SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Volunteers at a Bay Area animal shelter said dogs are unfairly being sent to their deaths, instead of being sent to the foster families that want them. They also accuse the shelter of kicking them out for speaking up.

Eli, an 18-month-old Staffordshire terrier cross, ate a whole tennis ball last November at the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control shelter. He was euthanized eight days later.

“Eli should have gotten veterinary care immediately when he swallowed that tennis ball,” said Vickie Brown of No Kill Sonoma County.

Brown said Eli’s medical records showed he received morphine, but not an x-ray or exam by a veterinarian. She said that’s a violation of Hayden Law, rules for animal care in California shelters.

Amy Cooper, the shelter’s director, would only respond to KPIX 5’s request for comment via email. She said the shelter put him down because of “aggressive behavior and medical conditions.”

Volunteer Dixie Keith said Eli, a friendly dog, wasn’t given a fair chance.

“Imagine if you’re sitting in the back with a tennis ball in your gut? I think I would be grouchy,” Keith said.

In another case in December, the shelter euthanized a senior dog, Shasta, less than 24 hours after she started antibiotics for severe diarrhea.

Volunteer Shirlee McLean said Shasta appeared to be improving. “She was wagging her tail. She sat with me, she kept wanting to eat,” McLean said.

But McLean said a staff member yanked Shasta from her arms, and euthanized her.

“I pleaded with her urgently and said ‘Please wait, please wait, this isn’t right,” she recalled.

The shelter director told KPIX 5 the dog was put to sleep because she had “signs of depression, lethargy” and weight loss. And Shasta had “collapsed in her kennel several times.”

In both cases, Keith and McLean say they had already lined up foster and rescue care for the dogs.

They said after they questioned the shelter’s decision to euthanize, the shelter told them not to come back.

“We all wonder, what’s the rush? Why not give these dogs a chance?” Keith said.

Cooper said the decision to euthanize a pet is on an individual basis, depending on health and behavior. As for the two volunteers, she said they were not able to perform within the shelter’s conduct standards.

No Kill Sonoma County is looking into taking legal action.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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