Toronto family considers legal options after lost dog adopted out to a new home

[Karl Daniels’ beloved dog Kimbo ran from his home when a support worker came to care for Daniels, who has dementia. Supplied photo; Facebook/Michelle Daniels]

Michelle Daniels wants her dog’s new owners to know that her family is not complete without their pet. The family misses him, especially her two young sons and her elderly father Karl.

The 10-year-old miniature pinscher boxer mix ran out the front door one Sunday in late August, ended up at a Toronto animal shelter and was eventually adopted by a couple who’ve decided to keep him.

Daniels’ father, 80, has dementia. When she goes to work and leaves him with caretakers he doesn’t always recognize who they are. “But a dog is a face he sees every single day,” she told Yahoo Canada News.

“He asks probably more than anyone else” about when Kimbo is coming home, she said.

Kimbo has been with the family since he was a puppy. He loves leftover food and enjoys a good belly rub. He’ll even nudge your hands to be patted.

He’s also a guard dog, a protector to Daniels, who lives with her family in North York’s Flemingdon Park neighbourhood.

Kimbo is hyper and maybe too fast for his own good. On Aug. 28, he took off through a screen door when a support worker arrived to mind Daniels’ father. Daniels believes the unneutered dog ran after a female dog that was in heat.

At first she wasn’t too worried, knowing that he would return like he always did. But as night approached Daniels drove around the neighbhourhood with her older son, searching for the pet that had been her father’s constant companion.

Unbeknownst to her, Kimbo was taken by someone to the Toronto Humane Society (THS) as a stray that same day. The shelter says the dog arrived at its intake department and was assessed to be in good health but didn’t have a microchip, a tattoo or a tag. His photo was taken and a profile of him was posted to the stray section on the shelter’s website as well as on the national registry, Helping Lost Pets.

Two days after Kimbo’s disappearance, Daniels called THS but she couldn’t get through and was transferred while on the line to Toronto Animal Services where she filed a report. She also posted a profile with a photo on Helping Lost Pets.

Kimbo was held for five days during the so-called “stray hold period” as required under the city’s municipal bylaw. After the impoundment period, the humane society had the authority to put the animal up for adoption under section 15.1 of the OSPCA Act, according to the animal shelter.

On Sept. 19, Daniels received an email from Helping Lost Pets about a stray dog that turned out to be Kimbo. But when she arrived later that day at the humane society she was told her dog, who was neutered and now called Turner, had been adopted two days earlier.

THS executive director Barbara Steinhoff says the humane society called the new owners and explained that it had found the original owners who wanted him back.

“And the [new] owners made the decision they didn’t wish to return the dog,” Steinhoff told Yahoo Canada News.

At that point, Steinhoff says, “The Toronto Humane Society has no legal authority to take the dog back. So there’s nothing we as an organization can do.”

Meanwhile, a petition was started by members of the Bunz Petz Zone, demanding that Kimbo be returned to his rightful owner. It has already been signed by over 1,600 people and will be delivered to the new owners once it gets the 2,500 required signatures.

“Return the dog to its loving owner. Even if the dog had been with you for three months instead of days you should be morally obliged to return him,” wrote Freddie Arps of Toronto in the comments section.

Daniels says she may take the animal shelter to court like the owner of a Dalmatian did in 2005. That pet owner had left his dog with a friend to attend his mother’s funeral in Greece and during his absence it was surrendered to the THS. A judge ruled the shelter didn’t do a good enough job of tracking him down even though his dog was microchipped, and ordered the pet be reunited with its original owner, according to the Toronto Sun.

Daniels doesn’t know if the odds are in her favour.

“All I can do is try,” she said. “And if I failed then at least I know I can rest assured in my heart saying at least I tried hard for him.”

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