Lifestyle & Human Interest

Exclusive: Family Told They Must Pay To Get Their Own Dog Back or Relinquish Rights


Samantha Johnson was heartbroken after her family’s 11-year-old golden retriever went missing. They had only adopted Grizz one week before the dog managed to escape while the family wasn’t home.

Johnson immediately turned to social media for help. The mother was hopeful that a neighbor or someone may have spotted Grizz, who didn’t yet have his tags saying he belonged to his new forever family.

“Within an hour, somebody messaged us and said, ‘Hey, I think my neighbor has your dog,'” Johnson told Liftable, a brand of The Western Journal, in an exclusive interview.

But when the family went to retrieve him from the address they were given, they were told it was too late and the dog had been turned over to animal control.

Johnson family and Grizz
(Photo provided by Samantha Johnson)
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Then the story took an unexpected turn.

“We found him online and went,” said Johnson. “They told me how much it would cost to get him out.” Johnson was told by animal control it could cost $300 or more to get Grizz back.

The children were devastated. Their mother was left trying to scrounge up the money on such short notice and simply could not afford the $300 hit to her wallet.

“After a few days they kept calling and getting a little impatient,” she told Liftable. “But, I’m like, I’m trying, you know? To get the money together to get him.”

When they called again, Johnson told them she simply didn’t have the money. That’s when she had to make the emotional decision to relinquish her rights to Grizz and allow animal control to put the dog up for adoption.

With a heavy heart, Johnson then turned to a private Facebook group for residents of Anthem, Arizona, called “AnthemStuff.” She wanted to make the community aware of what happened so that if they were to ever find a lost pet, they would try to hold onto the animal or call a local rescue, like Anthem Pets, instead of animal control. Ultimately, Johnson just didn’t want this to happen to another family.

Samantha Johnson, Animal Control Story
Screenshot: Facebook/ AnthemStuff, with permission from Samantha Johnson

That’s when a miracle unfolded online.

“Within minutes, I had people saying, ‘Let’s help her get her dog back,’ ‘I’ll pitch in,’ ‘I’ll donate some.’ There was people that offered to pay all of it,” she told Liftable. “So it was pretty crazy. I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”

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She received an outpouring of support from a loving community that genuinely wanted to help a family in need get their 11-year-old pet back.

“Several people called animal control… like, ‘Hey this lady needs her dog back. What can we do to make this happen?'” Johnson said with a smile.

There were also a couple of ladies that offered to do the collecting of donations, Sarah McKoy being one of them. The women agreed to meet at animal control so they could work together to get Grizz home.

Johnson already told her daughters they were not going to be able to get Grizz back, so the day they went to visit animal control, the mother decided to keep it a secret.

“I had no idea… I thought we were going to help someone else,” Rilynn, 10, recalled to Liftable. “So when we got inside we sat there for a long time. Finally, we got inside to where the dogs were… I saw him.”

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The moment she saw Grizz, she immediately began to cry. Rilynn and her sister Brinley, 8, quickly realized why they were really there.

It would be one more day before they were allowed to bring him home, but the sisters were beyond relieved to know they were getting their beloved dog back.

“When my mom told me they set him up for adoption, I was like ‘Great, that’s the last of it. We’re not getting him back, we’re never going to see him again,” said Rilynn. “But nope. We got him back.”

Samantha Johnson and Family Welcomes Grizz Home
Photo provided by Samantha Johnson

The total balance due to animal control ended up being less than the quoted $300 amount. The family paid an $80 deposit and $14 for an E-collar for Grizz to wear after being neutered. The balance of $104 was generously donated by residents. Grizz was also microchipped by animal control before being returned to the family.

Johnson and McKoy continued to update AnthemStuff with photos and videos throughout Grizz’s journey home — including the sweet moment the family was finally able to bring him home.

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“I’m not trying to villainize (animal control), they do serve a purpose,” Johnson stated. “The pounds are so full down there and it costs a lot to get the dog back.”

She is hopeful her story will encourage more people to turn to social media first in an effort to try and locate the owner if they find a lost pet. “You can find the owner fairly quickly, and we did. We found him within an hour of posting that first time. Hold on to the dog if you’re capable. That, or check with your neighbors.”

As for the outpouring from the community and her family’s happy ending, Johnson said she is “just so incredibly grateful for the love and support given from complete strangers.”

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Keeley is a former contributor to The Western Journal.
Keeley is a former contributor to The Western Journal.