After a lost dog was mistakenly euthanized, Lexington's anguished animal control authorities Wednesday reminded the community "this is not what we do."
The Chihuahua was euthanized one day after it was picked up — four days before regulations allow, officials said. A worker left the agency after the death.
Capt. Tim Mitchell of Lexington-Fayette Animal Care and Control said Wednesday that he would not provide details about the worker's departure.
On Sunday, the worker designated the Chihuahua for euthanization. The dog was found Saturday without a collar on Lisa Drive near Carla Court, in a neighborhood between Paris Pike and Russell Cave Road.
"The worker grabbed the wrong dog instead of the one she intended to evaluate," Mitchell said.
The owners, a family that Mitchell said lived on Carla Court, filed a lost-dog report on Monday, he said. "We put two and two together."
Jonathan Minton first told WKYT-TV that the dog, named Peanut, belonged to his daughter Alyssa Minton, 7. Jonathan Minton said in an interview with the Herald-Leader that the dog got lost when it followed his daughter down the street to her friend's house; the family had taken his collar off to let his neck cool off..
When the unidentified Chihuahua was found, the animal control officer tried to find its owner by knocking on a door that neighbors had directed him to, but he could not find the dog's owner, Mitchell said.
The dog's death violated state and local laws requiring that Animal Care and Control wait a minimum of five days to euthanize a dog in its custody.
Lexington-Fayette Animal Care and Control provides the city's animal care and control services through an annual contract, according to the city's website.
The shelter receives about 10,000 stray, abandoned and relinquished animals every year, the website said.
Mitchell said Animal Care and Control and the Lexington Humane Society, a nonprofit organization that promotes animal adoption, are two separate entities, but both are headed by Lexington Humane Society president Susan Malcomb. The animal shelter is at 1600 Old Frankfort Pike.
Animals placed for adoption by the Humane Society must first pass a health and temperament evaluation by Animal Care and Control, Mitchell said. The Chihuahua apparently did not pass the temperament evaluation, he said.
If any kind of identification is available, Animal Care and Control will exhaust every possibility to reunite the animal and owner, Malcomb said.
Animal control "prides itself on providing a high level of service to the community, and this situation with Peanut is very upsetting," Malcomb said. "We have very strong protocol in place and interact with thousands of animals every single year. While this instance with Peanut is tragic, I hope that the community will realize that this is not what we do and the level of service that we provide."
Mitchell said he notified the family as soon as possible after the mistake was discovered and delivered the dog's cremated remains to their house.
"I can't remember the last time it happened," he said.''It's devastating to us."
Minton said that although the family is upset by the dog's death, he was impressed that Mitchell "actually took the time out of his day to come and knock on our door and say, 'We wrongly euthanized your dog. We greatly apologize.'"
Mitchell said the agency's policies are continually under review.
"It was human error," Mitchell said. "If we can make things better, we are going to. We will use this situation as an opportunity to learn and grow as an organization."