On computers, morality and stolen pets

One of the tragic realities of the past seven months is that while the work of coordinating animal rescue, delivery of food and other supplies to shelters and staging areas, and tracking down the rescued animals was being done by a small army of us working from our computers, the people who evacuated without their pets - the people that all this effort has been for - often did not have internet access for many weeks or months.

Many were in shelters for a long time, or with family who did not have a computer.

In the
2002 State New Economy Index, Louisiana ranked #49 and Mississippli ranked #50 in percentage of internet users. Even though the report is based on data from a few years pre-Katrina, and more households had internet access by last summer, that was also true in all the other states, so the overall ranking is probably the same.

This is important information - the two states that were devestated by Katrina have the
lowest percentage of people who have and use computers. So when these people finally landed on dry ground and began to deal with the myriad of problems and issues, they did not necessarily run to the nearest computer to look for their pets. Many of them didn't even know that their pet was on the internet (it has never been a requirement of pet ownership to also own a computer).

Therefore, deciding not to return someone's pet because it had heartworms or was not spayed or neutered or because its fur was matted is nothing more than one person's MORALITY. It is not the law. The law is and will be on the side of the pet's legal owner; the person who was forced to evacuate without it.

So, a word of advise/warning to those still refusing to return pets to their rightful owners in New Orleans: several more lawsuits are being filed. The Chopper case in NJ was just the beginning, but a good precedent. If you are one of the many fosters, rescuers or shelters that has been asked to return a pet and you have refused, you may be the next to be sued. Or the one after that. And not only will you be ordered to return the pet (the judge will not care about heartworms or reproductive apparatus) but you will also be required to pay all legal fees and court costs. If you are a small rescue group, this will likely do you in. If you're an individual - one of those who decided to take home a 4-legged Katrina souvenir,
court papers will be served at your place of employment. The lawsuit will result in as much local media coverage as possible. In the long run, it will be best for you to make arrangements to get the pet returned and go find yourself another kitty or dog. Preferably one that actually needs a new home.

1 comment:

Snoutmamma said...

Amen! I believe many more pets would be reunited if fosters and shelters would stop playing the games they play. By that I mean not answering emails from owners or the volunteer helping the owner, refusing to take pictures of a previously shaved dog that now has the hair grown back,
by obnoxiously deriding owners about heartworm and spay/neuter-neither of which are required by law to be treated or surgically performed- and basically lying to the owner by not answering the owners questions. Instead many of them interrogate the owner, appointing themselves judge, jury and executioner. Another reason fosters give is the "why are you just now contacting me, it's been 8 months, and if you cared about this pet you would have contacted me sooner." As if the worst natural disaster in our history should be over and done with within 60 days...it has taken 8 months for owners to navigate the horrible mess made by the powers that be in the animal rescue organizations, even with experienced internet people. Compassion is in such short supply these days. I help so many owners who say that they think a certain dog MAY be their dog, but they can't tell for certain because the foster won't take pictures or the foster adopted it out to a 'friend' and refuses to divulge the name of the person now harboring the animal or they refuse to answer any questions about the pet. Just get over it, they tell the owner.

The fosters and organizations are leaving no other alternative open to the owners other than to sue these fosters.

Anyone who lives on this earth long enough comes to understand certain things in the universe, whether one calls it God or karma or whatever. What you do to someone else will be done to you sooner or later, what goes around comes around, for every action there is a reaction, and we do love our pets, but human beings of whatever race, social standing, economic standing, do have laws to protect them from the theft of their property by others, no matter how well meaning those 'fosters' are.