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Bring back my doggy to me

Family dispute with animal shelter

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 09/02) - Four-year-old Brittany Napayok misses her dog.

Uma, a one-year-old pure-bred beagle terrier, went missing from the Napayok home almost a month ago.

But, the family has known of the dog's whereabouts since a week after her disappearance. It all began when a clothesline that was being used as a dog run in the Napayok's backyard snapped.

Uma was then tied up closer to the house but the location proved to be a risk for the dog.

"She got tangled and her collar was twisting so I had to take the collar off...she was choking...then I let her in the house," said Suzie Napayok, Brittany's mom.

That same day, before Uma's collar could be put back on, the quick little animal escaped out the front door when it was opened to let a visitor in the house.

"I went chasing after her, but she was gone. But, she had gone before and she always came back," said Suzie.

When Uma hadn't returned that same day Suzie began to worry. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond her control, she was unable to look for the dog.

Hunt for Uma begins

It wasn't until nearly a week later that Suzie was able to call the Great Slave Animal Hospital to inquire about her lost dog.

"They told me that nobody had claimed her so she was adopted out in five days," said Suzie.

According to Gilly McNaughton, who is in charge of adoptions at the hospital, their policy is they keep animals for five working days and then put them up for adoptions if they are not claimed.

"The beagle was here for six days and nobody claimed it," she said.

McNaughton added that the hospital makes every effort to find the owners, but Uma, who is regularly tagged, was not wearing her collar when she was picked up.

"We do scanning for microchips, we look for tattoos or any kind of ID, and some of us have been here for a long time so we look at the animal and see if we recognize it," said McNaughton. "We're not trying to make money off the animals if we can get it back to the owner that's what we like to do."

In this case McNaughton says she didn't recognize Uma and she is not aware of anyone else recognizing the dog either.

Suzie, however, is disputing that statement, saying her dog was in the animal hospital a number of times.

Uma had her immunizations done at the hospital, she was spayed there and she had a toe nail removed.

Not only does that represent a number of visits to the hospital, but a major investment as well, aside from the pure bred beagle's purchase price of $450.

"We payed big bucks to keep her healthy," said Suzie.

Fighting to get Uma back

Suzie says she asked the hospital to contact the family who adopted Uma to try and get them to return the dog and she says the hospital promised they would.

I"ve been calling the hospital every day since that promise and they say they (the adoptive family) won't return their calls," said Suzie.

Suzie says she desperately wants to speak with the family that adopted Uma.

"I'd like them to please phone us, we'll gladly pay the $100, but we'd like our dog back, she's part of our family," said Suzie. "My baby wants her dog back. She misses her terribly still, she still asks about her."

If the dog is not returned Suzie says she is considering legal action, such as small claims court to get Uma back.

However, according to Dr. Tom Pisz at the Great Slave Lake Animal Hospital, Napayok has no legal grounds.

"The dog was picked up by bylaw and as soon as they are picked up by bylaw they are owned by the city. After six days the dog belongs to us and it is either euthanized or put up for adoption," said Pisz.

Pisz said according to the hospital's records Uma was there for two weeks before she was adopted.

"The dog was lucky it was not euthanized," he said.

There are no considerations for pure bred animals who may be lost and not picked up by their owners for extenuating circumstances, says Pisz.

"There are no provisions, we can't take any considerations," he said. "I did get in contact with the breeder but the breeder couldn't remember who bought the dog, only that it was a woman from Yellowknife."