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Toledo to help owners identify lost deceased pets
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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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        The City of Toledo is establishing a policy on finding owners of dead pets collected in the streets after the city failed to contact the owner of a dog with tags that was hit and killed by a car last July.

         Carlos, an 11-year-old red Chihuahua, had an up-to-date license, rabies, and ID tags attached to its collar, but city workers who collected the deceased dog soon after it was hit never called owner Julia Hatfield to inform her of the dog’s death. Instead, Carlos was thrown in a common dump like other dead animals found in the road.

        Carlos had gotten out of its yard on Camden Street in East Toledo while Julia and her husband, Allen, went out for the evening on July 22. After returning home a couple of hours later, they started searching for the dog when they realized it was gone. 

        Following an unsuccessful search, they found a note on their front porch informing them Carlos had been hit by a vehicle at Varland Avenue and Woodville Road, a couple of blocks from their house. “The note stated `Your dog was hit on Varland and Woodville. I knocked. No answer.’ It was signed `Teresa,’” said Hatfield. “She didn’t describe him, so we weren’t sure it was Carlos.”

               

Spot of blood

        Teresa had moved the dog from the road and had taken it to another location. A spot of blood covered by gravel was on Varland, where the dog had apparently been hit.

        “Teresa said she had placed the dog by a pole in an alley and covered the body with a coat. I asked if he was still alive, and she didn’t tell me,” said Hatfield.

        By the time she got to the alley, the dog was gone.

        “We didn’t know what to do at that point. We still weren’t 100 percent sure it was him.” There were city workers across the street in Navarre Park, who she assumed had put the gravel on the spot of blood where Carlos had been hit in the road.

        Hatfield had twice called the non-emergency number for the Toledo Police Division, as well as Engage Toledo, an advocacy group that answers questions from Toledo residents about city services. The call center is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week (419-936-2020). Engage Toledo had confirmed the city had collected a dead animal on Varland that evening, but couldn’t tell Hatfield if it was Carlos.

        Her heart sank when she was told that the city had already disposed of the dog. “They said they took him to the dump that night. He was wearing a collar with ID tags, yet nobody bothered to try and call me. If Teresa had not put a note on our door, we’d still be looking.”

        She never even got Carlos’s collar with the tags returned to her as a keepsake. “I would have liked to at least have had that,” she said. “It doesn’t take much to remove the collar, or take a photo with a smart phone, and call the owner.”

        Identification was also easily obtained by looking up the license tag on the Internet, she added. “We looked up Carlos’s license tag number, and it goes right to my name and phone number.”

        She attributed the oversight to “a lack of training, a lack of manpower.”

       

Engage Toledo

        Abby Arnold, commissioner of Utilities Administration in Toledo, said she did not know why the city overlooked the tags.

        Arnold met on Aug. 30 with officials from the Division of Streets, Bridges and Harbor, which oversees the service truck that collects dead animals, as well as a representative from the mayor’s office, and Richard Stewart, director/chief dog warden at Lucas County Canine Care and Control to address Hatfield’s concerns. The group came up with a plan that will help track down owners of dead dogs with identification.

        “We had a brainstorming session about what we could do to improve this process, how we could be more compassionate to pet owners in these situations,” said Arnold. “It was a really great meeting. Everyone came away with the real intent to improve the process. So from that, we made some immediate improvements.”

        Those improvements include changes Toledo made within its internal system that handles work orders and service requests. When a deceased dog was collected by the city, officials kept notes, but not details, such as whether the dog had a collar with tags, she said.

       

     

Held for 3 days

        That has now changed after Hatfield contacted her about what had happened to Carlos.

        “Now we keep track of the type of animal in a searchable database - the color, size, gender and any tag information that we may find. Obviously, sometimes we can’t fill in all those pieces, but if we can, we try to. So the call taker tries to get that info from the caller, then they fill in what they can. The info gets confirmed or changed by the driver of the truck that picks up the animal,” she said.

        Then the city reports the list of deceased dogs daily to Lucas County Canine Care and Control to help find the owners, said Arnold.

        “They are able to look through their database of lost animals to see if they can match up and make contact with the pet owner. That was an immediate improvement that we made,” said Arnold.

        Stewart said Lucas County Canine Care and Control will make the effort to contact the owners if there is a license, ID tag or microchip.

        “We will make multiple attempts to contact the owner, just like we do for any of our strays that come in the building,” he said.

        The deceased dogs brought to Lucas County Canine Care and Control will be held for up to three days, possibly longer depending on available space in its storage freezer, said Stewart.

        “A dog’s remains will be released to licensed owners. If no owner comes forward or multiple attempts are made to contact a licensed owner fail, the remains will be properly disposed of,” said Stewart.

        The policy has not yet been fully implemented, he added, though the agency is now receiving the daily logs from the city. So far, there has not been a deceased dog found with identification.

Microchip scanner

        The Division of Streets, Bridges & Harbor recently purchased a microchip scanner that will further help identify deceased pets that have implanted microchips containing owner information.

        “We are continuing our discussions trying to figure out how we can keep working together and make this a better process for everyone,” said Arnold.

        Few dogs are among the dead animals collected by the city, she said. The vast majority are possums, ground hogs, skunks, squirrels, deer and cats.

        “It’s a pretty small number,” she said.

        Engage Toledo is focused on “trying to identify areas in the city that need improvement,” she said. She was unaware no effort was being made by the city to contact owners of dead dogs that had ID tags.

       

Not on the radar

        “Honestly, this is one that wasn’t on my radar. I had not heard a complaint or anything where I was even well versed of what the problem was until this happened,” said Arnold.

        There is no way to tell how many dog owners with ID tags are still looking for their dogs that may have been deceased and collected by the city for disposal in a landfill, she acknowledged.

        Hatfield would still be looking for Carlos had Teresa not tracked her down and left a note on her porch.

        “I certainly understand,” said Arnold. “As administrators, that’s our job to make certain there are policies in place to make sure those types of things don’t happen. I think this is one of those areas where it was brought to light that we needed to make improvements. I was very pleased to come into a meeting where everyone came with a real desire to make changes and do better. “

        Captain Joe Heffernan, of the Toledo Police Division, said there is no policy for the police to make an effort to contact owners of deceased pets with identification tags they find in the road.

        “If officers are dispatched to a call and pass a deceased animal in the road, they might call the Streets, Bridges and Harbor to pick up the animal,” he said. 

        There are police departments in other communities that do make the effort.

        “We don’t need a policy,” said Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley. “It just makes sense to try and find the owners if there are ID tags or other tags.”

        Northwood City Administrator Bob Anderson agreed.

        “We don’t have an actual policy. But we try to find the owners.” He added that he will discuss with police the possibility of establishing a policy so that it is routinely followed.

 

Not in vain

        Hatfield is happy that Carlos’s death was not in vain and that changes are being made that will help prevent future pet owners from going through what she went through.

        “One thing that comes to mind is that Carlos is irreplaceable,” she said, wishing she had his remains for closure.

        For now, she is comforted by sweet memories of Carlos, whom she called “Wiggle Butt.”

        She made a collage on a poster board of photos taken of Carlos over the years to help with her grief.

        “We are grieving and miss him terribly. We just don’t want this to happen to others, who truly love their pets”

       

 

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