ACS spays dog, terminates pregnancy days before expected delivery

Sterilization up to shelter veterinarian's discretion

SAN ANTONIO – Lauren Reeves is one of several animal advocates who contacted KSAT 12 heartbroken and angry over a rescue dog whose pregnancy was terminated days before the animal was expected to give birth.

Reeves adopted the roughly 4-year-old dog named Caroline on Wednesday. She said she had been in contact with Animal Care Services since Monday trying to make the rescue happen -- puppies included.

"I said I would take her with the babies," Reeves said. "She would have been taken care of not with taxpayer money. So why did they have to do this? I don't know. That's what upsets me."

According to ACS medical records, Caroline was less than seven days from giving birth as of Feb. 15.

On Wednesday, the dog was spayed and her pregnancy terminated before Reeves could take her home.

"She seems very sad. She won't look up at you," Reeves said.

According to the state's Health and Safety Code, a shelter must sterilize an animal before releasing it, although some exceptions can be made.

It is common practice for ACS to sterilize animals before releasing them to new owners, even in the case of pregnant animals, said ACS Public Information Officer Lisa Norwood.

The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners adds that there is no rule on how late into a pregnancy a dog can be spayed.

Since ACS owned the animal at the time, it was up to the shelter's own discretion, according to the board.

"The vet has the say-so as to whether the animal is or is not medically viable to be sterilized -- even if the animal is pregnant," Norwood said. "So in this particular case, this dog was medically able to be sterilized, so in fitting with policy and state law, she was."

In some cases, ACS will allow registered rescue groups to take pregnant dogs if they have homes for the puppies outside Bexar County and agree to have them sterilized.

But even in that scenario, the shelter veterinarian's medical opinion trumps all.

"Again, it goes back to the decision, 'Is this animal medically viable to be sterilized?' If she is, then yes, we're going to go ahead with the sterilization," Norwood said. "Spay and neuter is the No. 1 animal control tool that we have at our disposal."

According to Norwood, performing a cesarean section to save offspring during the spaying process is complicated and must be deemed medically necessary by a veterinarian.

"San Antonio has a huge overpopulation issue and, quite frankly, we have so many hundreds of pets here that are not pregnant and that puppies that are already born that are also in need of rescue," added Norwood. "If we can keep that many more dogs from being born and being off the streets, then that's something we're going to do."

Meanwhile, Reeve hopes she can find "bottle babies," or other newborn puppies, that Caroline can nurse.

"She is looking for her babies. She wants them," said Reeves.

Izabella's Pet Rescue and Rehab was also trying to save the dog and its puppies.  

A representative of the rescue group says it received a pregnant dog from ACS last fall that gave birth days later.

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