Shelter Puts Down Wrong Dog

Timber, a 13-year-old boxer-shepherd mix, was at Durham County Animal Shelter after biting someone. The dog was there for a 10-day quarantine, then his owner...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Mar 20th 2009


Timber, a 13-year-old boxer-shepherd mix, was at Durham County Animal Shelter after biting someone. The dog was there for a 10-day quarantine, then his owner could retrieve him.

Unfortunately, that was not what happened. When Jeff Kessler walked into the shelter he was told his dog was accidentally put down. A horrible mistake, which both Kessler and the Durham County Animal Shelter agree didn’t have to happen.

Timber bit a woman’s leg in front of Kessler’s Ventura Drive home after he was accidentally let out of a gate March 6. As is standard procedure in biting cases, Timber was taken to the shelter to be quarantined for 10 days, and Kessler had to pay a $500 fine.

“There was no possible misunderstanding that we were giving the dog up,” he said. “I made it very evident that I was coming to get the dog.”

Kessler, 51, went to the shelter to pick up Timber on March 16. The dog was supposed to be in cage 77. Another animal was there instead. Kessler searched the entire shelter, but Timber was not to be found. He had been euthanized March 12.

The shelter has a policy that is supposed to be followed before any dog is euthanized. Every animal has an impound sheet, a card is attached to the animal’s cage, which matches the information on the sheet. The technician who euthanizes is supposed to verify both documents before putting an animal to sleep. In Timber’s case the technician didn’t follow procedure, causing the wrong dog to be put down.

It’s hard enough putting animals to sleep, Price said, but to do so accidentally is a burden shared by the entire shelter.

The technician responsible has been suspended indefinitely from euthanizing, and from the shelter for a week. That punishment hardly seems sufficient, seeing as Timber got life.

* Pic of Timber courtesy newsobserver.com