Orange Co Shelter Director Intent on Killing Service Dog

Karma, a service dog trained to help with PTSD, as shown on the Orang Co Register website.
Karma, a service dog trained to help with PTSD, as shown on the Orange Co Register website.

An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled this month that a service dog named Karma must be killed at the Orange Co shelter in CA before October 20. The ruling was based upon the recommendation of the shelter’s director/veterinarian:

OC Animal Care Director and Chief Veterinarian Jennifer Hawkins has deemed the husky mix too dangerous to be released in the community or to live at an animal sanctuary. OC Animal Care designated Karma a vicious animal because the dog killed at least one cat in 2012 in Anaheim, and because of the dog’s partial wolf ancestry, the effectiveness of required rabies vaccinations is unknown.

The “partial wolf ancestry” being referenced:

Animal Care ordered a genetic test on the dog – the first ever by the agency – after her owners were arrested and family members told police the dog was part wolf. The genetic test suggested that Karma likely had a wolf ancestor two or three generations back.

Suggested? Gee, that sounds… inconclusive. To complicate matters further, the CA Veterinary Medical Association says:

The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) requires that if an animal contains any wolf, even 1 percent, it must be considered a wolf hybrid and handled as an exotic animal. The California Department of Fish and Game, however, only requires a permit for the animal if it is 50 percent or more wolf. According to CDHS, a veterinarian can vaccinate the animal with canine rabies vaccine, but if it bites someone or is bitten by a rabid animal, it will be treated as unvaccinated.
The AVMA Trust cautions veterinarians to inform owners that the vaccine is not licensed for use in wolf hybrids, and no studies have proven efficacy of the vaccine in the animals.

It appears that in CA, owners of any animal designated a wolf hybrid run the risk of having the animal ordered killed if the animal bites a person or is exposed to a rabid animal due to the unknown efficacy of rabies vaccine on hybrids. But as far as I can tell, Karma has neither bitten a person nor has she been exposed to a rabid animal. It’s unclear to me why the OC shelter director is recommending she be killed.

Orange Co Supervisor Todd Spitzer also questioned the director’s recommendation and asked the Board of Supervisors to override the director at a hearing this week:

Spitzer argued that a liability release drafted by county lawyers Friday and approved by OC Animal Care outlining the requirements of how Karma must be kept should be enough to spare the dog from death.

But Hawkins would not relent:

“I stand by my recommendation that euthanasia is a reasonable means to assure public safety,” Hawkins said during the Board of Supervisors meeting. “I don’t know if it will distinguish between domestic animals or a small child.”

Oh geez. So let’s kill the dog because the director doesn’t understand canine behavior and can’t predict the future. Sounds like solid reasoning. Spitzer was apparently caught off guard:

“When county counsel gave me a draft of what it would take, I believed, mistakenly, she supported that,” Spitzer said. “I had no idea even if a rescue (group) signed the agreement she would not support it. The fate rested in the board’s hands. We’re the only ones who have the authority to overrule the recommendation of our Animal Care director.”

Spitzer was the only board member advocating for Karma’s right to live. None of the other members were willing to support Spitzer. The wolf sanctuary that originally agreed to take Karma backed out. Because Karma is a dog. There are reportedly several other rescues willing to take her. But it sounds as if the OC shelter director is committed to killing Karma, despite all offers and all reason. I dread to think how the director applies her form of logic to saving – or ending – the lives of other pets at the shelter.

(Thanks Kellee for the link.)

15 thoughts on “Orange Co Shelter Director Intent on Killing Service Dog

  1. These Bastards! We had a retired military dog that was threatened with his life! Channel 7 news announced three rescues that handle dogs like this! There was one in Utah and I believe two in California! But, no, they’d rather kill than find a sanctuary for these dogs! I think this is a disgrace and goes to show the stupidity of those in command! Don’t we have any leaders with brains anymore?I checked and here are their names: the Warrior Dog Foundation in Colorado, the Mission K-9 Rescue in California and the Montana Dog Rescue.
    They must contact these rescues who are no kill and may be able to help!

  2. This one is distressing me a lot. I just cant fathom someone would want to kill a dog when rescues exist that have stepped up. Out of your hands, not your problem but the shelter doesn’t see it that way. So frustrating & wrong.

  3. I can’t help but feel that something is missing from this story. The owners were arrested? In my county, that means that the dog must be held by the dog warden for 30 days. After that, if the dog has not been claimed by the owner or family members, the dog is either adopted out or killed (at the warden’s discretion).

    How does a shelter manager take a dog owned and cared for appropriately (i.e. not neglected or suffering) and decide that he has the right to kill that dog without any sort of transfer of ownership? The dog did not attack a person. The dog may have killed a cat three years ago. Is there documentation to that effect? Were there charges filed/complaints registered? Is there history with the owners and animal control? I do wish that the owners hadn’t mouthed off about the dog being “part wolf” at officers. It seems California has issue with hybrids. (And how do wolf sanctuaries/zoos/ and everyone else who keeps wolves deal with rabies vaccination?)

    Something seems very not right, here. But I fear that the owners are in no position to hire a lawyer to defend them.

    1. They either don’t vaccinate cause it wouldn’t make a difference in the outcome of a bite, or they vaccinate “off label” and hope that if something does happen they can find a sympathetic judge.

  4. And this is why you don’t claim your dog is part wolf. CA’s law on this is not unique. Far too many people own a husky-type dog and label them as ‘part wolf’. Breeders will even sell pure huskies or mixes as ‘wolfdogs’ because people like the thought of owning ‘a piece of the wild’. A REAL wolfdog would be entirely unsuited as a service dog, and even a low content would have visible differences in body structure and behavior. Karma is just a dog. Misrepresenting your dog as part wolf gets dogs killed all the time. It doesn’t matter if your vet or your breeder or your neighbor told you that your dog looks like a wolf, there’s a 99.9% chance you’ve got a perfectly nice dog on your hands.

  5. Where are the owners in this? How did the dog get certified and why isn’t the certifying agency getting involved explaining the dog is needed for a valid purpose? Even if the owner is in jail, doesn’t he need the dog – or is he in there for years? Who is advocating for the service dog TEAM? Killing the dog will create a big problem for the person who needs the dog, yes?

    1. Um, cause there IS no LEGAL certification for service dogs. Anyone who claims to “certify” your service dog is running a scam.

      Now if you mean the trainer who trained the dog, thats a good question, however its entirely possible and legal for the dog to be home trained, so there may not be an outside person to stand up for the dog.

  6. Excuse me..but I’m no rocket scientist… but I guess I have more brains than that Superior Court Judge does. Let me get this straight Judge. You’re going to PTS a dog that has been declared a service animal? A dog that has gone thru many many hours of training to help people..or a person do what they need to make their life as normal as possible? A dog where ALOT of time & $$$$.. & specialized people has been given to make this animal a humans caretaker? And you deem that with all of the resources used to do this… this dog KARMA will die just because it killed a cat!! Do you realize just how stupid this sounds?? A dog kills a cat so its going to be put to death! OMG!! UNBELIEVABLE!!! Especially when there are rescues available to take it?! What drugs are you on?? Its no wonder why the judicial system is deteriorating when people like you don’t use the brain God gave you!
    And so what Karma may have some wolf in its ancestry… that just makes it the same as all dogs because ALL DOGS come from Wolves! Somewhere in their ancestry is a wolf.
    Quit picking on a dog who has never done a darn thing to anyone & get busy with putting murderers, pedophiles, rapist, down! We have 1000’s of them!! Give me a break!
    Oh yeah… look at my email. The wolf is a wondrous creature!

    1. That’s very good news. Thanks for sharing that and thanks for the sanctuary to get involved and take Karma.

  7. Karma doesn’t belong in a wolf’s reservation. She isn’t like them. She has led a normal life and now leaving her out with the wolves? What the hell is wrong with these people, somebody get her out of there. Look at her, she is a small husky, flat hair,small feet, her snout isn’t wolfish. Let her have a normal life. Can she be adopted?

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