Dog mistakenly put down at animal shelter

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

Clarence Baker will never forget the day he met the dog that would become his best friend. He was on his 100-acre farm at Rock Camp when he heard a noise coming from a wooded area nearby.

“Pretty soon a little black ball of fur came crawling down the little deer path,” Baker said. The dog’s mother had had her litter in the woods. Baker adopted the black labrador, which he named Lucky, as his own and raised it.

Baker is now grieving the loss of his best friend after the dog was mistakenly put down at the Lawrence County Animal Shelter in mid July.

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The dog had gotten out of the man’s Eighth Street yard July 4 and was picked up by the city dog warden in Woodland Cemetery.

For nine days Baker and his family searched for the dog until someone from the animal shelter called him at 8:30 a.m. July 13, Baker said.

He went in to pick up the dog at 10 a.m. only to be told that they could not find the animal.

Two days later his daughter, Ruthanne Delong, called the shelter back and was told the dog had beendestroyed, she said.

“I started screaming and I said, ‘how could you do that?’’ Delong said.

Delong said the family did not call the animal shelter while the dog was missing because the dog had valid dog tags and they thought the shelter would call them if they found him.

Dog Warden Bill Click blamed the incident on a miscommunication within the shelter.

Click said he was told that a clerk at the shelter had twice called the owner listed on the dog tags and was told that it did not belong to him, Click said.

When Baker, the correct owner, was contacted, no one in the shelter told Click that the owner planned to pick up the dog, so Click destroyed it. Click said he is sorry for what happened to the dog and that he could not

do anything to make it up to the family.

“I don’t know what to do,” Click said. “I can’t replace that dog. If there’s anything I could do I would. There’s no way to replace that dog.”

These days Baker still misses the dog he says got him through recovering from heart surgery and grieving the loss of his wife.

“I look out the back window every time I walk through the house to see if he’s there,” Baker said.

His daughter would like to see changes made in how the shelter keeps track of dogs.

“I want procedures set in place so that this will not happen again to

another family,” Delong said.

Delong is proposing a new form that dog owners can fill out when they

register their pets. The form would contain a photograph of the dog as well as the breed, up to four different contacts for the dog and a space for shelter workers to note when they attempted to contact the dog’s owners.

“I want all avenues exhausted before they put down a dog,” Delong said.

She plans to present her idea at the next meeting of the Lawrence County Commission.

Click said the current policy of calling the owner listed on the dog tag and keeping the dogs in the shelter for two weeks works just fine.

“There’s no reason to change the policy, it’s a good policy,” Click said.

Click encouraged people to keep their dogs at home.

“If this dog hadn’t been away from home, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “We wouldn’t put anyone’s dog to sleep deliberately, we just wouldn’t do it.”