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Kingman shelter offers new dog to replace family's loss

KINGMAN - The Pruitt family, whose dog was mistakenly euthanized in late August, has received a settlement offer from the Western Arizona Humane Society in Kingman.

They are not happy.

In a letter from WAHS CEO Victoria Cowper, Natalie Pruitt was advised that instead of the $5,000 she requested to settle the accidental killing of Thor, her family's American Bulldog, WAHS would give her a dog from either the Kingman or Lake Havasu City shelters.

WAHS said they also would waive all adoption fees, spay/neuter, vaccinations and the first year's license.

"I can't believe the audacity of these people," she said in an interview Friday. "This is unacceptable."

Pruitt, as she promised, intends to file a lawsuit against Cowper and WAHS.

"I've never filed a lawsuit against anybody in my life, so I'm not sure how to go about it, but this is absolutely unacceptable."

When advised of Pruitt's stance, Cowper said the decision was made by the board of directors in an effort to help.

"That's certainly her prerogative," said Cowper. "This wasn't done with malice. It was human error. We made corrections and money isn't going to replace the Pruitt family's emotional connection with the dog. What happened is the antithesis of what our mission is."

Pruitt said Thor was stolen out of her SUV in late August when she ran into a local store to use the restroom. She left the engine running and the air conditioner on so the dog wouldn't get too hot. When she came out, Thor was gone.

She posted lost dog notices on Facebook and Craigslist and a woman who found the dog roaming the Butler area responded. However, Thor had a cut on his head and the woman feared her male dogs would attack him, so she called Animal Control before Pruitt could pick up Thor.

Animal Control brought the dog to the WAHS shelter and Thor was put down one or two days later, on Aug. 28. The policy is that no animal will be euthanized for at least 72 hours, and those are usually ones that are disabled, diseased or otherwise suffering.

Cowper at the time acknowledged policies and procedures were not followed. In her letter to Pruitt, she offered her condolences to the Pruitt family and advised staff has been retrained, new procedures have been implemented and Thor's premature euthanasia was "thoroughly investigated."

Cowper now has to sign off on every euthanasia procedure and a "watch list" is in place to ensure mistakes aren't made in the future.

Cowper noted WAHS in Kingman houses on average about 100 dogs each day and there are seven and a half employees that care for them in an "extremely outdated facility."

She said she wasn't making excuses.

"We're going to live by our mission," she said. "We can't replace a pet, whether they die of natural causes or get lost in the pound, but we do want to try and re-establish that bond. We know how difficult the loss of a pet is."

Pruitt sought $3,000 to cover the cost of Thor and $2,000 for the pain and suffering her family endured. She has since learned the state of Arizona does not allow plaintiffs to seek compensation for pain and suffering when bad things happen to their pets, so Pruitt intends to seek only the cost of the animal.

The pain and suffering continues, however.

Pruitt's son, Edwin, 15, has autism. The boy had a strong bond with Thor that helped bring him out of his shell. He is unwilling to accept the dog is not coming home.

He goes to school, but does not do his work. His depression - and inability to articulate his state of mind - led school officials to have him drug tested. The results were negative and Pruitt said that was altogether another story, but she concedes school officials acted in his best interest. He's being transferred to another school this week where his issues can be better addressed.

"I try to tell him Thor isn't coming home," said Pruitt. "He just doesn't believe me."

"I don't want to go to school, because what if Thor comes home?" said Edwin.

For Pruitt, it's not all about the money.

"This is ridiculous," she said. "It's like somebody crashing into your car and their insurance company tries to settle by telling you to go to a junkyard and pick out a car. We don't want another dog. We've been offered about a dozen dogs since this happened. Friends, strangers, so many people have offered us help, offered condolences and even purebreds. We're not ready.

"I guess our pain and suffering aren't worth anything in Arizona, but we should at least get the money back we paid for Thor."

Cowper said her board of directors believes the offer was fair: "That's what we felt would be the best option," she said.

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