A young mum who made an online plea for cash to get her missing dog back from council wardens faces being investigated by the RSPCA.
Emma Bray, 20, took to Facebook to say she could not afford the £270 bill to return lurcher Bee, who disappeared from her home in Canterbury.
Dog lovers were quick to set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money, with donations pouring in to help reunite the mum-of-two with her family pet.
But it emerged yesterday the dog is still with council contractor Animal Wardens, which was so concerned by its welfare it reported the case to the RSPCA.
It says the dog was in poor health and suffering from fleas, worms and mange, and had an open wound to her tail, requiring urgent veterinary treatment.
The firm disputes Miss Bray’s claims that the dog went missing on May 5, the day it took Bee in, saying a member of the public reported it running stray for four days before. The story came to light on May 9, when Miss Bray said on the Canterbury Residents Group page that Bee was missing.
She then returned to the page on May 17 to say she had received a letter and demands for money from Animal Wardens.
In it, the firm said Bee had been seized under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, stating that fees and “associated costs” would need to be paid before the dog was returned.
The note ended: “Should an owner fail to reclaim the dog within seven days, it will be liable to be disposed of.”
Animal Wardens says it first tried to contact Miss Bray on May 12 by telephone after scanning Bee’s microchip – a claim Miss Bray disputes.
She wrote: “Nobody told me they had her – I just received this letter. My number and mum’s number is on her microchip. If anybody told me I would have come and got her as soon as she was found. I don’t want her getting ‘disposed of’. She’s got a loving home here. It’s like someone’s kidnapped my dog.”
Animal Wardens acts on behalf of council contractor Serco, taking in stray and missing dogs found on the district’s streets.
If microchipped, the dogs can typically be returned quickly, but if there is a delay the owner is liable for kennel and veterinary costs.
Miss Bray told KentOnline's sister paper the Kentish Gazette: “I didn’t even realise these animal wardens existed. After a few days I thought someone must have just picked her up.
“It’s been so stressful. I thought she was going to be put down. The letter was really shocking.”
A GoFundMe page was set up to raise the money to get Bee back, with one man donating £100 towards the £245 collected.
Miss Bray posted a link to the website on Facebook, writing: “We would be forever grateful if people could donate thank you.”
Despite most of the money being raised, city council spokesman Rob Davies confirmed yesterday that Animal Wardens still had the dog.
He said: “It was in poor health and had worms, fleas, mange and an open wound on its tail. It was also underweight. The welfare of the dog is always the priority and veterinary treatment began immediately. The dog was microchipped, and attempts were made to read the chip, without success, which is not unusual.
"I didn’t even realise these animal wardens existed. After a few days I thought someone must have just picked her up. It’s been so stressful. I thought she was going to be put down. The letter was really shocking...” - Emma Bray
“A successful reading was made on May 12 but calls from Animal Wardens to the owner went unanswered and a letter was sent to the address on the chip.
“As a result of not knowing who the dog’s owner was, kennelling fees did not start until May 15. The vast majority of the costs the owner has to pay is to cover the veterinary work required.
“As always, if the dog had been wearing a collar and tag with its name and address on, as required by law, the finder would have been able to contact the owner directly and Animal Wardens would not have been involved at all.
"We are sufficiently concerned about the dog’s welfare to report this incident to the RSPCA for further investigation.”
RSPCA spokesman Lucy Cooper said: "We understand, and share, people’s concerns for the welfare of this dog, and want to reassure people that we will follow up on this. The welfare of an animal is always our priority."