ST. GEORGE — The woman who dropped Hank off at the St. George Animal Shelter said he was found locally, but he was actually about 700 miles from home.
“He was a working dog,” Animal Services Officer Supervisor Cathy Freitas told St. George News. The 12-year-old McNab mix was found on a ranch in Oregon where he’d been working and then driven to St. George by a woman who lied and said she found the dog in the local area, Freitas said.
“That dog was absolutely well cared for and happy,” she continued. “And the person who saw it assumed otherwise and thought rather than going to the authorities and saying, ‘I found a dog,’ she intentionally drove the dog away from that area because she didn’t want it to go back to the owner thinking that it wasn’t well taken care of because it was outside. … Not every dog is going to be happy lying on your couch and eating snacks.”
The shelter posted a photo of Hank on social media, and “it just hit the right people.” Someone in Idaho recognized him, Freitas said, adding that from there, they connected the dots.
“He’d been with (the family) for a long time,” she said. “He was missed immediately, but the owners didn’t know where to look for him because the people had driven so far away. … When we were able to get a hold of the owners, they immediately got in their vehicle and drove 700 miles to pick him up — 1,400 miles round-trip — to pick up their dog. That shows you the dedication that they have to their dogs.”
Hank, who was picked up and taken home early last Thursday, is in the fifth generation of McNab dogs bred to work on the family’s ranch.
“We want people to be educated on the fact that there are working dogs, and these dogs are happy,” Freitas said. “In this area, more often than not, it’s going to be Great Pyrenees, and we have that happen a lot where people will pick up a Great Pyrenees that they think is lost out in the middle of nowhere … and the dogs are miserable. They’re absolutely miserable in here — they want to get back to their herd.”
If a person finds a dog near livestock, they should assume it’s a working dog, and it’s best not to approach it. If it appears neglected or injured, Freitas said to contact Animal Services or nonemergency dispatch so the local authorities can check on the dog and notify its owners, if necessary.
The St. George Animal Shelter knows the local ranchers and can tell concerned citizens if they’ve found a working dog. Freitas said that’s also likely the case in most areas where ranching is common.
Additionally, if Hank had been neglected or abused, it would have been more difficult to hold his owners accountable as they are outside of the St. George Police Department’s jurisdiction, Freitas said. And the police from the dog’s hometown wouldn’t have been notified, leaving the family free to adopt another dog into the same situation.
“It doesn’t fix anything,” she said, later adding, “We are here for the betterment of the animals, and we want to return them to their owners. And if it’s not a good home for them to be in, we will determine that, and we won’t return them. We’re not going to put a dog in a bad situation.”
Removing the dog can also put their herd at risk as they would no longer have their guardian and are more likely to become prey. And it is illegal in Utah to do so.
“She can be charged with theft of property,” Freitas said. “She went onto his property and stole his dog and transported it across state lines. So that’s theft, and he could press charges if he wanted to.”
When individuals see dogs at work with livestock, they should remain a safe distance away and not offer food or treats. While most are not aggressive to humans, they can be if they feel their flocks are at risk, Freitas said.
“These aren’t house pets,” she added.
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