'We euthanized the wrong dog'

ROSEBURG, Ore. - After her dog Sadie bit her on the lip, Tammi Ritz sought medical attention at the hospital.

Hospital staff reported the bite to animal control officials, who impounded Sadie at Saving Grace Rescue & Adoption until Ritz could furnish paperwork showing her dog was vaccinated against rabies.

"Tammi came to pick up her dog," said Wendy Kang, the shelter's executive director. "We dug out the paperwork for the dog to go home, and we took Tammi back to get her dog out of the kennel - and she told us that was not her dog.

"We had two heelers in quarantine at the same time," Kang said, "and we euthanized the wrong dog."

The mistake crushed Ritz.

"The dog that was supposed to be put to sleep was a male with no tail," she told KVAL News. "I go home, and there's nobody to greet me. And my husband comes home from his job at the coast, and she's not there for him.

"It has devastated us," she said. "It has ripped our hearts out. I am so angry and so hurt that someone could make such an incompetent mistake."

Both dogs were in quarantine at the time.

"Before any animal is euthanized, a double check of the paperwork that is associated with that animal, and double checking to make sure that this is the right animal that you have," Kang said. "We simply missed the fact that the paperwork that we had that we were going to euthanize did not match the dog we actually had.

"It's the kind of thing that's just one of worst nightmares come true," she said. "It's something we have a lot of procedures in place to prevent, but it happened anyway."

To try to prevent something like this from happening again, Kang said Saving Grace plans to add a second, separate ID to dogs held in quarantine.

"We're already starting to put a secondary ID on every animal that's here," she said.

For Ritz, the pain from the error compounded when she learned she wouldn't be able to take Sadie's body for burial: The shelter had taken her dog's body to the dump.

"So, now you're going to tell me not only did you kill my dog by mistake, but you threw her in the garbage like trash?" she told KVAL News. "I trusted them to take care of her. I want to see changes made. I want to see Douglas County reevaluate their laws.

"She's not trash to me," Ritz said. "She deserves to be at home with me."