LUBBOCK, Texas — The euthanization of puppies on April 14 at the Lubbock Animal Shelter created a firestorm of controversy with local and regional animal rescue organizations demanding answers. Questions have been raised as to whether procedures were followed and if actions by the LAS were ethical and properly thought out.
The case started with an animal hoarding situation in Ector County. Shelters across the area, including Lubbock stepped up to help — with an organization called Good Dog Gang accepting 12 puppies from multiple moms.
Tracye Gearhart with Masa Rescue transported them to the Good Dog Gang on April 5. Gearhart insisted the puppies were healthy and in good shape and even had their first round of vaccinations.
Public records from LAS obtained by concerned citizens and verified by EverythingLubbock.com showed 12 puppies were then put to death after hours on the 14th.
Gearhart said one of the sisters with Good Dog Gang informed other rescues in the region via internet chat that she was having trouble with the puppies, and they would be put down. Multiple shelters asked Good Dog Gang to not go through with euthanizing the puppies. They offered to help.
Special note: Both sisters associated with Good Dog Gang filed police reports indicating harassment. Due to safety concerns, EverythingLubbock.com chose to withhold the names of the sisters in this news article.
Good Dog Gang (GDG) told EverythingLubbock.com that offers of help came way too late. (More details from our conversation with the Good Dog Gang are reported below.)
GDG issued a statement in defense of itself Sunday evening, saying in part, “These 12 puppies came from deplorable conditions with a history of medical issues, parvovirus, and increasing levels of abnormally aggressive behaviors. After consulting with certified professionals, we made the heartbreaking decision to surrender them to the Lubbock Animal Shelter for behavioral euthanasia.”
LAS also issued a statement, saying, “Allegations of improper practices or illegal euthanasia techniques against LAS are unfounded and false.”
The statement also cited public safety concerns for aggressive behavior and said, “The citizen that had custody of the animals is not an official rescue organization on file with LAS.”
An incident report said on April 14 at 6:00 p.m., the LAS took a call from one of the two sisters who operates GDG “asking if 12 dogs can be euthanized by me or field staff.”
The officer wrote, “I informed her that we do not carry enough Fatal Plus for us to do that but she can bring them to the shelter and have it done there.”
The incident report said LAS Director Steven Greene was asked about it, and his instructions were to have the GDG pay $20 per dog as a local fee instead of $75 as an out-of-town fee. The sister was told be at the shelter by 6:45 p.m. to fill out paperwork, according to the incident report.
“She stated that the dogs were attacking to kill each other,” the incident report said. “We could see some injuries in the dogs, but they did not seem life threatening.”
When she arrived with the puppies, “The puppies were smaller than was explained. … We [LAS employees] each had 2 in our hands.”
“The total of 4 we had were fine being next to each other and did not show any signs of aggression,” the incident report said. “The dogs were content being around each other and did not show any signs of aggression. Some did have minor injuries on their legs. We euthanized the rest of the dogs and made intakes for all of them 1-12. We then headed home for the day.”
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The incident report said LAS staff performed all 12 euthanizations. The incident report said at least four were given heart shots, but Greene explained to EverythingLubbock.com that the heart shot was only to confirm death after the rest of the euthanization procedure was complete.
Only making matters more complicated, when asked, one of the sisters with GDG confirmed a personal relationship with one of the employees at LAS.
According to the GDG statement, this employee, “… was not involved in the behavioral euthanasia.”
Whereas LAS said the puppies were not with an official rescue registered with LAS, GDG said, “For clarification, Lubbock Animal Services has approved the adoption, foster placement, and transfer of 219 dogs to our care.”
So, why would Good Dog Gang simply not hand over the puppies?
Gearhart quoted one of the sisters in a chat group as saying, “I will not make them someone else’s problem.”
“All the rescues begged,” Gearhart said. But the messages went unanswered that Friday afternoon.
The GDG statement said, “While legal liability can be transferred, our moral and ethical obligations cannot.”
Gearhart was not impressed, saying in part, “We [rescue groups] do things differently than a city shelter. We don’t euthanize aggressive dogs. We certainly don’t euthanize puppies.”
“I hope they change their policies,” Gearhart said. “It breaks my heart it took 12 puppies [losing their lives] for this to come to light.”
“I’m looking for this to never happen again,” she said. “We need to be more careful on who we let take dogs out of the shelter.”
Our conversation with Good Dog Gang
The two sisters who run GDG spoke to EverythingLubbock.com by phone on Wednesday.
“You fat f***ing tub of lard,” the sisters quoted a message they received. “You stupid fat f***ing b****. F**** you and your mother***ing trip. My mother has donated thousands to your scamming asses, and you best believe this won’t go away. You’re a f***ing pig. Here, piggy pig.”
Some of the messages made reference to a “heart stick” which appeared to be a threat of violence or even a death threat.
“But we won’t stop until you’re 6-foot under,” they quoted another as saying.
“We’re not going to let the criticism stop us from our mission of helping as many pregnant moms and nursing moms and orphan puppies as we can,” the sisters said.
When asked about the incident report, specifically the observation that the puppies seemed to be getting along and there were only minor injuries among them, the sisters said LAS officers only observed them for a matter of minutes. A longer period of observation would be needed, GDG said.
“The behavior started ten days prior,” the sisters said. “We had been observing behaviors the entire time we had had them and had gone through measures to have them separated, to try some different control groups and approach it from different aspects.”
Would it have been better to wait until Monday and think about the next step?
“No, because that would not change our ethical involvement and our moral standards with aggressive dogs going into different homes.”
Why not allow a more experienced rescue to take them?
The sisters said they reached out to five other rescues before it got to this point, and there was simply no room. They would have to wait until other dogs were adopted out. Disputing Gearhart’s account, they said by the time they got the message that help was on the way, it was too late.
Was there no way to save even some of them?
“All 12 of them were showing abnormal, aggressive behaviors, and they were getting worse,” the sisters said, “Even [separating them and] having them one or two at a time, all of them were showing behaviors.”
The sisters said they had the puppies assessed by a certified dog behavior consultant.
The puppies were with GDG for about 10 days, the sisters said. They were approximately 4 to 6 months old. (See clarification below.)
Is there anything that you think that you could or should do better in the future?
“Even after the backlash, and the threats, and the harassment, and the cyber bullying and the smear campaign, we stand behind our decisions,” the sisters said.
“We actually do have a lot of support that we’re getting individually,” the women said.
Our conversation with LAS Director Steven Greene
Greene told EverythingLubbock.com, “I was not informed there were puppies at that time. I was told that it was 12 aggressive dogs from a hoarding case.”
Greene believed, late on a Friday, he was dealing with a public safety issue, saying, “You know, first and foremost, I don’t want those dogs dumped out on the streets.”
If someone claims an animal is aggressive, is there a policy to document the claims?
“We haven’t really had a policy like that,” Greene said. Generally, it has been understood that if an owner makes a claim of aggression, it’s for a good reason.
“I’m doing a huge internal investigation into personnel, policies [and] procedures,” Greene continued to explain.
“I’m a staunch believer in following policy and procedure, and this is something I think I could say for sure. There will be some policies come out of this,” Greene said. There is not a timeline yet on the investigation or policy changes. Quicker is better, he said, but at the same time not rushing it.
As for current policies, Greene said in most circumstances, at least two supervisors or a veterinarian decide if an animal in the shelter needs to be euthanized. There are exceptions, for example a dog out in the community that was hit a by a vehicle and should be humanely put down immediately.
Will LAS continue to work with the Good Dog Gang?
“I just don’t have an answer right now,” Greene said. Whatever decision is made, he said, the shelter must be open to the public, and it cannot discriminate against people.
Greene said he will make it clear to his staff that even the appearance of impropriety is a problem. Much was made on social media on the relationship between one of his staff members and one of the sisters with GDG.
The anger on social media spilled out onto his entire staff.
“They’ve got a lot of hate on Facebook and social media,” Greene said. He hoped folks would have more compassion for the animal control officers.
“I know it’s a very hot button topic and people are always wanting the answers quick,” he said. “I try to be as transparent as I can.”
The written statement from the Lubbock Animal Shelter and Good Dog Gang are copied below.
Clarification: The original version of this story said the sisters had the puppies in their care for 12 to 14 weeks. The sisters were asked, “So when were the puppies born?” The answer was, “We don’t know exact birth dates, but they were approximately 12 to 14 weeks in our care.” After this story was published, we asked for clarification. The story was updated to indicate the sisters had them for approximately 10 days.
Statement from Good Dog Gang
We acknowledge our community’s concern in regards to the misinformation and false accusations towards The Good Dog Gang [names removed].
Here are the facts:
These 12 puppies came from deplorable conditions with a history of medical issues, parvovirus, and increasing levels of abnormally aggressive behaviors. After consulting with certified professionals, we made the heartbreaking decision to surrender them to the Lubbock Animal Shelter for behavioral euthanasia. While legal liability can be transferred, our moral and ethical obligations can not.
***** ****, the December 2022 Employee of the Month for Lubbock Animal Services, was not involved in the behavioral euthanasia.
For clarification, Lubbock Animal Services has approved the adoption, foster placement, and transfer of 219 dogs to our care.
The Good Dog Gang has rescued 1,421 dogs over the last 16 months and less than 1% were humanely euthanized due to the severity of their behavioral issues. These decisions are always heart-wrenching.
As of April 22, 2023, we have paid $127,195.37 for veterinary care at 3 local clinics. Every cent that has come in has gone back out to directly benefit our dogs. The donations we receive are spent on medical care, food, transports, and other necessary supplies.
Our mission has always been to transport dogs out of state. We have transferred 563 dogs, including 15 this past week, to Colorado Puppy Rescue in Aurora, CO. The director has been unavailable for comment regarding our working relationship.
The Good Dog Gang was officially formed as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Texas on July 17, 2022. We are in the process of obtaining our 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Per www.irs.gov “Organizations required to apply for recognition of exemption must notify the Service within 27 months from the date of their formation to be treated as described in section 501(c)(3) from the date formed.”
On March 21, 2023, Mayor Payne and the City Council of Lubbock recognized our outstanding work to “ensure the safety, health, and well-being of pregnant dogs and puppies” in our community.
Criticism will not deter us from our mission to rescue dogs in Lubbock and the surrounding communities.
To all of our haters, instead of continuing this smear campaign, please redirect your energy and passion for animals towards supporting a local rescue or shelter by volunteering, donating, fostering or adopting today.Press release from Good Dog Gang
Statement from Lubbock Animal Shelter
The City of Lubbock and Lubbock Animal Services (LAS) are aware of public comments and accusations on social media platforms regarding the recent euthanasia of rescue dogs. We are committed to transparency, and following proper procedures when dealing with such issues. Allegations of improper practices or illegal euthanasia techniques against LAS are unfounded and false.
On Friday, April 14, 2023, an owner of 12 rescue dogs requested that LAS euthanize the animals for aggressive behavior issues. LAS provides this service for end of life/suffering issues and for public safety concerns. The dogs were humanely euthanized as per LAS departmental rules, policies and procedures.
The citizen that had custody of the animals is not an official rescue organization on file with LAS. At the time of the owner surrender, the dogs had been under their care and custody for several weeks. Under city ordinance, anyone caring for and having custody of an animal for more than 72 hours is identified as the owner of those animals. In this case, all owner surrender euthanasia request policies, procedures and practices were followed.
LAS is also aware of comments regarding an alleged relationship between the citizen involved and an LAS employee. An internal investigation is underway regarding this relationship to ensure there was no interference with departmental business, policies or procedures.
If disciplinary actions are taken, they will not be discussed publicly.City of Lubbock and LAS