Alamo family believes dog died because 911 call wasn't routed to fire department; says they were told to take choking dog to vet

ALAMO, Calif. (KGO) -- An East Bay family is upset and speaking out after losing their beloved German Shepherd to a Christmas morning choking incident.

The family believes Kora would be alive today if their 911 call had been routed to the right agency.

With her firefighter husband away at work, Alamo's Kris Piacente and her daughters were set to open presents Christmas morning when the family's three-year-old German Shepherd Kora started choking on a ball that had popped out of a larger toy.

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While Piacente tried to dislodge the ball, her daughter frantically called 911 on a cell phone, a call that went into the CHP Dispatch Center in Vallejo.

"I needed manpower. I needed help," said Piacente. "I asked my daughter Zoe why it was taking so long and she said that they would not come out on a dog, but that they were transferring her to animal control."

According to multiple sources, a Contra Costa County Animal Control employee got on the call, but instead of sending help, told the Piacentes they should take the dog to a vet.

The Piacentes hung up with the dispatcher and raced Kora here to an emergency clinic in Walnut Creek, more than 10 miles from their home, a trip that took nearly 20 minutes.

"We lost our dog," said Piacente. The veterinarian was able to revive Kora for a time, but then her heart failed.

San Ramon Valley Fire station 32 is less than a mile from the Piacente's home. Like all San Ramon Valley crews, Station 32 has a special emergency kit just for pets.

"We have different size face masks that we can put on the pets themselves," exlained Acting Deputy Chief Jona Augiar. "We get public service calls for animals frequently. The levels of distress are varying, depending on what the call is, from ducks in storm drains to cats in trees."

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Aguiar said Station 32 worked a few calls Christmas morning, but a crew was available at the station around the time Kora started choking at 10 a.m.

Except San Ramon Valley never got the chance to help Kora, because the 911 call was never routed to them.

"I've already been in contact with the San Ramon Valley Fire Chief Paige Meyer," said Captain Pete Recatto, the Commander of the CHP's Vallejo Dispatch Center, which Recatto said handles about one million 911 calls per year.

"The two of us are partnering together to come up with a plan so that we are all educated about what resources are available should a situation like this ever occur again."

Asked about what her hope is now that Kora is gone, Kris Piacente told ABC7 News, "That someone else doesn't have to go through this in a life and death time when they need it for their pet. That when you call, they come."
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