Family unjustly harassed after picture of their terminally ill dog goes viral

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A New Jersey family has had to endure extensive harassment and threats from strangers after a picture of their terminally ill dog went viral. Many people have mistaken the photo for animal abuse when in fact the family had just been trying to keep their dog comfortable during her final days.

Roni and Elysia Amiel’s 8-year-old Neapolitan mastiff Zoey was diagnosed with terminal kidney failure in April. There was nothing that could be done for her condition and the Amiels decided to keep Zoey at home where she felt comfortable.  When Zoey’s physical condition deteriorated rapidly she lost a lot of weight. In June a neighbor saw Zoey looking very emaciated lying on the grass near her family home and took a picture. The neighbor then reported the dog to police.

When animal control responded to the neighbor’s concern over Zoey they found  a very emaciated and weak dog. Zoey was not wearing a collar or tags at the time and the animal control officer took her to a local animal hospital. Zoey’s poor health led the animal hospital to euthanize her. The Amiel family didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to their beloved dog.

Once an investigation was conducted by animal control they concluded that there was no abuse by the Amiel family. However, the photograph taken by the neighbor went viral on the internet without any context and social media began judging the family without the facts. Many viewers of the photo jumped to the wrong conclusion that Zoey had been abused. The Amiel family became inundated with threats and has been relentlessly harassed over the picture. “This online harassment has caused a great deal of stress and fear in the Amiel home,” Police Sgt. John-Paul Beebe said. “The accusations that have been directed at the family are baseless in fact, harassing in nature and, in some respect, criminal. The department’s Detective Bureau is currently investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed and jurisdictional concerns that would attach.”

The Amiel family never got the goodbye they wanted for their beloved Zoey and have had to endure wrongful judgments for months now. This harassment has huge effects. The Amiels were considering adopting a new dog, but many rescues have put them on “do not adopt” lists based on the false assumptions being spread about the family.

36 thoughts on “Family unjustly harassed after picture of their terminally ill dog goes viral”

  1. I feel for this poor family. What a terrible situation. While I can understand the neighbor reporting their concern – the police should have contacted the family before taking the dog AND the neighbor should have gotten the whole story not just dumped photos on the internet. Very sad for poor Zoey and her family who were unable to have their final moments together. 🙁

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  2. This is disgusting, first off id be straight round that neighbours asking them “What right they had taking a picture and taking it to the police before speaking to me first” People are so inconsiderate and need to think about what they are doing before jumping to conclusions.
    Tbh people should aim their e-mails to the neighbour for their stupidity, although the picture looks bad people should still have the chance to tell their story. Not to get the chance to say goodbye to your pet is awful, and my sympathy goes to the family, hopefully a rescue centre will allow you to rehome a new dog so it can receive the love that you had for Zoey.

    x

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    • There was no way to contact the family! Zoey had no collar or tags and she was alone outside. She may have seemed abandoned. The neighbor was doing the right thing.

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  3. How heartbreaking…
    I work as an animal service agent- I’m guessing this dog was not running free all around town, sounds like the dog was picked up from the owner’s property. What on earth possessed their animal control to give the “go ahead” to the vet without an extensive search for the family first?

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  4. Us dog lovers all appreciate everyone’s concern about the welfare of our/their pets… but this is a case of that sort of endeavor going way too far, and crossing a line no one should cross. There’s no “fun” in fundamentalism, people!! Animal lovers have become akin to Christian conservatives in a way, esp. in their holier than thou pronouncements. I see this all the time in the internet / “smart” phone age where people jump to conclusions way too easily and think ultimate “truth” is displayed on a 4×5 inch iPhone screen. When the urge strikes you to post something negative or inflammatory (without knowing all the facts, it takes “humility” to do so!) than just take a step back… one step back.

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    • “Christian conservatives”? Non-analogy. Zoey looks emaciated..this is not “jumping to conclusions”..whoever removed the dog from her yard didn’t make an effort to contact the family, that’s the real problem here..”Animal Control” needs to stay off private property intil THEY have the full story. If AC bothered to do that, Zoey dies at home peacefully and there’s no threats.

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  5. Just wondering? Who lets their terminally ill dog suffer through this? Yes it was their pet/loved family member. But to let it get THAT bad… I think animal control made the right decision by seizing the dog as it does appear emaciated and in discomfort. To euthanize… that wasnt right. They should have contacted the owners.

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    • You have obviously never owned a dog. They are part of your family, they are like a child. They love you unconditionally without hesitation. Making a decision to put a dog to sleep is one of the hardest decisions a dog owner will have to make in their life. Would you “put a child down” for having terminal cancer?

      And yes, that is how I view my two dogs now. As my children.

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      • First of all, we don’t euthanize humans. Second, dogs can’t tell you how much they are suffering. And don’t tell me, like you told the other poster, that I obviously don’t have dogs. Right now I have 4 and I lost 2 in 2009-2010. (and I have fostered 35 dogs for rescue) I had a collie go from 80lbs to 40lbs at age 11. When she stopped getting herself up to potty, I knew it was time. She was suffering. She was my love. My 15 year old sheltie died 10 minutes after I got home for work and I told her it was okay to go. I had to listen to her 2 last gasps for breath. It was awful. Better to be put to sleep than go through that.

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        • I SO agree with you. Starving to death & dying of Kidney failure are cruel, slow & painful ways to die. We can’t & shouldn’t hasten our Human loved ones on their way, as they are able to communicate to us their needs. However, we CAN help our canine family members, who btw CAN’T tell us how bad things are getting for them. Allowing a dog that large to get THAT emaciated is just downright selfish. Say your “good-byes” & let the poor baby die in piece before it gets that severe. (There’s no reason to let them suffer to that degree!)

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      • Dog Lover, I AM a dog owner. My dog is 12 years old. My other dog we just had to put to sleep was 14. They are both my best friends. And family. And if im terminally ill… I would want to be put down. If I had that option… In a heartbeat i would want it. If i was in so much pain that i couldnt enjoy life… F*** yes. put me down. Its SELFISH to keep them around to make you feel better… When my 14 year old couldnt get up off the floor anymore… I knew it was selfish to make him keep fighting. By the way… We put him down less than 4 months ago. So… I know what it means to be a RESPONSIBLE pet owner.

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    • You don’t have any knowledge that this dog suffered and you are basing your judgment on the very same evidence, or lack there of, that the public who are harassing the Amiel’s are using to pass judgement. Just so you know, I just lost the love of my life a few months ago from kidney cancer and I too chose to keep my beloved Myles at home with us. He died just a month before his third birthday.

      We worked closely with our vet to make sure he was comfortable and had pain management because I refused to “put him down” so that my sweet boy could pass while he rested on my and my husband’s lap. I wanted him to know that we would be there with him all the way to the end, loving him always and through it all. It is a very difficult commitment to stay with a dog as it is unbelievably painful to watch them slip away but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He gave me joy every day that he shared his life with me and he deserved my love and comfort as he crossed over and I would never let him suffer. It is still so hard for me to speak of him without becoming emotional and I miss him so much! So please understand that some people feel very strongly that sometimes euthanizing is NOT the humane option.

      There is so much that seems unanswered in this story as I don’t really understand why Zoey was unattended in the yard or how animal control could legally confiscate her without a proper inquiry with the Amiel family. But, I suspect we are probably only getting part of the entire story so it seems inappropriate to pass judgement without all the facts.

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