PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A new ordinance in Pender County could bring criminal charges to people keeping stray animals without reporting them.
Pender County Animal Shelter Manager Jewel Horton said larceny of an animal is a felony against state law.
“That animal may have a family and a home looking for it,” Horton said.
Horton said the county sees a high rate of people keeping a stray animal without attempting to find its owner.
“A lot of people will call here and ask if anyone called missing a German Shepherd,” Horton said. “We ask them to send us pictures. “They’re like, ‘Well, no. I think I’m just going to keep it.'”
That is one of the reasons Abby Doerrmann and Emma Kostro helped start the Lost and Found Pets of Hampstead Facebook page.
“Knowing that there might be a family out there and they never had a way to find them,” Doerrmann said.
A new law in the county this year could bring more help.
“Within 24 hours, you’re supposed to have animal control come pick it up or you can bring it to the shelter,” Horton said.
The law also says you can keep the animal for seven days, but you still have to report it, so the shelter can try to find the owners.
“At the end of the seven days, that doesn’t necessarily give you ownership of the animal,” Horton said. “We would still recommend you bring the animal in, surrender it and then adopt it, so you get legal title to the animal.”
It may be a few extra steps, but Doerrmann said it brings awareness to the bigger picture.
“These are people’s pets,” Doerrmann said.
Horton said that extra step could keep you from a criminal charge if the owner is found one day.
“Sometimes, it falls in favor of the previous owner and the finder winds up losing the animal that they’ve fallen in love with,” Horton said.
If the stray is taken to the shelter and the owner isn’t found, Horton said the dogs are not automatically euthanized.
The shelter can also scan the animal for a microchip to locate the owner.