When Kristi Durham's dog broke through their fence, she and her husband did everything they could to get him back.
After realizing their special needs dog named Lefty was missing, the Durhams called local animal shelters in hopes their beloved Beagle would show up. They even posted on a local lost animal Facebook page.
Durham first fell in love with Lefty three years ago when she rescued the dog from a shelter. Due to a past head injury, Lefty suffered sight and hearing problems. Those disabilities caused him to turn in circles, earning him his name.
"Anybody, even if they weren't an animal person, loved him, just because he was unique," Durham said.
When Durham realized Lefty was missing on Thursday afternoon, she and her husband panicked. After already calling the day before, Durham's husband went to the shelter on Friday only to learn he was too late.
The couple later learned that while Lefty was not at the shelter the first time they called, he was dropped off sometime between Thursday night and Friday afternoon. The shelter's staff followed protocol by scanning the dog's microchip. But the phone number attached to the chip turned out to be invalid, and the address hadn't been updated since the Durhams had moved over the summer.
Unable to find the owners and concerned about the dog's medical condition, the shelter vet made the decision to have Lefty put down. Carrie Horstman, public information officer with the Polk Co. Sheriff's Office issued this statement to ABC Action News,
"It was just the perfect storm, and it's very sad. We feel terrible for this pet owner. She's welcome to come to animal control and we'll give her a pet for free. We certainly don't want this to ever happen again."
The Polk County animal control, along with other nearby animal shelters, follows a strict policy in regards to admitted animals. The animals are first scanned for microchips, but it's extremely common for the chips to have the wrong information. If the owner cannot be contacted, healthy animals are entered into a database and kept for at least four days before being made available for adoption.
Animals with apparent medical conditions, however, are considered for euthanasia. The Durhams are devastated at the loss of their well-loved family pet, but they hope they can use their story to ensure no other pet owner experiences the same heartbreak. They're spreading the message about how important it is to keep your pets' microchips updated.
Many animal shelters use online systems like HomeAgain.com to check microchip information. Pet owners can also use the site to update their phone numbers and addresses.
Another way to ensure your information is updated is to visit your local animal shelter or veterinary clinic. Update the chip information every time you move or change your phone number and register your pet with the county to give your furry family member the best chance of coming home.