Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
Chance was reunited with April Hollingsworth after he escaped from a yard and landed in a shelter.

The first time Chance got lost, he didn't have a tag.

That was years ago, but owner April Hollingsworth still remembers how long it took to find the little white-faced beagle after posting signs all over her city.

"It was the longest 18 hours of my life," Hollingsworth says. That's why Chance has worn a tag with his name and Hollingsworth's cell phone number ever since.

That's also why Hollingsworth was so surprised in September when Chance ended up in an animal shelter and nobody called to tell her where he was.

The 15-year-old, arthritic beagle was staying with Hollingsworth's brother in South Jordan over Labor Day weekend when he escaped through a fence and was gone for more than a day.

At one point, a woman in a South Jordan neighborhood called Hollingsworth to tell her she had found the beagle, but by the time Hollingsworth came to pick him up, the woman had already called animal control. Hollingsworth's boyfriend, Dan Alix, tracked Chance to a shelter in Midvale, but by then, the dog owners were frantic.

"I didn't know where he was, and I was completely losing my mind because I couldn't understand why, if he was in a shelter, they wouldn't just call me," Hollingsworth said. "I was expecting the worst."

According to Lt. Matt Evans, who oversees South Jordan's animal control program through the police department, Chance was dropped off at the Midvale animal shelter on Sept. 4 and picked up by Alix on Sept. 5. Chance's name — which is inscribed with Hollingsworth's phone number in a metal tag hanging from his collar — was recorded on the shelter's records, but according to Evans, no contact information for the dog was included in the document.

"He had a collar and a tag with a name but not a phone number," Evans said. South Jordan is currently building a new animal shelter that is expected to be completed in December, but until the new building is finished, South Jordan's animals are being housed in Midvale's facility.

Evans says South Jordan's animal control officers are trained to call owners if an animal has a tag with contact information. When an animal is received, it is scanned for microchips that contain information and a digital picture of the animal is taken and posted the next day on the city's Web site, www.sjc.utah.gov/publicsafety/police-animalcontrol-impound.asp.

Evans says South Jordan animal control officers scanned the dog and found a microchip with outdated information. The animal control officers tried calling the number associated with the chip, to no avail.

"Our goal is to get the dogs out of the shelter," Evans said. "If we didn't, we'd be killing a lot of animals.... I don't know how we could expect to return any animals if we didn't make contact with their owners."

Hollingsworth is adamant that Chance does not have a microchip, and he was still wearing his tag when Alix retrieved the animal from the shelter. While Alix was in the shelter, he called phone numbers from several other animals' tags and informed a woman that her dog — also a beagle — was in the shelter. The woman had been missing her dog for three days.

"I've learned a lesson now," Hollingsworth said. "I wouldn't dare trust that the shelter would just let me know, but that's only because of this experience. Ninety-nine percent of the people out there would just put up signs or whatever and assume that if their dog gets found they're going to find out about it.... It just doesn't make any sense that they're not doing this."

According to Temma Martin, media coordinator for Salt Lake County animal services, finding lost animals that have tags is a "moment of celebration," because the shelter has a greater likelihood of returning the animal to its owner. Nevertheless, until pet owners know exactly where their lost animals are, the first thing they should do is visit every animal shelter in their vicinity.

Although Martin says the county shelter goes to great lengths to return animals to their owners, she estimates only half of the 10,000 dogs the shelter receives annually make it back home. Four percent of felines in the shelter return to their owners, Martin said.

"It really falls on the owner to be willing to go in (the animal shelter) physically," Martin said. "There is no substitute for going into the shelter every other day. Even if it's a pain and you have to take some time off work, your pet's life is worth that."

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