Hunter the black Lab back at animal shelter

His owner refused to pay ticket to get him back after he ran loose again

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Hunter — the black Lab who sparked a social media maelstrom after he was adopted by another family while his owner was away fighting wildfires — awaits re-adoption at the animal shelter after he was picked up while roaming loose, and his owner refused to pay the ticket to get him back.

Paul Scarpelli, manager of Clark County’s animal control division, said the dog had a history of roaming around his neighborhood dating to before when he was picked up earlier this month.

Around Oct. 14, animal control picked up the dog and brought it to the animal shelter.

Scarpelli said the county wrote the dog’s owner, William Jones of Battle Ground, a citation, but he refused to pay.

“So, basically, he made it his decision he wasn’t going to reclaim the dog,” Scarpelli said.

Animal control had received multiple reports of the dog getting loose before he was brought in this month, Scarpelli said, and from before he was picked up and adopted by a new family around late August.

“That’s the whole reason he got picked up and taken to the shelter all those months ago,” he said. “We gave this guy every opportunity.”

Hunter’s story kicked off a frenzy of online commentary late this summer, much of it angry and directed at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

In late July, before he went off to fight wildfires in Eastern Washington, Jones left Hunter with a friend.

Animal control picked up Hunter after he jumped a fence, and he was brought to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

The Humane Society ended up keeping hunter for 10 days. During that time, Humane Society staff didn’t find or receive any report that Hunter — who had no license, tags or microchip — was missing.

The Humane society performed a check-up, chipped him, had him fixed and made sure he had the disposition to be adopted, and he went to a new family.

Jones returned to learn his dog had been adopted, and neither he nor the Humane Society had any recourse to get him back.

Jones posted on the Humane Society’s Facebook page to lobby for his dog’s return. The post spread, starting a flurry of online commentary, and indignation at the Humane Society and Hunter’s new family. After several days, Hunter’s new family changed its mind and gave up the dog, but not before they bought a new fence to keep him from jumping away (he still did, once) and spent more than $1,000 on additional medical care.

Messages through Jones’ Facebook page have not been returned. Nor have messages relayed through a former employer.

“We really try our best to get all animal back to their rightful owners in a timely manner,” Scarpelli said. “But when an owner is repeatedly lax in their willingness to keep the animal safely on their own property, as is described by law, then we go a different direction.”

The fine was $100, he said. Extra fees from the Humane Society could vary, but could include a $25 fee for transporting the dog and another $25 per day boarding fee.

Still, no one at The Humane Society thought there would be much cost beyond the ticket, because the staff all thought Hunter would be out the door the day he arrived.

Owner never came

Hunter was dropped off at the shelter Oct. 14, said Lisa Feder, vice president and director of shelter operations at the Humane Society.

Shelter workers identified the dog right away, since he was chipped, and Feder said she was in touch with Jones that day. He never came.

“We gave William every opportunity to come and pick up Hunter,” Feder said. “I am surprised and saddened that William has not chosen to come pick his dog up this time around.”

Feder said the Humane Society has not attempted to reach out to the family that attempted to adopt Hunter in August.

“At this point, we feel they’ve probably moved on and found another dog,” said Denise Barr, Humane Society vice president and director of marketing.

Barr said Hunter will not go through the shelter’s normal adoption process. The Humane Society is trying to find an owner able to take on a young, energetic dog like Hunter, and doing it privately, to avoid more drama.

“We feel for Hunter. This situation is very complex, and we wish it had turned out different for Hunter’s sake,” Feder said.

The advice and rules the county and other local governments have regarding pet ownership don’t come from nowhere, but were often learned the hard way, Scarpelli said, adding the Humane Society took a lot of undeserved flak throughout the affair.

“People were saying not-very-nice things about the Humane Society without really knowing the facts,” he said. “Perhaps we should learn from it how we can be a better dog owner, pet owner.”