In the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012, the Wake Co Animal Center in NC took in 6214 animals and killed 3405 of them – a kill rate of 55%. On its website, Wake Co has a page about surrendering pets which includes alternatives to bringing the animal to the pound. Below that is a section on surrendering:
If you cannot resolve your problem and you cannot rehome your pet, please bring your pet to the Wake County Animal Center during normal business hours. Please bring your pet’s vet records or some other proof of ownership. A change in the state law requires that the Center receive some form of proof of ownership in order to place the animal up for adoption immediately. Failure to collect proof of ownership will result in the Center’s need to hold the animal for 72 hours prior to placing that animal up for adoption or transferring it to a rescue partner.
Understand that once surrendered to the Animal Center, the staff at the Animal Center will determine if they can offer the animal for adoption. This is determined by the health and temperament of the pet.
Animals can be reclaimed by the owner, but you must pay the applicable reclaim and boarding fees.
Seems clear enough. And yet a dog owner named Danielle Miller related a very different experience to a columnist with a local paper.
Ms. Miller says that her family moved from a home with a large yard to an apartment recently and brought 2 year old Tucker, the family’s GSD X Lab, with them. But she didn’t feel that apartment life was suiting Tucker and made the difficult decision to take him to the Wake Co pound in an effort to rehome him:
“When I took him in, they said ‘Ooh, he’s so beautiful’ and they’d try to re-home him,” she told me Wednesday. “I asked if there was any chance he’d be euthanized, and they said ‘Yes,’ but don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. I asked if it was OK to call back and check on him.”
In fact, Ms. Miller says she called back to check on Tucker 15 minutes after leaving the pound. And again 15 minutes later. Both times she says shelter staff told her everything was fine. But after another 15 minutes, she decided she’d rather move than part with Tucker so called the Wake Co pound again to let them know she was on her way back to pick him up:
“I told them I was coming back to get him, and they said, ‘Don’t bother. He’s already dead.’ I said there must be some mistake.” The person on the other end, she said, assured her there was no mistake. “ ‘I’m looking at him. He’s dead,’ ” Miller said she was told.
The pound’s director, Dr. Jennifer Federico, says Tucker was aggressive and they gave him 45 minutes to see if his behavior would change. Dr. Federico says that’s twice as long as they give most animals because the pound is very busy. Oh and nobody wants to kill animals:
“We’re not here to euthanize pets,” she said. “I’m a vet. I would much rather return pets to their family.”
Yeah. Well, fail on that.
Ms. Miller was devastated and shocked to hear her gentle pet had been deemed aggressive:
Tucker “was so beautiful and peaceful, Miller said. “He never growled or bit. I can remember him barking only four times his entire life. We literally were concerned about his vocal chords at one point.”
But Dr. Federico counters that a dog might behave differently in her pet killing facility than he does at home. A point underscored on the pound’s surrender page:
A shelter environment can be very stressful to an animal.
Common sense tells us that surrendered pets might be confused, insecure, wary and/or fearful when their owners leave them in the hands of pet killers. What makes no sense to me is how Dr. Federico thinks that giving these animals 20 minutes – or in Tucker’s case, 45 minutes – to adjust is in any way reasonable. Especially when the penalty imposed by Dr. Federico for failure to immediately suppress normal, common behavior is death.
The pound’s surrender page includes a blurb at the end:
We understand the emotional toll that surrendering a beloved pet to an animal shelter has on you, the owner, and your family.
I don’t think so. I’m having troubling reconciling the phrase “understand the emotional toll” with the words, “I’m looking at him. He’s dead.”
Ms. Miller apparently did what the Wake Co pound asked and provided proof of ownership so Tucker would not have to wait 72 hours before being made available for adoption. She did not realize that the pound would use this against Tucker in order to immediately kill him. Nor did she know that a veterinarian in charge of a shelter would regularly kill surrendered pets if she didn’t like their behavior in the minutes following intake.
Pet advocates are often scolded by those who kill shelter pets about how we don’t appreciate how cruel, neglectful and apathetic the “irresponsible public” is when it comes to pets. Killing apologists accuse anyone who surrenders a pet to a shelter of “dumping” the animal and say we should blame the so-called irresponsible public for the killing. Ms. Miller made a difficult decision, doing what she thought would be best for Tucker. She called to check on him every 15 minutes after leaving the shelter. She realized she’d made a mistake less than an hour after surrendering Tucker and wanted to take him back home. This is your “irresponsible public”. This is your “pet dumper”. Sadly, the people who supposedly don’t want to kill animals and like to wag their fingers at everybody else operate a well-oiled pet killing machine which is fast and efficient. But we should all get along, because we all want the same thing and blah.
If only more people would have brought cupcakes to the pet killers at Wake Co, maybe Tucker would have lived for 45 minutes – long enough for his “irresponsible” owner to take him home.