Chip & I
By Keith Valiquette
My name is Keith, and my dog’s name is Mocachino Chip, ‘CHIP’ for short. I have been houseless for about a year, and I bought Chip in July 2012 when he was three months old. He is a purebred male Cocker Spaniel. He has been my constant companion since that time. Most people who come in contact with Chip and me love Chip and want to pet him. He loves the attention and I usually let anyone pet him.
However, on two occasions I have had to battle authorities to recover my dog Chip. The first occurred when I let my friend Chris C. watch him on State Street when I had to go to an appointment and had to use the bus and you cannot have a pet on the bus unless he is in a cage. While I was gone, Madison Police observed Chris with my dog and questioned him if he was drunk and if Chip was his dog? My friend Chis has Huntington’s disease so he has limited fine motor skills and the police thought he was drunk because of his exaggerated body movements when he walks. Even though Chip was on a leash under the control of my friend and had his tags on, the police called animal control and had Chip picked up and taken from my friend. When I returned to State Street I began looking for my friend Chis and Chip. Another houseless person told me that the police took my dog from Chis. So I began calling the police demanding that my dog be returned to me. They said I needed to go to the Dane County Animal Shelter to retrieve my dog and pay certain fees. I demanded that my dog was taken illegally and needed them to return my dog to where they took him from. They refused and were uncooperative. I had to call animal control and negotiate the return of my dog. I have no car so I had to meet the animal control officer at my vet’s office near East town to prove ownership of Chip. They didn’t charge me any fees but it took me six hours to recover Chip and no apologies from authorities.
The second time occurred at the Day Warming Shelter. I left Chip with several friends while I had to attend an Occupy Madison meeting. When I returned after the meeting to the Warming Shelter I was informed that the Police took my dog. Two officers were present so I approached them and asked where my dog was? They said I needed to contact animal control. I informed them that my dog was taken illegally and that I wanted to report my dog stolen. They refused. I again asked that at least a report be taken and again they refused. I then called the Police non-emergency number demanding the return of my dog. They refused to help me and said I had to go to the Dane County Animal Shelter in McFarland. I informed them I had no car to get there. After numerous phone calls to Animal Control officer Dane County Health Dept animal control supervisor and Dane County Animal Shelter, I was able to determine that the Animal Control officer falsely claimed that a manager of the Warming Shelter had called claiming that there was an abandoned dog chained to a fence for days unattended. After receiving a letter from one of the managers stating that my dog, Chip, and I were guests of the Warming Shelter and that no manager called complaining about the dog, I got a ride from a friend to the animal shelter to retrieve Chip. It cost me $37.00 to get Chip back.
I called back to Dane County Health Dept and informed them that I wanted to file a complaint against the Animal Control Officer. She stated to me they had no forms for that and that I had to put it in a letter. I asked for a letter from them explaining their actions. Her response was that she “had no duty to respond to me in writing”. Also, when I informed her that Chip had all his appropriate tags on including one with my phone number, why wasn’t I called before seizing Chip? She responded “our policies do not require us to contact owners when we seize animals”. I asked her if she ever heard of the Bill of Rights and that they cannot seize a person’s property without due process of law? I got no response. I then asked for a copy of these policies to be sent to me and again she stated that she had no duty to respond to me in writing.
My experience, with the authorities in Dane County and city of Madison, demonstrates the total lack of respect for the property of houseless persons.