My friend recently found a stray dog. She rang the number on the tag and returned him. I wondered whether she did the right thing, as perhaps the dog had been stolen. You read so much about dog theft. What is the right thing to do?
Nik Oakley advises…
You raise a very valid point. If we find a dog with a tag on, our natural instinct is to phone the number and return the dog to that person. But by law you must inform the local dog warden, who may know the dog is missing. That way, the dog can be scanned and checked with the corresponding microchip company. If that dog is missing or stolen, then it should be flagged up on the system and the dog warden can take the appropriate action. Dog theft is a police matter!
The dog could also be taken to the nearest vet, who would probably scan the dog as well – as would your local DogLost volunteer – but the dog warden would still need to be informed before the dog is returned. With microchip scanners being so readily available, there are plenty of people willing to scan dogs and return them to the people they are registered to, thus avoiding paying charges to the local authority and missing the fact that the dog could have been chipped after being stolen.
Not only is this illegal, but there could be a welfare issue here too. Many dog wardens keep records of persistent escapees and may wish to pay the owner a visit if it happens frequently. At DogLost I ran a campaign called, “If you find me, you must report me”, as so many people had absolutely no idea that you couldn’t just keep, sell or give away a stray dog. It’s probably worth pointing out that a microchip is not proof of ownership either; it just gives the details of a registered keeper – a bit like with a vehicle. The regulations are full of loopholes, including the fact that it is not compulsory to scan a stray dog.
Do advise your friend of all this, and if either of you find another dog, also register it in the found section of DogLost.co.uk in case the owner is looking for it or it’s a long-term missing or stolen dog. And if you have time, scan the records of missing dogs on the website to see if you can find a match.