Vanessa Thomas of Petersburg, Virginia, fell on tough times and found herself unable to care for her pit bull, Patty. Thomas turned Patty over to a local animal shelter March 5 in the hopes that someone would adopt the animal.
But according to reports, Thomas quickly had a change of heart. She went back to the animal shelter the next day when it opened and asked to have Patty returned to her. She was then informed that the pit bull had been euthanized the night before.
"I'm distraught because I loved her," Thomas told WRIC. "I thought I was doing something to help her, maybe someone would adopt her and give her a home."
Thomas said the shelter told her it would try to find an adoptive family or a rescue agency for Patty, using euthanization only as a last resort.
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In the release that Thomas signed, she handed over guardianship to the city of Petersburg. The release also stated that the dog may be immediately euthanized or disposed of in accordance with local laws and protocols.
Deborah Broughton, the warden of Petersburg Animal Shelter, said she believed her actions in euthanizing the animal were clearly justified due to its aggressive nature.
"The dog came at me, he came at my leg," Broughton said. She also stated that the dog was alive at the shelter "probably just right at an hour" before being put down.
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The dog's file with the local veterinarian also had a "Caution" sticker, normally given to dogs with aggressive tendencies. But more blatant descriptions like "will bite" and "dog aggressive" that are also frequently stamped on dogs' files were not on Patty's file.
Thomas says Patty was never aggressive, reports CountryLiving.
When asked why the dog was not given at least 24 hours in the shelter before being euthanized, Broughton said it wasn't necessary.
"The owner no longer wants the dog, and I don’t know that I have any way whatsoever of obtaining a new owner for this dog," Broughton said. "She has already tried to bite me, she’s not happy, she’s in a stressful environment and so the odds are just not good in favor of her.”
Thomas signed over legal custody to the dog when she surrendered her to the shelter, and what Broughton did was protected under local law.
“What I can tell you is when I make decisions, I try to make decisions so where I can put my head down at night, and feel like I made the right decision, and I feel like I still made the right decision,” Broughton said.
"It’s not right what they are doing down there, it’s not right. It is not right,” Thomas said.
Broughton said the decision was difficult but ultimately correct. When asked further about instituting a mandatory 24-hour holding period, she said she would not support it.