Dog Rejected By Family At Shelter In Heartbreaking Viral Video Gets The Happy Ending She Deserves

This was the heartbreaking moment that a dog saw her former owners at an animal shelter — only to find they weren’t there for her:

“They didn’t want her back because she kept escaping,” dog trainer Janay Chapin, who was working with Zuzu during the encounter, told The Dodo.

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This desperately sad story about 2-year-old Zuzu — who was named by folks at the Downey animal shelter in Los Angeles, for the little girl in It’s A Wonderful Life — has understandably gone super viral, in the last couple of days.

The family who left Zuzu has been condemned as heartless, and far worse — again, understandably, though if you’d allow a bit of preachy editorializing here, we’d suggest empathy, and perhaps even help, as a better response.

Source: Shelter Me
Source: Shelter Me

We don’t know this family’s situation. Maybe they are monsters! Or maybe they are good people who got overwhelmed by a dog who they couldn’t keep home. (Worth noting: the family did not “surrender” Zuzu to the shelter; she was picked up and brought in as a stray.)

Perhaps they are not aware of the groups whose outreach efforts are directed at helping people take care of their animals when they are feeling ill-equipped to do it.

An incredible nonprofit in Los Angeles is Downtown Dog Rescue. For those not in the area, there are organizations around the country that’ll provide free dog training. Others will build fences, so that dogs like Zuzu can’t escape so easily.

Pet food banks, low-cost veterinary service providers, and more, all help ensure that dogs don’t have to end up like Zuzu –in the shelter, away from their families.

“The video was not shot by a County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control staff member and it was not reported to us that Zuzu’s original owners were at the care center that day looking to adopt another dog until after the video had been posted,” a shelter spokesperson told Shelter Me. “Had we been given that information, the department can make a decision to not adopt the dog out, especially in cases where we believe a potential owner sees a pet as being disposable. At the same time, we don’t have the entire story and the owners could be great pet owners and this particular pet was just not a great fit for their household.”

The group Friends of the Downey Shelter said on their Facebook page that the family did not, in any case, adopt another dog during that visit.

Source: Shelter Me
Source: Shelter Me

Now comes the happy ending for Zuzu: she’s getting sprung on Friday, by  a rescue group ready to take her in. A Friends of the Downey Shelter representative told Shelter Me Zuzu is going to the Pet Adoption Fund in Canoga Park.

“Yes, Zuzu will be safe with us,” said Diana Edwards, with the Pet Adoption Fund. “We have many inquiries on her already. She will be matched up with a family hopefully very soon.”

The shelter spokesperson said, just in case, there’s also “a list of five interested parties for Zuzu.”

Zuzu, good dog: It’s going to be a wonderful life.

Here’s Zuzu’s Shelter Me adoption listing. And because we are optimists: Here are a whole bunch of other dogs at the Downey shelter who are also looking for homes. Maybe with you?

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Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood is an animal writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, she was animal welfare editor at The Huffington Post. Arin is a former lawyer (J.D. from Columbia Law School, member of the New York Bar), life long animal lover, pit bull advocate, and devoted fan of cats and dogs who run for public office.

Her first novel, Tropical Depression — based on her five-odd, sometimes very odd, years living on a small island near Guam — was published by teeny indie publisher Back Porch Books in 2011. Her second book, a comic young adult mystery called Save The Enemy, was published by Soho Teen in November 2013. Hello From Dog Island!, Arin’s third book, will be published by Soho Teen in 2018.

Know a shelter with a great, innovative program? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at!


  1. Kim B. says:

    I’ve had an “escape artist” dog and you just have to be vigilant when it comes to making sure they can’t escape. It can be done! Don’t get a puppy unless you are willing to deal with the dog they will become.

  2. patricia says:

    ty for all you do for animals <3

  3. Jamie Bryant says:

    I’m really happy for Zuzu. I am still so angry with the family. I understand that they were having a difficult time with the dog escaping, but find a solution. You took on the care of a living, breathing, feeling animal. Ask for help. Call a vet. Call an animal trainer. If you can’t afford it, go to PetSmart and ask the trainer there for free advice. I’ve done that. They give it. If you are overwhelmed, go to a rescue, call them and ask them to take the dog. Don’t let a dog end up in a shelter because many die there. You took on a responsibility and please take the extra step and help that animal.
    DON”T LEAVE THE DOG OUTSIDE UNATTENDED. HOW ABOUT THAT? I know this might not take care of all of it, but please try everything. And I’m glad they didn’t adopt another dog. That just feels so cruel and wrong.
    Everyone needs to be sure they get the dog for them,one that they can handle, and if they can’t, ask for help, and that they are going to do EVERYTHING to keep that dog, provide a forever home, and if for some EXTREME circumstance like they are dying or something like that, NOT that it becomes hard, or inconvenient, they find a rescue for the dog, a loving friend or family member who will take the dog. Don’t dump your dog at a shelter, most die there.
    Thank you for publishing this article.

  4. Vicki Peters says:

    I am so happy for Zuzu..

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