Purpose of Animal Shelter must change

The Dahlonega Nugget published the following on September 30 in response to an article published a week earlier.  We like the title they put on it.  A comparison of shelter statistics made since the letter was written suggests that euthanasia may now be increasing.

“The public should be outraged. We should demand a public hearing to discuss contradictions in county procedure and implementation. We need a public accounting of every animal that goes into our shelter. No found or stray animal should be admitted without a picture of it being immediately posted on an easily accessible county website with a statement of circumstances to include when and where. Owner relinquished pets should be immediately posted as available with a statement of age and health condition.”

Letter to Editor:
PAWS greatly appreciates the decision by Lumpkin County Commissioners to not proceed with a contract to bring animals from outside the county to our shelter.

Both intakes and euthanasia have gone down in the county shelter during each of the last several years since PAWS began a spay/neuter program for owned pets and the State began requiring enforcement of the law that all animals going through a shelter be spayed or neutered.

PAWS has received grants to provide low cost spay/neuter for owned pets because we have been able to show a decrease in shelter intakes and euthanasia that correlates with the increase in spay/neuter. A contract to increase intakes and euthanasia could have eliminated any possibility for future grants.

Lumpkin County’s Standard Operating Procedures for the Animal Shelter directly contradict statements by the shelter director that euthanasia is primarily limited to sick animals.

The document takes ten pages to explicitly describe how, when and why domesticated animals may be killed. It states that euthanasia is “a necessary factor in shelter operations due to sickness, amount of time an animal has been at the shelter or available space.”

Listed under “SPACE: There are three intake categories used when accepting animals at LCAS before the animal is available for adoption:
1.Owner Surrender: Same Day
2.Stray or Abandon: Three Days
3.Seized: Two Days (If owner has been notified) Five Days (If unable to contact owner)”

Even though this section is stated as “available for adoption” it has over the last five years been interpreted as “available for euthanasia” with many owner surrenders being immediately euthanized.

The allegation that animals are euthanized at the shelter only for health reasons was clearly negated by evidence introduced during the meeting. A dog was scheduled to die due to a urinary tract infection diagnosed by shelter staff. Yet, the veterinarian consulted by shelter staff informed the dog’s owner that she told shelter staff there was no infection.

The fact is we continue to allow hundreds of healthy cats and dogs to be killed in our animal shelter. The excuses include: lack of space, not yet weaned or socialized, exhibiting separation anxiety, inappropriate urination or any minor illness. Little or no effort is made to reunite pets with their owners.

The public should be outraged. We should demand a public hearing to discuss contradictions in county procedure and implementation. We need a public accounting of every animal that goes into our shelter. No found or stray animal should be admitted without a picture of it being immediately posted on an easily accessible county website with a statement of circumstances to include when and where. Owner relinquished pets should be immediately posted as available with a statement of age and health condition.

We pay three full time employees to operate a shelter that cannot hold more than 75 animals. It should be a place to reclaim lost pets and a transition station for rehoming instead of a place where healthy animals are taken to die.

by Emily Lewy, PAWS President