Discussion: Owners Upset Shelter DID NOT Kill Their Dog

An Oregon couple took in an elderly stray Pomeranian about a year ago.  The dog reportedly has lung disease, bronchitis and emphysema as well as “lumps on her belly”.  They recently took her to The Willamette Humane Society and signed her over to the shelter, thinking she would most likely be euthanized.  The shelter found the dog had a microchip and attempted to contact the former owners.

While waiting for a response, the shelter vet examined the dog and determined she was not medically hopeless and suffering and that euthanasia was not appropriate.  After caring for the dog for 12 days, the shelter found hospice care for her and called the owners to advise.  The owners were shocked since they had assumed their pet had been euthanized.  They decided to take their dog back and make an appointment with a veterinarian to get advice on how best to care for the dog.

There is a video at the link which shows the dog  walking around and resting on the couch.  At one point in the interview, the owner uses the dog’s name in a sentence and the dog, in the background of the shot, obviously recognizes her name and perks her ears up.  She looks pretty good for an old dog although I suspect she is more than 10.

What are your thoughts on this story?  The shelter says they explained “the rules” – presumably that they don’t euthanize animals based solely upon owner request – when the dog was dropped off.  The owners were operating on the assumption the dog was dead although they did not ask to stay with the dog during euthanasia.  Did either the shelter or the owners do anything wrong?  If you were the shelter director, would you have returned the dog to these owners?  What do you think the future may hold for this dog?

22 thoughts on “Discussion: Owners Upset Shelter DID NOT Kill Their Dog

  1. AWESOME shelter …and the owners SUCK – first, ok, they maybe didnt want/have money to spend on what they thought would be expensive procedures. but NOT to stay with the dog while she was being euthanized? SCREW that – no one enjoys it – it is heart-breaking and often stays with you for(ever) BUT that’s what you do for your animal 0- you’re there for them at teh end. So they dumped her off what? figuring she’ll she killed, see ya? First, not sure where the wording came from “thinking” she would be euthanized – but bottom line thinking and signing paperwork to arrange for that (and no doubt paying for it) is standard. I don’t think the shelter was wrong at all – bottom line, they signed her over to the shelter – it is then the shelter’s right to do as they see fit – and THIS shelter is obviously compassionate and caring.

    1. Just to clarify, “thinking” was the word I chose. It was my attempt to summarize my interpretation of the news report. I wish the report contained more details and I would love to read the paperwork they signed which the shelter says was explained to them. But in the absence of these details, I did my best to interpret and convey the situation as I understood it.

    2. Our Animal Control facility no longer allows owners to be present when they euthanize a pet at the owner’s request.
      I suppose I could understand the owners being upset that the dog was not killed when that was their plan/idea/goal. (Although I’m not sure it really is/was.)
      I think giving the former owners first right of refusal for the dog is wise/correct. Too many *rescues* latch onto little dogs and resell them for big bucks to strangers. There is money to be made by hiding pets from the people who love them! I think that is wrong.
      I’m glad the dog is not dead. I hope the people appreciate the second chance and enjoy their pet for a long time.

  2. I don’t understand the part about the microchip and trying to find the former owners? Are the owners before this elderly couple?

    The elderly couple obviously couldn’t afford vet care for the do so decided to drop her off to be killed. Thank Dog that the Humane Society decided that she wasn’t that ill and not kill her!

    1. Chris – As I understood it, the former owners are the people whose contact information is associated with the microchip. I don’t know their ages. The current owners are not elderly.

  3. Hmm. Have a number of thoughts on this one, the first of which is that if this shelter had some type of intake counseling, this could have been resolved right away. I think some shelters make it too easy to surrender animals, further adding to the disposal facility mentality. If they really thought the dog should be euthanized, she should have been taken to a veterinarian and not to a shelter.

    Since a pet is technically property under the law, it belongs to the shelter once the “ownership” is transferred. If a person gives up an animal to a shelter for whatever reason, it is a legal transaction and the former owner has no say in that animal’s future.

    I have mixed feelings about the dog going back to the family but I also acknowledge that people sometimes surrender animals when they feel they are backed against a wall and have no choice. It is an emotional decision for all but the truly heartless and people often act in desperate ways. If she will get the care she needs, she is better off with them since she knows them best. Again – intake counseling could have resolved all of this. “Why are you surrendering your dog?” “Have you taken her to a veterinarian?”

  4. If the owners dropped off their dog in hopes of it being put down….then, to my way of thinking…they gave up rights to it. I applaud the shelter for having the dog medically checked out, and that it was determined the dog could be helped. I would not have contacted the owners who didn’t want responsbility for their dog any longer. Contacting the original owners seemed ok, but I am curious as to the outcome of this dog.

  5. Glad the dog was not euthanized and that the owner has taken responsibility now. I hope this dog gets love and care that it deserves.

  6. If a shelter can legally tell an owner “oh sure, we will find a good home for your dog” and then walk her straight to the kill room, why can’t they decide NOT to kill someone’s dog. I think choosing to preserve a life that’s not suffering is always the right choice.

  7. Poor doggie. Doggie gets passed around like an old bandana, and the only one who seems to care is the shelter employee who decided NOT to kill.

    Kudos to the vet and the shelter employee who decided to spare her life. Shame on anyone who could part with their doggie for ANY REASON.

    “A good man will take care of his horses & dogs, not only while they are young, but also when they are old & past service” …Plutarch

  8. In California shelters are required by law to hold owner relinquished animals for the same period of time as strays and to make them available for adoption for the entire holding period. They are not allowed to kill an animal just because the purported owner requests it. Do they do it anyway? Of course. Laws don’t seem to matter too much in a lot of so-called “shelters” in CA.

  9. I think the shelter absolutely made the right decision in independently evaluating Mama on intake and determining that she was a good candidate for hospice care rather than euthanasia.

    I also think the decision to return Mama is probably the right one, though I’ve reservations. But the video shows a happy little dog in a clean and comfortable home with people she loves, who cared enough for her to keep her rather than turn her in when they found her. So I’m thinking, so long as they get good advice on elder and hospice care, she may well be just fine where she is.

    Thing is, there are still a lot of people who have pets euthanized when they become old and infirm, as a proactive measure to prevent suffering – and expense, although that’s not discussed as often as it should be. In the video, there’s something about the way Ms Hodson cuddles Mama, pointing out that little bit of a wheeze, and the hoarse note in her voice as she shows the list of Mama’s ailments and talks of the vet appointment – that makes me suspect she’s afraid. Afraid of what Mama may need, afraid for Mama, afraid for herself, and afraid of the cost.

    So – I can sympathize. I’ve had those fears too. I’ve faced them in different ways and I don’t approve of how Ms Hodson and her partner chose to surrender Mama rather than stay with her, but then again – perhaps they’ll make good use of the second chance. I know I hope so, for happy little Mama’s sake.

  10. Personally, I believe that a shelter should keep a pet in its care for as long as that animal is not medically hopeless or suffering. I get tired of hearing stories about people who don’t want to care for their pet anymore, even if it’s healthy, and getting it put down because they can. So I applaud this shelter for doing the right thing and keeping the pet in its care. More shelters need to do that.

    As far as the owners go, maybe they just thought that the dog was medically hopeless and were just informed about the euthanasia procedure. It happens. If the shelter explained to them that the dog was not medically hopeless and they still walked away anyway, then it’s up to the shelter to find new owners. I do hope that the couple continues to raise the dog but I would say maybe keep an eye out on the situation lol.

  11. I think the shelter was right in medically evaluating Mama and choosing not to kill her after the evaluation results didn’t indicate she was hopeless. In the video clip, Mama does not appear to be suffering, and seems alert and happy. Her eyes looked bright and clear. She may only have a year left, but she may have several years of good quality life left to live without pain or suffering. Mama does appear to have a problem with her right hind leg, but that could be from an old injury or as in the case of a Doxie I know, she could have been born like that.
    I would not have returned Mama to the Hodson/Nelson household. They had already decided to have her killed, and next time, they will take her elsewhere to have it done. The Hodson woman didn’t seem that attached to Mama, in my opinion. (She pulled back each time Mama tried to give her kisses.)

    1. Oh, good God. I don’t especially love having my dogs lick my face, either, and I love them dearly. Ms. Hodson seemed quite attached to her to me, and concerned about her health issues.

      People don’t have to be you in order to be good people or good pet owners, Gwen.

  12. I think the problem is with assuming that there has to be a Bad Guy, and that people who make different decisions that we woulld are Bad People.

    It seems to me that the owners, based on Mama’s medical conditions as they understood them, were not unreasonable in thinking she was medically hopeless, or at least beyond their ability to care for successfully and prevent suffering–and therefore taking her in to be euthanized was not wrong.

    Personally–I’ve been with every one of my pets when they were euthanized, EXCEPT the one time I had a house call vet who had had too many owners basically have hysterics during the process and cause more distress for the pet. In that case, I was in the next room, but friends of mine were with her.

    But the reason the vet insisted on this was because she had had quite a number of bad experiences with owners who couldn’t cope. If this couple knew they were in real danger of having hysterics if they were present, then not staying was also the right decision.

    BUT, if they did not actually sign euthanasia papers, and pay for euthanasia, but simply signed her over expecting that the helter would reach the same conclusion they did, and end Mama’s suffering, then the shelter had every right and responsibility to make an independent assessment. it is wonderful that they found she was a lot more treatable than her owners believed, and a good candidate for hospice.

    But the owners who brought her in, for whatever reason that they didn’t fully understand the process, believed that she had been euthanized and were mourning for her. They were notified that she was alive and a good candidate for hospice care while they were in mourning–and if you are acquainted with this species called “humans,” you know, if you think about it, that the reaction in those circumstances isn’t likely to be calm or reasonable.

    Nevertheless, that little dog clearly looks happy back in her home, and her owners seem attached to her and concerned for her health, comfort, and happiness.

    No bad guys here, and a very happy outcome.

    1. I’ve heard so very many stories with a Bad Guy, that are often completely changed when I go and see for myself and ask more questions. Most times, the people yelling the loudest are the most wrong, and none of us are perfect. Given all that, I like Lis Carey’s reply here, as this seems the most likely case. The dog seems happy, and we don’t have to throw any more stones.

  13. I had to have my 13-1/2 year old male Sharpei euthanized and it was a very difficult decision. He was unable to get up one morning and I already knew he was totally deaf and half-blind, but I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him here alone when I left fo work unable to get to his feet. That’s why I made my final decision to have him euthanized. My vet (same one since day one) looked at me like he thought I was rushing to put him down until he weighed him and saw he had lost a lot of weight. After a thorough exam he agreed it was time and I stayed with him until the very end. My heart still breaks, but I know I did the right thing for him.

  14. I believe the dog’s owner’s would be more appreciative of the dog, to learn she wasn’t killed & was more healthy than they thought & glad to have her back home. But I would keep my eye on the owner as I’m sure the doggie will have trust issues with them too.

    I’m glad this story came out with a living doggie instead of the usual sad story.

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