County concludes communication failure led to dog's mistaken euthanasia

Animal Services admits fault, aims to create new safety nets

A dog that would have been adopted was euthanized by Contra Costa Animal Services last month because of a communications breakdown that the agency's officials said Friday they are making efforts to address.

The agency Friday released a report on an investigation into why a dog named Barbie was euthanized after an animal welfare group offered to rescue the dog. The agency also committed itself to creating various safety nets, such as hiring a new person in an oversight role.

In the report, the Martinez-based agency admitted fault for the 4-year-old pit bull's mistaken euthanasia on June 18, stating that its staff "did not follow established protocols."

The euthanasia of another dog, Tommy, was also questioned as a potential mistake but no wrongdoing was found in that case, according to the report.

Barbie and Tommy were both slated for euthanasia on June 18 after a series of evaluations by the agency's staff and medical team.

Rescue groups called the agency expressing interest in saving Barbie, which should have triggered a process in which the dog was taken off the list for euthanasia.

Beth Ward, director of the agency, said there was even discussion with a rescue group of having the dog spayed as well as removing a mass from the dog for it to be tested for cancer.

A failure by the agency's staff and volunteers to properly record an animal status update and perform end of life procedures led to the dog later being euthanized, according to Friday's report.

As for Tommy, there was no confirmed adopter or transfer partner documented when the dog was euthanized, according to the report.

Ward explained that a transfer partner was waiting in line at the shelter to inquire about the dog as it was being euthanized, but the agency's staff were not aware of it.

She characterized it as an unfortunate incident but not technically erroneous.

Although the investigation was focused on the circumstances of the two dogs' euthanasia, Ward said there were not any similar incidents uncovered in the course of the survey.

Ward said that additional safeguards to prevent more instances of accidental euthanasia are being expedited and may be introduced in fall of this year.

Among other things, the agency will be hiring a staff member to oversee its transfer partner program, creating a new email account to streamline communications and scheduling training sessions for end of life procedures.

As part of its report Friday, the agency pointed to figures showing a significant increase in the live release rate in the county under Ward's time as director.

The rate was 46% in 2011 but rose to 75% in 2015 and has jumped nearly 5% from then to May of this year, according to the report.

Ward said she attributes this to the dedication of the agency's 80 staff members and nearly 300 volunteers, as well as improving relationships with transfer partners and the community.

"The way that we continue to save lives is by working together," Ward said.

— Bay City News Service

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5 people like this
Posted by Tom Cushing
a resident of Alamo
on Jul 19, 2016 at 1:31 pm

I am very glad that this investigation was done. It is a testament to the growing realization that, well, pets' lives matter.

It should be noted that this was at least the second such mistake made recently -- the first being during Ms. Ward's first week on the job. That said, several things are Very clear:

1 -- the process can -- and must -- be fail-safed. The facility cannot stand a third such incident without risking all the progress that's been made, to-date. Someone must be held to-account, for starters, and process improvements made to ensure against these outcomes.

2 -- there HAS BEEN significant interim progress made in the live-release rate at the CCC shelters. A saves-rate in the 70s% is not-at-all adequate as an end-point. The very best shelters -- and why should our county Not be one such? -- consistently achieve outcomes in the low-to-mid 90s%. That's still A Lot of lives wasted/not yet redeemed, and

3 -- animal welfare partisans were told for decades that this shelter was uniquely immune to such progress. That was always, and still is, a load of crap. Here's wishing Ms. Ward and her staff and volunteers the best of good fortune in further dis-proving those naysayers! Need a good companion? Check them out!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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