Imagine your family cat goes outside one night, gets frightened, and runs away. They search for him day and night, publish leaflets, offer rewards, contact every lost and found page and the human society in the area. Just when you give up hope, you will learn that your cat is safe and sound – only, it turns out, is being kept with someone else. If you contact Animal Control and the Sheriff’s Office to try to return your pet, they will tell you it is out of their jurisdiction without specifying whose jurisdiction it falls.
This has been the situation for Carson City-resident Crystal Blackeye for almost a year after her beloved house cat Anubis went missing last October.
In June 2019, Crystal went to the Reno Branch of the Nevada Humane Society to care for kittens for the local nonprofit. She had no intention of taking home a permanent animal that day – until she saw a little black kitten. He reached out his paw and tried to grab Crystal, yowling and meowing until she agreed to hold him. When she did, she said he curled up like a baby and started purring, and she went home with five cats that day – four foster kittens and a new family member.
“I felt like there was a soul connection that I had never had with an animal before,” said Crystal. “I have other animals, but I’ve never loved an animal the way I love it. He is my animal soul mate. When I look him in the eye, I feel an almost human connection. Until I got him, I thought people who talked like that were crazy. “
On October 9, 2020, Crystal woke up to a scuffle at around 2 a.m. and her dogs started barking. They live on a busy street, so they didn’t stick to it much. Anubis didn’t like using the litter box, so he often went out through the dog floor hatch to do his business outside, but had never left the yard and was generally afraid of anything outside of the house.
However, around 5 a.m., Crystal woke up to find that Anubis was not in bed with her and her husband like every morning.
“I knew he was gone,” she said. “I just knew. He never goes out of the back yard, so he must have probably gone outside to use the bathroom and got scared, ran, and got lost. “
Then Crystal went to work. She spent $ 100 to print $ 100 flyers and distribute them across the neighborhood. She reported him missing to his chip company, the Nevada Humane Society, and posted him on every local lost pet page and Craigslist.
People phoned with possible sightings of live and dead black cats that they followed up on everyone, whether in the middle of the work day or late at night, and none of them turned out to be their Anubis.
She would walk the neighborhood every night between 11 p.m. and midnight, calling his name and shaking his goodies. She set his basket down in various places nearby to try to lead him home.
“I called the Humane Society every day,” she said. “They only knew by voice that it was me when I said hello and they said, ‘We still haven’t found him.'”
As the months passed, Crystal accepted that he must be dead and gave up hope that he would ever return. She found that he must have been taken away by someone or eaten by a predator.
However, in early June, Crystal checked her spam folder in her email when she saw a message from her chip company Lost Pet USA that her pet had been found.
“You can’t even imagine how I felt,” said Crystal. “I started crying, I was so relieved.”
Her pet’s chip was scanned by Lone Mountain Veterinary, the report told her, and when she contacted the vet, they said it was actually a mobile vet contacted by a couple who owned it was from Anubis.
The couple had come to have Anubis chipped and vaccinated in May when they found out he already had a chip and was reported missing or stolen.
According to Crystal, the vet passed this information on to the couple, who said they would contact Crystal immediately, but Crystal has still never had any contact from them. She doesn’t know who they are or where they live, all she knows is that they own their Anubis, which she thought was killed. The vet was unable to give Crystal her contact information for privacy reasons, which Crystal understands.
When the couple were contacted again by the vet, Crystal said they told the vet that they would not return Anubis because they “fell in love with him” and that he “must have been traumatized or abused” for taking him a very long time to warm up to the new couple.
They said they would not bring him back until someone in uniform showed up at their door and told them they had to hand over the pet.
So Crystal contacted Animal Control, which is part of the Nevada Humane Society.
“Lone Mountain had already contacted the NHS who initially said they would do nothing at all,” said Crystal. “When I spoke to them, they told me it was out of their scope and there was nothing they could do. I asked about their rules or guidelines that said they did not and could not, that it would take too long to find this information, and that it had to be a civil matter. ”
The NHS told Crystal she had to file a criminal complaint and she immediately went to the Carson City Sheriff’s office and did just that. When she called the NHS back, they told her they weren’t there because law enforcement was involved.
There are special laws in Nevada State Law that state that all domesticated animals, including cats, are personal property, namely NRS 193,021. There is an additional law under NRS 205.240 (b) which states that a petty theft crime has been committed when someone “willfully steals, takes away, and leads away, leads, evicts or lures away one or more domesticated animals or birds, with an aggregate value of less than $ 1,200 that belongs to another person. ”
This is where it gets complex. Crystal doesn’t think these people wanted to commit a crime by taking Anubis into their home. She never claimed that they came into her property and stole it, but that a crime was committed when they found it was reported stolen and missing and decided to keep it anyway.
A representative contacted the owners who refused to hand it over and said they had fallen in love with him.
At that point, the deputy said that Crystal would have to take the matter to a civil court, which Crystal disagrees. A crime has been committed, she says, because these people knowingly harbor stolen property.
“Total ownership is 9/10 of the law, probably these people are thinking, but that’s not a true and accurate representation of the law, it’s just a saying,” said Crystal. “(The deputy) called to say, ‘They refused, but if it’s any consolation, they really love the cat.'”
Crystal said she was very grateful that the deputy took the time to investigate the situation, but she disagreed that there was nothing more law enforcement can do about the matter.
Since animals are considered personal property in Nevada, the situation shouldn’t be treated any differently than a stolen vehicle, Crystal said. If a person finds a vehicle and starts driving it without knowing it was stolen, law enforcement agencies would never tell the real owner of the vehicle that their hands were tied once they were informed that the vehicle was was stolen and they continue to keep it, they would have to take it to a civil court.
With that in mind, Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury agrees; Animals are considered personal property under the Nevada bylaws, and his office is currently investigating the complaint.
According to Woodbury, the Anubis-owned couple told investigating MPs that they found him in their neighborhood in December 2020 and admitted him in March 2021. They told MPs that they had tried “in good faith” to find and notify the cat’s owner.
“Unfortunately, the report does not include a description of what exactly these efforts were,” said Woodbury. “I’m working with the Detective Division at the Sheriff’s Office to get more information about the specific efforts that have been made to find and notify the owner.”
These efforts apparently did not include contacting the Humane Society, with which Crystal was in constant contact following the disappearance of Anubis, and did not include having his microchip scanned until they took him to the vet to be vaccinated and registered with her own pet.
Whether or not the couple tried to find the real owner of Anubis is important: According to NRS 205.0832, theft, according to Woodbury, involves an act in which one person “gains control of another person’s lost, misplaced or misdirected property when the circumstances offer this ”. Means of determining the true owner and appropriating that property for his own use or that of another person without reasonable efforts to notify the true owner.”
If the couple can be determined to have kept Anubis without trying to find its owner, they could face criminal prosecution.
At this point, Woodbury said the matter was still being investigated by his office.
Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong stated that once a decision is made, the prosecutor’s office will respond to the situation based on Woodbury’s determination.
However, Crystal is less concerned with filing criminal charges than with Anubis being brought back to her.
In a public Facebook post she posted on June 11th, Crystal stated, “To the couple Anubis found … You now know that they have a loving home, the owner has been looking for their cat since he disappeared their shoes if the tables were turned. How would you feel Pets are owned in the state of Nevada. Do the right thing and return it to its rightful owner. Thanks.”