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Heiry Question: Risking arrest for taking in loose dogs

Dhicon_thumb By DogHeirs Team | June 22, 2012 | Answers (32)

In Mississippi, it is illegal for any person to steal, take, or carry away another person's dog. It seems clear that the law prohibits theft of another person's dog. However, what happens when ownership of the dog isn't clear and the dog is found wandering around? Apparently, in Mississippi, if you try to help a dog who looks like a stray, but isn't actually a stray, you could be arrested.

Would you take in and help a "stray" dog do if you were in this situation?


dog owners claim rescuer stoleStephanie Mitchell, director at Drifter's Place Animal Rescue did. She found a dog wandering on the side of the highway in Oxford, Mississipi. The dog did not have tags, so she took the dog home for the night. She spent the next half day trying to find the owners. After trips to three veterinarians and a nearby gas station, she put the dog's picture on Facebook. Within an hour, she said a friend identified the owners.

Then the dog's rescue took an unexpected turn. Mitchell said one of the dog owners accused her of stealing the dog and they argued over the phone. After the argument she dropped the dog off a vet and told the owners to pick him up there. 

"Later on that afternoon I received a phone call that I was to come to the sheriff's department because I had a warrant out for my arrest," Mitchell recalled. She was charged with dog napping.

Mississippi law states that any person who steals, takes, or carries away another person's dog can be indicted on the felony charge. Mitchell understands the law's purpose, but doesn't feel it applies in her situation. She wants to change the law so people don't feel afraid to help an animal in trouble.

"If I see a dog in distress, I'm going to help it, and I don't want to be arrested," said Mitchell. Of the police's duties she said: "They have a job to do, just like we do, but it's not appropriate in this case. There was no intent to steal a dog, obviously."


If you found a dog on the side of the road, would you take it in and risk arrest?
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Arrest me for doing what any other living human should do! I dare you!! I guarantee that I will have have every media outlet, be they tv news, paper, blogs, youtube, facebook, etc., etc., on the REAL story and will make the arresting officers/police department look like the fools they are! You want to talk about unwanted publicity...be ready for a maelstrom!! There's NO way I would drive/walk, etc., by and NOT do the right thing! And yes, that means risking arrest and jail! To do anything less would be unconscionable...nor would MY soul allow me to do any less!
Yes, I would help the animal. The owner should have to prove that they had done everything possible to keep the animal contained or face prosecution themselves!
This doesn't shock me.. it saddens me.. but doesn't shock me.. talk about useless wastes of time .. the woman threatening dognapping is obviously unbalanced and should possibly not even have an animal.. any fur-parent would be grateful for some caring for their baby... this is just ridiculous.. kudos to the young lady that helped the dog.. and Shame shame shame on that pathetic excuse for a human being charging the caring woman that cared for someone elses furbaby!!
Sounds like the owners may have wanted the dogs gone and maybe were hoping they would get hit so they would be rid of them, without friends and family questioning their character. When they were rescued they got ticked off because their plans were ruined. Why else would they be angry that someone saved them.
We were having some work done at our home, and the contractors left our back gate open, knowing we had dogs. The two escaped, with collars and ID. Luckily, someone found our Rat Terrier quickly, because there are coyotes in our area. The other larger dog was seen in the neighborhood, and a woman caught him, but he slipped out of his collar (and was then without ID). Long story short, after a month, and posting flyers everywhere, we luckily found him at a no-kill shelter 25 miles away! When I went to pick him up, the shelter manager read me the riot act - like I was an irresponsible owner. In a sense, I was, because my dogs weren't chipped, but all (now have a 3rd, disabled dog) are now. So, not all loose dogs, unidentified dogs belong to irresponsible owners. Please don't stop saving dogs - we found 2 of our dogs on the streets (tried to see if they had owners, but we think they were dumped), and the 3rd disabled dog was definitely dumped due to his disabilities but taken in by a nice person who fostered dogs. We adopted him through this kind lady.
My husband and I reunited two dogs with their owners and both times the dogs had ran away from loving homes just because. They weren't bad people, but sometimes dogs just feel like going on an adventure. Both times the owners were incredibly gratefull. I think the owners of this dog in the article have something seriously wrong with them in the head. They're probably hatefull people who don't love their dog anyway just looking for money or their 15 seconds of fame. Like duh, if you love your dog so much, maybe don't let it escape and end up on a highway. These people should be slapped. In Indiana however, a lady took an injured stray to the vet whom she had been feeding because it was starving. It finally got close enough for her to touch it and she got several tickets because the law says once you feed an animal, it belongs to you. They tried to get her for animal cruelty and not having the right vaccines. The laws HAVE TO CHANGE!
i have picked up 3 dogs wondering on the streets.....took them in and took care of them....no one was looking for these dogs so they became mine....so what....they are cared for now ....
A few weeks ago my husband and I hit a dog on the highway. There were other dogs running with him and three houses that he could have come from. The dog was in shock and I didn't know how bad his injuries were, so instead of knocking on doors I just took him to the vet. Thankfully, all he had was a concussion and he was in shock and had road rash. While examining him, the vet said he'd been shot with a shotgun. (This is a 14 pound dog!) The dog was also infested with ticks and fleas and had other wounds on him. He had no tags and no chip. The vet asked me if I was going to return him to the area and find the owner. I was shocked that he would even ask me that after telling me the dog had been shot. I said no and we kept him. After a few days he has become a forever member of the family. He's an amazing dog, gets along great with our 4 other dogs and shows us everyday how grateful he is to be here. I figure if the owner really wanted him, he wouldn't have let him run on the highway in the first place......or get shot for that matter. So to answer your question.....yes....in a heartbeat!
in Charleston, Ms....there r packs of dogs running around....if u try 2 get close they run.....except for 1 beauty....she looked 2 be rottie/dobie.....i would go into town just 2 see if she was ok. i thought of taking her home with me but i lived just off a busy highway n she was safer where she was.............i always carried dog food n water in my van n fed/watered her any time i see her
Sure, you can torture or murder an animal and get told not to do that again but try and help one that's irresponsible owner obviously doesn't give a crap about and get a possible FELONY?? Who was the crack head that thought up that law?
Oh, please! The woman might well have saved the dog's life. The dog was wandering around by a highway without tags or (apparently) other identification. The woman did not keep the dog hidden; she tried to find the owners and posted the dog's photo on Facebook. I hope she was not arrested!
Wow, how ungrateful of the irresponsible owners. I have had something similar happen to me 3 times and no one ever thought to charge me with dognapping. I don't care if you don't have leash law (which makes no sense to me), this woman tried to find the owners, she did not hold the dog for ransom.
I would risk everything to help an animal. In Florida there were ferral cats and kittens that were breeding at the end of my street under an empty trailer. I called the animal control and the woman said to me "What ever you do, don't feed them" I was shocked to say the least. She went on to tell me that ferrel cats are never going to be healthy as they are all inbred and never lived that long anyway so they just don't incourage them to breed more by feeding them. After that, I took it upon myself to try to help these poor animals. I brought food for all of them every day and I hooked up with a local vet who donated flea and tick control as well as antibiotics as some had upper respritory illness. Some of them eventually came down to my house and came in through my cat door and some were too scared and just stayed where they were. Eventually with the help of another animal lover we were able to get them all out of there with the help of hav-a-heart traps. That was in 2003 and I still have 2 of them living with me. So much for them not living very long.
Yes, I would absolutely pick up a stray & have done so in the past. If the dog is tagged & looks well-cared-for, I assume it just "escaped" & try to find the owner. If the dog looks like it has been on the street for a while or if neighbors tell me it has been a stray & foraging for food, then I would keep the dog & make no effort to find the irresponsible owners. So arrest me.
I found 2 dogs wandering in my neighborhood this summer. They were clearly lost, walking back & forth across the street. I scooped up the small one right away, after getting it secure I got the bigger one by the collar and put him in my yard. They played with my 2 dogs all day while my husband and I put up fliers, called vets and shelters, put posts on FB, etc. More than a few people walked by our yard and mentioned they saw those dogs wandering, but didn't want to get involved. It would have broken my heard to see one of them hit by a car later because I was too selfish to help!! Several hours later when the owner found our flier, she pulled in our driveway with tears streaming down her face. 1) she was SO HAPPY she found them and 2) she couldn't believe we took them in and then went so far as to put up fliers. She had just moved to a new house within a few days prior, which is why the tags had outdated info, and she didn't know her fence had hole just big enough for those rascals to squeeze out. She had been crushed to find them missing. MOST people are not crazy and are VERY grateful for your help.
Yea, I hear what u r saying Ruby. At least its now in the media, I am from Canada. But what pisses me off is that the Rescue/Shelter closed. Hmmmm...geeze, I wonder if that is connected to this incidence. There are so many good people with dogs, who truly care and love these 4-legged creatures. Are people afraid to protest for such a good cause, or does this so-called Sheriff make it hard for the people who want change. Probably, right?
@heather ohare. In most areas of the country, that would be a good question. However, in this counter, there are NO leash laws. So it is perfectly legal for dogs to wander without any owner accountability. The dog's owner is a deputy sheriff--funny, but after an hour of searching the other day, I could not find the dog owner's name. Stephanie, who runs Drifters Place rescue, got the dog off a highway. When she contacted the owner, the news report says they had a disagreement. Rather than take the dog to the owner's house after the disagreement, Stephanie left the dog at a local vet. So the deputy swore out a complaint and the higher ups in that county approved it. Sadly, on examiner.com, a month or two after this incident, there was an announcement that Drifter's Place was closing. I can't help but think that this incident had something to do with it, although I found no report to that effect. However, their website is still active, so maybe they are continuing on. It looks to me like a clear case of a mean, careless "law enforcement officer" abusing his power and having the authorities in the county help that deputy sheriff in his harassment of an animal rescuer. Somebody needs to start a petition to protest this county's lack of leash laws and abuse of power by a deputy. The University of Mississippi's main campus in located in Oxford, MI, where the dog was found and Drifter's Place rescue is located. Having a major university there would make me think that leash laws could be enacted. However, given that there was a demonstration with racial slurs shouted on election night after Obama was announced as the winner, I am not sure that leash laws could be enacted. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-11-08/news/34999210_1_first-black-student-racial-slurs-ole-miss-students Anyway, I gotta get to work!
Why shouldnt the dog owners be arrested? If I see a dog, and especially with no tags, which shows absolute irresponsibility on the dog owners part, and its wandering along a busy road, or any road at all, I will take that dog and put it in a place that is safe. Would you let your child wander around by itself. A dog suffers and bleeds and feels pain, just like we do. Change the friggin' laws down there and have some justice for these poor creatures..
The dog's owner is a deputy sheriff in that county. When they talked by telephone about return of the dog, the deputy became very angry with the rescuer. She said she was dropping the dog at a vet clinic, so he swore out a complaint at her. I surely hope she sues for unlawful prosecution. However, considering she has to live in the same area as this deputy and the sheriff and whomever else agreed to her being arrested, she may be afraid to sue them. But I hope she does. http://overlawyered.com/2012/06/woman-arrested-trying-reunite-dog-owner/
Yes I would always help an animal. The owners should be brought up on charges of neglect, wasting the polices' time with bogus charges. They need to learn to be grateful that someone took the time to care for their dog. They don't deserve to be dog owners.
And, as a prior poster pointed out, in some states it's ILLEGAL to let your dog wander. Why aren't the owners being brought up on charges of neglect vs. the woman who did the opposite and SAVED their dog????
This is totally ridiculous. I feel the owners did this to get attention. I can't imagine a normal human being who owns a dog not be eternally grateful to this woman. Why did they think she stole the dog if she put the dog on Facebook to find the owner?? Truly obnoxious story.
this is ridiculous!!!!! everyone should help any kind of animal in need and the owners then with that attitude should be arrested for letting the dog get loose!.......I could see if someone had taken the dog from the house or yard but the woman tried to find the owners and did so!...what a stupid place thing to do! and what is wrong with those owners.....not like the woman took and hid the dog and never looked there is proof she did!......she is no dog napper! for crying out loud!.....
In our area the owner of the dog could be arrested for letting the dog wander unattended. Mississippi needs to change their law. An unattended dog can wander into traffic and cause a fatal car crash. I can't imagine why they came up with such a dumb law. Regardless of the law, I would have to pick the dog up and turn it in to animal control. I think that is why the woman is being charged. She apparently didn't notify animal control that she had found the dog.
Keep up the good work Stephanie. Why do people thinkit OK to let their dogs wander...we have this issue in this country...city folk move out to the country areas and get the idea that their dogs can just run free anywhere. Stephanie did the right thing as would ANY DECENT HUMAN
With smart phones these days it is easier to record "evidence" and contact authorities. I would record the dog wandering, where I found it and call to alert the local shelters/vets to show my intent is to reunite. Arrest for helping a dog? Those owners should be grateful someone took the time and opened their heart and home for their dog!
Yes I would. If it looked like a stray, I would pick it up and take it home till an owner was found. I have done it before and have notified our local vet. She invariably gets reports on lost dogs. I have been happy in each instance to give the dog to the owners who have come by and picked them up.
I would absolutely positively do it. Actually one of my dogs, Frannie the blue heeler was found running across a highway. She was staving, eating corn and wheat to survive.
Without a doubt I would do this, the law is far from my thinking when it comes to siuations like this. I'd probably foster them for a while, get them checked out by a vet, & post them up for adoption for a forever home. All applicants will be extensevly screened & unannounced visits to the owners home to check up on these dogs. And if they feel they can't have them anymore, i'd take them back & if they never get adopted, I would keep them here with me to make sure they would never end up in a kill shelter.
I think that the owner of the dog should be the one getting arrested, in my opinion. I can't believe someone would be so stupid. -.- The laws about animals are pretty stupid sometimes. The lady found the owners dog. Be happy that it's not dead in the middle of the highway for Goddess Sake!
Who makes up these damn laws? I swear we humans are just so cold blooded toward the animals in this country.
Normally, YES! I would. However, I have two dogs... And, it makes it very difficult to help other animals. However, if I saw a dog wandering around loose, Yes, I would do something. However, what this person did--you wouldn't put a dog on a social network page looking for an owner if you intended to keep it!
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