Denise Wilkinson

Denise Wilkinson's dog, Sunny.

I decided to post this because I thought it had important information that needed to get out there. My advice is to NEVER board your dog at a kill shelter. Don’t even think about it. This was a very foolish thing to do, but I feel bad for the owner.

— Kenn

It’s a misunderstanding that can never be fixed.

When Denise Wilkinson dropped off Sunny, her 118-pound Rottweiler-Mastiff mix at Florida’s Pinellas County Animal Services Shelter, she did it with the intent of having a temporary place for Sunny to stay until she could find him a new home.

When Wilkinson went to pick up Sunny the very next day however, she was told Sunny had been euthanized.

“I instantly cried,” Wilkinson said. “I was so upset.”

The problem it seems was Wilkinson’s misunderstanding of the shelter’s confusing language about surrendering animals, which stated: “Surrendered or lost animals will be held for seven days for an animal with an ID, four days without ID, to give owners a chance to claim their animal. After the holding period of seven days, the animal will be evaluated for temperament and adoptability.”

Senior Animal Control Officer John Hohenstern said Sunny was put down because he was deemed aggressive and caused concerns about the safety of shelter workers and was therefore, considered unadoptable.

Hohenstern also said Wilkinson had initialed a paper, which superseded the website, and stated that she understood that the surrender is unconditional and that “Pinellas County Animal Services makes no promise, actual or implied, regarding holding time, treatment, adoption or disposition of this animal.“

The same language was posted on the wall at Animal Services.

Now however, because of this tragedy, the language on the website has been changed to read: “There is no guaranteed holding period for an animal that is surrendered by its owner, or surrendered by the owner’s designated agent. Animal Services Veterinary staff will thoroughly examine the animal(s) as soon as deemed possible for health and temperament”. The site also reads that if the animal is deemed to be aggressive or severely ill, it will be humanely euthanized.

This tragedy brings to the forefront important lessons about leaving a pet at a shelter, including the need to closely read the shelter’s agreement and the dangers of using a shelter for boarding services, no matter how short.

Wilkinson said if the revised language had been on the website when she looked at it, she wouldn’t have taken Sunny there. She also hopes the change to the website’s language “saves another dog’s life.”