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Lockhart Animal Shelter prematurely adopts dog

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This article was updated on Feb. 24 at 12:00 p.m. to reflect that there are six full time employees at the Lockhart Animal Shelter, and two part-time, not the one as previously reported. LPR had reached out to the City of Lockhart on Feb. 11 to confirm information given to them, however, due to the power outage on Feb. 12 and the winter storm the following week, the city was unable to gather the data we requested by deadline. LPR should have looked at budget documents, which were publicly available online. LPR regrets the error. 

By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR

When Squeaky Baby got out in March of 2020, she was picked up and taken to the Lockhart Animal Shelter. Owner Marissa Morones said the shelter called her about the missing pooch and allowed her to pick her up.

“A year ago, they were very nice, very friendly, very professional,” Morones said in Feb. 16 interview with LPR. “They seemed to care about Squeaky at the time and seemed to care about my concerns.”

The shelter recommended she get the dog microchipped in addition to the standard dog collar. She payed the extra costs, understanding that if her dog got out again, it was the best way to make sure she returned.

When Squeaky Baby wiggled from her collar and ran out of her yard on Jan. 28 Morones was worried, but figured she’s find her way back home. 

“I assumed she was going to come back home, so I wasn’t too concerned until the next day when she didn’t return,” Morones said.

A neighbor told her the dog, which Morones considers a family member, had been picked up by Animal Control. She called the shelter on Jan. 29 and was told no dog by that description was at the facility or had been in the facility.

“That’s why I took their word because they were very honest and truthful the last time,” Morones said. “This time, not so much.”

She put out several posts in the Lockhart-Caldwell County discussion group Facebook page asking for people to be on the lookout for Squeaky Baby. Someone replied in the comments to call Petlink, the microchipping company, to see if the chip had been scanned recently.

She called Petlink on Feb. 8 and was told the dog had been adopted by someone else.

“I was devastated, heartbroken. I literally busted out into tears,” Morones said. “I knew at that moment that my Squeaky Baby was gone.”

According to the City of Lockhart Municipal Code, Section 10-5, “Any licensed impounded cat or dog shall be kept for not fewer than seven days unless sooner reclaimed by their owner, except under quarantine.”

It is unclear what day Squeaky Baby landed at the Lockhart Animal Shelter, only that it was adopted on Feb. 3. There is also no explanation as to why volunteers at the shelter told her no dog fitting that description was there when Morones and her husband called over several days. 

“It’s really heartbreaking,” Morones said. “She’s a member of our family. She’s not just our dog. She’s my Squeaky Baby.”

City Code also specifies, “Reasonable effort shall be made by an animal control officer to contact the owner of any animal impounded; however, final responsibility for location of an impounded animal is that of the owner.”

The phone number associated with the chip was outdated. Morones said when she contacted the shelter initially to report the dog missing she gave an updated phone number. The email and home address, however, were unchanged. Municipal code allows for contact via phone, direct mail, or “other reasonable means.”

LPR reached out to the city for a response on this story.

“This dog has been picked up two times during the last year. According to animal shelter staff, repeated attempts were made to contact the owner,” a statement from a city spokesperson said. “Despite the staff trying to contact the owner, the dog was prematurely adopted. The city is currently exploring options to remedy this situation.”

In a text message Morones replied, “Despite Squeaky being picked up before, City Ordinances should have still been followed. This situation also does not excuse the lying, the clear misdirection about Squeaky’s whereabouts, nor the falsifying of documents that would have been required to have her prematurely adopted.”

Morones posted about her experience to the Facebook group on Feb. 10, and it had enormous reaction (it has since been removed). Many of the comments spoke of similar issues, and she said people privately messaged her with similar stories.

A post on Jan. 19 by Carrie Chesnut said her dog of eight years that they had owned since he was a puppy, had been taken to the shelter. She discovered the dog had been adopted to a new family.

On the same day resident James Tiemann gave over six minutes of public comments at the Lockhart City Council meeting about the city’s community cats and the lack of support by the shelter. At the closing of that meeting Council Member Kara McGregor asked City Manager Steven Lewis to issue a report on the shelter. That report has not yet been made public.

When fully staffed the shelter has one full time supervisor, one full time Animal Control Officer, three full time Animal Shelter Attendants/ACOs, one full time Administrative Assistant and two part time Animal Shelter Attendant. As of Feb. 24, the shelter currently has two vacancies: one full time Animal Shelter Attendant/ACO and a part time Animal Shelter Attendant, according to Public Works Director Sean Kelley. The shelter also utilizes contract labors to supplement any staffing shortages.. LPR reached out to the City of Lockhart on Feb. 11 to find out how many volunteers the shelter used, and what training they were given to ensure ordinances were followed. The power outage on Feb 12, as well as the snow storm this week has delayed the city’s response.

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