Responding to a controversy over four dogs that were euthanized at Dallas Animal Services, the city shelter offered a partial explanation on January 9, citing "human error" as the cause.
Shelter manager Jody Jones and veterinarian Cate McManus officiated at a press conference at the shelter, explaining that, although they were not yet able to divulge all the details of the incident, human error was a factor and that they were deeply sorry.
"I would like to start by saying that the city and DAS management share in our community's deep disappointment in the loss of these four lives," McManus said. "I am here today to discuss the result of our preliminary investigation. We have learned that these lives were lost as a result of human error — and standard operating procedures were not followed.
"Moving forward, we will flesh out the protocols we have in place to include more specific action steps or checklists to ensure compliance with SOPs."
McManus was unable to discuss specifics, including the identity of the staffer or staffers because the issue is under review by the city's human resources department. But she said that the shelter would investigate making certain steps mandatory in their software system to force compliance and consistency.
"We sincerely apologize for failing these dogs and damaging our relationship with the Dallas community," she said.
In response to a question as to why the shelter was releasing only a partial statement, she said she was following through on a promise she'd made to the media that she would offer at least some explanation in a timely manner.
The dogs were among a group of Australian shepherd mixes rescued by Marina Tarashevska, a controversial figure who has made a practice of documenting her rescue efforts in some of Dallas' worst neighborhoods on Facebook. In late December, Tarashevska and some of her associates found a home where approximately two dozen dogs were being kept in poor circumstances. Some were taken in by rescue groups. On December 30, Dallas Animal Services officers went to the residence and picked up four dogs.
The animals were taken to the city shelter, where they were entered into the system as "owner surrenders." State law requires a three-day hold for stray dogs, but animals that are listed as surrendered by their owners can be euthanized immediately. Two days later, on January 1, the dogs were euthanized, "based on their factors, including health and behavior," according to the shelter.
Tarashevska posted a vituperative update on her page, expressing her horror. It caught the attention of the Dallas Morning News and has since been covered by local TV stations, as well as such publications as New York Daily News.
The real outrage here should be not placed on the laps of those working night and day at DAS to transfer thousands upon thousands of animals to rescue partners who are qualified and have legitimate 501(c)3 non-profit statuses. We cannot save them all, and DAS cannot house them all for an undetermined time until a group of unprofessional and inexperienced 'rescuers' are able to drum up a foster. That is how it works. It isn't always pretty, but that's why there are rescue groups in place to assist this massive crisis of animal overpopulation, neglect and abandonment.
Jones said that the shelter's primary concern was continuing to save animals' lives.
"DAS prides itself on caring for thousands of animals that staff members come into contact with each year," she said. "The city, DAS and community remain committed to our life-saving efforts and continued progress in this area."