Lost dog adopted by new family on Omaha’s 72-hour rule

The Jones family reported their dog as lost and were surprised to find it at the shelter, ready to be adopted by someone else.
Published: Feb. 26, 2023 at 5:41 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Friday, Rebecca Jones, her kids, and her husband saw their dog, Bella, sitting in the Nebraska Humane Society. She’d been missing for about three weeks.

Separating them from their two-and-a-half-year-old dog were metal bars and finalized adoption papers by a new family.

“The dog had been adopted and had been legally adopted by this family,” said Pam Wiese with the Nebraska Humane Society.

Jones reported Bella missing with NHS, posted on social media and checked the NHS website to see any sign of her. She said they relied on NHS to notify her if her dog showed up at the shelter.

After no update, they decided to check themselves.

Emotions escalated when the family was told that despite seeing their dog at the shelter, they couldn’t take her home. They said they were escorted out by a police officer.

“We could show them everything they needed, and they wouldn’t listen to us at all,” Jones said.

“I think that there was some miscommunication on that. We will try to give calls if we think a pet will match up,” Wiese said. “But we’ve been very busy. It’s not a given. It’s not a promise.”

“They didn’t say, ‘Walk up here every day; we may not be able to contact you.’ I would’ve done that,” Jones said.

Wiese said a family’s best bet if they lost a pet is to come in person at least every three days. That’s because of a 72-hour rule in Omaha.

According to a city ordinance, a pet becomes the property of NHS after three days in the shelter, then it’s available for adoption.

“We know what we should do and what we really want to do,” said Wiese. “And what we hope happens. And yet, legally, we’re kind of bound by the fact that gosh, this dog was here. It becomes our property. It hung out. It didn’t get claimed. It got adopted.”

Wiese said, however, despite the clear 72-hour rule, a gray area remains.

“What’s the cutoff point?” she said. “Do we say, ‘Well you’ve adopted this dog, but the original owners really want it back?’ Is it the first day? Is it a week later? So we have to have a cutoff point somewhere, and the cutoff point is when the new person adopts.”

The family was told that NHS would reach out to the new family but couldn’t make any promises.

Ultimately the new family agreed to give Bella back to the Jones family. Sunday evening the Jones were reunited with their lost pet.