Barbie with a toy, in a screengrab from a video apparently made by rescuers.
Contra Costa County Animal Services spokesman Steve Burdo says a 4 year old dog named Barbie was put on the June 18 kill list “after a series of evaluations by the department’s staff and medical team.” She appeared to have a mammary tumor. She also had two rescue groups who wanted to save her and had communicated that to the shelter. But Contra Costa killed Barbie anyway – by mistake. Oops.
“There were two rescues interested in this dog and the shelter manager overrode those notes and said to have her killed by the end of the day,” said Melissa Farley Law of Petaluma Pet Pals told CBS San Francisco on Thursday.
“I literally cried for three days,” she continued. “I couldn’t even look at her picture without crying. l just felt like I let her down.”
Rescues didn’t let her down. The people solely to blame for killing Barbie are the people who actually killed her – Contra Costa Co Animal Services. And they did more than just fail Barbie – they appear to have broken the law. Specifically the Hayden Act, which requires shelters to release pets to rescue groups willing to save them.
Tommy at Contra Costa Co Animal Services, as pictured on CBS SF.
In addition, a dog named Tommy who was killed around the same time, was reportedly also slated for rescue:
Rescue group member Melissa Farley Law said a second dog named Tommy had been pulled for adoption as well, but was instead euthanized.
Burdo said the department does not have any records confirming that a rescue group had shown interest in rescuing Tommy. He doesn’t believe there was a mistake.
No records. Now. So just punt, I guess. But let’s be clear, unless Tommy was medically hopeless and suffering, which his completely adorable photo seems to refute, killing him was a mistake. He had a right to live and it was Contra Costa County’s job to protect him from harm. Instead of doing their job, they killed Tommy. Just because the spokesman wants it known that the killing was intentional does not justify it in any way, shape or form. Tommy is irreplaceable.
There are records confirming rescue holds on Barbie. So there has been a two-pronged response by the county:
1. Distract with shiny thing.
Ironically, the “Barbie incident” comes on the heels of good news regarding the agency’s increasing live release rates. As of May 2016, around 80 percent of animals that were brought to the county shelter made it out alive, up from around 45 percent in 2011, CCAS spokesman Steve Burdo said.
“Not to take away from the incident with Barbie, but the situation with Barbie, if you’re asking me, seems more like the exception than the rule,” he said.
Breaking the law and killing dogs rescue groups are willing to save is not the rule at Contra Costa Co, it’s just the exception. Gee, I’m glad it’s not the rule. That would be bad. Seeing as it’s just the exception, I guess we can let it slide.
Barbie’s death was not an incident or a situation, by the way. It was a tragedy which a state law was enacted in order to prevent. Barbie is irreplaceable.
2. Investigate yourself!
“We’re going to take this opportunity to learn and improve our process so this never happens again.”
Burdo said the department is investigating the incident internally.
I can’t think of anything that would give me more confidence. Except possibly an investigation by a specially appointed piece of cardboard with aspirations of higher office.
Anyway, if you feel like bawling your eyes out, watch this video of Barbie, apparently posted to social media by rescuers the day she was oops-killed, playing, being social and generally loving life.
Barbie had the right to live and to love. So did Tommy, despite what recordkeeping, or lack thereof, may exist at Contra Costa Co. Barbie’s needless and apparently unlawful killing is not “an opportunity” nor should it be waved off as merely “an exception.” Barbie, like Tommy, and like every other shelter pet, was exceptional. That’s the part too many shelters don’t get. There are and will be other friendly, happy dogs in our broken shelter system. But there will never be another Barbie. Or Tommy. Or any of the millions of others whose lives are snuffed out each year in the name of “animal services.” Taxpayers of Contra Costa Co, this is your animal shelter. Let your elected officials know exactly what services you want. Demand that compassionate people are immediately put into place who are committed to treating every animal as exceptional. Accept nothing less.