County refuses to return dog to original owner

August 12, 2010

San Luis Obispo county officials continue to ignore a growing public outcry to return a stray dog to her original owner. [Tribune]

Annie, an 8-year-old Australian shepherd, has belonged to Chuck Hogue, an Arroyo Grande widower, for the last seven years. The dog ran away in late June in a panic after hearing a gunshot. Hogue, who works for Central Coast Pathology, spent the next three weeks searching for his dog, checking regularly with the county animal services Lost and Found Line.

Hogue claims he received a phone call telling him that his dog was at the animal services shelter and to come out and get the dog. However, when he arrived, the dog had already been adopted out to another family days prior. Dr. Eric Anderson, director of animal services, informed the new family of Hogue’s relationship to the dog, but the family refused to surrender the dog. Anderson declined to take further action.

On Wednesday, Jeff Hamm, director of the county health agency, which oversees animal services, reaffirmed Anderson’s handling of the case and said that Annie would likely stay with her new owners. Hamm also said that the staff at animal services handled the case appropriately.

However, an email obtained by CalCoastNews from a volunteer worker at animal services suggests mistakes were made.

“I definitely do not think it was Chuck Hogue’s fault,” wrote the volunteer, who asked to remain anonymous. “I know the system failed him. Annie was there in Kennel D1 for 7 days. Her name was known, as was her breed.  Hogue probably called many, many times but he was never told that she was there. And at the time of her adoption, a fail safe check could have been made against any ‘lost animal’ report in the computer system.

“The system of locating animals in the shelter is improperly maintained.  The people in the front office rely on what is in the computer.  It is not up-to-date and I think that the kennel workers and their immediate supervisor could do a much better job.”

Hamm acknowledged that the case was becoming a “feeding frenzy” as dog lovers across the county rallied to Hogue’s defense.

Facebook page called “Give Chuck Hogue his Dog Back!” has been created to bring supporters together. Co-workers and friends are also meeting to pursue legal action and a public protest on behalf of Hogue. They’re urging people to write the various county supervisors on Hogue’s behalf.

Hogue lost his wife recently. He doesn’t want to lose Annie.

“I just want my dog back,” he said, choking back tears.

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While I think this is a terrible thing that happened and I do think Annie should be returned to her rightful owner. It is common knowledge, that just calling a shelter to see if your dog is there is not going to do a thing to help. A person needs to go and check, every day if necessary, to make certain that their dog is not there.

I think that fact that Annie sat there for several days in spite of his calls and was adopted out without first checking the missing animals list is dead wrong, but while not making excuses for the staff at the shelter if the administration does not have that policy in action why would they do it every time they adopt out an animal? I think the administration of the shelter is at fault here more than anyone else in this situation. There should be policies in place that are enforced, as to checking the new dogs against a missing pet list on a daily basis for the first 3 to 5 days they are there. Most shelters when a dog is turned in as a stray they are not adopted out for that length of time anyhow and how difficult could it be to check a database and see that the dog is on it.

I also think the administrators of this particular shelter should all be removed from their jobs and competent staff hired to replace them.

I live in NW Montana and we have two shelters here, a kill shelter operated by the county and a no kill shelter. Both shelters if strays come in run them in the newspaper for the entire time the animal is there, until it is eligible to be adopted out.

Farmer’s Market Rally 6:30 pm

Higuera @ Chorro St

Bring signs and your friends!

Lot’s of “thumbs up”, not so many felt strong enough to “show up”. Too bad. It went well anyway, but your support was missed.

This is such a heartbreaking story…It’s beyond my comprehension how these “new owners” can be so selfish, heartless & unethical. Mr. Hogue has had Annie her whole life & has bonded with her & at this very sad time in his life (losing his wife) he needs Annie now more than ever. Dogs are wonderful companions & can really help one get through the grieving process. If the “new owners” happen to read this, I’d like to implore them to just do the morally right thing & return Annie to her rightful owner…He’s deep in grief, please have a heart, you’ll sleep better by doing the right thing. You will find another dog, you’ve only had Annie a couple weeks, think about Mr. Hogue instead of yourself.

Our Cindy left this number, 788-2855, for Mr Hamm. I called and left a message, why don’t you do that too?

I find it hard to believe these folks are SO lame as to allow this tragedy to go on for this long. Anyone in their right mind would have, at any cost, rectified this immediately. I wonder what’s wrong with our top administrators around here…

Karen, post their salaries, I wonder if they are worth the small fortune we pay them.

Come out to Farmer’s tonight and show your support of Annie and Chuck!!

There is a special place in hell for someone who knowingly keeps a dog that belongs to someone else. Any way of doing a FOIA request for pet adoption records?

I agree that there is a special place in hell for people who keep someone’s beloved dog. I also agree that a dog is a family member, you don’t keep someones family member. The county shelter needs an overhaul. It appears that it is the volunteers who truly care and can be trusted. There have been too many problems with Anderson and the management there. It’s all about the money with Anderson, I have always felt he put his private practice first. With what he is paid by the county he should be devoting himself full time to that position. It isn’t in our best interest to employee Anderson. We should be employing a veterinarian and Director that works “full time” and exclusively for the county shelter but it’s always about the GOB’s in this county.