A pet owner has been left heartbroken after his 17-year-old dog was euthanised by ACT authorities less than 24 hours after going missing.
Canberra resident Drago Gvozdanovic told Yahoo7 he is still in disbelief over the loss of Izzy, a Maltese dog he welcomed into his family 15 years ago.
Mr Gvozdanovic said Izzy had disappeared from his yard on Sunday June 10, but given she was blind and a slow walker, he gathered she hadn’t gone very far.
After being unable to find her in his street, he quickly ran to his computer and filed a missing dog report on the ACT Government website and with the RSPCA.
“The immediate thought in my mind was that she’d come to grief with a car,” Mr Gvozdanovic said.
The following day he received a call from his sister, whose contact details were listed against Izzy’s microchip, to say she had been located.
But Mr Gvozdanovic’s joy was short-lived. In a call to the vet, he was informed that Izzy had been put down following directions from the Domestic Animal Service (DAS).
“I was expecting her to come back to me, I was not expecting this,” he said.
According to DAS’ own policy, impounded dogs are to be held for seven days before being rehomed or euthanised.
“I’m still in disbelief that I’m in this situation. I registered my lost dog on their website. Surely they could’ve matched that my dog was wanted?
“Isn’t that an obvious thing to check if you’re in that business?”
The Kambah resident said despite Izzy’s age, she was not suffering and was still a happy dog.
“Her blindness was not a factor because she lost her vision progressively. She had no arthritis that I could detect, no cancer. There was no reason for me to worry about her,” he said.
He felt the government had robbed him of a decision that was personal and close to his heart.
“That was my job and that’s something that I would do when I deemed it ready. I wasn’t doing some perverse thing by keeping this dog alive. To me she was happy to be alive,” he said.
Mr Gvozdanovic said he was contacted by the government for the first time yesterday, and still hasn’t been able to collect Izzy’s body.
“I’m not getting answers. I want my dog, I want to bury my dog,” he said.
In a further twist, Mr Gvozdanovic said he was contacted by the vet that was instructed to euthanise Izzy, who told him they did not want put her down.
“They were trying to give her time to be found,” he said.
In an email chain viewed by The Canberra Times, vet staff believed Izzy to be in good health and cared for her overnight, but were instructed by DAS to go ahead with the euthanisation the next morning.
After hearing of Izzy’s story, Shadow Minister for Urban Services Nicole Lawder penned a letter to City Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris demanding answers for Izzy’s euthanisation.
“I’ve had no written response from the minister,” Ms Lawder told Yahoo7.
“She’s not taking responsibility for what’s happened.
“I think the minister should offer a very genuine and heartfelt apology to Izzy’s owner.”
She added that staff should also receive more training about how to follow the department’s own policies.
“Nothing is going to bring Izzy back but we want to make sure this doesn’t happen to someone else,” she said.
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A spokesperson from Transport Canberra and City Services told Yahoo7 Izzy was found by a member of the community and handed into DAS the same night she went missing.
“The dog appeared to be in poor health, its coat was highly matted and it was found to be deaf and blind, with both eyes ruptured and needing significant treatment,” the spokesperson said.
“Both DAS and the treating veterinary practice attempted to contact the owner via the details found on the microchip, however the recorded details were not current and after a number of attempts contact was unsuccessful.
“After further liaison between DAS and the treating veterinary surgeon the dog was euthanised. DAS are currently investigating the matter further including talking with the owner, and as such further comment cannot be made at this time.”