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Updated Oct 1, 2009 - 10:54 am

County euthanizes dog by mistake

One Valley family is suffering through a pet owner's nightmare -- a dog euthanized by mistake after getting loose and being picked up by Maricopa County's animal control officers.

"Spaz," a brown boxer is gone, but his toys and food dish are still out at Samantha Downing's home in Chandler.

Downing said "Spaz" and companion "Chloe" got loose and a neighbor saw them picked up by animal control officers. Samantha and her mother, Rose, went to retrieve them the next day. They spotted "Chloe" immediately, but "Spaz" was nowhere to be found.

"We kept searching and searching and then we kept asking for help," said Rose Downing. "`You just have to look,' that's all they kept telling us."

Samantha said they kept searching with one worker who was helping them, then, "Another worker came up and said, `Oh, he was euthanized this morning.'"

She said she could not believe it because both dogs had microchips for identification.

She added she was upset that officers would not let her see her dog's body.

"I couldn't even say anything to him. I couldn't even look at him to make sure that was him."

Now, she is left with memories and a memorial on a living room table -- a picture of Spaz surrounded by candles, his toys and food dish nearby.

"When we would get home, Spaz would be there. He would be all happy and jumping around. And, when I get home now, it's just quiet," she said through tears. "It's really hard because he was always there for us."

More memories: "When he would get on you, he would wrap his arms around you. It was kind of like he was giving you a hug because he wouldn't jump."

Aprille Hollis of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control said a worker got Spaz mixed up with another dog that was to be euthanized. She said the worker who mixed up the dogs could face disciplinary action.

Microchips don't always work as intended, Hollis said.

"Every dog and cat that comes into our shelter is scanned on intake and, if they are going to be put down, they are scanned again. Sometimes, the chips move around and sometimes the wrong information pops up, so, unfortunately, it isn't error-proof."

She said animal control realizes the Downing family lost "a beloved pet." The agency offered the Downing family a new dog, and it accepted the offer.


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