By Chuck Strouse
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Cowboy had everything a dog could ever want. His doting owner, Anays Rodriguez-Porras, dressed him up in whimsical costumes on Halloween and took him on family vacations to Fort Myers Beach and the Keys. "Wherever dogs were allowed, I would take him there," Rodriguez-Porras recalls during a recent interview in her opulent living room. "He was a beautiful dog."
Unfortunately Cowboy's life came to an abrupt end when he fell into the hands of Miami-Dade Animal Services this past August. The eight-year-old golden retriever had slipped out of Rodriguez-Porras's West Miami-Dade home and was picked up by county dog catchers August 6.
That weekend Rodriguez-Porras, her husband, and other family members searched their neighborhood to no avail. On August 8, 2005, Rodriguez-Porras called animal services to report Cowboy lost. Employees at the shelter in Medley had not yet scanned the microchip embedded in Cowboy's body that identified Rodriguez-Porras as the owner. So for two days shelter workers told Rodriguez-Porras that Cowboy was not there.
On August 10, 2005, Rodriguez-Porras received a phone call from animal services that Cowboy was safe at the shelter. After another day of bureaucratic hassles from employees, Rodriguez-Porras's husband who needed a notarized letter authorizing him to pick up Cowboy arrived at the shelter August 12, 2005, but the golden retriever could not be found.
The following day, Rodriguez-Porras appeared at the shelter to find out what was going on with her dog. This time, a shelter employee relayed the bad news: Cowboy had been mistakenly put to sleep.
"It just frustrates me," Rodriguez-Porras fumes six months after her dog was killed. "My dog had another five, six, seven years left in his life. It was such a waste of a good animal."
Animal services director Sara Pizano was barely five weeks on the job when Cowboy was put down. She responded to the incident by firing the employee who had ordered Cowboy's euthanasia. Rodriguez-Porras was not satisfied. On October 25, 2005, she filed a civil lawsuit against Miami-Dade County for emotional distress and negligence. "I don't think this is the first time this has happened," Rodriguez-Porras says. "Sorry is not enough."