Dallas Animal Services is conducting a "complete investigation" into the euthanization of four dogs on New Year's Day, according to a statement from the city.
The four dogs, part of a group of 27 dogs rescued by an animal rescue group from a potential animal hoarder, were taken in by Dallas Animal Services with the permission of the owner, the rescuers told NBC 5.
"These dogs just looked at us like, 'Please help.' And so we were trying to help them," Deborah Whittington said Monday, hours after she learned that the four dogs she worked hard to get to safety had been put down several days before she said she was led to believe that was a possibility.
Sana Syed, public information director for the City of Dallas, told NBC 5 that if the dogs had potential homes lined up, and if that had been communicated to shelter staff, then the animals should not have been put down.
"To know that four dogs may have been euthanized in error has devastated staff, and they are also eager to look for ways to prevent incidents like this in the future," Syed said in a statement, released Monday evening.
The dogs were to have had 10 days in "protective custody" at the city shelter, according to Whittington, before being eligible for euthanization. Whittington said that the DAS investigator who helped her group, which does not have a name and coordinates its efforts via phone and through Facebook, assured her that the dogs would be given proper time so that a suitable home could be secured.
The dogs were entered into the city shelter system as "owner surrenders" on Dec. 30, according to the statement by the city. Two days later, "all four dogs were euthanized by DAS staff based on their health and behavior," the statement read.
"DAS is now conducting a complete investigation to determine if system failures and/or performance issues may have contributed to the incident," the statement continues.
For her part, Whittington disputes the claim in the city's statement that the dogs, which she had named Faith, Hope, Love and Grace, had behavior problems.
"I don't think that the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing," Whittington told NBC 5 about what she characterized as an apparent communications problem at Dallas Animal Services. "And I feel like they have betrayed the trust of the community."