Dog euthanized by mistake at Contra Costa shelter

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 today they are making efforts to address.

The agency today 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 today’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 today, 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 percent in 2011 but rose to 75 percent in 2015 and has jumped nearly 5 percent 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.