Missing Dogs Found at Phoenix Animal Rescue, Owners Say They Struggled to Get Them Back
ALACHUA COUNTY - A pair of missing dogs is at the center of another controversy surrounding a pet rescue group.
A Marion County family knew where their missing dogs were being kept, but had to fight to get them back.
The dogs disappeared from a yard in Citra last Wednesday.
But they surfaced one day later at Phoenix Animal Rescue-- which at first refused to give them back to their family.
"We've just been looking for them and we found them!," said dog owner Amy Lasher.
Kara and Mater are back in their mother's arms today after a whirlwind search.
"We put ads on Craig's List, on Facebook. We had 70 shares on Facebook of Marion County Lost and Found Pets," said Lasher.
But an anonymous tipster sent pictures of the dogs to the family, giving them their first clue: They were at Phoenix Animal Rescue in Alachua County.
"She assured me she knew the family that had the animals and that they were not my animals," said Lasher.
The Lasher family says Phoenix director Michelle Dunlap told them their dogs were surrendered to her by a family from Jacksonville.
Then she had the dogs fostered out through West End Animal Hospital.
But the family says she wouldn't let them see the dogs or even ask them for a description of their dogs.
Lasher said "I had to go up there with all my paper work that I had her fixed. I had to bring pictures with marking that they had. I pretty much had to prove that they were my dogs in order to get them back."
In the past, Phoenix has been accused of keeping animals in uninhabitable conditions and for using rescue money for personal expenses.
The State Attorney's Office is considering whether to file charges.
In this case, West End Animal Hospital released the dogs back to the Lashers.
"I mean, as crazy as that is, they're your dogs and you think they're safe in your yard but then something like this happens and you have to go through a goose chase to try to get them back," said Lasher.
In a statement released through her lawyers late Monday afternoon, Dunlap said the Lashers were never denied their dogs.
She added she was waiting for proper proof of ownership from the Lashers, which she received Monday.
If an accident happens and your pet disappears or gets lost, it's important to know how to get him home.
Most commonly used on cats and dogs, a tiny microchip implant is placed under the skin of your pet.
If the pet is found, the chip can then be read with a scanner.
The microchips can be implanted by a veterinarian or at a shelter.
"For animal services, any dog, cat, ferret can be microchipped- horses are even known to be microchipped. And that's because if you don't have proper identification on the animal, that's a fail safe to get that animal back to you as the owner,"said Hilary Hynes, Alachua County Animal Services.
Hynes also suggests registering the microchip number nationally.
We checked with eight local rescue groups regarding their microchip procedure.
Most rescue groups immediately transfer the chip over to the new owners.
Only Phoenix Animal Rescue keeps the microchip in their name.
In fact, it's made clear in the contract that the owner cannot transfer the chip into their name.
Several groups do list their organization as a secondary contact on chips just in case the owner cannot be reached.
We want to make it clear what Phoenix is doing is not illegal.
It's simply to make future adopters aware and make sure you read your adoption contract from any group.
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