Dog owners upset after animal hospital refuses to give pets that went missing back

Rosie plays with her owner, Poe Noonkester, at his workplace in Abingdon. (Thomas Gray/WCYB)

Conflict about two dogs that disappeared from Washington County, Virginia, only to appear in the Smyth County Animal Hospital.

The owners said when they went to get their dogs back, they were told they couldn't have them. Instead, the dogs would be sent to a rescue in Washington, D.C.

The owners of Rosie, a lab and pit bull mix from Abingdon, said she ran off chasing a cat and got lost in late January.

"I went home that night after work,” Rosie’s owner Poe Noonkester said. “I hollered for her and hollered for her."

She and another dog went missing from the same neighborhood that day only to turn up in the Smyth County Animal Hospital the next week.

The Noonkester family tried to get her back, but they say a veterinarian told them they couldn't have her.

"She said a clinic out of D.C. had adopted the dog,” Mike Noonkester said. “So I got my camera out to show her pictures of Rosie, and I said, 'Listen, this is my grandkids dog. I just want my dog back.' She said, 'That is no longer your property.'"

Under Virginia state law, if a dog is brought to a shelter without a collar, there is a five day wait period before the dog can be adopted by an individual or a rescue. If the dog has a collar, the wait is ten days. Animal shelter records show the dogs had no collars.

"They were turned in to us as a stray,” Animal Control Chief Bill Turnam said. “We kept them for the legal amount of time."

Asked if Rosie had her collar on at the time she got lost, Mike Noonkester said, "Correct, and the other dog did too, the neighbor's dog."

Sheriff's records show the people who turned in the dogs to the shelter said they both had collars. Based on that, deputies went to the hospital to get the dogs back from the veterinarians.

"They spoke with the investigators, but as far as retrieving the canines, they refused," Washington County Sheriff’s Captain Scott Snapp said.

The issue of the collars remains in dispute, but sheriff's deputies were forced to obtain a search warrant to get the dogs back.

"At first, I didn't think we would get her back, because it took them forever to get a search warrant," Poe Noonkester said.

"To me, they would've loved to give it back to the rightful owners that love the dog,” Mike Noonkester said. “It all worked out good."

According to the animal hospital, they were operating under a legal transfer from the animal shelter to the rescue.

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