As previously reported in The Scoop, on Sunday April 21, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) removed a small dog, Zipper, from a vehicle in a West Seattle grocery store parking lot. Included in the original police report was a witness statement that the car had been in the same spot for six days, prompting speculation that Zipper may have been locked inside without food or water during that entire time. If this turned out to be true, it would have been a clear case of animal neglect and/or cruelty, which the Animal Shelter, the SPD and the City of Seattle take very seriously.
We received numerous calls from people checking on Zipper’s welfare from as far away as Florida and New York. We sincerely appreciate the public concern and support for Zipper, as it is the mission of the Seattle Animal Shelter to foster safe, healthy and caring relationships between people and animals in our community. However, Zipper’s situation is an example of why it is important for us to be able to conduct a thorough investigation before jumping to conclusions with only limited information.
We also want to recognize the patience and understanding of Zipper’s owners, who have been distraught over the allegations of abuse made in online forums, as well as the separation from Zipper. They have been fully cooperative during our investigation and have complied with all requests made of them.
As with any case of potential animal mistreatment, the Seattle Animal Shelter opened an investigation. Over the last four weeks, Zipper was cared for by animal care staff at the Shelter while the investigation was conducted. The investigation is now complete, with the Animal Shelter staff concluding that no crime was committed. As such, Zipper has been reunited with his owners. Evidence collected during our investigation, which included numerous witness statements and a search of the vehicle, did not support the widespread speculation that Zipper had been left in the vehicle for up to six days. All evidence points to Zipper being left in the vehicle for a few hours during the evening he was taken in by police. While not ideal, and an absolute no-no in warmer months, leaving an animal in a vehicle for a short time is not illegal unless other circumstances pose a threat to the animal’s welfare (e.g., extreme cold weather, access to dangerous items that could be ingested or cause bodily harm, vulnerability to dog-napping if vehicle is unlocked, etc.).During his time at the Animal Shelter, staff observed Zipper to be happy and energetic. The original police report stated that he appeared to be emaciated, but his eating habits over his four-week stay at the Shelter and a visit to the vet confirmed that while he could stand to gain a couple pounds, he is healthy, energetic and just one of those dogs that is extremely fit.
Finally, this also is a good opportunity to remind pet owners that the best way to ensure we can find you if your pet is found wandering or retrieved in a situation like Zipper’s is to make sure it is licensed and microchipped. It’s also a good idea to have a personalized tag with your contact information alongside the license on his or her collar.
– Don Jordan, Seattle Animal Shelter Director
The Seattle Animal Shelter enforces both SMC 9.25.081 and RCW 16.52.205, which make it illegal to abuse or neglect an animal. Animal cruelty includes abandonment of a pet, physical abuse, failure to provide food, water, shelter or veterinary care, fighting of animals, putting animals in a situation that causes distress (i.e., a hot car) or keeping an animal in unsanitary conditions. If you feel that an animal is being neglected or abused, please contact the Seattle Animal Shelter at (206) 386-7387.