Owner says dog was euthanized too quickly

Kellie Cowan reports

- A Polk County family says their lost dog was euthanized too soon. Their beagle ended up at animal control and that same night was put down.

Kristi Durham moved to Polk County in August with her three-year-old sight and hearing impaired beagle.

"Anybody that ever met him, even if they weren't an animal person, loved him because he was unique," said Durham.

His behavior made him stand out. His disabilities cause him to run in circles, constantly turning left. So Durham, a former vet tech, named him Lefty. Durham says she has a soft spot for animals with disabilities.

"They're all good and they all need love. I just try to take the ones that others might not want," said Durham.

But that same unique behavior that made Durham want to adopt Lefty, is the very thing that prompted Polk County Animal Control to euthanize him last Thursday after he slipped out of her backyard.

"They called me and told me that when he arrived around 5 o'clock in the evening, the vet had recommended euthanasia because of him spinning in circles," said Durham.

On Monday, a Polk County spokesperson said a "perfect storm" led to Lefty's demise.

"This was not a healthy animal. This was not an animal the Polk Animal Control veterinarian felt would benefit from any medical attention. The Polk Animal Control veterinarian felt it was in the dog's best interest to be euthanized," said Polk County Sheriff's spokesperson Carrie Horstman.

Durham says animal control made a rash decision.

"He was euthanized within an hour of leaving my yard," she said.

Polk Animal Control says animals brought to the shelter are typically given four to seven days for owners to claim them. Despite his microchip, animal control claims they were unable to reach Durham.

Durham moved to Polk County from Western Kentucky in August. Lefty's microchip information hadn't been updated with his new Florida address, but Durham says if animal control had scanned his chip, her cell phone number, which hadn't changed, would have come up. On Monday, Horstman said the microchip company used by the Durhams gave Polk Animal Control the wrong number.

"We did make, I feel, a reasonable amount of effort to locate this owner, unfortunately the service gave us a bad number," said Horstman, who said animal control staff spent at least 20 minutes calling the microchip company and a disconnected number.

Just after Lefty went missing, Durham called animal control to give them a description of her leftward spinning beagle, but was told her dog wasn't there. She left her information but animal control explained she'd have to come down to look at their dogs in person.

Less than an hour later, Lefty was brought in. Durham never got a call.

When the shelter reopened the next morning, Durham's husband stopped by, but still couldn't find their dog.

Lefty hadn't made it through the night. 

"In our vet's expert opinion the dog didn't have a good quality of life," explained Horstman.  "The vet felt it would be humane to put him down."

Unable to reach his owners and at the recommendation of animal control's vet, Lefty was euthanized the same night he was brought in.

"It's heartbreaking and nothing's ever going to bring my baby back," said Durham. "No one else should ever have to go through this again. It just happened way too fast."

Though nothing will bring Lefty back, Durham wants the county to take a closer look at the way they handle pets and the owners trying to find them. She also hopes everyone will take a moment and check their pets' microchip information to make sure it's up to date and accurate.

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