Friday, May 1, 2015

Animal Shelter Mistakenly Euthanizes Dog Being Held for Magazine Feature

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 2:27 PM

click to enlarge This dog was mistakenly euthanized by Memphis Animal Services.
  • This dog was mistakenly euthanized by Memphis Animal Services.
A dog that was supposed to be featured in a May Click Magazine article on adoptable pets from Memphis Animal Services (MAS) was mistakenly euthanized before the issue even hit stands.

The dog, a five-year-old Rottweiler, was one of 12 pets from MAS to be featured in the magazine's May issue. MAS had agreed not to euthanize the animals that were photographed for that story. But a few days after the dog's photos were taken for the feature, MAS staff overlooked the memo instructing them to hold the dog and he was put to sleep.

"It was a terrible mistake," said MAS Administrator James Rogers.

Beth Spencer, a local animal advocate, contacted Rogers on April 2nd about featuring the cats and dogs in the May issue of Click, where her friend works as editor-in-chief. 

"I asked if we could keep these animals alive until May 1st because of the publication date," Spencer said. "He offered to get them ready for adoption and have them ready in case someone saw the magazine and wanted to adopt them."

MAS typically euthanizes strays after 72 hours. But in this case, Rogers agreed to hold these 12 animals for 21 days.

"We were glad to oblige, but holding pets for 21 days is not something that we do at MAS," Rogers said. "In the future, this is something that we'll take a close look at to see if it's something we can manage and do correctly. We don't want to make promises we can't keep."

On April 21st, Rogers sent Spencer an email informing her that the Rottweiler had been euthanized. He said he was investigating what went wrong. The next day, Rogers sent Spencer another email that said there were "extenuating circumstances identified by our staff concerning this pet that we should have communicated with you," and he offered an apology.

In an interview with the Flyer, Rogers indicated that the dog was put to sleep because it was underweight, had to be muzzled when handled by the vet clinic, and because it was heartworm positive. 

"Heartworms and being underweight are easily treatable and are not reasons to euthanize. His statement about the dog being underweight is a big stretch," Spencer said.

She also said that many dogs have to be muzzled during certain vet treatments and that growling at the vet shouldn't be considered an indicator of dog aggression.

Spencer requested the dog's file from the city using the Freedom of Information Act. She shared that file with the Flyer. In the file, there is a note filed under "kennel comments" that reads "To be featured in Click Magazine DO NOT EUTH," and just above that note, there's another memo from April 19th that says "Animal time has expired. No hold memos at time of ER [euthanasia room] entry. No rescue response as of 4/19/2015."

"Our staff missed the note that was put in there," Rogers said.

Spencer pointed out that such mistakes happen all too often at MAS. Back in January, the Flyer reported that there had been at least six dogs mistakenly euthanized in the past year. In December, Memphis resident Vickie Carter took a stray pit bull to MAS after rescuing him from an attack by other dogs. She told the intake clerk and Rogers that, if no one claimed the dog before his review date (the day they're either euthanized or placed up for adoption), she would adopt the dog. But on that day, when Carter came to the shelter to pick up the dog, he'd already been euthanized.

"I've been involved with rescue for about a year now, and this happens about twice a month," Spencer said. "The people who are making these mistakes are not terminated, and that's what needs to happen."

Rogers said, if they agree to hold animals while awaiting a publication date in the future, that MAS will take extra steps to prevent the animals from being euthanized. Those steps include checking on the status of these pets daily and informing the customer of any change in status. He also said that he would have MAS staff make recommendations on which pets should be included in such features rather than allowing the outside group to pick out the pets.

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