At first, the offer seemed like a lifeline to Tiffany Pritchett and Brian Hower.
A Sacramento police officer would ask the city’s Front Street animal shelter to look after the couple’s two dogs, so Hower could join Pritchett and their five daughters in a homeless shelter that didn’t allow pets.
“I was really happy. Brian could work on employment and housing, and [the dogs] would be taken care of until we were back on our feet again,” said Pritchett.
The temporary solution seemed like a holiday gift to the family when it was proposed in November. But now, five months later, one dog is dead and the other has been adopted out. Pritchett and Hower are left wondering how the people who were supposed to help them ended up hurting them more.
Records show that when Enzlie, a 2-year-old boxer mix, and Thor, a pit bull puppy, were brought in to Front Street, the request was for the dogs to be taken care of “for a few months.”
Both were described by the shelter staff in notes as friendly, and in December, the dogs were placed in foster care.
Then, in late December, shelter records show that the volunteer taking care of Thor brought the dog back to the shelter, saying the puppy had bitten her children a few times over food and she no longer feels safe having him in her home.
Officer Mel Cuckovich, the officer who had initially suggested taking the dogs to Front Street, was asked by the shelter to contact Hower. Shelter records show that Cuckovich “obtained authorization from the owner to relinquish the dog,” and that Hower had told the officer that the dog had previously bitten one of their children.
Hower says he had told Cuckovich the dog had nipped at the kids before, but insists he never intended to surrender the dog.
Three days after the conversation between Cuckovich and Hower took place, Pritchett and the kids headed to Front Street to visit Thor – only to find out the dog had been euthanized.
“I feel like I let him down. If we had just contacted them a week before that, he would be fine, he’d be alive, and I would have come home with him,” said Pritchett.
The couple say they never would have agreed to let the shelter euthanize Thor, and would have picked him up immediately – even though the family was still struggling to find permanent housing.
The one silver lining, Pritchett noted in a January 8 Facebook post after leaving the shelter, was that Enzlie had been placed in a good foster home. They were told that the shelter director would reach out to the foster care provider to see if the family could visit their beloved boxer.
However, Front Street director Gina Knepp claims she was never notified the family had come in that day. Three weeks later, Knepp made Enzlie available for adoption.
“I got a sense that we lost the family,” said Knepp, explaining that she was under the impression that the family was no longer intending to pick up the dog.
Knepp said she had called Pritchett or Hower, but didn’t manage to reach them. Pritchett and Hower say they were never contacted. ABC10 reached out to Officer Mel Cuckovich and the Sacramento Police Department, but did not hear back by time of publication.
When Pritchett followed up with the shelter about Enzlie in late March, she was told the dog had already been legally adopted for over a month.
Knepp said the shelter already went above and beyond to try and take care of the dogs for months for the family, but insists there was no wrongdoing.
“Rock and a hard place, you know? The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” said Knepp.
As for Enzlie, she’s since been renamed Gracie, and is living with a family with two kids, another dog, and a cat. Knepp said the adopters have been told about Pritchett and Hower, but do not intend to return the boxer to the family.
“It’s hard, because [the kids] keep crying about her, asking about her. They want her back and don’t understand why,” said Pritchett.