We often hear excuses from shelters as to why they “have to” kill pets – overcrowding, people won’t spay and neuter, etc. While we know there is no justification for killing healthy/treatable pets on an ethical basis, and we know the same to be true in practical terms as evidenced by the dozens of open admission no kill shelters all over the country – the killing continues and the excuses persist. But to my mind, there is one group of shelter pets that no pound can attempt to justify killing: pets who have a person – an owner, rescuer, foster, adopter or colony caregiver – willing to take them. After all, nobody wants to kill pets, right?
In too many cases, animal shelters kill pets rescuers are willing to take as a form of retaliation for criticism of shelter practices. Last month, a rescuer went to the Iberia Parish Rabies and Animal Control Department in LA in order to pay the fees for a Great Pyrenees. The staff refused to release the dog. The rescuer pressed the staff for an explanation and finally was told the dog was sick. No problem – the rescuer offered to take the dog to a veterinarian immediately. Still the staff refused. The shelter director, Mike Stockstill, was not in the building.
Since this happened on a Friday and the rescuer knew that Tuesday was the regular kill day at the Iberia pound, she left to make a call to a rescue group for assistance. The rescue representative called the shelter within 40 minutes to confirm that the dog would indeed be taken to a veterinarian and his medical expenses would be covered. By the time that call was made, the shelter staff has already killed the dog.
The shelter director “said the dog had blood in its stool and was vomiting bile.” Neither of these symptoms represents a medically hopeless condition. In fact, dogs often vomit bile when they are hungry – a condition which can be cured with a bowl of food. But in this case, there was no need to guess because there was a rescuer at the front desk with cash in hand, willing to take the dog to a vet for immediate treatment at no cost to the pound.
I believe this was a retaliatory killing – payback for criticism of shelter practices from the rescue community. The director explained the killing as follows:
Stockstill said he later talked to the employee who refused to adopt out the dog.
“He said, ‘Mr. Stockstill they have threatened us so much. They have criticized us to such a great extent about adopting animals out that were not healthy, and this animal was no longer healthy, (so) I told them that it was no longer adoptable,’ ” Stockstill said.
I see no other possible interpretation of this killing except retaliation. You criticize us for adopting out sick dogs, we kill a sick dog you want to save. Maybe next time you won’t criticize us. The message could not be any clearer had the rescuer woken up with a severed dog’s head on the pillow next to her.
No one at a shelter should have the discretion to kill pets rescuers are willing to take. This is why we need rescue access laws like CAPA in every state. Because retaliatory pet killings happen at shelters. And there ought to be a law.
The director at the Iberia pound offers his version of a solution to this type of situation:
Stockstill said the volunteers should push the Iberia Parish Council to give more money to the shelter, so it can more vigorously pursue animal adoptions. He said the animal advocates should present a “legitimate proposal” in writing, which the council can act on.
I guess animal advocates should do the director’s job for him if they want him to adopt out more pets. Which he’ll only consider doing if they get him more money. Got it. The only part I seem to be missing is how getting volunteers to do the director’s job and getting him more money will put an end to his sanctioning retaliatory killings at the pound. Or have any impact on a shelter environment in which the staff would even consider the possibility, let alone act upon it, that retaliatory killing of pets whom rescuers are willing to save is A-OK.
(Thanks Clarice for sending me the link to this story.)