When one dog left her shelter with a new family, she must have imagined that her darkest days were behind her. Heartbreakingly, however, it soon turned out that they were yet to come. That’s because her new owners rejected her, leaving her life hanging in the balance.
Athena the dog had a rough start in life. By the time she was two years old, in fact, the female boxer-mix was living on the streets of Miami. She had no easy access to food, no real safety and, worst of all, nobody who loved her.
In March 2017, however, a team from Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS) learned about the down-and-out dog. Subsequently, they took her into the organization’s animal shelter, and staff there hoped that it wouldn’t be long before Athena found a new home.
In fact, Athena went up for adoption the very same month she arrived at the shelter. And to get the word out there, staff began posting about her on social media. To advertise the boxer further, volunteers from Urgent Dogs of Miami (UDOM) also picked up Athena’s story.
UDOM is a Facebook page that posts about the canines at MDAS, with the aim of getting the animals the biggest exposure possible. This way, each dog has a better chance of finding their forever home.
And the reason that the dogs’ situation was classified as “urgent” is because MDAS is a kill shelter. Startlingly, this means that once the shelter is full to capacity, it will start killing off dogs that haven’t found homes.
But although the practice may seem cruel, it’s a stance that animal rights organization PETA supports. On its website, PETA points out six million animals wind up in shelters each year in the United States alone. And of those creatures, four million will remain unwanted.
With that in mind, PETA says the humane option is to euthanize surplus animals. It suggests that shelters can’t house all creatures safely and with compassion until their deaths. Furthermore, other animals would be denied a chance of adoption as they’d be unable to get into the full shelter.
It was important for Athena to find a home quickly, then. Luckily for her, though, it didn’t take too long for some adopters to come forward. And on March 22, 2017, UDOM announced that someone had taken her home.
Her happiness was soon to end, however. Yes, just one month later, in April 2017, it emerged that Athena was back at the shelter. For reasons unknown, her new family had returned her to the very organization from which they’d saved her.
Heartbreaking footage later posted by UDOM on Facebook showed the sad moment that her owners surrendered Athena. In it, the poor pooch has no idea what’s about to happen as she follows her short-lived owners around, happily wagging her tail.
“She was dumped back to the shelter by the family she thought would love her forever,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page. “They even brought her bed. Poor Athena had no idea that she was back at the shelter and who knows what may happen,” it continued.
The post added that the shelter was particularly full at this time and therefore the risk of euthanasia was high. All of a sudden, then, Athena’s situation had become more urgent than ever. If a new home couldn’t be found for the dog, it looked likely that she would meet a sorry end.
But once again, the volunteers at UDOM got to work publicizing Athena’s story. “What an absolute adorable little girl,” read one post. “How the previous owner could surrender her is beyond me. However, I was told they are willing to pay for her new adopter’s fee.”
As Athena’s story spread, many people were angry at the dog’s previous owners. “People should be shamed,” wrote one social media user. “Find someone who will take your beloved pet. A high kill shelter is not the place for any animal. Too many animals are killed for no reason.”
However, others empathized with the unnamed people for trying their best. “You guys are so rude for shaming people for doing what’s right,” another posted. “Do you want people to dump or desert dogs all over like they used too? They are being responsible and bringing the dog in when they can’t care for them.”
Sadly, dogs return to shelters more often than people might think. As a result, Wake County Animal Center in North Carolina began documenting the excuses some used when returning an animal. And, frankly, most of them simply didn’t wash.
According to the shelter’s records, one family returned a beagle-mix for being “too shy.” Another dog, this time a Catahoula puppy, was re-surrendered because his family “made too quick a decision” and learned that they “didn’t have time for a puppy.”
However, while the excuses may be almost laughable, the reality of what could happen to the returned dogs is not. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, shelters euthanize around 1.5 million animals annually. And of this number, 670,000 are dogs.
Luckily for Athena, though, she got a second chance at family life. Happily, someone adopted her just days after she returned to the shelter. She’s now doing well in her new, loving home. And hopefully, she’ll never have to see an animal shelter ever again.