Woman says animal shelter euthanized dog by mistake

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Woman Says Animal Shelter Euthanized Dog by Mistake

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A Forsyth County woman's dog was required to be quarantined at the animal shelter. However, when she went to pick him up, she found that a case of mistaken identity led to tragedy.

Ashley Burton adopted her border collie/lab mix about five years ago, when he was six weeks old, and named him Maximus. In June, Maximus – who she knew to be very protective – made a mistake.

"Maximus did what he thought he was supposed to do, which was protect my boyfriend. So, Maximus jumped up at the man and scratched his stomach," Burton said.

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Maximus had previously bitten someone who he thought was intruding at Burton's house. She said, since it was his second offense, he needed to be quarantined at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter for eight days.

"I was in tears and could barely speak with him because I just didn't want to let him go," Burton said.

After eight days without Maximus, the time came to pick him up. She went to the shelter on July 2nd to pick him up.

"She pulled up his picture, I said 'yes, that's Maximus,' and she goes 'Okay, well, we'll be right back, we're gonna go get him from the back for you,'" Burton recalled.

But when she returned, the dog she returned with was not Maximus. Instead, it was a pit bull mix named Spike. Burton then waited for about 30 minutes before being told to grab her things and was escorted to the manager's office.

"He said, I don't want you to panic right now, but we can't find your dog," Burton said.

Burton was then told there was nothing else she could do, and to go home while the shelter investigated.

Then, the phone rang.

"The manager at the shelter, he said, 'what was supposed to happen to Spike', the dog that they actually brought me, 'is what actually happened to Maximus,'" Burton said. "I said, 'so you mean Maximus was euthanized,' and he said, 'yes, he was euthanized and we are so sorry for your loss.'"

"I was angry, I was hurt, I was disgusted," Burton said. "Particularly the fact that the director of the animal shelter never contacted me, never offered his condolences or apologized."

"At some point, either the identifying kennel cards were switched, or the dogs themselves might have been switched," said Tim Jennings, Director of Forsyth County Animal Control.

Jennings said, since the picture taken of Maximus was not clear, and their descriptions were similar, it resulted in the mistake.

"The photograph is to be the definitive security issue, and in this case we could have done a better job there," Jennings said.

Jennings said the photograph issue, among others, has been addressed.

As for why Jennings never reached out to apologize to Burton, he said he "felt Scott had been dealing with the family and told me, you know, kept me updated; he is the manager of the facility so we felt that the department had been in communication."

Jennings also told FOX8 that this is not the first time the wrong dog has been euthanized at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter. He said a similar incident happened some time in 2014.

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