Dog owner wants VDOT to change policy to prevent disposal of pets

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Madison Rankin believes the Virginia Department of Transportation should do a better job of trying to locate the owners of pets found dead on the interstate.

Rankin says her one-year-old Belgian Malinois, Zelda, was hit and killed by a car on Wednesday. She says if she called VDOT any later than she did, Zelda would have been taken to the landfill for disposal.

The accident happened Wednesday on I-264 west, near Ballentine Boulevard, one day after the dog jumped a six-foot fence at the Norfolk SPCA.

Rankin says a search party into the night on Tuesday turned up nothing. She learned of the accident on the interstate from a witness who responded to a post on social media.

“If it wasn’t for her, I would have had no idea she was hit on the interstate,” said Rankin. “I would probably still be out looking for her and her body would still be in the landfill.”

Paula Miller, a spokeswoman for VDOT, says Rankin couldn’t be contacted because Zelda was wearing a collar without tags.

“If there is no identification on the animal, then it would go in the debris removal pile and it would be disposed of as all the other debris is,” said Miller.

Luckily, Rankin made dozens of calls and a contractor for VDOT delivered Zelda to her on Thursday. However, she believes the situation could have been resolved quicker if the contractor would have taken Zelda to a facility and had her scanned for a microchip.

The device, if scanned at a veterinary facility, would show Zelda was lost and allow the owner to be contacted.

“It’s as easy as waving a wand over them and you get the microchip number,” said Rankin. “It’s just really upsetting to think that such a big company could have such a lackadaisical view on animals like this.”

Miller say VDOT has a policy in place for the roadside contractors to make contact with the owners of pets with identifying information. However, there are no rules requiring contractors to scan dead pets or take them to Animal Control.

VDOT tells 10 On Your Side they could add new stipulations for contractors in the future and possibly invest in a microchip reader. Miller says the issue has not been discussed.

“If there’s an opportunity or a chance that perhaps we ask the contractors to have a scanning machine that they could scan carcasses for microchips, we’ll consider that,” said Miller.

Rankin says better collaboration between VDOT and local agencies would help give more dog owners closure.

“They’ve got to figure out something just to reconnect these animals with their owners because not knowing is terrible.”

Rankin plans to pick up Zelda’s remains on Friday. It’s something she hopes more dog owners in her situation will be able to do with a few tweaks to the system.

The Norfolk SPCA says they do not leave their shelter dogs unattended while outside.