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Old July 1st, 2005, 11:18 AM
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Microchip identifies stolen dog

I'm posting an article to appeared in today's Halifax Herald. It was a toss up whether I should include in this section or in the 'newspaper' section, as it relates to both. Mod's please feel free to move if appropriate.

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One dog owner's joy is another's heartbreak

By BARRY DOREY / Staff Reporter

When Jennifer Lussing decided to adopt a puppy, she had no idea that the process would reveal an abduction, a high-tech microchip and intrigue that reached all the way to Ontario.

But that's what happened when the Three Fathom Harbour woman and husband William Cooper chose Jagger - a boxer mix - this week at the Metro SPCA.

After their single day as new pet owners, a vet detected a microchip in the animal during a checkup. It identified him as Dakota, whose owner had reported him stolen from an Ottawa home in April.

"So there we are standing with our new puppy, I'm crying my eyes out because, obviously, we can't keep him," Ms. Lussing said in an interview Thursday.

Through data linked to the microchip, the dog's owner was identified. She was reached on the phone a short time later.

"Here is this other woman on the other end of the line just crying out in delight," said Ms. Lussing.

"She was just so grateful. It made me feel good because I had been really upset that we had just lost this perfect dog."

The animal had either not been scanned for the ID device or it had been missed at several stages of his journey through capture to adoption.

Ms. Lussing, an animal lover who works with an Eastern Shore animal rescue group, said someone with municipal animal control - which picked up the dog running at large two weeks ago - or at the SPCA shelter in Dartmouth should have flagged the microchip.

It was only detected the day after the adoption was finalized when she asked a vet to place a microchip in the dog's skin.

"I just feel that this could have been prevented. There's a lot to be questioned about the SPCA."

There were no questions about the Ottawa woman's commitment.

Within hours, the dog was on a plane bound for Toronto and she was driving from Ottawa on Thursday night to pick him up. She could not be reached for comment.

The woman had continued looking for the dog since April, when he was swiped just 10 days before her wedding.

Dakota was to have been the ring bearer. Ms. Lussing said the Ottawa owners had trained the then-15-week-old puppy to deliver the ring on a pillow.

Ironically, it was about the same time that Ms. Lussing and Mr. Cooper started looking for a dog, searching shelters, but never quite finding the perfect animal.

They visited the SPCA last weekend and were at first hesitant about Jagger/Dakota because staff told them he was an American Staffordshire terrier mix.

The breed has taken its lumps in recent years, being characterized as a vicious breed by opponents who have tried to ban them.

"We took him out for a walk and we basically fell in love with the dog," she said. "He was just a happy, happy puppy and we couldn't have been more pleased."

The reunion between Dakota and his owner was expedited by another twist of fate.

The president and CEO of Pet Health Inc., the company that makes microchips and maintains a huge database of animals tagged with them, happened to be visiting the Dartmouth vet clinic when Ms. Lussing showed up Thursday.

When the vet detected the microchip, he asked Mark Warren if it was one of his.

"It was definitely one of ours," Mr. Warren said Thursday. He rang the company's call centre, got the owner information and drove the dog to the airport.

He credited the vet clinic with checking first before installing a microchip and praised Ms. Lussing for "doing the right thing."

"Despite having adopted the dog here in Nova Scotia and clearly having fallen in love with the pet, she was prepared to do the right thing without any qualms," said Mr. Warren.

He said she committed herself to "responsible pet ownership" by choosing microchipping.

Nobody from the Metro SPCA could be reached for comment on its microchip scanning policy Thursday night.
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