A Saanich woman wants the Capital Regional District (CRD) to change its policies after one of her dogs died in its animal shelter.
Avery Phoenix McDermott says her Shih Tzu dog Rosie might still be alive if she had a way to pick her up from the shelter, or if somebody at the shelter had monitored the animal more closely.
“Had I been given the option to take my dog home so she didn’t spend the night there she might still be here,” McDermott wrote in a Facebook post. “We don’t know that for sure, but what we do know is that it is unacceptable for the dogs to be left alone in an unfamiliar place all night.”
In a follow up interview with the Saanich News, the eighteen-year-old said she is not blaming staff for the death of her dog. In fact, she hopes to work with the shelter to prevent a similar incident in the future.
“I’m just trying to come up with a solution,” she said, before voicing ideas such as longer opening hours or some sort of a system that utilized volunteer supervisors.
On April 25, the animal shelter of the CRD received Rosie and her sister Coco, after the duo had escaped through a faulty front door of McDermott’s residence in the Quadra-Cloverdale area of Victoria.
“After phoning around we finally found out that they were in the custody of the CRD,” she said. By this time, it was around six o’clock, an hour-and-a-half after the shelter had closed at 4:30 p.m. “We had no idea they closed so early, we would have driven out right away to get them.”
When McDermott travelled to the animal shelter to pick up her dogs the next morning, staff told her that Rosie had died. “I was absolutely shocked and did not believe she was talking about my dog,” said McDermott, adding that she broke down. “After collecting myself, I picked up my other dog Coco and began making arrangements for Rosie’s body.”
McDermott said Rosie was a happy and healthy dog, weighing about 6 pounds, and just shy of her 10th birthday.
“She had no existing health concerns and was very well taken care of,” said McDermott. “Although she did suffer from some pretty bad anxiety, she is a very small dog so the world is very loud and big to her. She is not used to being anywhere but home and certainly not in a kennel with other dogs. She was scared and confused and unfortunately her anxiety got so bad that her heart could not take it and she passed away. Her sister Coco was by her side.”
McDermott at one stage considered an autopsy, but eventually decided against after consulting with her veterinarian.
“We are pretty sure she scared herself to death.”
McDermott is now pushing for changes to the opening hours at the animal shelter, which currently run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. These hours appear “extremely unreasonable and unacceptable,” she said. “Who can come get their pets in that time frame?” she said in her post.
If the shelter cannot stay open longer, then it should also offer some level of supervision, she said.
“If we don’t have the option to come and pick our pets up and look after them ourselves, then we should at least feel confident that they are safe in the custody of someone else and guarantee that they will be there for us to pick up in the morning,” she said.
McDermott said the death of Rosie has broken her heart. “I am now watching my dog Coco grieve the loss of her sister and lifelong best friend,” she said. “My dog watched her sister pass away next to her and laid there with her till whenever they came to get her in the morning.”
According to a published report, it is standard operating procedure for animals to remain alone overnight, while in the shelter.
McDermott acknowledged this aspect, but also believes that it might be possible to establish some sort of system of volunteers, who would spend with the animals while the shelter was closed.
She plans to present her plans to Shawn Carby, CRD’s senior manager of protective services, whom the Saanich News has contacted for comment on this incident.
McDermott said she knows that she cannot bring Rosie back to life. “But hopefully we can come together to have this improved so no other family has to go through what we are going through,” she said.