For the past 20 years, I have done dog rescue. Mostly border collies, but I have also rescued an old golden retriever, a whippet, a couple of Queenslands and a lot of mixed breed dogs. Doing rescue meant that I had to take a trip out to our local animal shelter, the place where unwanted dogs usually end up.
That shelter is old, smelly and a terrible place for both animals and people. But now that we have a new shelter, a new place that will showcase animals and help the county employees do their jobs better, all of a sudden we have controversy.
Letters from all over the nation have come in, worried that the animal shelter will euthanize the animals at the old shelter and not move them to the new shelter. Despite the assurances of everyone from the shelter manager to the agricultural commissioner of the county, these rumors persist. Rescue groups from all over are begging for help to get these ‘doomed’ animals out of our shelter and into a safe place.
Well, guess what? Animals have been euthanized at our shelter for years. Every single day dogs and cats are given an injection and die. Their bodies are put into a crematorium and burned, and that is the end of their lives.
And guess what else? It’s not the shelter’s fault. It’s the fault of the people in the county who choose not to spay and neuter their animals, who choose to let a female dog or cat have ‘just one litter,’ and it’s the fault of people who decide that the cute little puppy they got for free from the feed store grew up just a little too big and rambunctious, so let’s just take it to the animal shelter. It’ll get a good home.
That’s why animals in Merced County are euthanized. Not because the shelter employees want to kill those animals. There are no sadists at the shelter. I personally know many of the shelter employees, and most of them have dogs and cats that were adopted from the shelter. They love animals, and they try to help them. No one at the shelter wants to kill animals. They want to save them.
So why all of a sudden is it a big deal that our shelter euthanizes animals? The euthanasia rate hovers around 35 percent, which is down from about 80 percent a few years ago, thanks to local rescue groups that help get animals out. The rescue groups have done a fantastic job, and deserve every bit of kudos that they get.
But give the shelter employees a break. Don’t blame them if an animal has to be euthanized. Take a good, hard look at yourself first. Are your animals spayed and neutered? Have you ever taken an animal to shelter, telling yourself ‘It will get a good home.’?
Stopping euthanasia starts with the residents of the county. Don’t blame the shelter employees, and the next time you decide to get a dog or a cat, take a trip out to our new shelter. There are great dogs and cats there, many purebred, who need a home through no fault of their own. And remember, the easiest way to save dogs and cats from being killed at the shelter is to spay and neuter.