A civil compensation case concerning a lost purebred dog, Bibi, going through the Arkansas courts has resulted in a judgement by the state’s Court of Appeals that a lost pet can be picked up by animal control and adopted out without notification to the owner even if the animal can be fully identified through a combination of tattoo, tag and a microchip.
The judges noted that the Supreme Court of Arkansas had come to an earlier decision that such animals can be defined as ‘stock’ and seized and sold ‘without personal service of notice on the owner, and without any kind of judicial proceedings’.
This case concerned a female, breeding purebred German Shepherd pup who disappeared during a thunderstorm. She was found 4 miles away in a garage. She was taken by Animal Control.
The pup had three forms of identification: tag, tattoo and microchip. Animal Control failed to see the tag on the collar. The dog was taken to North Little Rock Animal Centre.
Her collar was removed. She was not scanned for a microchip. She was not checked for a tattoo identification.
She was spayed and adopted out. The dog’s owner, Darryl and Barbara Lunon were waiting for notification from Animal Control that they had found his dog because of the triple ID. They discovered that he had lost his precious breeding dog to a new owner and that she had been spayed.
They successfully sued the new owner for the return of their dog in the Pulaski County Circuit Court. But when they sued the county for compensation because they had violated his constitutional rights to due process they failed. By ‘due process’ they mean a failure by the authorities to check for ID and notify them that they had their dog to allow them to be reunited.
The court decided that there was no absolute obligation on the county to do this. This is part of their judgment:
Lunon’s claim is that defendants had an affirmative constitutional duty to learn that he was Bibi’s owner, a duty they breached by failing to scan Bibi’s microchip. At a minimum, these Supreme Court of Arkansas decisions establish that the procedural due process right alleged by Lunon … was not clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.
Comment: beware in Arkansas if your cat or dog goes wandering. The animal can become the property of a shelter who can do as they wish.
If you’re interested you can read a much fuller version of the story on the Arkansas Online website as this is a summary. Note: sometimes links break over time.