Under the law, dogs are property – like a bicycle, a purse or a car. But have you ever had a pet stolen … and actually gotten them back? Do you think the laws about “pet-napping” need to be different from those for auto theft? Or do the laws just need to be enforced? I got the impression that law enforcement really doesn’t know HOW to enforce the law as it pertains to pet stealing.
Here’s my story: You may recall “a rescue story” from a few months ago, in which I talked about my dog, Tina, who was stolen from my office in front of three employees in broad daylight. I had immediately called the police and the animal services officer, who came out and spoke to me with compassion about the situation. They seemed very concerned and offered that this was indeed grand theft, larceny, and … who knows what else. I pretty much stopped listening to the list of offenses after I heard the trump cards played first.
However, even though I have all of the papers showing that I am the owner, Tina is micro-chipped with my information, all of the vet bills were paid by me for the first year of her life, and I have many witnesses to the fact that the thief left me a message three months earlier stating that she was entirely my dog, they wouldn’t do anything to retrieve her for me.
Let’s step back a second. I need to give you some history, if you didn’t read the original story. I am highlighting the history section in blue, so you can skip it if you already know this part.
This person – the thief – used to be a dear friend of mine. His friend had picked up a “stray” on the street one day and brought the dog who would be called Tina home as a “gift.” My friend was absolutely broke, and had been out of work for more than six months. He was sharing his studio apartment in order to get some help with the rent. And his apartment didn’t allow pets. So, he asked me if I would like this dog, but since I was in the process of moving, I told him I would love to take her in a month or so, when I was settled.
He called me one day, in a panic. He had just received a 3 day or quit notice on his door and needed me to take her right away – which I happily did. I took in this sweet little puppy, whose hair was completely matted and covered with fleas, and had her groomed and healthy in no time. He wanted to “share custody,” but couldn’t keep her at his place and couldn’t afford anything like food or shots or registration … or grooming … so I took care of all of that.
Six months later, it became apparent that he just could not swing the responsibilities of dog ownership. So I told him it was time to make a decision. I would gladly keep her happy and healthy for the next 15 years of her life, or he would have to take her back. Six months is too long to be in limbo! For Tina and for me!
So, my friend called and left a voicemail message stating that he had given it a lot of thought and since Tina was happy living with me, and since I could afford to take care of her and my lifestyle didn’t interfere with dog ownership – like his did – he was officially stating that she was now entirely my dog. No more limbo.
So, at this point I had her micro-chipped and spayed. I bought her a carrier that I could take onto the airplane, so that she could accompany me to Colorado for the holidays. All of my friends, my whole family and all of their dogs were looking forward to meeting my wonderful Tina!
Now we’re back to where this blog began … this person I used to call my friend came into the office one morning, left the door open, grabbed Tina and ran out the door, down the street and jumped into an early model Honda Prelude and drove away.
As I said earlier, the law sees dogs as property – like a bicycle, a purse or a car. However, if someone stole my car in front of witnesses, and I had the registration and Lo-Jack on it, don’t you think I would have my car back by now?
The Culver City Police said they couldn’t do anything since he took her to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police said they couldn’t do anything since I filed the report in Culver City, where the actual theft took place. I spoke to many attorneys, police officers and detectives, animal activists, friends … family … and EVERYONE said that she was obviously my dog and I should be able to get her back.
If my car had been stolen in Culver City and taken to Los Angeles, would Culver City Police help me? Would Los Angeles Police help me? Would anyone help me, even if I knew who stole it and where it is now???
Yet, everyone I spoke to said that there was nothing they could do. The paperwork and witnesses would help me in a court of law, and I would definitely win, but they couldn’t get her back for me without my filing a civil suit … which requires the hiring of an attorney. And what attorney will be interested in taking a case like this? Well … none that I could find.
Tina relaxes on the grass with her good friend Bella in the summer of 2009.
I could sue in small claims court for the $1,800+ I had spent on her since she came to live with me in early April of 2009, and although I would win that case, I would not get my dog back because small claims court is ONLY about money – not property.
Many folks told me to go and just “get her back” on my own. I attempted this last January with a few friends and a videographer to record the whole thing in case there was any dispute as to what really happened. This attempt failed, and during my rescue attempt he repeatedly threatened to “kill the dog before he gave her back to me.” My ex-friend then harassed me and my co-workers while at the office on numerous occasions. I also got a few disturbing text messages from him. But all of that ceased after about four more calls to law enforcement.
Still, I don’t know what has become of my precious dog, Tina. I LOVE this dog. I miss her every day. I worry about her livelihood with this flake whose erratic behavior had become actually scary over the course of the eight months I had Tina with me. Is Tina still alive? Is she healthy? Will I ever get her back?
Tina's last visit to the beach before she was stolen in December of 2009.
Has anyone else encountered the theft of their pet … and actually gotten them back? How did you do it? Did you have an attorney who took your case out of the goodness of his/her heart? Do you think the law needs to be changed or just enforced? We want YOUR opinion!