It seems like I’ve written this post a thousand times. Maybe I need to develop a template where I can simply fill in the lost pet’s name, the name of the shelter that killed him, the list of screw-ups that lead up to the killing and the list of people being blamed (which as it happens, never includes those doing the actual killing). Every one of these needless killings is heartbreaking. And here we are again.
A social media post from Donna Sugar says that her chow mix Bella got lost while they were visiting friends in Durham, NC on November 2. Bella was 14 years old and, like most large dogs her age, had a little trouble with her rear legs.
The family immediately went searching for her, posted fliers, hired two trackers, listed her as lost on the Animal Protection Society of Durham website and visited the shelter. They never found Bella, even though she was at APS at the time they visited and she was microchipped. APS killed Bella 26 hours after impound, citing health reasons.
A Good Samaritan found Bella wandering on the street shortly after she’d gotten lost. She took the dog to a local vet the next day to have her scanned for a chip. The phone number registered to the chip was no good and the Good Sam was not allowed to have a dog at her apartment so she called the sheriff’s office to pick up Bella. A deputy took Bella to APS around 9pm. He noted in his report that he had scanned Bella for a chip and contacted the registration company for contact info but they only had old info. (The owner says this is incorrect as her home address was current.) He also listed the owner’s name as Peggy Edwards which again, is not what the chip registration company had on file, nor is it the name of any known person connected with Bella. When filling out the impound receipt, which was left with Bella at APS, the deputy left the microchip portion blank.
Bella was left, reportedly friendly and healthy, but with incorrect information on her impound receipt, at APS on the night of November 3. By the morning of November 4, Bella was having extreme difficulty getting up and walking, per APS staff. No one scanned her for a chip.
Ms. Sugar’s daughter had visited APS looking for Bella on November 3 and returned on November 4. She brought a large picture of Bella with her to see if anyone at APS recognized her. No one did. She again searched the shelter but did not see her dog. APS had Bella hidden from view in an area off limits to the public, due to her difficulty walking.
That night, APS staff made the determination that Bella was suffering and, instead of bringing her to a vet, they chose to kill her. The tech reportedly scanned for a chip prior to the killing but did not find one.
Bella’s family is heartbroken. Aside from forgetting to update the phone number listed with the chip registration company, they believe they did everything right. I agree. And even if they hadn’t, it was still APS’s responsibility to get Bella home. It’s no good for APS to point fingers at the deputy for the bad info he supplied on Bella’s paperwork. He was at fault, but he didn’t kill Bella.
APS should have checked the lost dog listings on their own website against strays in their shelter. APS should have scanned for and found Bella’s chip upon impound. APS should have sent a letter (or a person, if feasible) to the address listed on Bella’s chip. APS should have recognized Bella from her picture when the owner came searching for her (and even if they didn’t, they should have shown the owner every dog who they thought bore even the vaguest resemblance to the one in the photo). APS should have shown the owner every dog in the facility when she was searching – even those who couldn’t walk or were being hidden from the public for any other reason. APS should have taken Bella to a veterinarian when they determined she was in dire need of medical care. APS should have found the chip during the scan that was supposedly performed prior to killing Bella.
And for our standard ending: No one is being fired for killing Bella, the shelter will modify its protocols, blahcetera.
Killing shelter pets is not a thing that just happens. It’s a choice made by shelter directors. And it shouldn’t even be an option.