WSVN — What if your dog or cat got loose and a stranger found it? What is that person required to do? Turns out, it all depends on where you live. 7’s Carmel Cafiero has this Nightteam special report, “Dog Gone.”

The Rispa family last saw their beloved dog Pepper more than three months ago.

Yvette Rispa: “February 4th, he took off. He ran out. You know, he opened the door, ran away.”

There was no sign of him in the neighborhood or at the Miami-Dade Animal Shelter.

Yvette Rispa: “It was just an ongoing battle looking for him.”

It turns out someone found Pepper and turned him over to a local rescue group. But since there are no requirements that the county be notified of a found pet, the family had no idea where Pepper was until he had been adopted out.

Yvette Rispa: “I was like, ‘What are you talking about? I’m his family.’ I described him and I said, ‘I think you made a huge mistake. Please call them back and tell them to bring him back.'”

If Pepper had been lost and then found in Broward or Palm Beach County, he might be back with his family today. Both counties have ordinances that require good Samaritans to report finding lost pets.

Lisa Mendheim, Broward County Animal Care & Adoption: “Here in Broward County, if you find a pet, we require you to notify our Adoption Center that you have found the pet within 24 hours.”

That gives the owner a place to look for their pet. It also gives the owner time, because the shelter places a three-day hold on the animal before it can be put up for adoption.

Yvette had no such option in Miami-Dade.

Yvette Rispa: “Somebody finds him and now he belongs to you? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”

Kathy LaBrada, Miami-Dade Animal Services: “I would agree this is a growing problem.”

Kathy LaBrada is Miami-Dade’s Chief of Shelter Operations and Enforcement. About 30,000 animals come through these kennels every year.

Kathy LaBrada: “Of that number, about 11,000 are strays that are either presented at the shelter by good Samaritans or picked up in the field by our animal control officers.”

LaBrada says Miami-Dade should follow the lead of Broward and Palm Beach.

Kathy LaBrada: “I believe an ordinance requiring notification to the department would be beneficial, and it would just be the right thing to do. It’s an extra safety net for individuals who have lost their pets or pets that have become stray.”

Yvette wishes there had been better options to find pepper.

Yvette Rispa: “I’m furious. I would have had a little more protection. I have the right to miss my dog and want him back home.”

And surely hers is not the only family wishing a missing pet was back at home. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.

Florida saw says you should turn over found property to authorities, and that does include pets. The Rispa family is now offering a $2500 reward for any information leading to the safe return of Pepper.


Miami-Dade County Animal Services

Broward County Animal Care and Adoption

If you have any information about Pepper’s whereabouts, call: (443) 794-5873.

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