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Contra Costa Animal Services Mistakenly Euthanized Two Dogs

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- Contra Costa County Animal Services is investigating why two dogs were mistakenly euthanized after local rescue groups proposed saving the animal earlier this month, a department spokesman said Thursday.

A 4-year-old pit bull named Barbie should have been taken off the Martinez-based animal department's list of animals slated to be euthanized on June 18 but wasn't for still-undetermined reasons, spokesman Steve Burdo said.

"Everyone here is heartbroken about it," Burdo said. "We're going to take this opportunity to learn and improve our process so this never happens again."

The dog was identified as a candidate for euthanasia after a series of evaluations by the department's staff and medical team, Burdo said.

Rescue groups called the department expressing interest in saving the dog, which Burdo said should have triggered a process in which the dog was taken off the list for euthanasia.

Karen Conover, founder of Beau's Bridge Club, said her animal welfare organization was among the groups that proposed rescuing the dog.

Conover said Petaluma Pet Pals had reached out to Animal Services first and it was anticipated that the dog would be given to that organization.

Word later got around in the tight-knit animal welfare community that the dog was euthanized, Conover said.

"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."

The agency is also looking into the death of a second dog named Tommy, who was also euthanized at around the same time.

Tommy dog euthanized in CoCo County
Tommy, a dog accidentally euthanized by CoCo County animal services (CBS)

Despite having concerns, Conover said she was not pointing fingers at the county department. She said the agency has "bent over backwards" to help Beau's Bridge Club rescue animals in the past.

Burdo said the department is investigating the incident internally.

He explained that the agency has nearly doubled its live animal release rate between 2011 and May of this year.

"We're saving more lives than we ever have before," Burdo said. "What happened ... is an exception rather than the rule. And that's not to say that it was OK. We've got to identify the problem and fix (it)."

County officials said they hope to wrap up their investigation by the end of the week.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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