Owners find missing dog in shelter right before new family adopts her

The Jones family reported their dog as lost and were surprised to find it at the shelter, ready to be adopted by someone else.
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 3:05 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT/Gray News) - A family in Nebraska found their dog who had been missing for several weeks at the humane society, shortly before she was adopted by a new family under the state’s 72-hour rule.

Rebecca Jones and her family told WOWT their dog, Bella, had been missing for about three weeks.

When they found her at the Nebraska Humane Society, the adoption papers for Bella’s new family had already been finalized.

Jones reported Bella missing with the humane society and had posted on social media and checked the humane society’s website for any sign of her. Jones said she and her family had relied on the humane society to notify them if Bella turned up.

After they waited for an update, the family decided to check themselves.

Emotions escalated when the family was told they couldn’t take Bella home, despite them finding her in the shelter. Jones said she and her family were escorted out by a police officer.

“We could show them everything they needed, and they wouldn’t listen to us at all,” Jones said.

Pam Wiese, with the Nebraska Humane Society, said there was some miscommunication about Bella’s possible discovery.

“We will try to give calls if we think a pet will match up,” Wiese said. “But we’ve been very busy. It’s not a given. It’s not a promise.”

Jones said she would have made more of an effort on her part if she had known what was expected of her as the dog’s owner.

“They didn’t say, ‘Walk up here every day; we may not be able to contact you.’ I would’ve done that,” Jones said.

Wiese said a family’s best bet if they lost a pet is to come in person at least every three days because of the 72-hour rule in Omaha.

According to a city ordinance, a pet becomes the property of the humane society after three days in the shelter. Then the pet can be made available for adoption.

“We know what we should do and what we really want to do, and what we hope happens,” Wiese said. “And yet, legally, we’re kind of bound by the fact that … this dog was here. It becomes our property. It hung out. It didn’t get claimed. It got adopted.”

Wiese said, however, despite the clear 72-hour rule, a gray area remains.

“What’s the cutoff point?” she said. “Do we say, ‘Well, you’ve adopted this dog, but the original owners really want it back?’ Is it the first day? Is it a week later? So we have to have a cutoff point somewhere, and the cutoff point is when the new person adopts.”

The family was told the humane society would reach out to the new family, but no promises could be made.

Ultimately, the new family agreed to give Bella back to the Jones family. The Jones family was reunited with their Bella Sunday evening.