Workers at a Brooklyn animal shelter euthanized a lost, elderly dog just hours after it was brought in by a good Samaritan — breaking the hearts of the owners who said 19-year-old Leona deserved a chance to live out her life.
Every pet owner’s worst nightmare began at 9 a.m. on March 12 when the French Poodle Maltese — all 9 pounds of her — somehow slipped out of her Briarwood, Queens home.
“She had done this in the past, but she always comes back or someone always brings her back,” a heartbroken Ericka Leon, 24, told The Post.
But by 1 p.m., with still no sign of Leona — who wasn’t wearing a collar “because she had gotten a bath the day before” — Leon became increasingly worried, and posted a picture of her missing pup on Ring Neighbors, a social media app that connects residents.
Within minutes, someone responded with a post that had gone up on the Animal Care Center of NYC’s Lost and Found webpage, featuring a picture of Leona — renamed Ellis by the shelter — and saying she’d been found “in the middle of [a] busy road” close to Smedley Street, just a block away from the Leon family home.
“I kept calling [the ACC] and no one would answer … I just patiently waited for them to call me. I knew she was there so I was just waiting for the call,” Leon recalled.
At 2:30 P.M., the family could finally exhale. Someone from the Brooklyn ACC shared the good news — Leona was safe.
“They called me super excited, saying ‘We found your dog!’ And I’m excited obviously because I heard my dog was in the shelter – I thought my dog was good,” Leon said.
Thirty minutes later, their world was turned upside down.
“They proceeded to slowly tell me that they took it upon themselves to get Leona checked out by a veterinarian and … they just made this decision to euthanize her,” Leon said, her voice cracking.
“I’m offended because they made it seem like my dog was alive and well when they called around 2:30 P.M,” but records later showed she had been put down at 1:10 P.M.
“I feel like my emotions were played with,” she said.
The city-funded shelter has refused to explain the time discrepancy to the family. “And they won’t even tell me the [time] when my dog walked into that facility,” she said.
An ACC veterinarian determined the pooch was suffering and needed to be put down.
A physical exam indicated “that she was in a very debilitated state and suffering from progressive neurologic symptoms,” agency spokeswoman Katie Hansen told The Post. “Leona was seen spinning in circles and was wobbly when walking.”
The decision to euthanize is protected by New York State law, but goes against ACC’s standard procedure, which is to hold stray animals for three days to give owners time to reclaim them, according to their website.
“Within only an hour or two, they made this decision on their own to kill my dog because she was spinning in circles – and to them, that was suffering?” Leon cried.
The family said she was just showing signs of old age.
“We knew all about these symptoms, but we couldn’t treat them because a vet, years ago, told us Leona would not survive [treatment], and to simply let her live her life until she gave out,” said Juan Leon, who is Ericka’s brother and who grew up with Leona from the time she was a puppy.
“We were well on our way to planning Leona’s end-of-life. … She was supposed to die on our terms – that was our decision to make – and this shelter took that away from us,” added Juan, 23.
Picking up their beloved pet brought more trauma. They were handed a condolence card along with a cardboard container with her lifeless body.
The Leon family plans to protest the agency’s actions at a 1 P.M. Saturday in front of the shelter at 2336 Linden Blvd.
“The protest is to fight what happened to my dog and that if shelters like this are still going to be up and running, the proper procedure should be taken,” Leon said.
For Juan, the point of the protest is to spread awareness “that this could happen to any dog,” he said.