Skittish ‘floppy-eared pup’ was on the loose in NC town. Then came a tearful reunion

Screengrab from the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina Facebook page.

While Chad Singleton was teaching a first responder class at Pitt Community College in North Carolina, he received an urgent message.

The message, which came from the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina, was a request for an animal trap after a local foster dog had ran off, the Pitt County Animal Services director told McClatchy News.

“Normally, we wouldn’t really loan out traps, per se,” Singleton said in a phone interview. “But given the nature of the need and our partnership with the Humane Society, ... we felt comfortable, you know, in doing that.”

Hatteras, a 5-month old hound mix puppy, was missing after disappearing in a wooded area in Winterville, according to a Thursday, Sept. 28 Facebook post from the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina. The dog, who was “very skittish” and would “most likely run” from people searching for her, was nowhere to be found for more than a day.

Taken in by the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina on June 23, the “floppy-eared pup” was part of a larger litter from the Outer Banks, according to the shelter’s adoption page.

The first of multiple updates said an hourslong search led to no avail Thursday night. The shelter said in the post that Hatteras’s fear could be extending the search, as she’s nervous “even with the people she knows.” A trap was also set to catch the scared puppy, the post said, which was supplied by Pitt County Animal Services.

Although the call was after hours, one of the animal control officers agreed to meet one of the shelter’s staff members to supply the trap, Singleton said. It’s one of the better, “least-invasive” methods of finding a missing dog, he said, which is preferable to having to go out and paralyze it.

“Chasing an animal that’s kind of skittish or shy is ... rather difficult,” Singleton said. “It’s not something we will generally commit 10 officers to, for example, to go out and just chase it around because you’re really going to get nowhere except running in circles.”

The trap resembles a breathable squirrel trap, Singleton said, and is about 3.5 feet wide by 3 feet tall. They typically bait the animal with their favorite foods, he said, and supply enough water in case the dog is in the trap for a longer period of time.

Traps are routinely checked, in addition to the animal services office number being provided in case someone else needs to report the caught animal first, Singleton said.

Most of the time, traps are used for catching stray dogs rather than escaped foster dogs, Singleton said, but it’s not completely unheard of. For the Pitt County Animal Services’ own fosters, an escaped dog happens about a dozen times a year, he said.

Pitt County has seen animals dumped into the area from smaller, rural counties often, Singleton said. On average, the local animal services department puts anywhere between six to 12 traps out a week, he said.

Another update was posted the morning of Sept. 29, saying Hatteras was “still on the loose.” The search sprawled across nearby neighborhoods as staff continued to look for the escaped dog, the post said.

“We are keeping the trap out as well if you see it please do not touch it. Just call the number on the trap or the office and we will get her or let out any animal that may be in there out as we have to reset it,” the post said.

Later that evening, the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina posted that Hatteras had finally been found. The shelter thanked everyone who shared the post to find the hound, in addition to the Pitt County Animal Services for providing the trap that caught her.

“To say that tears were shed is an understatement,” the post says.

Singleton commended the Humane Society of Eastern Carolina for doing “the right thing”: calling Pitt County Animal Services for assistance in finding Hatteras.

“You got a dog running at large that’s out in the community that we really know very little about and thankfully they took the necessary precautions to keep the community safe,” he said. “That’s very admirable for them to do that. They could have kept it quiet and not said anything.”

Although providing animal control can be an “overwhelming task” with the number of animals in local shelters rising, Singleton said there are multiple ways one can prevent their animal from escaping, shorten the amount of time it takes to find them or keep other community members safe. Some of those suggestions include:

  • Avoid using slip-lead leashes with dogs you’re unfamiliar with

  • Pay attention to children opening doors in the house to the outside

  • Microchip all pets

  • Spay or neuter all pets to make sure they do not produce more offspring in the wild if they are lost

  • Make sure all pets are up-to-date on all vaccinations to keep the local community safe

Winterville is about 85 miles southeast of Raleigh.

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