A Freeport woman is calling for an investigation and reforms at the Hempstead Animal Shelter after town officials said her terminally ill dog was euthanized before she could be notified.
Jessica De La Rosa’s 13-year-old dog, Oso, got out of her backyard last Friday morning before she went to work. She said she didn’t know where her dog was until she saw a community Facebook post Friday night that her dog had been taken to the Hempstead shelter.
Hempstead officials said a resident found the dog Friday morning near De La Rosa’s house and took it to an emergency veterinary hospital in Farmingdale because town officials believed the dog had been hit by a car.
Oso was not eating and walking oddly and the veterinary hospital recommended the dog be euthanized, town officials said. Hempstead officials requested further testing, which found a cancerous tumor in the dog’s bladder. The dog was monitored overnight but did not improve, town spokesman Mike Deery said.
De La Rosa said her dog was healthy, although the dog had not been examined since July. She said the dog had a back injury last summer but was still able to walk. She said she contacted the shelter Saturday morning, and shelter employees told her that her dog was put down and she needed to come to the shelter to identify him.
“I didn’t know he was sick. Everyone loved him and he was able to walk on his own,” De La Rosa said tearfully during a news conference Thursday. “There’s no need to put down a dog without their owner’s consent.”
Town officials at the animal shelter said they found no reports of a missing dog before he was euthanized the next morning. The dog had no collar or microchip.
Officials said the decision to euthanize was made Saturday morning when the dog showed no improvement and “had a vastly diminished quality of life.”
The shelter followed a state law that allowed veterinarians to euthanize an animal when they are suffering or sick, rather than follow the normal five-day waiting period for healthy strays, Deery said.
De La Rosa was joined by animal advocates who have pending lawsuits against the shelter, claiming mistreatment of animals and mismanagement of the shelter’s procedures.
Democratic Hempstead Supervisor candidate Laura Gillen, who attended the news conference, said she would welcome an investigation of the shelter.
“This was an outrageous and heartless act and another example of abuse where political connections and patronage are more important than the care of our animals,” Gillen said.
Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino did not comment.