HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - After apologizing for euthanizing a dog set for adoption, Hillsborough County Animal Services continues to address protocol in order to prevent the same mistake in the future.
"I couldn't believe it. I felt horrible,"Ashley Beckham said. "Felt like it was our fault. If we would never have taken him there, he would still be here."
Beckham still has the bed and food bowls she bought for Jo-Jo. She adopted the German Shepherd mix as a puppy last year, but recently returned him to Hillsborough County Animal Services, hoping a family with more time would give him a better home.
The same day Jo-Jo's new family planned to pick him up, animal care assistants mistakenly euthanized him.
A memo released this week shows the investigation into his death continues, but HCAS faults employees for not following policy.
"I was excited for him," she said. "If I had any idea this would happen, we would've kept him. We had no idea."
Sources told ABC Action News that Jo-Jo's death wasn't the first fatal mistake. Records show at least 4 others over the summer, including an animal involved in an investigation.
Critics blame an overwhelming amount of animals and shifting policy as the county continues to implement the "Be The Way Home Program", aimed at reducing euthanasia rates.
"It's sad to euthanize an animal. It's tragic to euthanize one that already had someone who wanted them," said HCAS Director Ian Hallett.
They continue to make changes to prevent it, Hallett explained, streamlining the computer database so adoption information has its own category.
They've also updated the kind of animal identification they use, by choosing a new type of collar. The old collar identified the animal by number, but broke easily. If it fell off, that number went with it, and technicians euthanized by look.
"It could be hard based just on the description to know the difference," Hallett said.
Now, every animal that comes through in-take gets a new collar, made of similar material as concert or event wristbands. It is much more difficult to break.
If an animal's collar is missing, policy demands it be returned to its kennel.
HCAS hopes the new collar will guarantee new arrivals at least five days to find a new home.
"Each time we've gained new insight on how this error occurs and we've implemented something to keep it from happening," Hallett said.
"Going forward this will become more and more infrequent."
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