Last week I had a conversation which reduced me to tears when I finished the call. This happens quite often when you’re a Pet Bereavement Counsellor but this conversation was a bit different. The conversation was with a lovely Italian gentleman living in London called Walter Bochetti about his much loved dog, Nennella, who is still alive but living with another family who are completely unknown to Walter. He is utterly distraught and my heart broke for him.
Walter is experiencing feelings of grief due to the morally wrongful separation from his companion animal.
I was recently contacted by fellow dog walker Patrick Walsh, who runs an organisation called Bring Your Pet Home. Patrick and his team of volunteers work tirelessly to support and advise pet parents with the ultimate goal of reuniting them with their beloved pets. Patrick put me in contact with Walter to share, not just his story, but the story of other victims of an absolutely nonsensical law which I really feel needs to be changed to stop this happening to others in the future. In law, pets are classed as ‘chattel’ which is personal property. I’m sure that we will all agree that our companion animals are not merely ‘things’. I strongly feel that if the legal definition /classification were to be changed and the legislation overhauled, this would not only save distress to pet parents but also give animals in shelters for legitimate reasons a better chance of finding a forever home rather than being overlooked because of a pet that already has a loving home. Currently, there is no legal requirement for vets and shelters to check for a microchip. It’s good practice, but not an obligation. Furthermore, a microchip is not classed as proof of ownership! This is what made me cry… I privately adopted my Pixie almost 4 years ago from the lovliest couple who had a change in circumstances. She. Is. My. World. Anyone who sees us together knows beyond doubt that we belong together. But although she has an up to date microchip, I have no receipt or adoption papers for her. Should she ever be lost or stolen, I would face a very uphill and expensive legal battle to have her returned to me, meanwhile she would be sitting alone and afraid in a shelter or a strangers home wondering why I hadn’t come for her. The thought of her sitting in a corner shaking with fear in an unfamiliar place is too distressing to contemplate for me. And yet this is what happens to many people and their pets with startling regularity. The police have no interest either as it’s a ‘civil matter’ which means that pet parents are faced with thousands of pounds worth of legal fees to try and bring their pets home where they belong.
Walter Bochetti is a chef to trade and left Nennella in the care of a friend while he attended a job interview. Unfortunately Nennella was lost at this time and Walter has not seen her since despite an extensive social media campaign and putting up posters in his local area. He contacted Haringey Council giving a description of Nenella only to be told that no dogs matching her description had been handed in. Now here’s where things get a little weird and inconsistent. A couple of weeks later, Walter rang the council again and was informed, by the same person, that Nennella had already been rehomed and there was nothing they could do to help him as she was not microchipped or wearing an identification tag. In their eyes, they have ‘followed procedure’. In my eyes, they have not considered the ‘Human Companion Animal Bond’. How is it in either party’s best interest that Nennella be rehomed with complete strangers? Should she not be returned to her Walter? I, of course feel that there is no such thing as ‘can’t’, the council are just not willing to take the matter any further. Walter bought Nennella after the death of his brother and she has been a source of emotional support and unconditional love ever since. His grief has doubled and his mental health has suffered since losing his Nennella.
Sadly, Walter is not alone in this. Far from it in fact. Alsagar Animals In Need had agreed to provide temporary care but are now refusing to return William the dog and Sally the cat to the grieving family of their pet parent David Mills who sadly passed away. Bobby the cat has been rehomed by Warrington Animal Welfare despite his family providing evidence that he was not a stray. These are just a couple more examples of cases that Patrick highlighted in our recent conversations. There are far more which vary in complexity. But the point is, many other countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Australia have a completely different legal classification on companion animals whereas we lump them in beside appliances and furniture which they most certainly are not.
Imagine your own pet, sitting afraid and alone in a shelter or confused in a new home. Isn’t it about time to change this legislation to avoid such heart break? I think it is…