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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Nearly two weeks ago, we found a little dog roaming around our neighborhood. He had no collar, was filthy, skin and bone, and his teeth rotting. We thought for sure he was a stray. But to err on the side of caution we called animal control, animal shelter and a local rescue group to ask if someone had lost their dog and to report we found one.
I gave him a bath and checked for ticks, fleas, etc. Went to check his teeth and they were brown and loose. In the water he looked like a doggie skeleton. I started to cry clutching him in my arms.
I was almost wishing he was a stray than believe someone could take such poor care of their dog.
Then I fed him some soft dog food and he gobbled it up.
After considering to take him into the shelter, I talked with my local rescue group and they asked if I would like to foster. The plan was to advertise that we found him and wait the 7 required days the owner has to claim them, and after that get him checked up by a vet and ready to adopt. We would deal with the legality of filing an animal abuse report if we ever found an owner.
I posted everywhere, called everyone I was supposed to call, that we found this dog.
I received many messages and calls, but none of them were his owner.
I heard from my neighbor that a gal a few bldgs down from us was looking for their dog. I told him to get a hold of them and to contact me. He told them, but I was never contacted.
A week later we took him to the vet to get neutered and dental work. He came home with antibiotics instead. Said we needed to wait to do the surgery because he had an infection in his mouth, that they'd need to remove most of his teeth and that he needed a more invasive chryptocroid (sp) surgery because of an undescended testicle. The vet thought for sure he was a stray, as he was in such poor health and only weighed 4.6lbs.
Later someone sends me a picture of a poster for a lost dog that matches the description of the dog we found.
The owner was contacted and asked to provide a photo and vet records to prove ownership, but said she didn't have enough minutes left on her phone. She also mentioned that he has cancer and that's why he is so skinny, why two of his toes are missing and why his teeth are bad. We have not told her we have her dog. We will not until she can provide proof he is her dog. She has not sent us a picture, or attempted to contact us since.
We checked around and no vet had any record of a dog under the name the woman gave us. We also had a full blood panel done and he is cancer free. The same day we had the blood work done, he had gained .6lbs. Which proves that he was severely malnourished, if in the short time we've had him, he has already gained weight.
Monday we took him to get his dental and neuter. He is now sitting next to me fast asleep recovering. We named him Banjo. And it is my hope to have him adopted by a loving family who will love him as much as we have. I'll admit I'm definitely attached! But feel it isn't my place to have first call, even though as foster I technically do. I just feel it's not fair. Like I should give other families who have no dog a chance to adopt him. He is wonderful!

Most people say we are doing the right thing and if the owner wants him back we should involve the authorities. A couple people have said give him back. However, he has clearly been neglected and his owner has made minimal effort to look for him or get him back. And we have not even heard back from her!
If it was our puppy, Pocket, who went missing. I'd be doing everything in my power to find her. I'd call animal shelters, rescue groups, put up posters, put up ads online, in the paper, etc. I'd go door to door with her picture! But I guess that is the difference between someone who wants their dog and someone who doesn't?

What's weirder is that this gal lives very close to me. Our neighbor knows her. He told her we have him. We called her. Nothing.

Well, if she suddenly decides she wants him back she will have to go through a lot to get him. For one thing, the cost of room and board and all the vet work we've put into him alone. As well as the fact that she clearly lied about him having cancer to explain why he is in such poor health. When the reality is that he was not being cared for.

Does anyone have any knowledge behind the legalities of how to procede?
We want to put him up for adoption asap after he is recovered from his surgeries.
We could really use the advice! Thanks in advance!

Oh also! I want to make it clear that if this was a simple lost dog case, we'd have no problem reuniting him with his owners whatsoever. It is how neglected he was that has us refusing to put him back into the arms of his abusers.

(ps: I just joined today and this is my first post, sorry it is so long!)
 

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Hello and welcome! :)

I am glad you found the little one and have been able to get him the help he needs. I do not know the legalities ... but if it were me ... I could in no way find it within myself to return that poor dog to the acclaimed owner ... due to his neglect. That is downright horrid! I wish you luck and hope he does not have to be returned to someone who is not capable, willing, or able to care for him. He deserves better. :)
 

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I am sure the best people to ask are the ones you are fostering the dog for. They would not be paying out for the neutering, teeth, etc. and have you foster the dog if they could not legally rehome the dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
We had taken him to the vet before we saw the picture of the lost dog poster she put up. Not sure exactly when the poster was put up, just that we had not been made aware of it until after we took him to the vet the first time. The gal in charge of Camp Companion and I were discussing legalities, and she wasn't 100% sure what to do, as this is a unique situation for her, and she has obviously adopted out maaaany animals. She was initially concerned the law would be on the owner's side. However we have yet to hear back from her since we contacted her, so we went ahead with the surgeries. Our thought is that she will not claim him.

But it is not unheard of for lost dogs to be adopted out, and the original owners finding them and wanting them back. In most of these cases, the original owners are awarded custody. That is why I am concerned. If she does decide to later claim him, I am hoping the fact that he was so neglected will play a part and that she will not be awarded custody.
 

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I think you (or someone connected to the rescue) should talk to a lawyer in your state. the rescue I work with is fortunate to have an attorney as a co-founder, but there are several other local lawyers involved in the animal rescue community. Heck, just try calling a few law firms, giving a 30 second intro on what you need and ask if anyone is willing to give advice pro bono.

Document EVERYTHING. Weekly photos showing visible weight gain, notes on all conversations with the "owner", the vet's comments, all vet records, anything basically.
 

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Document EVERYTHING with photo's and vet records. Document the dog's progress. It sounds to me that you have a good case for neglect especially since the dog is improving dramatically. I think the original owner would probably be more willing to give up ownership if you can show proof that the dog has been neglected. What does animal control have to say about this situation? Is the dog microchipped or have a license?
 
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