TULSA - Imagine losing your pet, then finding it online and having to buy it back.
A 2NEWS viewer says it happened to her.
Rambo is a Boston Terrier. His family lost him back in September.
Blanca Alverez says she may have accidentally left the gate open.
"I couldn't go to sleep, thinking where he was, if he was eating," said Alverez.
She posted fliers in her neighborhood and on the Internet.
"Went on Craigslist, put it on the lost and found," said Alverez.
Her ad, featuring a picture of Rambo and contact information, was spotted by Jan Lewis.
Lewis says she checks out Craigslist often.
"I am an animal lover and I am retired and really didn't have a lot of hobbies," said Lewis.
She says there are a couple of sections where you'll find pets: The "lost and found" and the "pet" section. We also found some in the "pet services" section.
"Lost and found is obviously where people post their lost animals and the pet section is generally where people post an ad to re-home the animals and they always charge (a) re-homing fee," said Lewis.
It's Craigslist policy to ban users from selling household pets outright, but people can charge a small re-homing fee.
Lewis says many times she finds similar dogs in the "lost and found" section and in the "pets" section.
When she finds a match she contacts the owners of the missing pet.
"I ran across a Boston Terrier and I looked in the pet section and I thought, 'these dogs look alike,' so I contacted the owner," said Lewis.
Alverez says when she saw it she knew it was Rambo.
"One of the things he still had that collar that he had on, and he has a little dot on top of his head and I could see it on the picture," said Alverez.
The ad showed a Boston Terrier wearing a shirt facing away from the camera.
The poster said she bought him on a Saturday but he was not getting along with her other dogs so she wanted to get back what she paid for him -- $120 as a re-homing fee.
Alverez met with the seller, bringing along police and some proof.
"I take all the shot records he has and pictures of him," said Alverez.
But it wasn't enough.
Alverez says police told her she should pay for the dog if she wanted him back.
"They were asking $120 for him. For my own dog. And I told her that I could give her $100," said Alverez.
"In this incident, the lady calls us, we go there, we had no way of verifying that that was her dog," said Officer Leland Ashley with the Tulsa Police Department.
Police say it falls on the owner to provide the burden of proof.
"We can't rightfully go and take something and say this is theirs because I have a picture and it looks just like this," said Ashley.
Which leads to a simple step. Both police and animal experts tell the 2NEWS investigators they recommend getting a microchip.
If Rambo had one, police say they would have called Animal Control.
A portable scanner could have verified Rambo's ownership.
"It would be something that we would want to act on right then," said Ashley.
Field officers at the Tulsa Animal Shelter have a portable scanner at all times.
They say microchips help the shelter reunite people with their pets every week.
"It's injected just like a rabies shot, right between the shoulder blades," said Jean Letcher, manager of the Animal Welfare Department with the City of Tulsa.
Rambo has a chip now.
Police say it's an important safeguard for any pet owner.
"Even on your personal items, you want to have serial numbers, you want to have something that identifies you as being the owner," said Ashley.
A microchip costs around $15 to $30 and any vet can take care of it.
All during the month of November the Humane Society of Tulsa is offering microchipping for $20.
Just make an appointment by calling (918) 495-3647 and bring your pet.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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