The Garden City Telegram
3/10/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Pet pitfall

System warrants scrutiny at local animal shelter.

Managing a seemingly out-of-control, unwanted pet population is a lofty challenge.

Ample proof has come locally, where irresponsible pet owners allow their dogs and cats to run loose and multiply, and in doing so, contribute to an extraordinary number of animals ending up in the animal shelter.

The Finney County Humane Society does its best to find homes for strays and other homeless dogs and cats, but not all can be saved. Some have been treated poorly, and even the best care after they land in the shelter isn't enough.

But many in trouble can indeed be salvaged and become good pets.

Knowing as much, a number of local citizens close to the shelter operation were upset to learn of the euthanasia of three impounded dogs they said had a chance to be adopted.

The shelter wasn't full when the dogs — one pregnant — were euthanized after a veterinarian deemed them too aggressive to be good pets.

Humane society volunteers who work hard on pet adoptions, only to see their efforts scuttled, had cause to be frustrated. On the other hand, there was legitimate concern over the liability of releasing aggressive animals for adoption.

It was the kind of poor communication and conflict that can emerge in a shelter operated by local government charged with animal control, and where humane society volunteers try to save as many dogs and cats as possible.

The recent incident showed there's plenty of room for improvement in the system — starting with better communication.

For one, all involved should discuss the current process of evaluating animals for aggression. It would help to bring in an animal behavior specialist on occasion to train shelter staff and humane society volunteers, and also explore how aggressive behavior is evaluated in other shelters.

The recent situation was upsetting to many, and raised more questions about what goes on at the animal shelter.

Representatives of local government and the humane society should want the same positive outcomes. If they're to make meaningful progress toward that important goal, they need to start talking and ironing out issues that put them at odds.