Weigh In – CA Shelter Wrong? Right? Other?

As you may have noticed, I’m fond of exploring these shades of gray issues.  To wit, an interesting story about a CA woman who took her 9 year old Cocker Spaniel to the vet, felt it was time to euthanize the dog and subsequently dropped the dog off at the local shelter for euthanasia.  The shelter didn’t identify any medical or behavioral problems with the dog and so reached out to an area Cocker rescue.  The rescue took the dog and adopted her out immediately.  The owner found out and was distraught.  Although the article does provide more details than we often see, there is one part concerning the legal aspect of the case that has me confused:

The form [the owner] signed, according to officials with Animal Services, does not state that the department has the final say in determining whether to euthanize a dog.

Animal Services retains some discretion over the fate of animals surrendered, regardless of whether euthanasia was requested.

I’d really like to see the actual form myself but in the absence of that, I guess I’m questioning how the shelter both does and does not have ultimate discretion over disposal of the dog.

We can think about this case from not only a legal perspective but from an ethical one as well.  Should the shelter have offered pet retention counseling to the surrendering owner?  How would you feel if you were in the owner’s shoes now?  How about if you were the shelter manager who saw a dog that seemed highly adoptable slated for euthanasia?

h/t Clarice for sending in this link.

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46 Comments

  1. Morgana

     /  January 27, 2011

    I think ALL shelters should have pre-surrender counseling. Whether the legal docs give the shelter the ultimate say-so on disposition, I think that it should be stated to the guardian who is trying to surrender that “if the shelter staff deems this dog adoptable, we will do everything we can to rehome him/her”. That way, in addition to the legal docs, there is no misunderstanding about the fate of the dog. If the guardian still wants to euth, then they have the option at that point to take the dog elsewhere to find someone who does “euthanasia on demand”. If I were the guardian, and found out she had been found a new home, I suppose I might have mixed feelings, but I would hope I would be overjoyed. As the shelter manager, I would feel it was my bounden duty to save an adoptable dog. This is the only ethical and moral stance that can be logically taken.

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  2. Brie

     /  January 27, 2011

    Something’s not quite right here. So, she took the dog to the vet and later decided it was time. She then took the dog to a shelter to be destroyed as opposed to taking the dog to the vet? Who does that? What shelter says, “sure, bring us your animals to be destroyed. No problem.” Maybe I’m just naive.

    Absent some paperwork to the contrary, the legal standpoint is that she surrendered her property. When she did that, the dog was no longer her property and the new “owner” had the ability to do with the dog what it wanted. (so says the non-attorney).

    I imagine people take animals to shelters all the time to have them destroyed (although I find this very perplexing). If the shelter is in the life-saving business, as we would expect, I see no reason to not adopt out a savable animal. The wishes of the former owner no longer mattered. The shelter’s job is to place homeless animals and not kill them either for convenience or by request when the animal is not suffering.

    In a perfect world, a counselor would have sat down with the owner for a chat and perhaps she would have taken her dog home with her. We’ll never know.

    Reply
    • Man shelters euth for free, as opposed to vets who will charge.

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      • Erica

         /  January 28, 2011

        That isn’t the case with this shelter – they charge for surrenders and if you drop your pet off to be euthanized they charge $15 more than the surrender fee. I do not know what either fee is – but saw in the article that the shelter was willing to refund the former owner the $15 difference between the surrender fee and the euth fee.

      • Jamie Horton

         /  January 28, 2011

        Many times a vet euthanasia is several hundred dollars (including body disposal) so I can definitely understand cost being an issue.

        Another thought might be they were ashamed to face their vet who maybe told them their dog was savable but was looking for their vet to tell them “sure your dog is old and needs to be put down”

  3. I am going to push aside my opinion for one nanosecond.

    What the shelter did should be illegal. One, the shelter should make it 100% clear that they may decide not to euthanize an animal. Paying the shelter to not kill your dog is highly unethical. (Not the NOT killing part, but the taking money for a service not rendered).

    Now my opinion! Healthy, treatable animals should never be killed. Period. Even if they are “owned”. If we continue to see dogs as “property”, then situations like these, in which dogs deemed adoptable by rescue agencies or veterinarians, are still killed b/c their owners do not have the funds or desire to deal with the health problems. Euthanasia is a last resort for animals who are suffering.

    If this dog had severe health problems, then a veterinarian should be the person who euthanizes the dog and, if I had my way, every single guardian would be required to stay with the animal during their death.

    And yes to pre-surrender counseling. Killing an animal is serious business and surrendering them is also serious business.

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  4. This story was covered on the local news in our area last night, since the shelter is in the area of coverage. According to the news report, the female dog was surrendered for urinary incontinence. The shelter staff felt the dog was otherwise healthy and opted not to euthanize. The picture of the dog on the news showed a cocker spaniel that looked like she was a mature adult but nothing glaringly bad healthwise for all that can be seen in a photo. Some photos show dogs that are in obvious distress or really ancient, that didn’t appear to be the case in this photo.

    The shelter director showed a copy of their euthanasia request form. It looked like there were 3 boxes to check with short explanations near each box. He did say they would look into revising their euthanasia request form, and that he would refund the difference in fees for surrender ($40) versus euthanasia ($55).

    According to the news report, the woman saw a picture of her dog in the newspaper as the shelter’s pet of the week type of thing, and that’s how she found out the dog was still alive. The woman refused to talk to the news reporter, so all the information available came through the shelter.

    We have gotten many dogs in our rescue that have come through our local animal services (not the same as in the story) and local vets when their owners surrender them for euthanasia. I believe our local AS does have a disclaimer on the form, but I don’t think they do much in the way of counseling. In most cases, once the owners have reached the point of euthanizing the dog, they’re done dealing with whatever issues the dog has that brought them to that point, and they really don’t care what becomes of the dog, sadly.

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  5. I have no sympathy for anyone who would drop off a dog to let strangers kill. What, the vet charged too much? As heartbreaking as it is to hold a dog while she is given a lethal shot, it is something we owe them.

    The owner gave up all rights to the dog when she left her with strangers to kill and should be glad the dog has a chance at life.

    There was a landmark case a few years ago when a woman died and requested in her will that her beloved dog should be killed on her death. Fortunately people fought for the right of the dog to live and won.

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    • Anne

       /  January 30, 2011

      you would rather a dog die a painful death at home than be euthanized at a shelter?
      Vet can charge hundreds of dollars for a euthansia- or may even refuse to perform one without a full physical first- which they will also charge for
      Not everyone has the benefit of extra cash laying around, and their pet should not have to suffer because of this fact
      Most of the people that drop off animal at my shelter for euthanasia are doing so because they cannot afford to have it done at their vet (or they don’t have a relationship with a vet)

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  6. Daniela Regier

     /  January 27, 2011

    When my cat was dying from cancer I made the decision to let him go. It cost me over $100 5 years ago (and yes I was with him every second – I wasn’t about to let him die alone with strangers). I can understand that someone might not be able to afford to let their untreatable animal die in peace and if a shelter offers the service for an affordable fee then I see nothing wrong with it.

    But I think that the form you fill out at that time should state that the shelter has the right to adopt out the animal if they decide the condition is treatable. I have read many stories about people giving their animals up when they couldn’t afford the treatment anymore – they seemed happy that the animal could live, even if it wasn’t with them anymore.

    I would not be in the owner’s shoes because there is no way I would give up an animal to be euthanized unless I was sure they weren’t treatable. And if I couldn’t afford to care for them I would give them up for adoption so at least they would be happy in someone else’s home.

    I do think that counseling should have been offered – but should be for anyone giving up an animal. It would be better if animals stayed in their homes rather then be surrendered.

    I don’t think the shelter director did anything wrong. If he could find a home for a healthy adoptable animal then he should do so. Good for him for reaching out to the rescue community – too many directors would reach for fatal plus without even thinking about it. His actions should be applauded.

    Daniela

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  7. I’ve seen/experienced several shades of this gray! (It’s rather like Oreo, except that the dog(s) aren’t pits, and they weren’t grossly abused.) Most of the legal documents I’ve seen state that the owner relinquishes all rights to the dog. (Local forms state quite clearly that ANY relinquished animal may be killed and former owners will NOT be notified.) I don’t think they state the other direction–that ANY relinquished dog might be saved, without notification! That’s just the happy picture many choose to leave the building with.
    IMO, this shelter did the right thing. Bottom line—best outcome for the dog!
    Locally our Animal Control kills for free…although they request donations. They don’t charge to relinquish either, although there’s talk of charging out-of-towners who *dump* at our facility without paying property taxes to support it.
    I venture she didn’t get her dog killed at the vet’s office because perhaps the vet wasn’t willing to do the deed?!
    Maybe talking about choices would have been a good thing, but I’ve seen (and been told) that when a person is *ready* to relinquish a dog, it’s best to just take the animal and move on. Comments blasting this woman are evidence of that to me. Do we have to call her names and make her feel even worse? What purpose does that serve?

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    • Amen Lynn-that’s exactly it-the part about the original vet not wanting (or refusing) to put down a for the most part healthy pet. I can only imagine with all the comments I’ve been reading that the “lady” is getting some nasty phone calls too, (her last name was printed). (that was rather stupid-but i’m kind of chuckling at it!

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    • I totally agree with Daniela. Once a person has brought their animal to a shelter, TAKE it. The owners, for whatever reason, no longer want it. I have seen people surrender animals for the most awful reasons (got new puppy cuz old dog no longer fits lifestyle, doesn’t match my furniture, after 14 years I now have allergies) and they would rather have the animal euthanized for whatever reason, maybe to ease their guilt. At least this woman brought it to someone rather than let it sit unloved and neglected. Hoo rah to the shelter for taking the initiative to save this dog’s life.

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  8. Ann

     /  January 27, 2011

    I can’t say how I would feel if I were in this woman’s shoes, because I would never have done what she did. A dog who had loved her for 8 1/2 years was having some health issues. Her vet obviously didn’t think they were serious, and refused to ease her consience by suggesting or agreeing to euthanasia. So she took the dog to a public shelter to be killed by strangers.

    I can tell you that older animals are dumped at vet clinics and shelters for the most minor inconveniences to their people. I adopted a 17-year-old cat that was dumped at a vet clinic for vomiting. The vet kept the cat overnight for observation, during which time the cat ate normally and did not vomit. The owners requested that the cat be put down anyway. The cat lived another two happy years at my house. Did the vet act unethically by asking me to take the cat instead of killing her? Of course not.

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  9. Eucritta

     /  January 27, 2011

    Here’s a link to the website for El Dorado Co. Animal Services: http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/animalservices/

    According to their FAQ, they don’t ordinarily accept owner surrenders but will under some circumstances, and at that time determine if the pet is adoptable. They do accept surrenders for euthanasia, separately, it’s in their fee schedule. There’s no mention of a clinic on-site.

    So, what I’m thinking is, this is a case where the people at a county impound facility – which is really what this is, based on their website – tried to do right by a dog surrendered for euthanasia, which they determined on exam was medically unnecessary. And I say, good on them.

    I find the previous owner’s statements confusing, too, especially since apparently her own vet thought the dog was doing okay. My take on it is that she likely just wanted to get rid of an inconvenient dog in a manner which allowed her to think well of herself. But that’s really beside the main point.

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    • Eucritta

       /  January 27, 2011

      Editing (well, replying) to add – and it’s not like there weren’t other options for the dog’s previous owner, if she had chosen to surrender the dog for adoption: El Dorado Animal Services’ site has contact info for three shelters, in addition to other pounds.

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  10. I agree with Jan (above) – “I have no sympathy for anyone who would drop off a dog to let strangers kill…The owner gave up all rights to the dog when she left her with strangers to kill and should be glad the dog has a chance at life.”

    I’m all in favor of pet-retention counseling, but figure that it would be seen as invasive and undesirable by many who would choose to leave their animals at the pound, but then taking your “family pet” to a kill facility should require people to do something difficult and unpleasant.

    I also agree with Morgana (above) that as a shelter manager, “I would feel it was my bounden duty to save an adoptable dog…”

    I’ll be interested to see what more you find out about the facts of this case.

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  11. selkie

     /  January 27, 2011

    woman deserves NOTHING.She brought a dog that had loved and been a companion to her for nine years to a SHELTER. NOT a good environment for any dog – even the decent ones – they are frightening and loud and upsetting. Rather than PAY the vet, hopefully one who KNEW her dog and had dealt with him over the years and been there for him, she DUMPS him – no doubt becuase of cost. She surrendered the dog. It’s not hers. It’s like I tell my kids. Once you give something away it is NO LONGER YOURS.

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    • Eucritta

       /  January 27, 2011

      I don’t think is was for cost, at least, not going by the article. It sounds to me like the vet told her the dog was doing okay. The owner *later* decided she disagreed and it was time to put down the dog, but the only reasons she *herself* gives are a few nonviolent behavioral issues and ‘incontinence.’ So, my guess is, either the vet refused to kill the dog, or she was pretty sure a request would be refused.

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  12. Garry

     /  January 27, 2011

    Have to agree wholeheartedly with selkie. No matter what the law says on this matter, its a pretty cold deed. A prostitute may also say that they had no choice, under their circumstances, but to take up that profession, even though many other courses of action exist for women to find help. This lady voluntarily dumped a trusting and innocent family member. She loses any right to ownership.

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    • Whoa. Hope you take a step back and re-read your comment. There ARE REASONABLE alternatives for a healthy, adoptable dog with medically treatable conditions. To compare that situation to the sexist, economic, societal, and culturally oppressive factors that may lead a woman into prostitution is inappropriate and offensive.

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      • Thank you for saying that Marji, as I feel there is NO comparison at all. That’s not comparing apples and oranges, that’s comparing nail polish and dishwashers.

        That being said, I do agree that the woman gave up her right to decide the fate of the dog when she signed those papers. The only thing I’d like to see is the fee be the same regardless of euthanasia, so that nobody feels “cheated” out of that $15.

        I myself would never turn over one of our animals to be euthanized alone by strangers, but then, I also won’t euth an animal unless it’s medically needed. And when that time comes, I utilize my vet’s services, and hold my little critter until they slip away.

  13. Erica

     /  January 27, 2011

    What bothers me that MOST about this is that the dog was having problems – the owner, or should I say FORMER owner, took the dog to the vet. Now – why is it that while at the vet there is no mention made of a bladder infection. Could it be because the former owner didn’t mention this? The vet “thought” it was a case of her eating too quickly – but the previous owner disagreed and decided it was time to put her down.

    NOW – why did the vet not check for a bladder infection? – given the problems she was having and her age that tends to be a somewhat normal problem that can occur & is easily fixable with medication. Was this not brought up by the former owner? Or did the vet just fail to look for some obvious things like this?

    ALSO – the owner said herself that she disagreed with her vet and chose to take her to the shelter to have her killed. I don’t know how most vets handle euthansia requests – but the ones around me have the person making the request sign over the “ownership rights” of the animal and at that point in time it becomes property of the vet. At this point if the vet decides the animal is savable they can take action to find a home for the pet. Could it be that the owner was told this by the vet and was determined to see her dog put to sleep?

    I dont’ see why it would be any different at the shelter. Granted – maybe they do have something in the “fine print” that states this? Or maybe the wording of the paperwork is such that it is giving ownership of the animal to the shelter – which in essence means they can do whatever they choose to do with it – including adopt it out. I don’t know and can’t speak on that definitively.

    BUT – I think the before ANY animal is relinquished, yes, there should be some form of counseling…that way the shelter can see if they can find alternatives so that the owner can keep the pet – locating resources to help with spay/neuter, vaccines for free/lowcost, etc. I think that it is in the best interest of BOTH shelter and owner to know that all other options have been exhausted prior to the owner relinquishing their pet. I bet we’d see a huge decrease in pet relinquishing IF something like this were in place at each & every shelter.

    It is unfortunate that the former owner decided to have her dog put to sleep, but I am grateful that the shelter director saw within this dog the possibilities and acted upon it – thus saving the dog from death.

    I just keep going back to what the former owner said in teh linked article – “I just wish (Animal Services) would have given me more information when I went in. No one actually said or indicated that they could make the decision (with what to do with the dog) after you left. I’m not sure if I would have left her had they told me that.”

    I question WHY this would be the case. Would she have gone to yet another shelter or vet who would’ve done it right then and there so that she could make sure the dog was killed? Given that she had the dog at the vet and could’ve done it there – she chose to take the dog to the shelter instead – maybe thinking that they wouldn’t care one way or the other and just kill the dog. OR is it that she thought that given the shelters opinion that she would have kept the dog and found a new vet that was more thorough? There is a lot of speculating going through my head about this because it sounds kind of odd – given the former owners part in all this and her reaction both the vet’s opinion and the shelter deciding not to kill the dog.

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  14. Morgana

     /  January 27, 2011

    1) I didn’t notice anyone calling this guardian “names”. That being said, I was a vet tech for 10 years, and people wanted their animals euth’d for all sorts of asinine reasons. Most often, we talked them into surrendering the animal to the clinic, and worked to find them homes. (Unless of course the animal was terminally ill and had no quality of life…) My beloved boss and vet did not believe in charging a person to euthanize their friends, but other vets did. And alot of people who went to those other clinics took their animals to the pound/shelter because they offered no-cost or lo-cost euthanasia. These were people who did not want to stay with their companions, nor did they care what happened. Yes, there are hard-hearted people out there. But in order to move closer to a NKN, we must see to it that “euthanasia on demand” becomes anathema to all. This shelter did the right thing, and the guardian did not seem to care what happened since she was relinquishing for euth, so, claim therefore is relinquished as well, IMO.

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  15. Kim

     /  January 27, 2011

    Ugh, this was happening so frequently at our local AC (animals being dropped off for free or near-free euthanasia and disposal) that they jacked up the prices to the point where if you go outside of town into the country a bit you can get the deed done for half the price.

    What does this mean? Instead of relinquishing pets properly and providing background information that may help with their placement/assessment, dogs are now just “dumped” unceremoniously in the general area of the shelter or literally tied to the fences with notes on their collars. It’s so sad, it’s unreal.

    The last time I witnessed a RFE (relinquish for euthanasia) was the day after boxing day several years ago when it was still pretty much free. I was in there to check out a few potential rescues and this woman in a full length fur barges into the AC front office and plops a wrapped Christmas box on the counter. She flicks the lid off as if it contained something gross she had found and needed identified… and a 4 week old kitten popped its weary little head out.

    Apparently she had gotten the “gift” on Christmas. Not wanting to offend whoever got her the cat she must have just smiled and nodded politely – regardless, she popped the lid right back on and shoved the box in the closet until AC opened – about 36 hours later.

    Poor little thing was so lucky we were there. We waited until she pulled out of the parking lot, tossed the nasty box she brought him in and rushed him to the vet wrapped in a sweater from the trunk. Lots of IV fluids (for a 4wk old kitten, anyhow) later and he was back from the brink and ready for trouble. Had he sat in AC in a kennel he would have likely died from dehydration before they could euthanize him.

    Anyways, I now have a pretty visceral reaction to anyone who would choose to euthanize a pet in this way – it was about as personal as dropping a package off to be mailed. We’ve been trying to fix that aspect of AC for a long time now, since the no fee/crazy fee attempts both seem to have failed miserably, but both strategies have pros and cons. All of our local AC’s paperwork clearly states – and has always stated – that regardless of what you are handing your pet over for (unless you are submitting a serial aggression offender for euth to comply with an order) and what you pay the fee for, the animal will be handled as they see fit. Mostly that means dead – even today.

    However, as far as the ethics of it go, I have to agree with previous posters who have strongly stated that once she signed that paper she gave up all rights.

    I also want to take it a step further. While I agree with relinquished pets being required to have some kind of owner interview attached, I would not apply this counselling to most people who chose this method of euthanasia.

    It’s one thing to take someone who’s frustrated enough to give their pet away and work with them until you can find a way to keep that pet in that household – it’s another when you start doing that with someone who’s frustrated enough to sign their pet over for euthanasia. They were willing to KILL the animal, in the most impersonal way a person could, and I believe that speaks VOLUMES about their mental state and ability to properly care for an animal. At that point, from the other side of the counter I can’t get that pet in the door fast enough. If that person was willing to do such a thing – knowing she was going to have to look someone in the eye and tell them that after nine years a bladder infection was enough momentum to excuse signing their pet’s death warrant – what is he/she capable of doing behind closed doors?

    Any time we (the rescue I run) get a request from an individual who is talking about euthanizing, we immediately work on removing the animal from the home. If we get a request simply to take an animal – say, for behavioural reasons – we will literally turn ourselves inside out to keep that pet in that home if we can. Sometimes this means providing free training, or reduced cost training. So be it. But I will NOT extend this same offer to someone who contacts me and basically says “if rescues won’t take my dog (who’s probably bitten a few people at this point or has aggression issues of some kind – the number ONE reason we get requests and also the first thing most rescues won’t deal with) we have an appointment Tuesday to euthanize him/her”. I will simply have a car there on Monday to pick up the pet.

    Maybe this is where I cross the line from “experienced” to just plain cynical, but my experience tells me to spend my time helping people who truly want change rather than to waste it preaching at someone who just wants a quick end and to move on.

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    • Kim-what you wrote ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! People who are leaving pet to be auth-you certainly wouldn’t want that pet to go back home with them-that’s like sending a kid back in to a home with an abuser! Good lord-I cring at the thought of some being “counciled “in situation of these-the pets life would be even worse going back home with them.

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    • Thank you, you said what I was trying to organize much better than I could have.

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  16. I’m very disappointed in all the no-killers here who think they know their stuff and yet don’t seem to know the name Sido and the role that little dog played in California about 30 years ago.

    Here’s an article from last year by Christie Keith, one of no-kill’s greatest supporters. In it she documents a case almost identical to this one.

    You may recognize the name of the guy involved in this GIGANTIC legal case from 1979 – Richard Avanzino.

    Come on, no-killers, do your research!

    Article = http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-06-22/living/21920467_1_san-francisco-spca-tan-and-white-dog-sido

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    • How did you come to the conclusion that “all the no-killers here” aren’t familiar with Sido’s story? Actually, don’t tell me. I don’t want to invite another opportunity for you to spam the comments with links to your own blog like you usually do.

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    • Erica

       /  January 28, 2011

      The problem with this one is that it has nothing to do with what is going on with THIS discussion. For Sido – we are talking about a woman’s wishes to have her dog killed AFTER her death. Of which, yes, I am VERY familiar with the story. The outcome was – “San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jay Pfotenhauer ruled that the right to dispose of property after death does not extend to killing a living creature.”

      But what we are talking about is when the owner relinquishes their pet and does the shelter HAVE to carry out the relinquished animals former owner as to what to do with the dog. Not the same thing AT ALL. The owner is not dead – but she wanted her dog to be. So the case is NOT identical to this one, which would be why no one (but you) chose to mention it. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

      Instead of trying to blast us “no killers” on not knowing our facts and information like Sido’s story while looking at this one – you should KNOW that the Sido case is in no way similar to this one as it is about the right to dispose of property after someone’s death. Sorry but I think maybe YOU are the one who needs to do YOUR research.

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  17. Parallel

     /  January 27, 2011

    My hospital used to accept owner requested euthanasia for any reason, without question. It became very difficult for the employees to cope with. We had an office meeting, and agreed that all animals had to have an exam before being euthanized, and if there was no medical need the doctor could refuse and have the owner sign the animal over.

    However, we never took an animal for euthanasia and then didn’t do it- I think that’s the one sticking point here. Our forms stated that we would try to rehome the animal, but if euthanasia was deemed necessary we would carry that through as well. The form also stated that by signing it the previous owner lost rights to information out the final outcome, to avoid them trying to get an adopted out animal back.

    I remember one animal vividly that involved a domestic abuse situation where the owner wanted her cat put down because her husband was threatening to kill it in a much more violent fashion. The cat was urinating outside the box, and the husband would not pay for any treatment for what was very likely a urinary tract infection. The woman was very grateful to have the option to sign the cat over instead of killing her, and she was successfully treated and rehomed. Over the two years I stayed there after the new policy, we must have rehomed over a dozen such cases- not always easily, but the difference in staff morale was immense.

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  18. willie wonka

     /  January 27, 2011

    The dogs welfare is what was important. When the owner handed that dog over to Animal Control, she gave up any rights to determine the dogs fate. If she was tired of caring for her , or whatever the real reason she turned her in, the ACO made the right call in adopting it back out when they saw the animal was healthy and had no real concerns. My sincere thanks to the shelter manager who gave this dog a 2nd chance !! SHAME on the owner who did a terrible thing to that dog once and is who compounding her mistake by continuing to exercise poor judgment over and over again. She is the animal who needs to be euthanized.

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  19. I’d say the shelter was absolutely right, but they possibly need to look at updating their surrender forms.

    It sounds as though the original owner was fairly elderly, so it may be that she simply belongs to a generation that assumed putting down animals rather than trying to treat age-related problems was the right thing to do. I adopted my own Bambi, more than 4 years ago, after she was handed to a vet for euthanasia because her owners believed “it was time” and the vet couldn’t persuade them that veterinary science had moved on a bit since the 1950s.

    Owners often do assume that incontinence is a sign of old age and it can be hard to convince them that it’s quite likely to be an easily treatable infection.

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    • I agree with your take Rosemary. I got the impression from the article that the owner did truly care about the dog, even if she was lacking in education about veterinary medicine. Obviously that’s speculation on my part and could be incorrect but it’s just the feeling I got.

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    • Ann

       /  January 28, 2011

      Fairly elderly? She’s 54. She was a small child in the 1950s.

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    • Erica

       /  January 28, 2011

      “Owners often do assume that incontinence is a sign of old age and it can be hard to convince them that it’s quite likely to be an easily treatable infection.”

      The problem I have with this statement is that the former owner had a vet tell her that her dog was treatable. There is no mention of the owner/vet having discussed her incontinence issue – only the vomitting – the incontinence was mentioned in the linked article along with the comment that the owner “…sensed that it was Sophie’s time to go…”

      Regardless of what the owner thought or felt, for that matter, she CHOSE to not keep her dog and treat it. She made the choice to let her go…if she cared for Sophie like she says she does then she should have kept her and treated her. PERIOD.

      Also in the article it says “Gratteau said she is happy Sophie has a new home, but still feels like she was deceived.

      “It still feels fraudulent that they can take your money and then someone else’s if they adopt out your dog,” she said.

      Animal Services has offered to return to Gratteau the $15 difference between a surrender fee and euthanasia fee, but Gratteau said she would prefer the money be sent to a cocker spaniel rescue group.”

      So she in now claiming fraud – but there is a fee for surrender and there is a fee for ethuansia request. Not 100% on this but most rescues that pull from shelters have a pull fee – and to be adopted from the rescue there are also fees involved (normally – we do not know how this case was handled). I noted that AFTER she was placed in her new home that she was diagnosed with a bladder infection. So there was no vet care while at the shelter or rescue – from what I read. I just don’t understand why she can say it is fraudulent – she would have had to pay to relinquish or euthanize the dog…with a $15 difference in cost. AND for her to say that if the shelter had told her they made make a decision to adtop her out that the former owner might now have left her there…SPEAKS VOLUMES TO ME! That alone tells me that she was out to have Sophie killed no matter what anyone thought. That said – I’m glad Sophie has a new home – she deserves to be loved and pampered – she deserved a chance at life. Of all the times we read the stories of dogs being killed FINALLY we have a happy story with a life spared because of a caring chief of Animal Services saw no signs of any problems with Sophie. This could have been just another number to add to teh already huge amounts of animals killed in shelters and instead we see a story of a caring group of people that saved this dog’s life. They are to be commended – not treated like they did something wrong.

      Reply
      • People don’t necessarily take on board what vets tell them. We’ve had this from the opposite direction – a dog adopted from us who subsequently turned out to be mildly incontinent in that she was house clean during the day, but wet the bed at night.

        As this was a pre-existing condition we gave the adopters help in terms of veterinary and behavioural advice but they were absolutely adamant that the dog MUST be suffering and ought to be put down.

        We finally ended up activating the clause in our adoption agreement that says animals must be returned to us if the adoption isn’t working out, and rehomed her again with someone who was prepared to cope with daily medication for the incontinence.

        BUT I’m absolutely sure the first adopters still think we were a hard-hearted bunch of so-&-so’s who put the dog through needless suffering to prove a point.

  20. Nathan J. Winograd

     /  January 28, 2011

    Under the Hayden Law, it is illegal for shelters in California to kill healthy and treatable animals at the request of their owners. California has a holding period for owner surrendered animals, in addition to stray animals. The only legal way that dog could have been killed prior to the expiration of the holding period is if a veterinarian determined the animal was irremediably suffering. It is also illegal for shelters to kill animals in California if a rescue group is willing to save an animal’s life. In addition, California courts have held that it violates public policy for owners to insist that a shelter kill their dog. The “fee” issue aside, the shelter acted both legally and consistent with public policy. Finally, I would argue that the dog had a right to live independent of the woman. And thankfully in California, the courts and Legislature have agreed.

    Reply
    • Erica

       /  January 28, 2011

      Thank you for clearing up the legal side of things on this issue. So we now know that the shelter did nothing wrong – as the dog was treatable and there was a shelter willing to take her in!

      Thank you for adding that comment – hopefully that clears everything up for everyone.

      Reply
  21. Morgana

     /  January 28, 2011

    Thanks Nathan. It is too bad, though, that despite laws, alot of shelters pretend that they can’t read, or don’t know the law. BUT – HOOORAY for CA!

    Reply
  22. MichelleD

     /  January 28, 2011

    She paid to dispose of the dog and services were rendered.

    To Morgana’s point – I remember reading a commenter a few years back that stated she “HAD” to pets that owners requested “euthanized” because the law said so. There is/was no such law – it was just a policy she never bothered questioning. All they had to do is change the policy (possibly the contract) and stop doing it. She just wasn’t smart enough to think her way out of a paper bag.

    Reply
  23. Morgana

     /  January 28, 2011

    There is no law in NYS that I am aware of. But vets will often use this as an excuse, and I am sure that shelters will as well.

    Reply
  24. Morgana

     /  January 28, 2011

    ERica: DITTO

    Reply
  25. im wondering why the woman was distraught, i would have thought she would be grateful, was she just not able or not wanting to keep the dog herself or did she particularly want the dog to die? if she wanted him killed rather than adopted why? not enough info to make sense of this story

    Reply
  26. re my previous post i should answer the actual question posed: i think the shelter did right but should change their policy and not charge extra to euthanize since this might sound like a promise to do so regardless of circumstances

    the womans thinking remains a mystery to me

    Reply
  27. Anne

     /  January 30, 2011

    Clearly some gentle counseling at the time of surrender would’ve saved everyone a lot of time.
    In the 5 years i’ve worked in a shelter, i can think of only 3 situations where i felt a euthansia request was inappropriate (in that the animal was healthy but the owner didn’t think they could be rehomed/that it would be too stressful etc). Each time gentle counseling was able to solve the sitatuation
    I’ve never had someone request a euthansia that wasn’t in some form trying to think of the well-being of their animal (even the woman who dropped the cat off because it didn’t match the couch- she didn’t ask for it to be euthanized). i’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but i’m not convinced it happens as often as some think

    Having lived with a dog that had severe incontinence, maybe she was worried about the dog’s dignity? (not that that’s a legitimate reason for euth…just trying to play devil’s advocate).

    Any time we accept an animal for euthanasia but then feel like it might be a salvageable case, we contact the family to make sure they’re ok with that (never had anyone say no…).
    I think communication is the key

    Reply

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