Family's dog goes missing, is found but is adopted by another family and now can't get dog back

LOS ANGELES - A 4-year-old boy and his mom are looking for their 8-month-old dog today, even though the Rhodesian Ridgeback has been found and is healthy.

Raffiki disappeared from the backyard of Rosa Torres' Panorama City home three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Torres scoured the neighborhood, hung fliers, searched Craigslist and posted pictures on a Facebook page dedicated to missing pets. She also visited her local animal shelter repeatedly.

Unbeknown to her, someone had found Raffiki and taken her to an animal shelter on the other side of the San Fernando Valley, 10 miles from her home.

A week later a volunteer searcher spotted a photo of the missing puppy on an adoption website. An animal rescue group had bailed Raffiki out of the shelter, changed her name to Kami and found her a new home, according to The Times. Since then, Torres has been trying in vain to get her puppy back.

"I'll compensate the family that has her," she told the newspaper.  "I'll do whatever it takes. She's not just an animal, she's a part of our family. My 4-year-old son cries whenever he looks at her picture. We just want her back."

But the rescue group, Karma Rescue, says there's nothing it can do. Raffiki legally belongs to the family that paid Karma's $300 "adoption contribution," took her home on Feb. 21 and now wants to keep her.

That adoption took place just as Torres was applying online to Karma Rescue to adopt her own dog and after her desperate message on the group's voicemail got no response, according to The Times.

Her application "did not meet the qualifications that Karma looks for when adopting a dog to a home," Karma Rescue said in a statement to The Times.

The Times wrote that it interprets that to mean that Torres is young; she and her son live with her parents in a small rental home in a not-so-great part of town; the dog wasn't microchipped, spayed or wearing ID tags, and if she couldn't manage to find the dog in a week, she doesn't deserve to get her back.

"Had she been a little more diligent, we would have spoken with her," Karma Rescue's lawyer, Susan Willis, told The Times.

Other animal rescuers are rallying around Torres, The Times reported.

"You've got groups that help people and their pets, through education and support, versus people who just focus on the animals and tend to demonize owners," Jessica Gary, who spent the last year volunteering with Karma Rescue and considered the group one of the city's best. She resigned last week over the Raffiki issue.

"This is somebody's own dog, and you're making the judgment and denying them the dog back without even bothering to talk to them, get to know them, let them explain what happened," she said. "That is just wrong."

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