Special Report: Dog Death Dilemma

City spokesperson admits shelter staff made mistakes.

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — For nearly three weeks, 10 On Your Side has been investigating why a local animal shelter euthanized a dog at the center of a criminal investigation.

“It’s sad man. She didn’t deserve to die like that,” said Corey Warren, remembering his 2.5-year-old Rottweiler Lucky. Warren says Lucky came into his life after he was shot and left paralyzed from the waist down following a home invasion.

On February 2, Warren put Lucky out in his backyard. It appears Lucky then ran out of the yard through a side gate that was left open.

Hampton Incident Report | February 2

Paulette Molin who lives on the next street over from Warren was taking her daily afternoon walk with her husband, Lawrence, when she walked by Warren’s home. Molin says Lucky attacked her on the right leg, “The dog came charging at us, jumped up on me, bit me, and then we kept backing away from it trying to get away.” Lawrence Molin, who was not injured in this attack, says Lucky bit him in 2014, and Warren appeared in court for that attack. The judge in that case ruled there was sufficient evidence, but deferred the sentence until August 2016, basically putting Lucky on probation.

10 On Your Side asked Warren about these past attacks, “My dog has never attacked anyone.” We asked Lawrence Molin when Warren says it wasn’t his dog what do you say to that? A quickly replying Lawrence says, “Bull Sh**. You can put that on film.”

After the February 2 attack against Ms. Molin, Hampton Police were called to the Molin home. It so happens while they were there another victim came forward saying she was jogging past the same house earlier in the day when the Rottweiler bit her. Hampton Police filed four charges against Warren including ‘dog at large while attacking.’

Warren returned to court on February 16 and March 9 to answer the charges, but each day the case was continued. Warren says he confronted Asst. Hampton City Attorney Therese Price, “I go to court, and they wanted to continue it again. I said (to Price) ‘My dog has been in here over a month. I want my dog back.'”

In court on March 9 everyone is unaware that back on February 12 the staff at The Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter euthanized Lucky. Lucky is dead. At the March 9 hearing the case was continued to March 30. Hampton Animal Control calls Shelter Director Roger Isles to inform him of the continuance and to continue to hold the dog, and it is then that they find out Lucky was wrongly euthanized back on February 12.

Timeline: February-March 2016

Newport News has phone records showing several attempts were made to contact Warren. City spokesperson Kim Lee says they were calling a number provided by Hampton Animal Control that turned out to be a wrong number for Warren. Hampton Police officials say they gave the number to the shelter that they had on file for Warren from the 2014 attack. Warren disagrees with that, and says he has no idea where they got that number. When Hampton realized Warren still had not been contacted, Hampton Police went to his home and told Warren the shelter had been trying to get in touch with him.

Warren got in touch with director Roger Isles, “He says I just want to inform you that Lucky was put to sleep.” I said, ‘What do you mean you put my dog to sleep?'” Warren then says Isles told him Lucky was dead. “I reminded him that no judge ever gave his consent to do that, and this involves a court proceeding. Isles then tells me, ‘I know, Sir; it’s totally our fault. It’s a mistake on our behalf.'”

10 On Your Side went to the Animal Shelter, which is in and is operated by the City of Newport News, to find out how a dog that is part of an ongoing criminal case could be destroyed before trial? Isles was unavailable, so we contacted Newport News Spokesperson Kim Lee. She had nothing to do with the incident, but agreed to appear in our report to answer the critical questions. “This was a tragic and unfortunate incident, and we deeply regret what happened to Lucky.”

Lucky’s Custody Record | Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter

Lee has determined Lucky was killed due to errors on a Kennel Card found on the front of the cage in a plastic sleeve. She says the staff did not take the paper work out of the plastic sleeve to look at it. Had they done so, and unfolded it, they would have seen that it was clear Lucky is a “Bite-Hold + Court Hold. Has attacked 3 times.” That means Lucky is in the kennel for a bite incident that requires he be held. He is also part of a court case and should be held because he has attacked three times. Clearly this dog should not have been euthanized. Lee pointed out another error, “It says no bite history, but it is also on a bite hold, so there was a bite. There were lots of mistakes made in this situation,” Lee quietly acknowledged.

There’s more. The Kennel Card also states Lucky was a stray, but she was not a stray. So when the quarantine period of 10 days was complete on February 12 the shelter considered Lucky a stray. She had not been claimed, and would then by policy become the property of the shelter. At that point the shelter employees themselves decided to put down Lucky, “It was human error. Actually it was a series of human errors that we deeply regret, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future,” said Lee.

The charges from the February 2 case were dropped because of the shelter’s mistakes. “Yes we are disappointed in that, yes,” said Lawrence Molin, “It was kind of sloppy work, yea.” The Molins are satisfied Lucky is dead, but they wish a charge against Warren for having a dangerous or vicious dog had not also been dropped, “That part disappointed me. That guy didn’t come up on charges because he had a criminal charge.”

On the other side is Corey Warren who says he and Lucky were denied due process, since Lucky was put down before a court ruling. “I really feel that they wanted to put her to sleep anyway. I feel like they had no regard for her life. It was like she meant nothing to nobody.”

Following this case, Lee says they are retraining the staff, “We review our policies and procedures with all staff members to make sure they know what to do on hold cases, and who the actual owner is.”

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