ELIZABETH - A woman in Elizabeth is mourning the loss of her two dogs and asking why the local animal shelter was in such a rush to put them to sleep.

Jennifer Arteta says she left her two dogs with a relative while she was out of the country earlier this month. When she came back, expecting to be greeted by Daphne and Rocko, she found out the dogs had been surrendered to the Elizabeth Animal Shelter on June 5.

Arteta says when she went to the shelter to get them back on June 7, she was too late. Daphne and Rocko had already been euthanized.

The pair were inseparable and were the center of Arteta's world.

Rocko was a 1-year-old pit bull who loved nothing more than to cuddle with his owner. Daphne was a 2-year-old pit-lab mix, playful and full of energy, Arteta says.

The owner says she still doesn't understand why her relative brought the dogs to the shelter. "I have tried to confront him about it, but he just doesn't want to speak on the matter," she says.

Workers at the shelter initially denied seeing the dogs, even after Arteta says she spotted Rocko's leash and collar. Eventually, workers admitted the dogs had been surrendered and put down on the same day, despite a state law that requiring surrendered animals be held at least a week before they can be euthanized.

"They were so helpless and they were probably really scared and didn't know what was going on," Arteta says. "And that's why I'm just so upset because I wasn't ready, you know, I wasn't here to save them. I was so far away."

Neither the Elizabeth Animal Shelter, the city health department nor the mayor have returned requests for comment.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Health says it has received a complaint about matter, but says that the shelter is the city's responsibility.