This is about the attitude of shelter staff and therefore, going one step back, it is about how shelter managers select and hire shelter staff which in turn depends on the quality of the manager. The “voice of America’s displaced pets and the conscience of the animal sheltering industry”, Nathan Winograd, has provided me with a story in an email about four puppies killed at an animal shelter in Waycross, Georgia, USA.
He says that the puppies were killed by animal control despite the fact that rescue groups were ready and asking to take the animals in. And worryingly (to say the least) he says that “a staff member bragged that staff collect shelter fees and then ‘stick ’em all with a needle’.
Some shelters charge a surrender fee and in America that might be between $50-$100. And if they are in a particularly callous frame of mind, they might think that they can simply take the surrender fee and then kill the animal thereby avoiding any work whatsoever. It’s all ‘profit’.
And the reference in that story to sticking the dogs with a needle is, as you might know, a method of killing shelter animals (euphemistically called ‘euthanasia’). Normally euthanasia is achieved with an overdose of barbiturates with the fluids administered through an intravenous catheter or an injection.
An alternative is called ‘heartsticking’. This involves plunging a syringe through the chest wall and several layers of muscle into the animal’s heart. Nathan Winograd describes it as a cruel process which involves the animal struggling and under restraint. The animal suffers immense stress and fear.
And he tells us that it hurts a lot. He says that animals killed this way at certain shelters (one US shelter still uses a gas chamber by the way) feel extreme, severe pain. This is because the needle passes through nerves into the heart. The animal suffers a heart attack. Does this process save on the costs of sodium pentobarbital?
In the disturbing words of Nathan Winograd “the needle would have to penetrate skin, body wall with costal musculature, costal pleura, pleural cavity, pericardial pleura/mediastinal pleura, fibrous pericardium, serous pericardium, pericardial cavity, epicardium, myocardium, endocardium, and ventricular chamber. If the lung is penetrated, the needle must pass through the pulmonary pleura and lung tissue itself”.
It is heavy language, and it is medical language and difficult to read which makes it all the more shocking because it is carried out by a veterinarian who was under oath to do no harm to an animal. If an animal is euthanised without justifiable reason namely to end suffering, then it is killing and it is causing harm. Under these circumstances a veterinarian is in breach of their oath.
Nathan Winograd makes this clear by saying that “the actions of private veterinarians are incompatible with the animals’ best interests. These are veterinarians killing healthy individuals out of convenience and expediency, even if done at the behest of a local shelter”.
Animals have to be “irredeemably suffering” before they are euthanised in the classic way. Many shelter animals are killed under the euphemistic banner of euthanasia. Winograd wants veterinarians who kill healthy animals to lose their licence. I agree but there’s no chance of it. Veterinarians in America are in breach of their oath millions of times annually. They nearly always declaw cats for non-therapeutic reasons. That’s a clear breach of oath and no one gets the sack.
Below are some more articles on shelters.