What a tragedy that a dog turned over temporarily to an animal shelter was accidentally euthanized. It’s a nightmare for the family — and for animal shelter personnel.

There’s no feel-good element to the story, no happy resolution. All that anyone can do is try to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.

It began with a 16-month-old Australian Cattle Dog named Blaze owned by the Varker family. He nipped a child, apparently by accident, but seriously enough to require a visit to the doctor. The doctor was required to report the incident, which led to Blaze being taken to the Davidson County Animal Shelter for a 10-day quarantine — all proper.

But there was a mistake in the intake paperwork, Assistant County Manager Casey Smith told BH Media’s Jenny Drabble. “Due to the overwhelming number of animals coming in and a limited staff, especially on weekends, this dog was crisscrossed with another dog scheduled to be euthanized that probably looked similar,” Smith said. “It was an unfortunate mistake.”

“He was a puppy, pretty rambunctious, but not a dangerous dog at all,” Joey Varker, who has sons ages 5, 8 and 10, told BH Media. “Our kids, they don’t understand how or why it happened. Neither do we, but we can handle it better. They’re really broken up.”

“Now my 8-year-old son cries himself to sleep at night because of this mistake,” Varker said.

That’s understandable.

After the incident, Smith sought the family out and offered recompense, in the form of money or another dog. The family felt insulted by the gesture.

“I offered what I could do to make it less painful for them, but obviously we can’t undo this,” Smith said.

Of course, losing a good pet like this is confusing and painful for Blaze’s family.

It’s also got to be painful for the employee or employees who made the error. People don’t go to work for the animal shelter because they dislike dogs. They’re drawn to the work because they like animals and want to help them. Those involved are probably crying themselves to sleep, too.

In the wake of the incident, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture is investigating. And the shelter is looking at a number of internal measures to prevent such an occurrence in the future, Smith told the Journal. They include matching dogs set to be euthanized to a smartphone picture taken at intake and possibly putting tags on dogs’ ankles or an orange dot on their shoulders with animal-safe paint, to avoid confusion.

But the real tragedy is that, in our enlightened age, the intake number at this shelter and others throughout the state is still so high. Like many county shelters, the Davidson County Animal Shelter is stretched thin on resources and kennel space, Smith said. About 40 to 50 “bite dogs” are taken into the shelter each month for quarantine, he said. That’s too many.

It’s more important than ever that pet owners take responsibility for themselves and for their pets by neutering and spaying them, by properly socializing them and by giving them the time and attention they require to be healthy.

None of the shelter’s proposed actions will bring Blaze back, but they might prevent others from being in his position.

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