MIAMI (CBS4) – A controversial death at the Miami-Dade Animal Services shelter and the claim that the shelter was negligent has been settled by a Miami-Dade jury, which cleared the shelter of negligence charges but split the blame for the dog’s death between the shelter and the owner.
The tale is tragic. Cowboy, a Golden Retriever owned by Anays Rodriguez-Porras, disappeared following a 2005 storm, and was picked up by Animal Services. Since Cowboy had a microchip, and the shelter found it, the story should have had a happy ending.
Instead, Animal Services contacted Rodriguez-Porras, but before she could pick Cowboy up, the dog was euthanized.
She sued, and charged the county with gross negligence. Thursday, after deliberating 50 minutes, the Miami-Dade jury hearing the case disagreed. They cleared the county of the gross negligence charge, but agreed it was partly responsible for the dog’s death. However, the jury placed the majority of the blame, 57%, on Rodriguez-Porras. After the county notified her Cowboy was found, it took 2 days for her husband to come to the shelter for him.
“How can anybody in their right mind think that Im 57% responsible for my dog’s death? I didn’t inject him,” said Rodriguez-Porras.
It took 6 years to settle the issue, but the director of the shelter, Dr. Sara Pizano, pulled no punches when asked about the role of Animal Services in her testimony. She admitted errors were made, and said Cowboy’s death violated shelter policy and the county’s mission to re-unite owners with lost pets whenever possible. Pizano fired the employee who allowed Cowboy to be killed, but Rodriguez-Porras did not believe that was enough and filed her lawsuit.
“We are heartbroken about the loss of Cowboy and the County has admitted negligence regarding the mistaken euthanasia from the beginning,” Pizano told CBS4′s Gio Benitez in an e-mail Friday. “Despite this, and attempts to settle, Ms. Rodriguez-Porras claimed that the County was grossly negligent, and that she was entitled to pain and suffering, which the County denied.”
In the end, the jury said the county had to pay Rodriguez-Porras $860, their share of the responsibility for the dog’s death. Since the jury found she had the majority of responsibility for the dog’s death, under the law the county can now seek to have her pay their legal bills, which Rodriguez-Porras’s attorney believes could approach $45 thousand.
“It is my fervent hope that the County will realize that she’s been through enough,” said Rob McNeely, the attorney for Rodriguez-Porra.
Pizano said the county has not yet determined those costs.
“I will always fight, even if I get knocked down, I will get up and I will fight, because I will not let anybody bully me or anyone that I can help,” said Rodriguez-Porras.