Ask Shawn: The case of the missing kitten

Ask Shawn: The case of the missing kitten

Learn what to do when a veterinary client finds a lost pet and doesn't want to return him to his owners.
Mar 01, 2012

Hello, kitty

Shawn McVey, MA, MSW
Today in our clinic we had an adorable black kitten come in with an upper respiratory infection. The owner reported the kitten had been found in her yard two weeks ago and she hadn't had any luck finding the owners. When we scanned the kitten we found a microchip, but the new owners said they don't want us to call the microchip company or the kitten's previous owners. How can we follow confidentiality laws while also standing by our ethics in this situation?—DISTRESSED

The good news is, everyone seems to want this particular kitten. I'm sorry that you are in this situation, but the answer is that you must adhere to the law. And where pets are concerned the law is clear that whoever officially owns the pet is the one who has the rights to, and responsibility for, the pet.

Without knowing how the kitten got lost we can't assume that the owners and veterinarian who put the microchip in the kitten won't want it back. Many practices that offer microchipping have a policy that they will accept any pet that they've microchipped. In this case, the presenting client is a Good Samaritan who deserves thanks, but you should contact the real owners immediately.

Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics editorial advisory boards and is CEO of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago. For videos and articles containing more of McVey's tips and tricks on issues relating to veterinary personnel management, conflict, and communication, visit