There are plenty of lessons to be learned from the saga of Suzy the Shih Tzu, the 8-year-old dog euthanized by the SPCA Suncoast even though her owners had appeared 40 minutes earlier inquiring about their lost pet.
Owners Ricky and Susan Ouellette admit their errors — their pet did not have a microchip for identification, nor was it wearing a collar when they put her outside the afternoon of May 22.
The SPCA was a little slower to acknowledge its shortcomings. Initially, it issued a prepared statement to deflect blame toward the Ouellettes. Then director Gail Armstrong declined to elaborate on its "miscommunication'' nor an internal review when interviewed by Times staff writer Erin Sullivan.
Considering it relies on community donations, the non-profit agency should provide a better public accounting of how it misled the Ouellettes and the steps it is taking to avoid a repeat.
Neither side disputes the Shih Tzu was ill. The Ouelletes said the dog had lost weight but was eating formula. They put the dog outside on the afternoon of May 22 and discovered her missing an hour later. It turned out a neighbor had taken the dog to the SPCA, saying she thought the animal was a stray.
Exactly what was said between the SPCA and the neighbor is unclear. The neighbor initially provided a different account, telling the Ouelletes that a visiting cousin had found the dog and taken it to the shelter. The SPCA said the neighbor reported the dog had been wandering for days, something disputed by the Ouelletes.
Regardless, the couple was at the SPCA at 5:50 p.m. asking if their dog had been brought in. An SPCA clerk said no, denied the Ouelletes a chance to see the dogs on hand and said she wasn't authorized to go look either. The couple checked back four more times over the next several days and hung fliers around the area only to be told May 26 that their dog had been euthanized around 6:30 p.m. on May 22, after their initial visit.
The quick disposal is astounding for an agency with a mission statement to save, protect and improve the lives of the community's animals.
Most distressing is that the Ouelletes actions follow the advice offered by the Suncoast SPCA on its Web site. It tells owners of missing animals to contact local animal protection agencies immediately when a pet is missing and states "it is always best to come view the animals in person.''
Indeed, that would be best unless you're stonewalled at the front counter and then can't get a straight answer afterward.
Animal lovers should have faith that the advice the SPCA offers to the public is the same procedure adhered to by personnel at the SPCA's shelter.