A family in Grand Rapids is grieving after their beloved dog was wrongfully euthanized last week.
Now, the Kent County Animal Shelter is investigating how an error like this could happen, while implementing new procedures so it doesn’t happen again.
Last December, Douglas Fasburg and his fiancé, Elizabeth Kuieck, adopted Izza from the Kent County Animal Shelter. For their three kids, getting a puppy for Christmas made it a holiday to remember.
On Thursday, a case of mistaken identity cost this pet her life, and devastated the family.
“We believe that she got loose, she snuck out behind the kids,” says Douglas. “That’s what dogs do.”
Kent County Deputy Health Officer, Bill Anstey, confirms that Izza was picked up by an Animal Control Officer on Thursday. Neighbors say it was around 3:30 p.m., and that Izza was walking down an alley across the street from where she lives.
When Douglas and Elizabeth returned home around 4 p.m., they realized Izza was gone, and headed straight to the Kent County Animal Shelter.
The couple filled out the required paperwork and a left a photo of Izza at the shelter.
“We showed a picture to the lady at the front desk, and she said our dog wasn’t there,” explains Douglas.
But Anstey says Izza was there. She was in a kennel right next to another dog – an American Staffordshire - slated to be euthanized. He says the two dogs were similar in color, size, and were both wearing pink collars. When the time came, an animal shelter employee grabbed the wrong dog and Izza was put down. She was alive at the shelter for less than one hour.
“Everyone was excited to get her back,” says Elizabeth Kuieck who returned to the shelter with her two girls, just after 5 p.m. to take Izza home, but it was too late.
“As soon as she told me what had happened, I lost it,” remembers Elizabeth.
“It’s devastating,” adds Douglas. “There’s really nothing we can say to the kids besides, ‘the Kent County Animal Shelter killed our dog.’”
Officials say the employee who accidentally euthanized Izza is still on the job, and Kent County is conducting their own investigation to see if they followed the correct procedures. Anstey offered this statement:
“The entire staff of the animal shelter feels terrible about the accident that occurred last Thursday. The goal of the animal shelter and its staff is to unite or reunite animals and their families. We already have identified what happened in this case and have taken steps to put in place additional safeguards and procedures to protect the animals and their families, and prevent this accident from happening in the future.”
Elizabeth says their family followed every procedure to get their dog back. “After they knew we (were) in there looking for our dog, they should have waited (if they weren’t sure).”
The kids, ages 9, 10, and 12, have drawn “R.I.P. Izza” pictures, and set up a Facebook page in her memory. Someone actually gave them a new puppy - Lola - to help the children transition and aid in the family's healing. Douglas says, although they love their new puppy, they say Izza, and her fun-loving personality, can never be replaced.
For the owners, one of the most upsetting parts of the story is that Izza had a microchip, and she got it from the Kent County Animal Shelter before Douglas and Elizabeth adopted her. Anstey says the shelter scanned the microchip and realized Izza was a local dog that was already in their database. Instead of calling Home Again, the national microchip company, the Animal Control Officer attempted to contact the owners by calling the outdated phone numbers in their list. Before they could do any more research (i.e. call Home Again, search the internet, knock on the owners’ door) Izza was wrongfully euthanized..
Officials suggest if you adopt an animal from a local shelter, you should update your contact information with both the national microchip company and the local shelter.