When Tony Wang’s dog Moses bit someone, he did what he believed was the right thing to do as a dog owner — he contacted the authorities.
It turned out to be what he believes is the biggest mistake of his life, but, unfortunately, he didn’t know better.
One week into his mandatory 10-day bite quarantine, Moses was accidentally euthanized by Tazewell County Animal Control Director Ryan Sanders. Moses was killed in place of a “golden-colored dog” who was intended to be euthanized during the early morning hours of Aug. 9.
“I told people, ‘Moses coming home Aug. 13.’ I brought him home early in a wooden box,” Wang said.
On Aug. 3, Moses bit a private contractor who showed up unannounced in the Wang’s backyard and beat on the sliding glass door. Wang’s mother-in-law was babysitting his 6-year-old son, Kellan, who accidentally let Moses out.
“(The contractor) had a little bit of blood so we took him to urgent care and we were informed there that animal control would be notified,” Wang said. “We decided to be proactive and give them a call.”
An unidentified woman insisted the Wangs bring Moses to their Tremont facility immediately, where he would be quarantined for 10 days, according to state law. She was concerned, Wang said, that if Moses were quarantined at home, Kellan might let him out again during that time.
“I really didn’t want to bring him over, but we were afraid, because she told me to bring him in. I was afraid they would come get him anyway,” Wang said of the call he made to TCAC.
“What could be the repercussions for not following the instructions? Now I know, and I so regret it,” he said. “I should have told her, ‘I’m just going to keep him here,’ but I really didn’t know.”
What she didn’t tell the Wangs is that they have 24 hours to quarantine Moses, that he could be quarantined with a qualified veterinarian and, if the dog is deemed docile, it may be quarantined at home for most of the mandated time.
At around 4 p.m. that Friday, Moses was remanded to TCAC, where he would remain alone for the weekend while the facility is close.
On Monday, Wang, who works at Pekin Insurance, visited Moses and brought him treats after work. He did so again on Tuesday, then Wednesday, when he brought pepperoni pizza, “because Moses wasn’t eating, and he needed to eat something … anything.”
At around 5:30 a.m. the next day, Sanders euthanized Moses by “heart stick.” Wangs’ wife Jennifer, four months pregnant, was told Moses was dead, by phone, around 9:30 that morning, and called her husband screaming.
“I work 10 minutes away. I immediately rushed to the facility after she called,” Wang said. “Ryan led me to a utility room, there was a hot water heater in there, and that’s when I saw Moses lying dead on the concrete floor with a tacky, old Christmas blanket.”
He asked Sanders if he could tell the difference between a white dog and a golden dog, and he answered was, “yes”, but when asked why he proceeded with the euthanizing anyway, Sanders couldn’t explain why, and said he also couldn’t explain why he didn’t check or scan for a microchip either.
“I asked, ‘How did he die?’, and he said, ‘I stuck a needle into his heart to knock him out,’ ” Wang said. “Moses was awake when he shoved the needle in his heart.”
In the utility closet where Moses lay, the Wangs found and took a photograph of what is called a syringe pole. It is used to medicate and euthanize animals from a distance.
According to the State of Illinois Humane Euthanasia in Animal Shelters Act, the duties of a euthanasia technician include “scanning each animal, prior to euthanasia, for microchips.”
Further, the law states that the humane euthanizing of animals “via intravenous,” specifically with regard to the intracardiac injection that Sanders used on Moses may only be performed on comatose animals.
Regarding intracardiac injections, The Humane Society of the United States Euthanasia Reference Manual states that it is “tremendously painful for conscious animals, so it must never be used unless the technician has confirmed that the animal is fully unconscious.”
It also states that the procedure is “aesthetically unpleasant to observe (therefore not appropriate for cases where the owner or member of the public is present, even if the animal is unconscious), and often misunderstood by members of the public.”
Wang wonders if this might be why Sanders conducted Moses’ execution alone, hours before the shelter opened for the day.
Shortly after recovering Moses, the Wang family cremated his remains. The couple are still trying to explain to Kellan why Moses didn’t come back and simply told him he became sick at the shelter. He still doesn’t understand, Wang said.
“We joked that Moses was in ‘doggy jail,’ and I was going to take Moses to take a bath after we got him back,” Wang said. “My son said, ‘After he’s out of ‘doggy jail I’m going to hug him and play with him.’ ”
The Wangs intend to file a lawsuit against TCAC for purposes that have little to do with money. Sanders, Wang said, seemed unapologetic regarding Moses’ euthanizing.
“If we just walked out of there and did nothing about it, they would just go on with it all and forget about it,” he said. “Money’s not the issue. Our family member was wrongfully executed by an individual who did not care. Something has to be done to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.”
Sanders declined to comment for this article, citing pending litigation, but provided the following statement: “On Aug. 7th, Tazewell County Animal Control mistakenly euthanized a dog that was being held in our facility on a 10-day bite quarantine. Tazewell County truly regrets this error. Tazewell County will be reviewing policies and procedures to prevent any such occurrence from happening in the future.”
A GoFundMe page, “Justice For Moses,” was launched Aug. 10 by Jessica Schuch to help with the lawsuit and raise awareness of the tragedy.
“Dear Wang family, I’m also so heartbroken that they put Moses down and with the heart stick method,” Sandra Haag wrote in an Aug. 17 post. “If anything comes out of this, for Moses memory … ban the heart stick method of killing. Bless your hearts because you will always be broken-hearted for the rest of your life because of this.”
Until Aug. 3, Moses had never behaved aggressively, nor had he bitten anyone. He attended a “doggy daycare” in East Peoria three days a week, and often was let loose to freely play with other dogs and their owners at local dog parks.
“I would give everything to have him back. He ate with us, slept with us, watched TV with us,” Wang said. “Believe me, I would never want this to happen to my worst enemy.”
—- Family sues Tazewell County Animal Control after dog euthanized —