WRAL Investigates

Wake shelter plans changes after Sassy's death

Posted November 9, 2011

— The Wake County Animal Center is planning changes after an 8-month-old dog named Sassy was killed there hours after she appeared on WRAL's noon news Tuesday to be adopted.

After a meeting at the shelter on Wednesday, Wake County Deputy Manager Joe Durham said a decision was made to allow rescue groups to adopt sick animals, if they have a safe, quarantined area to treat them.

Wake County officials said some animals could be treated with antibiotics and saved, but the shelter doesn't have a quarantine area to treat them. SPCA officials say Wake County does have a quarantine and isolation area.

Durham released a statement on Wednesday saying that "it was a mistake" for Sassy to appear on TV as an adoptable dog.

"Sassy appeared to be healthy when she left the center. That evening, a kennel technician reported Sassy was demonstrating a 'honking cough and green nasal discharge,'" Durham wrote. "At that time, Sassy was identified as a dog that needed to be euthanized, based on her demonstrated symptoms."

Sassy, a Labrador/hound mix, appeared to be in good health Tuesday afternoon when she and a shelter staff member appeared on WRAL's noon news.

"She’s already spayed. We went ahead and did it earlier, so we can go ahead and send her home today," the woman said.

Shelter volunteers told WRAL News that someone saw Sassy on TV and wanted to adopt her, but she was put down around 5:30 p.m.

"She was such a great dog and very adoptable, and it's just sad that this is her outcome," said volunteer Julie Powers.

On Tuesday, the animal center posted Sassy's TV appearance on its Facebook page, writing: "Check out Miss Sassy on WRAL! She is sweet as sugar and all ready to go. :)"

Their Facebook page, as well as WRAL's, was inundated with comments Wednesday from people who were upset to learn about Sassy's death.

Nov. 8 Pet of the Day Sassy: Nov. 8 pet of the day

Center comes under fire

The animal center has come under scrutiny in recent months after volunteers complained that the shelter's kill rate has soared.

In January, the Wake County animal center euthanized 131 dogs, or about 18 percent of those brought in. By August, that number climbed to 327 dogs put down, or nearly 42 percent of the intake.

The center had set goals of moving toward a policy of increased adoptions, officials said, but a flood of incoming animals and the spread of sickness pushed up the euthanasia rate in recent months.

"I don't understand how Sassy, this lab/hound mix, can be 'Pet of the Day' on WRAL at noon and then dead by suppertime," said Hope Hancock, executive director of the SPCA.

Wake shelter kills 'Pet of the Day' dog Wake shelter kills 'Pet of the Day' dog

Shelter makes more changes

Durham said a third party veterinarian was brought in two weeks ago to review their policies. The vet will remain there for the next 45 days.

Durham said that the shelter has also amended its policy about euthanizing puppies and kittens that bite and scratch. In the past, any dog or cat that scratched or bit a worker or animal control officer was put on standard 10 day rabies watch and then euthanized. A new state statute requires that those animals be evaluated to see if it was a fear bite or aggression.

In the past two weeks, Durham said the decision was made to amend the policy concerning young animals. It was unclear how this policy would affect older animals.

Animal Shelter Director Dennis McMichael, who started the job Monday, was scheduled to do an interview with WRAL News Wednesday to talk about Sassy's death. When a reporter and photographer showed up, managers at the center said "things came up" and that they would not answer any questions.

WRAL tracked down McMichael, who said he was looking in to the issue. He declined to comment any further.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • jlb4ncsu Nov 17, 2011

    NEVER give any of your TIME or take any ABANDONED/RESCUED ANIMALS to the WAKE COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER!!! That DISGRACE OF AN ORGANIZATION put two COMPLETELY HEALTHY PUPPIES down on Sunday (the ones we were trying to find homes for that my brother in law found and gave to mom), when we took them up there for Parvo testing (which came back NEGATIVE) with hopes they would be RESCUED AND ADOPTED, since ...we couldn't handle having two more dogs, in that my mother Julie already has two great animals. When my mother called today to touch base on the dogs' well being, THIS FAILURE OF AN ORGANIZATION then claims that the dogs were too aggressive, therefore resulting in having to put them down. These animals were the most CALM and SWEET puppies you'll ever meet, and this is truly TRAGEDY to OUR FAMILY and the animal loving community... I NOW ABSOLUTELY DETEST this POOR EXCUSE of a facility that's supposed to look out for an abandoned animal's best interest, because they clearly DO NOT CARE and wi

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Nov 15, 2011

    Agreed, alphapack, it would be great if people volunteered.

    If they can’t, they can also prevent this suffering by ensuring that shelters have the facilities they need as well as an excellent education plan. We do this when we vote.

    If you vote for someone who just wants to slash-slash-slash gov’t, then this is the sort of thing that you get. For those people, I hope their sleep is frequently interrupted by the suffering and death that they are causing for a few extra dollars in the bank...day in and day out.

    This vicious circle of animal abandonment, suffering and death is not going away without funding and education.

  • alphapack Nov 14, 2011

    BTW: over 500 comments.How many of you want to truly get involved to stop gassing and start investigating all NC pounds? i.e. citizens group for political action.Stop blogging,stop repeating the obvious here.DO SOMETHING.Humans are the problem for animal cruelty,breeding and dumping.As humane humans we better step up and stop this.Are there more of "them"than more of "us"?frightening thought.

  • alphapack Nov 14, 2011

    here is an actual gassing of beautiful dogs in Yadkin,NC-instead of blogging obvious comments: Do something! organize to stop this!! wake up people.

  • second-chance-mom Nov 11, 2011

    Some people just want to complain and place blame, but everyone can do something to help instead of spreading hate. The shelter has a very limited budget and URIs are expensive to treat, and with the stress of the environment, there's no guarantee they'll recover. Instead of complaining about the high euthanasia rate, why not try fostering, adopting or even sponsoring a dog's treatment? Put your money where your mouth is! Otherwise, stop making life more difficult for the staff and volunteers who do their best to give these animals a chance at a better life.

  • Rebelyell Nov 11, 2011

    You guys don't want to hear the truth from the folks running the shelter. Politically incorrect. They have been put into a position where they cannot win. It's staggering the amount of area they have to cover with very few officers--too many towns don't want to have their own animal control, because it's politically incorrect. Animal control officers power to write citations has been so compromised that they seldom do it, judges don't support them in court. All you leave them with is a building full of animals and a rotten job to do.

  • sunneyone Nov 10, 2011

    "Considering the money it takes to manage these facilities in Wake County and euthanize dogs and cats, one would think if veterinarians were so compassionate about these animals, they would reduce the costs of spaying and neutering.

    It costs twice as much to spay/neuter a dog or cat in Wake County as opposed to some other neighboring counties. Less animals would have to be euthanized if less could reproduce.
    Click to view my profile sillywabbitthepatriot
    November 10, 2011 10:50 a.m."

    The SPCA has a low cost spay/neuter clinic that charges on a sliding scale based on income. My brother used them (and he lives in Fayetteville - set it up through his local shelter) when he got his cat last year.

  • sunneyone Nov 10, 2011

    "But as soon as someone adopts a dog with a known sickness or illness and it causes harm to the household and its family - these same folks who are reprimanding the shelter will cry foul that they were given a dog that made them sick.
    November 10, 2011 9:11 a.m."

    nclissy79, if the adopted animal has a known illness and that is disclosed to the adopter (who should be given all of the shelter's medical information on the pet), then the onus is on the adopter to follow up on the health of the animal and if there is a problem, the shelter is not at fault. This is part of being a responsible pet parent. I took my boy cat to the Vet the week after we got him from the SPCA in January. That's part of the adoption agreement.

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Nov 10, 2011

    That's good news. Glad to hear it. Maybe more dogs can be saved.


  • scubadanraleigh Nov 10, 2011

    anne53ozzy: Kennel cough is treated with antibiotics not bordetella...Bordetella (what you bought) helps prevent the kennel cough but its kinda like the flu shout.
    It is sad that so many innocent animals are being euthanized and not properly treated! Maybe this wrongful death and that of so many others will make the much needed change.