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Stolen dog caught up in ‘Tug of Love’ with ‘new’ owners

A HEARTBROKEN family is embroiled in a tug of love after their missing dog was given to new owners, thanks to an alleged catalogue of errors by the authorities concerned.

Keith and Judy Howland, of Cottingham, East Yorkshire have made a desperate appeal for the new owners of their 4-year-old Irish Setter, Patrick, to return him. But the new family have said that they have ‘fallen in love with him’ and have refused to cooperate, despite an offer from Irish Setter rescue to offer them another dog.

Mr Howland, 65, said the family was devastated by the loss: ‘Patrick is an integral part of our family. We've had him two and a half years and we miss him desperately.’

Patrick went missing on June 29, while being cared for by the Howlands' son, James, whilst Mr and Mrs Howland were on holiday.

James, 32, had taken him for a walk, and had tied him up for 10 minutes on a street corner whilst he went into a nearby shop. When he came out, Patrick was gone, sparking a search that eventually led to James and his sister Nikki contacting their parents and bringing Keith and Judy home early from their holiday.

The family called the police who allocated a crime number to the incident. They also printed posters and placed adverts in newspapers, but were unable to find Patrick. It transpired that on the day in question, a passing schoolgirl had ‘rescued’ Patrick and taken him to a nearby veterinary surgery – ironically the same vets that the Howlands use and where Patrick was registered.

However, the member of staff who dealt with the matter did not recognise him and called the dog wardens who took him to the council’s kennels at nearby Leconfield. For reasons unknown, a dog warden – whose name has been withheld by the local council – took Patrick from Leconfield and passed him to Hull Animal Welfare Trust in South Cave, some miles away.

Patrick had been wearing a collar with an ID tag at the time of his disappearance, but it seems that no ID tag could be found by either the vet surgery member of staff or the dog warden.

Having heard that Patrick had been taken to South Cave, the family thought they would finally be united, but their hopes were dashed when they contacted the centre only to find their pet had already been rehomed after staying the required seven days.

The centre contacted the new owners to explain the situation and the family wrote a letter begging for Patrick to be returned. They waited anxiously while the new owners considered their plea, but were devastated when they were told the family wanted to keep him.

Mrs Howland said: ‘The new owners did everything right legally and I'm sure they love him too, but we are desperate. We miss Patrick terribly and we are begging them to let our dog come home. There will be no recriminations, we will just be so grateful.’

A local Irish Setter Rescue group has offered Patrick’s new owners a rescued Setter if they will give Patrick back to the Howlands, but their offer has fallen on deaf ears.

Legally, the Howlands are in a difficult position, as Patrick has been rehomed in good faith by the rescue centre, although the family feel badly let down by all the agencies involved. The worst factor in the situation however, is that Patrick was neither tattooed nor microchipped, although he was of course wearing an ID tag when he was ‘found’, although this had reportedly disappeared by the time he was handed in to the vets.

Sue Herne, Animal Health Manager of East Riding of Yorkshire District Council said that the council kennels and dog wardens had acted correctly in this situation. ‘The dog was picked up as a stray and was held at the council kennels for seven clear days, which does not include the day it was picked up,’ she said.

‘This is the legal requirement, and after that the council can re-home the dog either to a private owner or a rescue centre or put it to sleep. In this case the dog went to a private rescue centre and was re-homed. It is not unusual for dog to be re-homed quickly as there is always a demand for good quality healthy dogs.’

The family urged other dog owners to microchip and tattoo their pets to avoid a similar situation.
Sue Sewell, chairman of Hull Animal Welfare Trust, said: ‘We feel great sympathy and compassion for all concerned. This situation highlights our advice that all animals are ID chipped so they can be returned to their owners.’

The Howlands have since contacted Margaret Nawrockyi of the Dog Theft Action, who lives close by, and the organisation is trying to help the Howlands in whatever way they can.

Margaret Nawrockyi told OUR DOGS: ‘Dog Theft Action was deeply saddened by Patrick’s story. Mr and Mrs Howland were badly let down by a catalogue of errors which should never have happened. Patrick was taken from pillar to post because those who sought to ensure his safety did not know what to do with him.

‘DTA would always recommend that a finder of a stray or lost dog should contact the local authority dog warden.

‘This case highlights the need for a national database of lost, stolen and found dogs. As it is, this family have been forced to suffer unbearable and unnecessary stress and grief.’