Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Howard Lake Police’s K-9 dog is accidentally euthanized

Nov. 23, 2009

When found, dog was described as being 'thin, in poor condition' by finder, humane society veterinarian

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By Lynda Jensen

HOWARD LAKE, MN – A series of unfortunate events led to the recent death of Felony, the K-9 dog in use by the Howard Lake Police Department.

The dog was accidentally euthanized by the Wright County Animal Humane Society in Buffalo, after escaping from its outdoor kennel Oct. 30, according to Police Chief Tracy Vetruba.

The dog, which was 10 years old, was not identified by the dog catcher or by the humane society. It had a choke chain on, but no tags.

Felony was found by resident Tammy Bren, who lives near the HLWW middle school by the corner of Ninth Avenue and Eight Street in Howard Lake, on the same day it was reported lost – Oct. 30.

“It looked like a stray farm dog that had wandered into town – very skinny,” she said. She owns a black lab herself, which is kept outdoors, similar to Felony’s arrangements.

This description is confirmed by the veterinary check given to Felony by the humane society when the dog was accepted Oct. 31.

“When our veterinary staff examined Felony, his body condition score was a 3 on a scale of 1 of 9 (with 9 being a very well-fed dog). This body condition measure is a standard measurement tool used by the veterinary community,” according to Ray Aboyan, who is the animal humane society chief operating officer.

“A ‘3’ score indicates ‘Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent.”

“The dog was described as ‘bony,’ confirmed Laurie Brickley of the humane society.

“Because he was a geriatric (older) dog, he could have had a prior condition, or he could have been losing body mass as an older dog,” Brickley added.

“We would concur with the Howard Lake woman who described the dog’s description of him as ‘thin and in poor condition,’” Brickley said.

Bren said this is exactly how she found Felony – thin and in poor condition, trying to get at dog food stored in the back of her house. “He was looking for food,” she said.

“Tammy told me that her dogs were overweight, so maybe Felony was ‘normal,’” Vetruba said.

Bren has two chihuahuas that are indoor dogs, along with her black lab, which she said was “twice as big” as Felony.

On the day Felony was found, Bren filled her bird feeder with dog food and let him eat. He growled at her when she made a motion toward the food, but took to a leash just fine, she said.

“We thought it had not been fed – it ate like it was really, really hungry,” she added.

The veterinary staff at the humane society recorded the dog’s behavior, as well.

“Our veterinary staff reported the dog to be ‘highly reactive’ to simple eye contact,” Brickley said.

“He was aggressive; snapping and growling, even when food was present. We would not consider this to be a dog to be a good candidate for adoption, and to be safe in a home with individuals or a family,” according to the veterinarian report.

“Although (the dog) was being cared for in the shelter with a bed and food, he continued to exhibit this behavior – even after five days,” Brickley reported.

As it stands, the day that Felony was found, Bren turned him over to the dog catcher, Wayne Kozitka, who then took the dog to the humane society, which is normal protocol.

“I thought I was saving (the dog) by doing that,” Bren said. Over 19 years in that location, she has picked up 17 stray dogs and turned them in, and not had a problem.

“The dog catcher thought our dog was all black,” Vetruba said. “In fact, Felony was a purebred black lab with graying face and paws from his age. Felony was born on Nov. 15, 1998, which makes him almost 11 years old.”

“We don’t know how his tags came off the choker chain. He had both a city of Howard Lake tag and a Peterson Vet Clinic tag on,” Vetruba said.

Vetruba said the police department notified both the dog catcher and humane society of Felony missing on Oct. 30. “We discovered he was out on Oct. 30,” Vetruba said.

An officer called both Crossroads and Animal Humane Society to notify them and inquire if the dog had been brought in, Vetruba said.

However, the humane society said that no record exists of such contact being made. “We have no record of him calling,” Brickley said.

Kozitka did not return calls by the newspaper.

Kozitka took the dog to the humane society the next day, which would have been Oct. 31, according to the humane society.

The police department detected the situation about two weeks later, Nov. 16.

“We discovered that, through a series of mishaps, Felony was taken to the animal humane society. After failing to identify an owner, the animal humane society performed a number of tests to determine his eligibility for adoption. Felony failed to qualify as a family-friendly pet and was therefore euthanized,” Vetruba reported to the Howard Lake City Council Tuesday.

Felony had a kennel at the water treatment plant, Vetruba said.

“Our two evening officers both took Felony on patrol, so he normally was in the squad car seven days a week,” Vetruba commented.

“The Howard Lake Police Department is deeply saddened by this loss,” he added.

Felony has been with the department since 2002, and has been very visible in the community.

Felony cost the department $5,000. “He was nearing the end of his service career because of his age,” Vetruba said.


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