Did shelter give pet away?

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2011 - 1:49 PM

An Oakdale family traced their lost tabby to Caring for Cats, but the shelter says it won't get the pet back.

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Darryl Krawchuk, Mary Krawchuk and Naomi Saari, l-r displayed a photo of their cat Silly that is in dispute.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Sometime in early March, an orange tabby cat named Silly ran away from his home in Oakdale. Weeks later, his worried owners thought they had found their cat -- on a website for lost pets.

Yet the efforts of Darryl Krawchuk and his family to retrieve Silly have been stymied by the nonprofit cat shelter in North St. Paul that took in the cat and placed him with a new owner.

"We even asked if they could bring the cat in to see him one last time," said Naomi Saari, Krawchuk's girlfriend, but the shelter said no. "We will never see the cat again."

Representatives of Caring for Cats blame the Krawchuks for allowing an unneutered cat to run around outside without a collar or microchip, and say they have no intention of telling the family where the orange tabby now lives.

"The issue is closed," said Kelly Schmidt, shelter operations manager.

While animal control officials and advocates say the Krawchuks should have done more to keep Silly from getting lost, they also say people who find stray pets should bring them to the official impound facilities in their area. That way, the animals would stand a better chance of being reunited with their owners.

"By keeping the animal in the community in which it was lost, you'll increase its chances of being found," said Tracie Jacobson, public affairs manager for the Animal Humane Society, the largest humane society in the Upper Midwest. If your city does not have an animal control facility, she says, call your local non-emergency police number to file a lost-pet report and inquire about where to take the animal.

Silly got his name because he can be "nice and calm, but then jump and act goofy," teasing the dogs with his antics, Krawchuk's mother, Mary, said.

Silly also had a habit of pulling off any collar that the Krawchuks tried to put on him, she said. The family did not have a microchip implanted in him, which would have made it possible for an authorities to locate the owner. Family members also admit that they let Silly run loose, a violation of Oakdale's city codes.

Yet their hopes were buoyed when they spotted a familiar whiskered face on petfinder.com. The website revealed that the cat they believe is Silly had been put up for adoption by Caring for Cats and had been adopted.

Darryl Krawchuk said that when Silly disappeared, he called Caring for Cats and told them to contact the family if they came across an orange tabby, but the shelter never called.

The family is convinced that Caring for Cats had Silly. When family members called the shelter, Saari said, they asked if the cat's meow was "a really annoying high pitched noise." Caring for Cats said it was.

Family offered to pay $125 to get Silly back

Caring for Cats said its records do not show the Krawchuks called before late March, after the shelter had found the cat a new home. By then, the family offered to pay the $125 adoption fee to get the cat. Caring for Cats refused.

In a phone interview, Schmidt said the Krawchuks gave no proof they owned Silly. Even if they did, she said, Caring for Cats wouldn't return him.

The original owners were "irresponsible," Schmidt said, noting that the cat was not neutered, allowed to roam outside and was in "terrible condition" when brought to the shelter.

"He is with a family that is keeping him indoors," Schmidt said before hanging up on Whistleblower.

On Thursday, Whistleblower visited Caring for Cats in North St. Paul and interviewed a worker who identified herself as a volunteer and the organization's "health coordinator." She said the orange tabby was a stray brought in by a man who said it had been hanging around his house for several days. She said her group called other shelters, but no one reported a lost cat.

She said after the Krawchuk family showed up at Caring for Cats, demanding Silly's return, the shelter contacted the new owner and assured him he could keep the cat. She said the man, who is in his early 60s, "was very concerned" that someone would take the cat.

Caring for Cats has a kennel license from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. But North St. Paul's official impound facility is Hillcrest Animal Hospital. North St. Paul's animal control officer, Rick Ruzicka, recommends that people who find stray cats notify him or the North St. Paul police for pickup or take them to the impound facility. "Technically," he said, Caring for Cats should not be taking in stray cats. But Ruzicka is unclear if he has enforcement authority in this area.

By state law, animal impound facilities must hold stray pets five days. After that, they can be adopted and in some cases are released to rescue groups. Caring for Cats said it had Silly for over two weeks.

"The law, unfortunately, places an unfair and unrealistic onus on the owner of a lost pet," said Marshall Tanick, a Minneapolis attorney with experience in pet law. Pet owners may not find the right authority to contact within the five-day window before a lost pet is placed with a new owner.

Tanick said agencies that put out pets for adoption do not identify the new owners out of concern that the old owners may contact them, and possibly hassle, or sue them.

Mary Krawchuk said that she could easily settle any lingering question of whether the cat is Silly if she had a moment with him.

"I know that as soon as I see him, all I have to say is 'Silly boy' and he'll come running," she said.

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382

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