When Sheila Combs lost her family’s six year old Chihuahua/Boston Terrier, Bunny, on January 31, she immediately began looking for her. Unable to find her beloved pet, she went the next day to the West Valley Humane Society in Caldwell. Bunny was not there so Ms. Combs filed an official missing pet report including an 8 X 10 photo and a detailed description of Bunny’s size, markings, wonky rear leg and three missing teeth. She was told that all missing pet reports are checked against new arrivals at the shelter. The family continued trying to find Bunny daily. Although Ms. Combs never heard from the shelter, she visited again on February 9 to look for Bunny, just in case:
“They took me through all the rooms in the back where the dogs are in crates, and the new dogs that come in,” Combs said. “She wasn’t there.”
In fact, Bunny was there, having been picked up by AC on February 4:
West Valley Humane Society Executive Director Jonathan Perry says it’s unclear how Combs didn’t see Bunny in the lost and found area.
“As far as we know, it was always in the same kennel in the back, so it should’ve been seen,” Perry said.
A stranger who had seen Ms. Combs’s online posts about Bunny contacted her on February 11 to let her know Bunny’s photo was on the shelter’s website. Ms. Combs immediately called the shelter, understandably frantic over her lost family member:
“I said, ‘Listen! You’ve got to listen! That dog, “Tanna” on your website is my dog, I made a report, it’s in your book. I’m coming, it’s my dog don’t adopt her!” Combs explained.
By the time Sheila made it to the shelter roughly 20 minutes later, it was too late.
The director told the Combs family Bunny had already been adopted and initially, he declined to contact the adopters. After being pressed by Bunny’s family, he did make a phone call to the adopters, because you know, he cares, but had to leave a message.
Turns out, those were all lies. The phone call? Fake. The truth was that West Valley Humane had killed Bunny while the owner was on her way to reclaim her dog.
Perry says the shelter vet saw stroke or seizure-like symptoms several times in Bunny beginning on February 7, and decided on the eleventh it was best for the dog to be put down.
See, the killing was totally justified. The vet saw seizures. Or strokes. Or something else medical sounding that begins with S. It was such a righteous killing that the director was motivated to fabricate an adoption story and make a *winkety wink* phone call to The Land of Make Believe to show he cared.
The whole wad of oopses and lies surrounding Bunny’s killing is the owner’s fault though, obviously:
Bunny wasn’t microchipped and due to her sensitive skin, she wasn’t wearing a collar at the time – something the shelter’s executive director says could have prevented the whole mix up.
While he says they plan to make procedural improvements to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again, he recommends all pet owners keep a current photo of their pets, always keep a collar on, and be sure all tag and microchip information is current and regularly updated.
And more blame from Brenda Cameron, president of the shelter’s board of directors:
“We had no way to call and inform the family their dog was in the shelter,” Cameron said.
No way except for the lost pet report. Or telling the owner in person when she was there looking through the kennels. Twice. No OTHER ways.
We do everything we can to reunite that animal with the family. Microchips help. Anything that we can identify the animal with. The owners did supply a picture but Bunny was actually an older dog with grey hair so that issue could have made things more difficult for volunteers or staff,” Cameron explained.
Oh my stars. Bunny had some grey hairs on her face therefore: unrecognizable. If only there was some way shelter professionals might be able to know that dog faces sometimes grey with age and that if the breed, markings, size, missing teeth and wonky leg are all a match between the lost pet report and the newly impounded lost pet, it’s worth a phone call to the owner. But I guess that’s just pie in the sky.
Oh and thanks, shortened hold periods:
In previous years, families have had their pets adopted out because they missed the three day deadline to pick up their missing dog or cat from the shelter. Cameron said the deadline used to be five days for lost strays, but the decision was made to shorten that time frame.
“When I came in, the shelter was overpopulated,” Cameron said. “We needed a way to move the dogs out of the shelter.”
When animals are in shelters for an extended period of time it can cause the pet to have mental, emotional and health problems in the future, she said.
A pet might go mental if they hold him for an additional two days. Must be a nice place. It’s touching how concerned they are about
moving the merchandise the possibility of PTSD in their dogs’ future but it sort of seems like the definite condition of DEATH should trump those concerns.
The board fired the director after he went on television and embarrassed them. And they posted an apology to Bunny’s family on Facebook. So obviously they take the killing very seriously. I mentioned the apology, right? On Facebook.
*boop boop beep* I am pushing the buttons on my pretend telephone to call the Mayor of Impudentville because you know, I care.
(Thanks Clarice and Jan for the links.)