Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue Kills Lost Pet, Notifies Owner by Mail

Cody, as shown on the KIRO website.
Cody, as shown on the KIRO website.

Jon Broadwell never gave up hope that he would find his English setter, called Cody, who became lost in February 2014. He was still posting ads about Cody last December when someone on Craigslist saw the lost dog notice and realized her family had adopted Cody from Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue (SPDR). Cody had reportedly been impounded by a shelter while lost, pulled by SPDR and adopted to this family. Upon learning that Cody’s previous owner still very much wanted him back, the family decided to return the dog to SPDR so he could be reunited with Mr. Broadwell. An SPDR representative advised Mr. Broadwell he needed to fill out an adoption application in order to get his pet back:

“I just thought it was a formality, that I would reapply, and I would get the pet,” Broadwell said.

Instead, SPDR responded to Mr. Broadwell’s application by mail, telling him in a letter that the group had killed Cody “due to escalating displays of aggression”.

“I was just totally shocked when they sent that letter out,” Broadwell said.

No doubt. Gretchen Schumacher with SPDR explained the circumstances surrounding Cody’s killing to KIRO:

Schumacher said a Seattle Purebred volunteer handling Cody’s case moved the dog to a foster home instead of working with Broadwell, as she should have. At the foster home, the dog showed some aggression and the volunteer made the decision to have the dog put down.

Whoa. Apparently SPDR volunteers have complete discretion and total authority to withhold lost pets from their owners and have the dogs killed instead. The SPDR rep would had to have known that the dog had been returned to SPDR for the sole purpose of reuniting Cody with his original owner. Sending the dog to a foster home is inexplicable.

Further, Cody could not have possibly been at this foster home for any significant length of time. Dogs aren’t normally killed for “escalating displays of aggression” unless a judge orders it or the rescue group has exhausted all rehabilitative efforts over an extended period of time, can not find another qualified party to work with the dog, and the board of directors all agree upon the killing. Cody obviously didn’t fall into either category which makes the explanation offered that much more puzzling. On top of all this, to send a letter to the original owner who thought he was getting his long lost pet back only to find out by mail that his beloved dog had been killed – it’s mind boggling.

SPDR has publicly apologized for killing Cody and fired the volunteer who took his life.  In order to rebuild trust with the community, the group will need to do more. Clear directives must be given to all volunteers defining what actions may be taken without consent of the board and what actions require the board’s consent. SPDR needs to reassure the public that dogs are not killed for convenience under its policies nor are lost pets kept from their owners. And I don’t think a mail campaign is going to do the trick. As a pet owner, I know I wouldn’t want to open any letters from SPDR.

(Thank you Anne for the link.)

23 thoughts on “Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue Kills Lost Pet, Notifies Owner by Mail

  1. Totally agree too many “do gooders’ in purebred rescues are withholding dogs from owners when they know who the owners are..they are judge and jury as in the case of Piper the Sheltie.. and many others..regular shelters in their zeal to get dogs out “alive” release any purebred to any rescue group without checking them out.. when theses groups find out who the owners are they refuse to return the dogs.. sort of give “rescue’ a whole new meaning .. like theft.. and killing

  2. I am wondering about the vet who killed Cody. A reputable vet would want proof of ownership and most vets no longer kill unless there is a medical reason, or evaluated and documented aggression. Imagine how the adoptive family feels. It is unfortunate that they tried to do what’s right by returning Cody to SPDR. I feel sorry for Mr. Broadwell and for the adoptive family. As for the volunteer, I hope they have retired from the rescue world.

    1. I had the same thought Clarice. The only scenario I could guess is that the vol had an established relationship with a vet whom she regularly took rescue pets to for care. I can’t imagine she was truthful in telling the vet she decided to have the dog killed after being in someone else’s house for 2 days (or however long it was).

    2. As a vet tech I can tell you that MANY vets will still kill animals on ‘owner’ request without even asking for an explanation of any kind. I had a terribly difficult time finding a practice that wouldn’t (and one of two I did find lied about it during the interview and did in fact kill on demand.) Other techs I’ve spoken with in other areas and states have had the same experience.

      Even vets with polices against killing without medical need typically make an exception for aggression, and it typically does not need to be documented over a long period. Very few vets will demand proof of ownership, and in this case the rescuer likely *did* have paperwork showing the dog had been signed over to the rescue. Even my own vet hospital, which does have strong policies against killing without need, does not require proof of ownership for every new animal and owner that enters the practice.

      I have zero trouble believing that a vet would kill a healthy pet, because it happens routinely. People think that it’s actually illegal for vets to kill on demand, which is of course not true. Nor are vets required to get proof of ownership before doing any procedure. It’s different if the vet *knows* an animal has been stolen, but ignorance is protection (and legal.) Vets typically justify such policies by saying that if they *didn’t* kill on demand, the person would abandon the animal or kill them inhumanely. Killing aggressive animals (including animals with a single documented case of aggression) is justifying as protecting the public Yes, rare vets will refuse, but that is indeed rare unless you happen to live in a exceedingly forward thinking area.

      1. This is sad. Never mind that the notion that “if they *didn’t* kill on demand, the person would abandon the animal or kill them inhumanely” is a false, fabricated choice, it also reeks of greed. As in “if I don’t take this person’s money for killing this pet, someone else will get the cash”.

      2. It is a false choice, I agree. With the vets I’ve known though, I don’t think it’s coming from a place of greed. They’re often genuinely upset by the situation, sometimes to the point of crying over the animals they’ve agreed to kill.. It’s often a statement (we must do this for *reasons*) that is passed down from one vet to another and repeated so often that people allows themselves to accept it despite their better selves. The idea that vets *must* kill is as ingrained as the idea that shelter workers must. The new vet starts out fresh out of school perhaps more idealistic, and then is told over and over by every practice they apply at that this is just the way things are (and this goes for the techs as well.)

        I’m not excusing them at all, because it is absolutely a choice. When I first started working at my practice they did kill on demand, which was a policy that had been passed down by the previous owner. It took a rebellion from the techs to get that policy changed. We basically decided we would no longer be emotionally blackmailed into doing something unethical, which is exactly what that situation is. I think most vets just give into the blackmail not out of greed but out of learned helplessness…which again in this case is very much a choice.

      3. On thinking on it a bit, I rather think that there’s something powerful and addicting about hurting one’s self ‘for the greater good.’ Shelter workers (and techs and vets who kill on demand) perceive themselves as doing a job that no one else wants to do. They alone have the willpower and strength of character to make the tough choices.

        I know that as a caregiver, I have to fight against my own instinct to refuse help. Not because the help isn’t needed, but because only *I* know how to handle my mother. Only *I* can do this job with full efficiency. It’s much like a mother who keeps interfering when her husband tries to interact with their son. Even when the job is hard and thankless, sacrifice can feel *good* in some strange way. It’s being a martyr, basically.

        So I think it’s very possible for shelter workers to fully and honestly believe they are doing what must be done, and to weep genuine tears over it. Moreover, I think it very quickly becomes a necessity. If they were to admit that those animals didn’t really *need* to die, it means they weren’t sacrificing…they were just killing. I think overcoming that is a greater battle than overcoming greed or bad policies, and one that only legislation can overcome.

  3. And the poor family who adopted the dog in the first place and tried to do the right thing! Now two families are devastated and all there is for is “whoops!”?

    Wondering if they sent a letter to the adoptive family too or if they didn’t even rate a letter…

  4. The rescue is pretty much in hiding right now. The claim is they’re waiting until they can apologize to the owner in person (where was this concern when they sent out that letter?!?!) and then they will have a public statement as to how and why this happend. That was almost two weeks ago.

    Was the volunteer “fired” before or after this made the news? That would be telling to me as to if they really gave a damn about this, or if they’re only sorry it became public.

  5. A local rescue killed a friend’s dog after taking it from his property about 9 years ago. The dog was really old and arthritic, and the rescue claimed he was suffering. Someone told my friend what had happened to the dog after they saw one of the many flyers my friend had posted around town. The rescue tried to lie about it at first, and then when they couldn’t lie any more they still refused to return the dog’s body or even his collar to my friend. My friend was heart broken–truly, truly devastated–and everyone who knew him thinks the grief contributed to his fatal heart attack months later. I wish he had gone to the media when it happened so that rescue could be exposed for the criminals they are.

  6. Something else has been bothering me about this situation. If this dog was so aggressive, how was he placed by this group? Don’t they do behavior tests prior to adopting out animals? How was he safe to adopt out before, but when his owner came to claim him he was too aggressive to live?

    1. I don’t believe that for a minute. Aggressive becomes a good excuse (in their minds) for killing. They needed some kind of rationalization . . .

  7. Heartbreaking. My sympathy to Cody’s two families.
    Hopefully the publicity will spur positive action and put policies in place with
    many checks to protect innocent pets. I’ve read adoption requirements from more than a few rescues, and have found them full of requirements that in some cases are not easy to meet. Instead of that hassle, I adopted from animal control instead.
    I’m not blaming the 1st owners — but this is another case where a microchip with current informationmay have helped Cody make it home safe when he was first lost. I’m also wondering why the second owners did not contact the first owners directly, after becoming aware of the lost dog flyers.

    1. They were in contact with each other, it was the adopters that contacted the original owner when they saw his flyers online. The contract they filled out required them to return Cody to SPDR though. So in their efforts to do the right thing, they returned Cody to the “rescue” with instructions for them to return him to his first owner.

      Rather than return him right away, they put him into a foster home and made the owner fill out an application for his own dog. In the meantime, a foster took it upon herself to decide Cody had to die.

  8. Thank you all for your discussion. My wife and I were the ones who initially adopted Cody from SPDR. This is all unfortunate, however the real culprit is not SPDR and their recklessness in management, rather it is that former paid volunteer and former board member Claudia who euthanized Cody. She still operates a dog service company in Redmond/Sammamish and she should have no right to be around a single dog. She was reckless, derogatory towards John and I and lied about everything along the way. It turns out that she and SPDR the whole time had paperwork that proved that Cody was indeed Johns dog.

    It pains me today to think that we could have circumnavigated the contract with SPDR and simply given him back to John. This would have all been avoided.

    And by no means was he a viscous dog, unless Claudia or her foster friend had been provoking him.

    Shame on Claudia!!!!

  9. Matt- thank you for your compassion and caring not only for Cody but for his human as well. I will tell you that not all rescues are like this. Not that it will bring Cody back but what SPDR did was unconsciousnable.

    I do believe that the AC that initially had picked up Cody should have for involved in getting Cody back to his person. The AC has a duty to return pets to their owners. They should have a policy that if this happens then the rescue has a responsibility to notify the owner. After all they gave Cody to the rescue. I think AC policies need to be looked into and especially if there is less than arms length transactions between AC and this rescue. I have seen the back door dealings with the favored rescues too many times.

    I would certainly hope that the AC will no longer allow this Rescue to pull. Unethical behavior that rises to the level this did by any rescue should not be tolerated.
    I pray the owner sues their asses off.

  10. Matt, is it true SPDR knew Cody’s name, but deliberately changed it? And that they said he was four/five years old when he was really 10/11 years old?

    You also said (on yelp) Cody had a collar and tag on when he was “found”. Was Cody found by a member of SPDR or did he go through an AC?

    1. Yes, the ‘volunteer’ Claudia had all the paperwork it turns out. Paperwork that showed Jon was the original owner, that his name was Cody and that instead of being 4 1/2 he was 11 1/2. Very disturbing that Claudia withheld the files from us, from Jon and from the rest of the SPDR board.

      And yes, Flynn was fully identifiable with tags when found in Spokane, however the Spokane shelter was so fast to turn him loose to SPDR that it’s nearly impossible rescue one’s dog. I realize the urgency but why did he need to be taken from Spokane in the first place.

      The moral of the story is that SPDR still needs to commit to process improvement and hold Claudia accountable beyond firing her from an unpaid position.

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