A Fort Worth pet owner said her lost dog returned home sick and emaciated after spending nearly a month at the city's animal shelter.
Julie Tollemache's 14-year-old dog, Emmy, spent nearly a month in the Fort Worth Animal Control Shelter because the shelter couldn't find any data on her microchip. It took more than a week before it was able to find out where the microchip was sold. It then took three attempts before an Austin veterinarian clinic was able to identify Tollemache as the owner, Code Compliance said.
Pets with microchips can be legally adopted after they spend seven days in the shelter without being claimed, but shelter staff believed someone was looking for her.
"They felt like there was an owner out there looking for this animal, and I'm glad we were able to reunite them," said Brandon Bennett, director of Code Compliance, which oversees Animal Care and Control.
Animals without microchips can be adopted after 72 hours at the shelter.
Tollemache said she doesn't understand why no information was available or why it took so long.
She also said she is concerned that the shelter didn't make a greater effort to take care of Emmy. Her dog has always been thin, but not to where you could see her ribs, Tollemache said.
"When you see that a dog is starving -- and it's not deniable that she's in a bad state -- when you see that a dog is starving, what's the next step?" she said.
Bennett said the shelter fed Emmy regularly but admits most dogs lose weight at the shelter because of the stress of the environment.
"It's definitely a place we don't want to keep animals for a long time, because we know the stress that they go through," he said.
The shelter houses at least 400 dogs per day and sees thousands of dogs each year.
Bennett said the shelter would ideally like to get dogs back to their owners or into loving homes with 72 hours but were able to hold Emmy longer because there was some room.
The department's adoption program recently has been so successful that it has occasionally freed up space at the shelter in south Fort Worth.
Tollemache said she wants the shelter to improve medical care and pay more attention to animals that may need extra help or care.
"Take some more proactive measures," she said.
Bennett said that the department will begin fundraising at the start of next year to help build a $1 million medical unit and long-term facility to help nurse sick animals back to health so that they can be adopted.
"It will allow us to take dogs like this one (Emmy) and hold them for a little longer time and not go through the same stress that this one went through in general population," he said.
The shelter says pet owners whose animals have a microchip shouldn't relay on it to lead shelter staff to them if their pet is lost. Shelter staff say pet owners should always visit the shelter because there are so many dogs that staffers may not know every dog's description.