Dog's plight sparks outpouring of concern

A photo of the dog showing the bloody, bulging eyes made the rounds among animal lovers

March 19, 2010 2:59:47 PM PDT
Many people saw the headline "BARC to remove a dog's eyes, although rescuers offer to save her" as it made the rounds in emails. We wanted to find out if it was true. We know there have been lots of complaints about BARC (Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care), from sick animals to dirty facilities. But what we learned today is that BARC did try to help this particular dog. There was a time when a dog injured like this might have been euthanized shortly after its arrived at the city pound. But in this case, BARC opted to perform surgery trying to save her and arranged for an adoptive home specializing in blind dogs. That decision is still being questioned by some animal rescue groups.

She was given the name Keiko by Houston animal control. She was picked up Monday afternoon on the city street and taken to BARC. Her medical assessment was that she was blind.

"There was also irreparable damage to the optic nerve," said BARC Spokesperson Christopher Newport. "On Monday afternoon when she was presented to BARC, both of her eyeballs were dried and necrotic."

A picture of Keiko was posted as required on a national shelter listing website and from there Keiko's story went viral among animal rescue groups that wanted her out of the city animal shelter and to a canine eye specialist. Veterinarian Patricia Cooper filed several requests to have the animal released to a rescue group.

"Actually I didn't want to look at the dog myself," Dr. Cooper explained. "I wanted to go straight to a specialist -- either an ophthalmologist and/or a radiologist who could check out the head."

The requests were denied. According to the city, five BARC vets and two private vets, including an eye specialist, concluded Keiko was blind. Friday morning at BARC both of Keiko's eyes were surgically removed. By the afternoon a spokesman said she was still on oxygen and unable to breathe on her own.

"That's not a good sign," said Dr. Cooper. "She's not at a facility that can support her."

After several attempts to wean the dog off of oxygen, her body temperature started to plummet. Now it appears she may have had a preexisting head trauma condition that made her unable to withstand the surgery. Keiko died, despite staff attempts to save her.

We don't know if a necropsy will be performed. However, she was not given an x-ray because there is not an x-ray machine at the facility. We are told the staff worked on the dog for at least 50 minutes, even giving her CPR before she was pronounced dead.


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