Valley rescue group outraged after no call about deceased microchipped dog

Posted at 9:00 PM, Oct 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-31 00:00:40-04

Most people microchip their pets to have the peace of mind that they will get notified should the animal run away, get lost, be injured or killed.

Dusty Lee, an animal rescuer with the group Passionate People for Paws, says every animal she rescues is tagged and chipped for that very reason.

"Bubbles" a 6-8 month old terrier puppy was one of them.

Lee said she met "Bubbles" and Al Bonin on the streets.  

"I was the first person to see them on the streets, and the only thing the man asked me was for a bottle of water for his dog," said Lee.

Al Bonin was a man who had been down on his luck since the death of his wife, and health problems caused him to lose his home.

After hearing his story, dozens of people donated to a fundraising site that was set up to help Bonin get back into an apartment.  The group was able to raise thousands of dollars. 

The money helped pay for a two week motel stay for Bonin, and provided enough left over to help pay his apartment deposit and help him settle in.

The rescue community adopted "Bubbles"; paying for all her vaccinations, vet treatments, tags, and even got her microchipped in their name.

"She was microchipped to me, and only me," said Lee, adding that she had formed a very close bond with the dog.

Lee said she is a huge advocate of microchipping animals, and over time many veterinarians contacted her any time one of her rescues got loose. 

"I am known as the "tag hag" in the state of Arizona. The reason I'm known as the tag hag is I don't just believe in a microchip, I believe animals should have a tag on the collar as well as their harness," said Lee.

Lee said she did everything by the book, but this time, that call never came.

The hopes and dreams friends had for Bonin and Bubbles came to a tragic end last Wednesday when the two were hit and killed by a car. 

Lee said she had just stepped out to get something to eat.

Friends were concerned as they had not heard from Bonin in two days. Then they saw a news report about a fatal crash in the area. 

As they worked to make funeral plans for Bonin, their next big concern was Bubbles. Where was she?

Lee said she walked the streets for 12 hours, trying to find Bubble's body and was eventually led to the 1st Pet veterinary clinic in North Phoenix, where she was told police had taken dog's body.

Lee said she was horrified to learn the clinic had disposed of Bubble's by sending her body to the city dump site, where road kill and stray animals lay in a mass grave.

"The dog had a microchip, the dog had a tag on the collar, and the dog had a tag on the harness. There were three sources of identification. All three with only my phone number," said Lee. "I feel that it is not just a courtesy, but it is a respect for everything that has a heartbeat, to be notified whether it be co-owner or ownership."

She wanted to know if the vet's office had scanned the microchip, and if so, why had they not contacted the phone number listed with the scan? 

Unable to get any answers, Lee and her friends turned to ABC15 for help.

We reached out to the 1st Pet veterinary clinic to see if they would answer those questions.

A hospital manager sent us this statement:

"Per our policy, we scan all animals that come into our facility.  A supervisor scanned this pet and wrote the info on the intake paperwork. It is our practice to contact the owner of the microchip and confirm their final wishes. Due to the details of this case and the understanding that the deceased pedestrian was the owner we did not make any other contacts."

Lee said if they had simply called the number on the scan, staff would have quickly learned the deceased pedestrian was not the only owner of that pet.

"Just to make an assumption that he had no other person that cared about him and that dog, is just a grave injustice. It's not even just a grievous error, it's a slap in the face to those people who are promoting microchips and doing everything by the book. Even if they thought the guy was homeless maybe he had a father, mother, brother, or friend who cared for that dog and would have liked to give it a proper burial," said Lee.

ABC15 checked in with an attorney to find out what the law states in regards to microchips.

Attorney John Schill said there were only 8 states that required all microchips to be scanned and owners notified.  Arizona is not one of those states.  

"I don't think there's any liability criminal or civil here, but there is the court of public opinion. You ask anybody, they'll probably say this vet should have called the owner," said Schill.

Lee said her rescue community is now in the process of trying to claim Bonin's body, and are raising money to give him a proper burial. 

Sadly the closure they were looking for with Bubbles will not happen in the way they had hoped.

They have set up a Facebook page "Justice for Al and Bubbles" for supporters. 

The group has also created a makeshift memorial near 19th and Bell avenue where the two were killed, and pointed out that the street light in the area is out, and it's very dark out there. 

They hope the city works to address that problem.