Critter Chat – March 29,2017

In 1996, national animal organizations established seven basic policies for every animal shelter. Over 20 years later, I am not sure what organization led the way, but they were printed in the January-February 1996 Animal Sheltering Magazine of The Humane Society of the United States. Shelters were encouraged to consider these basic essentials of their programs.

They were:

1. Accept every animal brought in.

2. Do not charge a fee for surrendered animals.

3. Maintain a clean, comfortable, safe, and healthy environment for each animal.

4. Hold stray animals for a minimum of five operating days, including a Saturday.

5. Screen prospective adopters using adoption standards.

6. For euthanasia, use sodium pentobarbital administered by well-trained, compassionate individuals.

7. Spay or neuter all animals at time of adoption, or guarantee that all adopted animals are later sterilized.

Things have changed. There are very few true open-admission shelters left. The trend is to decrease the number of animals euthanized by decreasing the number of animals received. The positive side of that is that shelters are working harder to promote spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

However, there are very negative consequences for the change in policies. It is more common for shelters to have guidelines for the types of animals they accept. Some choose not to accept healthy animals from their owners, not provide pick-up services for cats (unless the cat is apparently ill or injured), and not provide euthanasia services of animals for owners who have been told by a veterinarian that the animal is too ill or injured for treatment. Other shelters have waiting lists to accept animals.

Other shelters decide to charge an admission fee. One recent case in Pennsylvania resulted in the death of a cat when the owner urged his dog to attack and kill a cat he had been keeping in his basement. The animal control officers would have charged him $100 to pick up the cat and he could not afford it.

That case, sadly, is not the only one. When animals are turned away by shelters, the owners may decide there is no other option other than to kill them or abandon them. News reports have been filled with such incidents. We have a file of such reports.

Every single shelter should work hard to decrease the number of animals euthanized, but it should never come by simply turning animals away or making it too expensive for the owners to seek help.

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Critter Chat is published bi-weekly by the Chatham Star Tribune. See the original article here.

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