Queens Family Says Lost Dog Was Put Down by Animal Shelter Just Hours After Arriving

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A Queens family is outraged and demanding answers from the city after they said their dog was wrongly euthanized at a New York City animal shelter.

The Leon are mourning the death of their small dog, Leona, who wandered out of her backyard at their Briarwood home on March 12, just before noon.

Animal Care Centers of New York said that the pup was found not too long after by a good Samaritan in the middle of the road on Smedley Street near Grand Central Parkway. She was brough to the ACC's shelter in Brooklyn, where her family thought they would be able to pick her up.

But the ACC said that Leona had a heart murmur, severe dental issues, was blind and deaf — so she was ultimately euthanized. The group said that "a comprehensive physical exam was done by a veterinarian indicating Leona was in a very debilitated state, suffering from progressive neurological symptoms," and opted to end her life.

"When I heard my dog was at a shelter, I was happy to know we found her. I thought shelters were a safe haven," said Ericka Leon. "What they did was wrong. I am still in disbelief of what happened to my dog."

Her brother, Juan Carlos, had similar feelings about the issue.

"She should have come home to us, and she should've died on our terms. Or family should have made that decision, when to start her end-of-life story," he said. "ACC threw all of her health conditions at our face over the phone. They tried to tell us, as if we had no idea our dog was sick."

The Leon family insists that the ACC Brooklyn shelter violated its own policy of waiting a full 72 hours to give a potential owner time to reclaim a pet.

The shelter disagreed, saying that the veterinarians acted in the best interest of the dog who was 19 years old and very sick. In a statement, the ACC said that "the law specifically states that although the stray-hold period is 72 hours, euthanasia may be performed if a licensed veterinarian deems that the animal is suffering."

A couple of dog owners say there was a lack of urgency from a dog-sitting business in Queens after one of their dogs slipped out of its leash and got lost. NBC New York's Gaby Acevedo reports.

New York City Councilmember James Gennaro is formally requesting the city's Department of Heath, which oversees animal control centers, open an investigation into the case. Meanwhile, the family is considering legal options.

"No matter how much it hurts, I am gonna talk about this everyday and fight for it everyday," Ericka Leon said.

"A part of me truly is gone. A part of us is truly gone," said Juan Carlos Leon. "We need answers. My family wants answers. We don't understand how ACC operates like this."

As a result of the incident, a spokesperson for the ACC of New York told NBC New York that they want to encourage residents to place identifications or microchips on their pets at all times, as they can help the centers track the animals back to their owners.

CORRECTION: A previous headline for this story incorrectly stated the Leon family was from Brooklyn. The family lives in Briarwood, Queens.

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