one of the reasons that I am really happy that dogs ARE property. This protects my rights as their owner. The law is on my side if my dogs are lost.  Good Samaritans take note. We appreciate that you get the lost dog safely off the street and to a warm, dry place. If you feel that a dog is neglected or abused, contact a humane officer or police officer in your community.  But do not think that you are doing anybody any favors by keeping a dog that is not legally yours.


  1. Someone should send this to the lady in the Racine area that found the little dog belonging to (and very much missed by)the visiting family from Michigan. SHAME on her!!!

  2. This is so true. I have Italian Greyhounds so they are lean. My senior has always been thin. I shutter to think of what people would think if she got lose and didn't eat for a few days. Also many dogs are shy from life experience but dogs are often born shy, just like people, so one can not assume a shy or thin dog didn't have a good home or a loving owner like you said!

  3. Common Sense...Do you keep a child if you found him or her??? Of course NOT....You would look for the parents....As this should be with dogs as well!! They have parents too......!! Another great blog Kathy....!!

  4. Do you think that dogs that have been stolen from their homesteads try to run off and return home somehow? Two true stories seem to suggest that.

    A neighbor has a very well-cared for dog who wandered to the dead-end road we both live on, which was only only about 30 feet from the house. A passing car stopped, opened the door and called her dog in. Then they left. It took about 20 seconds. My horrified friend saw the whole thing from her upstairs window but a shrub hid the plate number. She called everyone on the road hoping to find out if the car's occupants were visitors but no one knew of them. Her dog was missing for 6 weeks and was eventually picked up as a stray 50 miles away and so luckily this story ended well. I imagine that her dog just wanted to go home and so ran off.

    A young couple stopped at McDonald's in Viroqua and their yellow lab was in the bed of their pickup truck. They watched from their table inside as a large man lifted their dog from their truck and and put the dog into his car. They immediately flew to their truck and gave chase but lost him. They called the humane society where I was volunteering in the office, extremely distraught. Two weeks later, the dog was picked up as a stray and was reclaimed by his ecstatic owners. Again, I wonder if the dog ran off intentionally hoping to find his way home.

  5. Anonymous - I wish we knew where the lady in Racine lived.

    Anna - I'm not sure if the dogs try to get back home or if the people that pick them up become disenchanted with dog ownership and set them loose again. Whichever it is - I'm glad that both these stories ended happily!

  6. This problem is universal; we see it in FL too. People who find a dog with no collar, or thin or dirty, or shy - assume it has been "dumped" or "abused". And it's very hard to convince them that might not be true.
    I think another big part of the problem is that these people think that taking the dog to a shelter would be a death sentence (and in FL that is often true) so they keep it or give it away to somebody else. Very few of them think of scanning the dog for a microchip - or know that they can have it scanned at no charge. A lot more education of the public needs to be done on this topic.

  7. I wish someone would claim the two dogs we currently have taken in. On was beside a busy high way for over two months when we successfully trapped her and brought her to our home. We have tried to find her home. Then a few months later another dog, almost identical to her showed up on our front porch. We cannot find his owner either. We would be delighted to return them if, someone can show that they are theirs. Alas, I think they were drop offs that the owner wanted to get rid of. We will rehome them once we have made them adoptable.

  8. To the last Anonymous commentor that has found two dogs - Is this in Wisconsin? If it is please email me at and let's see if we can match these dogs with the hundred or so that we have listed as missing.