Karen B. London
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Accidentally Euthanized
Shelter’s mistake was fatal
Tears of sorrow can't bring Deuce and Ralow back.

Most of us have lost dogs and suffered the agony of that grief. We all share the pain when someone we know is dealing with the death of a dog, but I don’t think my heart has ever hurt more than when I heard about what happened to Will Harlee and his family. It seems that Charlotte-Mecklenberg Animal Care and Control euthanized their two dogs, Deuce and Ralow, by mistake. And no amount of regret or sorrow can bring them back. It’s heartbreakingly painful.

The dogs were being held at the Animal Care and Control facility after having escaped out of the family’s yard through a hole in the fence. Their paperwork states that Harlee could get his dogs back once he repaired the fence, but when he made the repairs and came to get his dogs, they were already dead. It’s unclear how such an enormous mistake happened, or what will be the consequences for the agency. Harlee says that he wants to see somebody lose a job over this because he believes that somebody has to be held accountable. His biggest concern is that this does not ever happen to anyone else.
I picture Will Harlow having to tell his two young children that Deuce and Ralow are dead, and I urge every shelter and animal care facility to check on their policies and the safeguards against such a fatal, irreparable error. And to the Harlees, all I can offer is my sympathy, which is deep and heartfelt.



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | March 8 2010 |

That is agonizing. I am so sorry that the Harlow family is going through this, and I am very sad that Deuce and Ralow paid the ultimate price for someone's careless mistake.

Someone should absolutely lose their job over this. This is horrific. Animal Care and Control facilities should exist to PROTECT animals, not accidentally kill them, and they need to do everything in their power to get every animal out of their facility ALIVE. Anything less than that is gross negligence.

Submitted by Meg | March 8 2010 |

I feel for the family but this article doesn't tell the whole story. He didn't repair the fence right away and it took him multiple days to return to the shelter to look into getting his dogs back. I'm not saying it was his fault, but after working for animal shelters you hear many owners say they are going to come back and they never show up. Animal shelters are dealing with thousands of lost and stray animals and also a lot of owners that don't really care about their pets. The shelters can't hold the dogs forever hoping that the owners are going to get their acts together and come get their animals.

There should have been better communication between the shelter and the owner and thats something they will have to work on but to demand that someone loses their job because the owner didn't hold up his end of the bargain by coming in to the shelter in a timely fashion and fixing the fence is a bit much.

Submitted by tara | March 10 2010 |

I understand your point, but wouldn't a responsible shelter-believing the owner won't be back-put the dogs up for adoption instead of jumping the euthanasia????!!!

Submitted by Ann | March 11 2010 |

I appreciate that you worked at an animal shelter and gave of your time to help in the care of unwanted pets, but blaming the owner for the incompetence of an agency is really misguided. Based on your exposure with other lousy pet owners you witnessed in your work at the shelter you have convicted these people of the same offense without any justification. If you read the follow up on this incident you will find that it is now know they were working on the fence repairs as the agency requested. Can you just for a minute put yourself in the shoes of this family when they were told their dogs had been euthanized. Can you imagine the heart ache they must have felt at that moment? I can, and it really affected me. And does a hole in the fence warrant death? If the owner is known as they were in this case, how much extra effort would it have been for someone at the agency to make a phone call to them to let them know their dogs were scheduled to be euthanized? Dogs get out of yards all the time but passing judgement and terminating their lives without making every effort to contact their owners is in my opinion a pathetic way to run an animal control agency that claims their primary role is to prevent animal cruelty.

Submitted by Ann | March 10 2010 |

I am speechless. I am looking down at my beloved dogs laying loyally at my feet as I write this comment and I am heartbroken for the Harlee family. I would be hysterical if I were in their shoes. There is no action that could be made by the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Animal Care and Control that could ever compensate for this incompetent and heartbreaking incident. I agree wholeheartedly that the person responsible should lose their job.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 10 2010 |

In the comments section of the article that's linked to, the owner said that Animal Care and Control said the name of a different dog when they went to get theirs. If Animal Care and Control said that they euthanized a dog named "Hannah" (a different name), does that mean that there is a chance that Deuce is still at the shelter and alive? I wonder if they asked them about that.

Submitted by Cada | March 19 2010 |

Sadly, there is a difference between animal control and a shelter. Some shelters don't euthanize, some do. Almost all animal control agencies euthanize unless an animal is taken either a) by the owners, b) by a shelter/adoption agency or rescue group, or c) adopted by another person who just happened to get there in time. They can only keep animals a certain number of days before they have to make room for incoming animals. It's one of the saddest and, perhaps, sickest aspects of animal services, but it's done all of the time.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 21 2010 |

This is an unexcusable tragedy. Nothing can bring back the dogs. We can only hope that a lesson has been learned and it will NEVER happen again. My heart goes out to the family.

What was the timeline? How long were the dogs in the shelter??
Did anyone speak with the family to see if repairs were being made to the fence?
Had the dogs escaped before? More than once? Several times?

I would think the shelter would do everything they possibly could to get the dogs BACK to their family rather than punish the family by euthanizing the dogs.......
when I read this type of story I lose a little more of my threadbare faith in humanity.........

Submitted by Anonymous | March 22 2010 |

These two dogs have been a part of the Harlee Family for a very long time. I am located in the Charlotte area. Local pictures that were shown on various new stations show Ralow playing with the Harlee children, as babies. Although the children are a lot older now, those pictures clearly show that the dogs were of no threat and they were indeed a loving part of this family for quite some time. If the consequences that Micheal Vick faced was incarceration and lost wages, it would be most interesting to see what the outcome of this will be.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 24 2010 |

I'm sorry, but if this happened to me and my family there would have

been an immediate lawsuit filed. What happened is intolerable and


For the record- I have worked with shelters and rescues for several

years and unfortunately this is not an isolated case. Something must

be done to make these agencies more accountable for their actions.

Submitted by Becky | November 1 2013 |

Everyone is commenting about how sad it is that these two dogs were killed by accident, but what about all the dogs that are killed on purpose?

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