THE new stray dog firm has sparked a heart-rending tug of love over a lost pet which it has rehomed.
Animal Wardens Ltd told the distraught owners of missing Kiss, a young Husky cross, they had not found her - but they had.
After seven days in their Tonbridge kennels she was sold to another family who are refusing to give their new pet back.
Both the old and new owners have been offered a pedigree Husky puppy instead of Kiss - but both are refusing to budge.
Adrian McCollin, of Mews Road, St Leonards, and his girlfriend Nawal Amari are devastated at the loss of their much-loved pet and furious with the animal warden service.
They are now seeking legal advice.
Adrian, 24, paid 650 for Kiss in October when she was three months old.
"Since then Kiss had spent every minute of every day with me," he said.
He was working for a while at HG Aerospace Engineering on the Castleham Industrial Estate and they even allowed him to take Kiss to work with him.
On April 10 he was walking her along the beach when she playfully ran off and ended up in the town centre.
He searched everywhere and reported her missing to AW Ltd.
"We called the service every day and were told 'nothing of that description has been in whatsoever', " said Adrian.
A week later he paid for missing posters which he put up around the town. As a result a Town Hall worker rang him and said Kiss was handed in there around the time she ran off and was passed onto the animal wardens.
"AW Ltd have been very unhelpful," he said. "Even after calling them and informing them of the date and location of where my dog was picked up, they still denied having any knowledge of a Husky."
However, once the Town Hall worker contacted them they finally admitted having had her - and the shocking news that the dog had been rehomed.
"It has been so stressful," said Adrian. "I am constantly thinking about it. I haven't been able to eat or sleep properly."
Paul Dunne, managing director of Animal Wardens Ltd which recently took over the local stray dog control services for Hastings and Rother Councils, has admitted the error.
He said unidentified Kiss was at first kept at Viking Oaks rehoming
kennels in Tonbridge where local stray dogs are taken.
Said Mr Dunne: "Kiss was rehomed after the statutory seven day period that people have to reclaim dogs had expired. As Kiss is a friendly dog she has settled into her new home with a woman and her two-year-old child very well and, having purchased Kiss she does not want to give her back.
"We therefore have a stand-off situation that we are trying to resolve. We have offered recompense for the error but neither party wishes to give up rights of ownership to Kiss.
"As part of that compensation we have offered to purchase a pedigree Husky pup, but unfortunately both owner and keeper are attached to Kiss."
He added: "This is a one off error that came about through a series of six mistakes, precautions have now been put in place to prevent a reoccurrence."
A Hastings Council spokesman said: "This is a very unfortunate incident.
"We know staff at our contractor, Animal Wardens Ltd, are working very hard to resolve this and we hope they will be able to reunite Kiss with her original owners as soon as possible."
* AW Ltd advise dog owners to have their pets microchipped and are launching a free microchipping campaign next Saturday at the Hollington dog show.