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Investigation explores why dog was euthanized 45 minutes after shelter arrival

7:14 PM, Apr 23, 2012   |    comments
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"Zeus" was euthanized less than an hour after he was dropped off at Hernando County Animal Services. The incident has sparked outrage and even death threats against employees of Hernando County Animal Services.



Months ago, Alexandria Lancaster and her roommate found a puppy named Zeus on the street. His abdomen was bulging, and Lancaster says she couldn't help but bring him home to safety.

"He was so sweet," she says. "He'd just love up on you."

But Lancaster and her roommate had to give the 8-month-old dog up for financial reasons. On Friday afternoon, just before closing time, they surrendered him to the Hernando County Animal Shelter.

Just 45 minutes after Zeus was turned over to the shelter, according to Lancaster and animal services officials, he was euthanized. County policy currently says dogs surrendered by their owners must be held at the shelter for at least a week.

Fire Chief Mike Nickerson, who also oversees animal services, says it appears Zeus was put to sleep because there weren't enough available kennels to hold him. At the time, nine kennels were open. However, policy requires at least 15 to be vacant on Friday at closing time, in case a lot of dogs come to the shelter over the weekend.

But shelter volunteers say a woman was prepared to adopt Zeus. Upon arriving at the shelter Monday morning, it was eventually revealed that Zeus had been put to sleep.

Now, Hernando County officials are starting an investigation into what happened, including whether policies need to be changed to allow more dogs at the shelter for a longer period of time.

That will be discussed at the meeting of Hillsborough County Commissioners on Tuesday at 9 a.m.

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