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

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

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 have to agree with the previous anonymous comment. Our old dog lost quite a bit of weight during his last few months also, but he was a Viszla, smaller than this dog, and he never got that skinny. While the neighbor and animal control were completely in the wrong, the family, I feel, waited a little too long for a dog this size.

    • You didn’t know this dog or the family. Further, some feel as though they should provide comfort and hospice at home rather than euthanizing.

      Way to judge, just like the neighbor and the throngs of idiots online. You weren’t as cruel and harsh, but very much the same.

  2. I’m outraged, disgusted and mostly heart broken for this family…I could not imagine what I would have done if I was not allowed that final day, the final goodbye with my boy Bubbaroo this past July? He too was terminally ill and yeah he looked horrible, but it was no one’s business to intervene. Only my family knows the extent of financial difficulty I put our family in, in an attempt to make my boy better! People are too damn nosey and must learn to mind their own business!!

    You know those people were robbed of a very important part of the grieving process! My heart bleeds for the Amiel family!

  3. very sad indeed. And that’s the problem with people in society,
    I hope that family seek compensation for the social damages and psychological damages from the neighbor who caused it.

    • Oh….YES, of COURSE they should, right?!? NOT!!! Everybody is so eager to sue SOMEBODY for SOMETHING these days, never seeing the part THEY played in the initial picture. With this type of mentality, “eye for an eye”, pretty soon all of the world will simply be blind. Most of our personal/emotional discrepancies with others can be peacefully, respectfully & satisfactorily resolved WITHOUT financial compensation or retribution!!! But the 1st step is getting past REVENGE & RESENTMENT!!! :0) Believe it or not, within every negative, there is a positive….don’t believe me? Just look at your most common everyday battery! Carry it around as a reminder, so that whenever you’re hit with a negative, you’ll remember to look for the positive! :0)

  4. I had almost exactly the same thing happen, except that I was reported as an abuser by the pet sitter I hired to provide hospice care for my dog. My vet supported me in my decision not to put down my dog. Like she said “there is no law requiring an owner to put their dog to sleep when they are terminally ill”. Most owners do, just because they don’t want the pain, expense, and massive extra effort required to keep their dogs comfortable and let them die on their own terms. My dog had kidney failure too, and I was able to keep her comfortable and mostly pain free. Any time I sensed discomfort, I took her to my vet or my doggie physical therapist and we went to the next level of care. My dog and I had some very special bonding moments in those last days. She had quality of life, it was just a very different life than she had before. Had she shown any sign that she wanted to go, I would have put her down. But she never gave up, God bless her. So I did what I could to keep her comfortable. And yes, it wasn’t pretty or cheap. She eventually died peacefully, with me by her side. Thankfully, my vet intercepted animal control, so she was not taken from me and forcibly put down without me there. What happened to this family is tragic! To the family, I am so very sorry for your loss. I support what you were trying to do for your dog, and I am so very sorry for what you had to endure because others do not understand that death is not pretty, but with love and proper care a terminally ill dog can be kept reasonably comfortable and those last days can be special ones between dog and owner.

    • You are a remarkable and rare person. Like you I too chose to do the same with my boy when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

      We humans are a strange lot. When it comes to our own species with have a different set of rules. We refuse to support assisted suicide in terminally ill people and we refuse to let brain damaged people die with dignity by not keeping them indefinitely on life support and yet we think it is inhumane to offer hospice to our pets. What a disconnect………..

  5. I must say this is totally tragic and I almost fell off my chair reading the article.. I agree with a lot of the above comments, most of all the last one, as this person did what was best for her dog, who in return showed her gratitude and love by not giving up. Very special bonding moments for the two of them is an understatement… those memories last a lifetime and warm the soul… I feel terrible that this family was deprived of those moments and my heart goes out to them. For someone to make the decision to pick up a dog on her own property and put her down is beyond my comprehension. As for them not beeing able to rescue a dog in need of a home, that’s just not right. If anyone can contact the family and let them know of Eldad Hagar and his team of angels (just type his name in Google for his extended profile) who does an outstanding job at saving , rescuing animals, and always looking for the right home for them, I’m sure things will work out for all… and that the word Happy will be once again part of their life… Good name for a Pooch too ! Happy… 🙂 I will copy this article on his site, maybe he’d have a better chance at finding the family. I just wish I could do more… Warm wishes are sent your way… 🙂


Leave a Comment