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Family is devastated after their dog was euthanized after arriving at a Brooklyn shelter
By Melissa Koenig For Dailymail.Com,
A New York City family was left devastated after a shelter euthanized their beloved dog without asking them, just hours after the pup was found wandering the streets.
The Leons are now demanding justice for their small dog, Leona, who wandered out of their backyard in the Briarwood neighborhood of Queens on March 12.
She was found near Grand Central Parkway by a good Samaritan, who brought her to the Animal Care Centers of New York Brooklyn shelter.
When they first found out that Leona was at a shelter, Ericka Leon said, she felt relieved, figuring she would be able to pick up her dog under its 72 hour holding period — but her heart sank just moments later when someone at the shelter told her they decided to put down their 19-year-old dog.
The shelter is now defending their actions, citing the elderly dog's health problems, even as at least one New York City official is calling for an investigation.
The Leon family told News 12 Brooklyn that Leona had been missing for several hours on March 12 and were asking for the public's help in finding their dog, when someone reached out to them with a post from Animal Care Center of NYC’s Lost and Found page showing Leona at the Brooklyn shelter.
'I was happy, my family was happy,' Ericka said of finding out her dog was at the ACC. 'I heard the word shelter, and I was like "I’m good, everything’s safe."'
But when the shelter finally called her at around 2.30pm, she said, they started asking her questions — first to verify that she really was the dog's owner, and then questions about Leona's medical history.
Eventually, someone from the shelter told her during that conversation that they had already put Leona down.
'Within three to four hours, my dog was missing, found and killed,' Ericka told News 12.
The next day, she posted about the incident on Facebook, noting that she first woke up to find her father searching for Leona and she soon joined in the effort, but could not find her beloved pet until someone told her Leona 'was at a shelter safe and sound.'
She then went on to explain the pain she felt when she heard that her dog had been euthanized, writing: 'My innocent dog who was 19-years-old died in the hands of strangers. I didn't get [to] wake up and see my dog one last time.'
Then when she arrived at the shelter to pick up her dog, Ericka said, 'They treated my dog as an object, and weren't compassionate.'
She is now claiming that the ACC violated its own policy of waiting 72 hours to give potential pet owners time to reclaim them.
But the shelter has disagreed, saying veterinarians acted in the best interest of the dog, who was 19 years old and had several health conditions.
The group told NBC 4 New York how Leona was blind, deaf, had a heart murmur and several dental issues.
It said in a statement that a 'comprehensive physical exam was done by a veterinarian, indicating Leona was in a very debilitated state, suffering from progressive neurological symptoms.'
The ACC continued to note that 'the law specifically states that although the stray-hold period is 72 hours, euthanasia may be performed if a licensed veterinarian deems that the animal is suffering.'
Ericka, though, insists the dog was just suffering from old age, writing on Facebook on March 15: 'My dog's medical conditions are normal for a dog of 19 years! She was living a great life.
'ACC is painting this narrative that she was suffering and they did the right thing. Making it seem as if we were neglectful and unaware of our dog's condition. As if we haven't been by her side for 19 years.'
And her brother, Juan Carlos argued, 'She should have come home to us, and she should've died on our terms.
'Our family should have made that decision when to start her end-of-life story.'
New York City Councilmember James Gennaro is now requesting that the Department of Health, which oversees animal control centers, open an investigation into the situation.
In the meantime, the Leons are considering bringing legal action against the shelter.
'No matter how much it hurts, I am gonna talk about this everyday and fight for it every day,' Ericka vowed.
Juan Carlos, meanwhile, said: 'A part of me is truly gone. A part of us is truly gone.
'We need answers. My family wants answers. We don't understand how ACC operates like this.'
A Change.org petition calling for the city to end kill shelters has now garnered nearly 2,000 signatures.
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