It might look like something out of The Paw-shank Redemption, but this doggie prison-break stunt actually happened. Yes, this dog really did make a break from a shelter in what looked like a major attempt to reunite with her former humans. One might even imagine that this canine was suffering from a serious case of homesickness, and no animal shelter’s security measures were apparently going to stop her.
On September 17, 2016, the Apple Valley Animal Shelter (AVAS) in California’s San Bernardino County took in a beautiful young German shepherd called Ginger. Sadly, her owner couldn’t look after her anymore and took her to the shelter for rehoming.
Unfortunately, Ginger’s previous owner had recently become homeless. So, with nowhere to live but his vehicle, he did the responsible thing and took her to people who would be able to find her a new home. Certainly, it was a devastating situation for both parties.
“Her previous owner didn’t want her to live out of a vehicle – it was a very difficult thing for him,” AVAS’ director of animal services, Gina Whiteside, told InsideEdition.com. “He was absolutely heartbroken,” the Huffington Post also reported.
Thankfully, Ginger’s owner did what was best for the German shepherd, knowing she would be safe at AVAS. After all, the shelter has a no-kill policy and takes in homeless animals and strays until they are either claimed, adopted or placed into a temporary foster home.
On the first night of Ginger’s stay, though, the shelter’s security system surprisingly went off. The animal control officer (ACO) who showed up to investigate perhaps might have thought that there was a cat burglar on the scene – but a search of the premises didn’t turn up any intruders.
“Recently, AVAS staff was called out regarding multiple alarms going off in the Shelter and it was reported that the intruder was moving throughout the building at a fast rate of speed,” Whiteside later wrote on Facebook. “When the ACO arrived, he did not find anyone or anything in the building.”
However, he did find something suspicious: the front desk was in complete disarray, with papers, folders and even telephones knocked to the floor. The most likely suspect, it seemed, was a feisty feline, so a cat trap was set, and the ACO called it a night.
“On Sunday morning, staff discovered that a dog was missing from the adoption kennels at the back of the shelter; the missing animal was reported to me on Monday morning as was the alarm call,” Whiteside reported. The absent animal was, of course, Ginger.
With three doors between the kennels and the outside, Whiteside naturally suspected a human thief was involved. Therefore, she turned to the security footage to see if that might shed some light on the mystery. “I decided to review the cameras to see if someone had entered the building and removed a dog,” she wrote.
However, what Whiteside actually discovered when she watched the tapes must have come as quite the surprise. Indeed, the tapes revealed not a human breaking in, but Ginger’s intelligence and cunning in breaking out.
“I captured proof that dogs are not only brilliant, but resourceful,” Whiteside’s Facebook post read. And the footage is truly amazing. After all, the first stage in Ginger’s great escape was getting out of the kennels, and she did this by climbing on top of her six-foot-high roof.
Once in the adoption area, Ginger was then faced with doors. This proved especially daunting considering that there were no handles and Ginger had no opposable thumbs. But the clever German Shepard wasn’t deterred, and her incredible persistence paid off.
In fact, Ginger was smart enough to figure out that two of the doors had push-bars, which would open if she leaned on them. As for the handle on a third door? She simply used her mouth. Yes, it was later found with teeth marks on it!
Then, when she got to the front lobby, the clever canine spent some time walking on the front desks, of all things, before trying the front door. But, as the San Bernardino Sun later reported, AVAS had an egress system to allow people inside to escape the locked doors in case of an emergency, and Ginger used this to her advantage.
“She was persistent – that door sometimes sticks, but she kept at it until she put her mouth on it and she was out,” Whiteside told the Sun. After that? Well, she was in the parking lot and running free. Three days later, though, Ginger was picked up by the shelter… in the neighborhood where her previous owner had coincidentally found a new place to live.
Of course, German Shepherds are an intelligent breed; they are often used as working dogs for the police, military and emergency services. But even Whiteside was surprised by just how clever and resourceful Ginger proved herself to be.
“We’ve never had another dog do this,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of dogs jump out of the kennel and staff found them right away, but we’ve never had one jump out of the kennel, then open three doors and go out the front.”
There was at least one downside to the incident, however. Apparently, some unscrupulous members of the public have been scamming internet users by claiming to raise funds to get Ginger back to her previous owner. Whiteside, though, alerted AVAS Facebook followers to the situation and reassured them that the previous owner is not seeking such a claim.
“The previous owner reiterated that he wants Ginger to be placed in a new home that will provide her stability, safety and love,” Whiteside wrote on Facebook. Plus, once Ginger did get adopted the former owner would be “happy to hear that Ginger has chosen her new ‘Furever’ home and that she will have a companion to bond and play with when their human is not home.”