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The hunt for Hazel: Internet helps DeKalb woman search for lost dog

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Trending

The hunt for Hazel: Internet helps DeKalb woman search for lost dog

FILE PHOTO: Hannah Riley has reunited with her dog Hazel. Photo provided to Decaturish

Update: Hazel has been found. For the latest, click here.

Here is our previous story…

DeKalb County, GA — It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare, and it’s also currently every internet sleuth’s pet project.

People are splashing pictures of Hazel, a 10-year-old Papillon mix, across social media and urging the actual media, including Decaturish, to get cover the story.

It all started with a viral post by Hannah Riley, who lives in Edgewood, and works for the Center for Just Journalism, a nonprofit assisting media organizations with their coverage of public safety issues. Riley was out of town in Toronto on Sunday when she got a call from her pet sitter. Hazel had run away from Saint Francis, a veterinary clinic in Decatur owned by Thrive Pet Healthcare. Riley said the pet sitter took the dog to the vet on Saturday after it ingested several Delta 8 gummies, which are a form of legal cannabis.

Riley says the vet manager told her someone took the dog out for a walk without a leash, and the dog escaped with a catheter still in her leg and a hospital tag around her neck.

Thrive Pet Healthcare confirmed that Hazel went missing while being cared for by Saint Francis, but the company didn’t go into details.

“We are deeply saddened by the incident that occurred at Saint Francis Veterinary Specialists and Emergency a few days ago,” the statement from Thrive says. “Our regional leadership is and has been in communication with Hazel’s family and remains supportive of the search.”

In a follow-up statement to Decaturish media partner Atlanta News First, Saint Francis confirmed that an employee was walking Hazel without a leash.

“A dog named Hazel escaped from the hospital property after a staff member took her outside the gated area before she was leashed,” Saint Francis told ANF. “This action violated hospital policy and procedures, and corrective action has been taken to prevent any future incidents of this nature.”

Riley shared texts with Decaturish that were sent to her by the company’s regional director of operations. He said, “Hazel went missing from our care last Sunday morning around 10 a.m. ET. A few team members sprang into action right away to search for her.”

He told Riley the veterinary team conducted an “active search” from 10:05 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and asked local businesses for help. He texted her that the company is “in a conversation with trackers on our end, and we’ll increase the number of team members involved in the search.”

In the text, he said the veterinary hospital had contacted local shelters and other veterinary hospitals to see if Hazel wound up there. A message left with the employee who texted Riley was not immediately returned.

Decaturish contacted LifeLine Animal Project, which operates the DeKalb County animal shelter, to see if Hazel had wound up there, and we will update this story when LifeLine said that Hazel isn’t at the DeKalb shelter or at the shelter LifeLine operates in Fulton County.

The search continues, and the search team has expanded to include seemingly everyone on the internet. Riley’s initial Tweets have been shared and liked thousands of times due to the original post being signal-boosted on Twitter by people with large numbers of followers.

The latest information is that a man found Hazel running scared on DeKalb Industrial near the intersection with Scott Boulevard on Sunday after she escaped.

“He stopped traffic and risked his life to save her on DeKalb Industrial,” Riley said. 

Hazel’s rescuer turned her over to a woman standing on the road. Riley said the dog’s rescuer incorrectly assumed the woman on the side of the road was the owner because she was waving her hands. Riley has been attempting to track down this person but hasn’t had any luck.

It isn’t for lack of trying by the internet, where readers following the story have been blowing up Riley’s phone with leads.

“I’m getting calls from so many amateur detectives,” Riley said. 

Riley said that despite the chaos and a few mean-spirited pranks from people who claim they’ve found Hazel, she’s been touched by everyone’s concern and kindness.

“People have been so nice to me,” Riley said. “It’s insane. I can’t tell you the random number of strangers I will never meet, working so hard on this.” 

Here’s a poster with all the pertinent information about Hazel, including contact information for Riley.

Here is the full statement from Thrive Pet Healthcare:

We are deeply saddened by the incident that occurred at Saint Francis Veterinary Specialists and Emergency a few days ago. Our regional leadership is and has been in communication with Hazel’s family and remains supportive of the search. She is a Papillion with white and brown/red markings who presented as a patient to our hospital on Saturday, March 16, and went missing from its care on Sunday, March 17.

We have engaged Pet Search and Rescue to provide search and rescue assistance. Hospital team members have also been involved in scouting the local neighborhoods and handing out fliers in search of Hazel.

In the last few days, we contacted nearby veterinary clinics, including urgent care and emergency hospitals, local police, animal control, and animal rescue shelters, to share Hazel’s information.

Saint Francis welcomes the help of the local community who may have seen or come into contact with Hazel. We have set up a hotline to receive reports of Hazel sightings: 470-890-3205. Any information we receive will be shared with Hazel’s owner and the search teams.

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