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Euthanized dog in Henderson stirs up controversy

Henderson, Texas (KETK) - Controversy at the City of Henderson Animal Shelter.

Folks around town say they have had problems with the facility in the past, but a recently euthanized dog has put some people over the edge.

On August 3rd the Henderson Animal Shelter euthanized a dog named "Rex".

Rex was surrendered to the shelter after killing a chicken.

"Friends of Henderson Animal Shelter" posted pictures and videos of rex in hopes he would be adopted.

Jessica Harvey took note and wanted to adopt him.

"I went to go look at Rex and immediately when I walked up I realized he was too small, my dog is 75 pounds and I wanted a bigger dog and this dog would have never gotten to that size," Jessica Harvey, who is concerned about the shelter.

Harvey asked the employee if Rex had any problems and was told no, but the employee had other concerns.

"She was concerned that if he would attack a chicken that if a child got in between him and a chicken that it would bite the child," said Harvey. "I informed her at that point that attacking a chicken didn't bother me, that's just a behavior a lot of dogs would have."

However a video showed rex to be calm and well mannered around a young girl.

Still, Harvey chose not to adopt Rex knowing plenty of others said they were willing to adopt him.
 
"I didn't get any sense when I left that she was going to euthanize him as soon as I walked out the door," said Harvey.

Rex had one more visitor, a man, minutes after Harvey left.

"At that point she told him that the dog was aggressive and was going to be euthanized," said Harvey.

Rex was put down almost immediately after that.

A concerned citizen called the shelter wanting to know if Rex was still there, she recorded the phone call and heard a conflicting story.

On the recording the citizen asks the employee what happened to Rex and was told,"...there was an adopter here looking at him and she wouldn't adopt him because he was showing aggression so he had to be euthanized, per city policy."

When the citizen asked why they euthanized Rex early in the day rather than after 4:00 p.m. when adoptions stop she heard another conflicting story.

A male voice said: "it wouldn't have mattered this morning, I was out here doing some work and the dog went after the lady (Harvey) and some puppies."

We spoke to the animal shelter director to find out more.

"The dog was actually showing aggression towards other dogs in the kennel beside it," said Chad Taylor, Henderson Police Chief and Animal Control Director. "Which was another indicator that it might not be good for adopting."

However shelter animals, particularly owner surrenders, may seem aggressive to the untrained eye but they are actually showing signs of stress.

"This is not an environment that he is used to," said Harvey. "When dogs are in a stressful environment in a shelter for days on end the more they're there the more that they become stressed, typically. I rescued a dog two and a half years ago and he had the opposite behavior. He quit eating, he lost a lot of weight, he was 34 pounds when I got him, he's now 75 (pounds) if that paints a picture."

Taylor maintains Rex was euthanized due to his aggressive nature, and it's against shelter policy to adopt any animal that is sick or aggressive.

Animal shelters can get into legal trouble should they adopt an animal they know is aggressive.

Should the animal cause harm to another animal or a person the shelter could be sued, some even call it an "easy lawsuit".

"Our goal is to adopt out as many animals as possible," said Taylor. "Our goal is to not put down as many animals as what we do, we don't want to put any animals down if we can help it."

Since the day Rex was euthanized, the shelter seems to be responding to the backlash.

Volunteers and visitors have been turned away, gates have been put up to keep non-employees from seeing the animals and other gates have been locked and closed to the public.

A professional photographer, who routinely visits the shelter and take pictures of strays in hopes of creating a network to get the dog or cat returned to their owner, was also turned away.

"I don't know specifically who was told or not told they could come back and do that," said Taylor. "What we did is we put up an area where we could control it a little bit better because what has happened in the past is that people have come in and mistakenly taken pictures of animals to put up for adoption without talking to our animal control officers....We're just trying to control the situation."

Taylor says animals that come in will still have their picture put on Facebook.

The shelter's Facebook page is full of negative comments, many expressing their disgust at the shelter's kill rate.

Harvey sees the new policy regarding volunteers and photographers as retaliation for the backlash.

"Multiple shelters take pictures of stray holds, you can look at all the shelters in our area they all take pictures of dogs on stray holds and publicize them," said Harvey. "So for them to change that, that is straight retaliation for the public becoming more involved and the concerns they have for the shelter."

She says not allowing a photographer take pictures of the strays and share them was "counterproductive".

Harvey says there were "at least 25" open kennels at the time Rex was euthanized.

The shelter also made major renovations and additions to the shelter over the past few months, all with donated money.

When KETK attempted to video the animals, we were told there were only four and the rest were strays that could not be videoed out of fear they may be mistaken for dogs up for adoption.

"(the extra kennels) are never used and so it's just flabbergasting that you use donated funds for this," said Harvey. "Then there's a publication in the Henderson newspaper on July 4 that the animal control specified that they are not a shelter, that they are animal control officers, they are only there for population control and that they are doing a courtesy to work with adopters and rescues and they are not required to do that."

However, on the City of Henderson website it is listed as an "animal shelter", the official Facebook page calls it an "animal shelter" and when employees answer the phone they call it the "Henderson Animal Shelter".

A change.org petition has started in hopes the shelter would "Minimize euthanization of animals...The petition seeks to find support for local animal lovers and activists to push the Henderson City Council, City Manager, and Mayor to make changes to the management practices of the local shelter."

A link to the petition can be found here.


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