Dallas Animal Services has promised an open and honest investigation into why four dogs were euthanized New Year's Day, possibly by mistake.
"My first thought is, 'OK, what happened? Let's make sure we look into this and figure out. Did we make a mistake? And if so, where did we make a mistake so it doesn't happen again?'" said Dr. Cate McManus, operations manager for Dallas Animal Services.
The dogs in question, four Aussie mixes, were part of a group of 27 dogs taken from a woman between Christmas and New Year's Day over concerns of hoarding by two women involved with an independent animal rescue group.
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Most of the dogs were relocated to foster homes to await placement in "forever homes," according to Deborah Whittington, one of the two rescuers.
When more help could not be immediately found, the women contacted Dallas Animal Services for assistance in placing the four remaining dogs, Whittington said.
The animal services investigator who assisted in the matter assured the animal advocates that the dogs would be designated in the system as being in "protective custody," Whittington said. That specific DAS term would guarantee the dogs 10 days at the shelter, according to DAS literature.
Instead, the dogs were put into the system as "owner surrenders," which comes with no guarantees for a minimum time at the shelter before euthanasia would become a possibility.
The dogs were taken to the city shelter, according to a statement from a Dallas spokesperson, on Dec. 30. Two days later, on New Year's Day, a DAS employee made the decision to euthanize the four dogs based on their health and behavior, according to the statement.
For their part, the women who rescued the dogs do not blame any particular person for the dogs' demise.
"Dallas has maybe not a personnel problem, Dallas has a system problem," Whittington said Tuesday.
Whittington said it is her goal to work with Dallas Animal Services to improve the process, and she has requested a sit-down with City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and DAS officials to improve the communication between her group and theirs.
At the shelter, Dr. McManus could not discuss specifics of their investigation into the deaths of the four dogs. But when asked what, if anything, she wanted to make clear, the veterinarian did not hesitate in her response.
"It may be hard to think that the city actually cares, but we do. That's why we're here. That's why we come to work every day. I didn't become a veterinarian to kill animals. And that's the last thing we want to do," McManus said.