Besides the most obvious reason shelters should not fast track owner surrendered animals to the kill room – that is, these pets have the right to live – there’s this: The person presenting himself as the owner may in fact not own the pet being surrendered. People who are most likely to pose as owners when taking someone else’s animal to a pet killing facility include pet hating neighbors, abusive spouses, and spiteful family members.
Such appears to have been the case with Bella, a Florida cat surrendered to Hillsborough County Animal Services by a family member of the owners in July. Bella was fast tracked for killing because she was an “owner surrender” even though the real owners loved her very much and were looking for her. Bella’s owners arrived at the shelter within 48 hours of her surrender but it was too late as Hillsborough Co had already killed her.
Local pet advocates are using Bella’s case to shine a spotlight on needless cat killings and bad policies at the Hillsborough Co pound. Director Ian Hallett responded to critics in this Tampa Tribune article:
[...] Hallett ended a practice of allowing rescue groups to put after-hours holds on individual animals scheduled to be killed the next day. Bella could have been saved by an email or phone message the night before she was euthanized because animal rescue groups were aware she was there.
In fact, members of two rescue groups were looking for Bella late on the afternoon the day before she was put down, but shelter employees said they couldn’t find her in the cages. Time ran out and there was no after-hours option.
Hallett said he initiated the overnight holds on a pilot basis but it didn’t work out.
“In one week, 80 cats were placed on hold without any subsequent plans to get them out of the shelter,” Hallett said. “That caused a bout of illness in the shelter.”
Let’s be clear: Allowing rescuers to place overnight holds on cats does not cause cats to get sick. And killing to prevent the possibility of illness is unethical.
Local advocates want Hallett to end the 2 cat limit on adoptions which he seems to believe prevents rescue groups from hoarding. Newsflash: The overwhelming majority of rescuers do not hoard animals and the tiny fraction who do will not be cured by your 2 cat limit. Another policy which animal advocates take issue with is the killing of pets while cages sit empty. Hallett defends this practice using the outdated notion that empty cages prevent disease. Yeesh. It’s 2013. We have hundreds of open admission shelters all over the country saving 90% or more of their animals. And the Hillsborough Co director is stuck on Dead Pets Don’t Sneeze. This from the guy Hillsborough Co brought in from Austin to reduce the killing.
Hallett defended his policies Thursday, saying he had reduced the cat euthanasia rate this year to 68 percent from 80 percent last year. The shelter takes in about 10,000 cats a year and, Hallett said, the numbers on any given day must be kept down to prevent disease.
As for the five-day hold period on stray animals, Hallett said it is required by state law.
“But if the owner brings it to us there is not a legal requirement to hold the animals,” Hallett said. “At that time, the shelter makes the best possible decision given the available resources.”
If killing is your best possible decision, I would say your best possible decisions suck.
I hope local advocates continue to push for reform at the pound. Killing a little less is better than killing a little more but it’s still killing – which is the opposite of what shelters are supposed to do.
(Thank you Clarice for the links.)