A microchip should have reunited a dog with his rescue. He was killed instead


When Jennifer Lewis rescued Carlos a few years ago, he was on the brink of euthanasia in a Garland shelter; he had tested positive for heartworms, and the shelter needed space.
Lewis, who runs Marleigh’s Friends, a nonprofit group based in Carrollton, cares for anywhere from 40 to 70 animals at a time. What was one more?
Carlos, Lewis would come to find, was a shy, sweet and, at times, rambunctious American bulldog mix. His eyes were two different colors: one blue, one green. Like an accent on his otherwise white body, he had a black splotch of fur along his ribs in the shape of a heart. When he slept, preferably sprawled out on a couch, he snored.
Carlos, a 6-year-old American bulldog mix, was euthanized by Dallas Animal Services on June 28. (Jennifer Lewis )
After treatment, Carlos began working with a trainer, Jennifer Caves, who said he was not only a “stunner” but, most importantly, the kind of dog that wanted to work and please.
Carlos did everything he was supposed to, Lewis said, so it was no surprise that he got adopted.
But it was a shock when, on the afternoon of June 28, she got an email from HomeAgain, a lost-pet recovery program. Carlos’ microchip showed he was at Dallas Animal Services.
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The shelter confirmed Carlos had been surrendered. Would Lewis come get him?
“I will 100% get him Saturday at latest if you are able to hold?” Lewis wrote in an email less than 10 minutes later.
She never got the chance. Within the hour, Carlos was dead.
Short timeline, unanswered questions
Emails reviewed by The Dallas Morning News show the first notification from HomeAgain came at 2:51 p.m. that Wednesday. The company said it had provided Dallas Animal Services with Lewis’ information. If someone at the shelter didn’t contact her shortly, the email read, she could contact them herself.
Lewis first reached out to the man who adopted Carlos, who revealed he had rehomed him. According to Lewis, not only had he breached his adoption contract with Marleigh’s Friends — which says the organization is to take an animal back if an adopter can’t keep it — he also didn’t have contact information for the new owner.
Lewis, who hadn’t heard from DAS, sent an email to the shelter at 3:29 p.m. She explained what she had learned from HomeAgain and sent Carlos’ chip number, adding that she didn’t see him listed on the shelter’s website.
“Please call me,” she said. No one did.
At 4:15 p.m., DAS sent an email, confirming Carlos was there: “It was surrendered so are you able to reclaim?”
Lewis responded within minutes that if she couldn’t find someone to pick him up sooner, she would get there herself no later than Saturday. She asked if the shelter would hold him until then.
Just under two hours later, at 6:14 p.m., the shelter wrote back: “Unfortunately the pet was humanely euthanized due to possibly consuming something toxic.”
Horrified and confused, Lewis replied. In part, she wrote:
“I did not receive a call from the shelter after he was originally scanned to even notify me that he was there, much less to let me know his state of health. … I found out he was euthanized after the fact because I reached out to you all. This just absolutely blows my mind.”
She never got a response.
‘Quality of life’
Dallas Animal Services said it picked up Carlos after receiving a call saying the dog “had been sick and [was] getting worse.” When an animal services officer arrived, the shelter said, Carlos “appeared to be critically ill.”
“Carlos was immediately brought to DAS where he was seen by our medical team where he was euthanized for humane reasons to relieve suffering,” the shelter said in a written statement. DAS told The News that Carlos was euthanized at 5:05 p.m.
After requesting his medical records, Lewis said she was handed a single sheet of paper. The record did not have Carlos’ weight, temperature or heart rate, but the department’s findings said Carlos was depressed, was uninterested in food, was hyper-salivating and had markings “as if pet may have been exposed to a toxin.” It said he was euthanized due to “quality of life.”
According to Lewis, Carlos had allergies that occasionally caused skin rashes, which she believes is what the shelter attributed to a “toxin.”
“If they had called me, they would have known that he had ongoing skin issues and he was supposed to be on medication,” Lewis said.
The shelter allowed Lewis to retrieve Carlos’ body so she could have him cremated. But beforehand, Lewis took him to her primary vet for a necropsy to see if an exam could confirm any of the shelter’s findings.
A certificate for the cremation of rescue Carlos’, a 6-year-old dog, sits on the steps of a gazebo below his cremated remains in downtown Carrollton on Wednesday. (Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer)
Her vet said she couldn’t attest to what the shelter saw since she didn’t see Carlos alive, but told Lewis she rated his body condition a six on a nine-point scale. One means severely underweight, while nine means severely overweight.
“That means, if anything, he was actually a bit on the chunky side,” Lewis said. “Not at all what you would expect from a dog who hadn’t eaten or drinken anything in days and was in such poor condition he needed to be put down within two hours of intake.”
‘That’s supposed to be their voice’
In June, DAS euthanized 275 dogs, according to data the city makes public. So far this fiscal year, that number exceeds 2,600. Carlos is only one example, and only one set of circumstances.
Running a rescue herself, Lewis said she sympathizes with the challenges shelters like DAS face, from understaffing to overcrowding. In June, for instance, DAS said its main shelter was at 130% capacity for dogs.
With the hope of reducing the number of stray animals roaming city streets and the pressure on overwhelmed shelters, the city of Dallas started requiring all dogs and cats 4 months and older to be microchipped in 2017.
“We advocate for those microchips, because that’s supposed to be their voice when nobody else is around to speak up for them,” Lewis said, her voice thick with emotion. “Dogs can’t tell you when they’re lost, they can’t tell you their history, they can’t tell you if they have somebody who loves them, who’s looking for them.”
Dallas Animal Services said it scans all pets for a microchip upon entry. If a pet’s microchip belongs to someone other than the person who brought the animal, the shelter said its policy is to hold the animal until the chip has been researched — for a minimum of six days — unless the animal is too ill.
When asked, the shelter did not comment on whether the correspondence in Carlos’ case was handled correctly.
“There are enough dogs out there that don’t have somebody who loves them, but when a dog comes in and has somebody who will take care of them, somebody who would do anything for them, they have a right to do that,” Lewis said.
There is no way to know whether things could have ended differently for Carlos had someone at the shelter called Lewis. If it was ultimately true that Carlos was suffering, Lewis believes it should have been her decision whether to euthanize him or to take her chances at a hospital.
But more than anything else, Lewis said, she wishes she was given the opportunity to ensure Carlos didn’t die alone.
“If I agreed with the quality-of-life decision, I would have liked to have at least been there with him in his final moments,” she said. “Instead, Carlos died terrified, surrounded by strangers — all because I wasn’t given the courtesy of a phone call.
“That’s what hurts the most.”


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