Costa County

East Bay Animal Shelter Promises to Make Changes After Erroneous Euthanization of Two Dogs

Two dogs, who animal activists say had homes waiting for them, were erroneously euthanized on the same day last week by an East Bay animal shelter.

Officials at Contra Costa County Animal Services initially said a clerical mistake was to blame and launched an investigation into the June 18 incident.

They are now taking responsibility for the death of one of the dogs, but not both.

A 4-year-old pit bull named Barbie should have been taken off the Martinez-based animal department's list of animals slated to be euthanized on June 18, spokesman Steve Burdo said. 

A dog named Tommy was also put to sleep the same day.

According to a Contra Costa County Animal Services volunteer, who wanted to remain anonymous, paperwork indicates a rescue group had found a home for Barbie. 

The documents said "she was not to be euthanized through the end of the day, that there was an extension," the volunteer said. 

Shelter director Beth Ward said Barbie's death was caused by the actions of a veterinary technician. She categorized the mistake as "oversight failure to follow the standard policy and procedure."

When asked if the tech didn't look at the documentation, Ward replied: "That is correct."

Meanwhile, Ward said that a rescue group hadn't officially found a home for Tommy — even though someone was in the building waiting to adopt the dog when he was euthanized. 

"Unfortunately, our staff did not know that," Ward said.

Whatever the reason, the shelter volunteer said adoptable dogs shouldn’t die.

"I just don’t want anymore dogs put to death that aren’t supposed to be," the volunteer said, adding that it is a "nightmare" when an animal "has been saved and has a way out."

Ward said the shelter is now re-training staff, and creating a position to deal directly with rescue groups so more dogs aren’t accidently euthanized.

Since it’s a personnel issue, though, Ward couldn’t say if the vet who made the mistake is still employed at the shelter. 

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