This is the tale of Henry, a shar-pei boxer mix, that went missing Christmas Eve and was hit by a car last week.
The story has a happy ending: Henry was reunited with his owners Wednesday.
But how the animal came to be saved raises a troubling issue for the Good Samaritan family that rescued Henry.
That’s because Ohio law says that anyone who cares for an injured pet is responsible for it.
Heather Stewart says that’s a crock.
Stewart, who lives in Mantua in Portage County, and her family were driving down Interstate 271 on Friday when her 10-year-old daughter started screaming that she saw a dog on the side of the highway and insisting they turn the car around.
The dog did not have a collar or microchip, so the owners could not be identified.
The Stewart family picked up the dog and took him to a veterinarian in Medina, where they paid for X-rays.
The diagnosis wasn’t good. The dog had a broken pelvis and dislocated hip. He needed an operation that would cost as much as several thousand dollars.
Stewart said the family couldn’t afford to do more. She said her husband, Scott Stewart, was off work because of a shoulder operation.
The $150 paid for the X-rays was the family’s grocery money.
Stewart said the vet called the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She assumed the dog would be taken care of.
She was wrong.
Stephanie Moore, executive director of the county SPCA, said her organization couldn’t accept the dog because Stewart had assumed responsibility for the animal by paying for the X-rays. That was SPCA policy.
Stewart told Moore the family knew someone with the Cleveland chapter of the Animal Protective League. Moore said she assumed that’s where the dog would go.
But the APL office manager had left for the evening, Stewart said, so the family ended up taking the dog back to their home in Mantua.
The next morning, a frustrated Stewart and her husband again tried to find help for Henry.
“You find animals on the side of the road and you try to do good, and you need somewhere to take the dog, and nobody is willing to help you,” Stewart said. “You wonder why nobody wants to do good anymore.”
Stewart called The Gazette and a Cleveland television station.
A Gazette editor called Moore and explained the dog was at the Stewarts’ home.
Moore said she had assumed the dog had gone to the Cleveland APL and offered to go to Mantua to pick up Henry if Stewart agreed to sign papers relinquishing any claim on the dog.
The Stewarts declined the offer, saying they didn’t trust Moore, and turned to the Portage County Animal Protection League, which agreed to house the dog over the weekend.
Moore said she was contacted by the Portage APL and agreed to care for the dog.
“We wanted to do the right thing and make sure that he was cared for,” Moore said.
After bringing Henry back to Medina County, Moore posted a photo of the dog on the county SPCA’s Facebook page.
Someone recognized the dog from a Craigslist ad posted by his owners.
Henry was reunited Wednesday with his owners, Scott and Samantha Kalal, of Strongsville.
The Kalals said the dog ran away from home Christmas Eve when guests were coming in with presents. They had adopted him about a year ago from a suburban Cleveland animal control pound.
Scott Kalal said the family posted flyers and checked other shelters every three days.
Henry will have surgery today.
“We’re going to get some funds together somehow and we’re going to do it,” Samantha Kalal said.
The Kalals also thanked the Stewarts for saving Henry.
The Stewarts certainly didn’t have to stop for the dog, according to Jeff Holland, an expert on animal law who works as a special prosecutor in animal cruelty cases for 25 counties, including Medina.
While Ohio law doesn’t require pet owners to pay for veterinary care for injured or ailing pets, the law does state that a “person who confines or is the custodian or caretaker” of a pet is responsible for its proper care, including providing food, water and “access to shelter from heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight, if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result.”
“In general, people who become the keepers of a dog or a cat are responsible for providing proper care,” he said.
Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.