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Animal Shelter Workers Insight

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Animal Shelter Workers Insight

Postby admin » Wed Jun 01, 2016 8:16 pm

http://www.standard.net/Local/2014/04/1 ... euthanasia
OGDEN — Having to euthanize an animal is undoubtedly the most difficult task workers have to perform at the Weber County Animal Shelter.

In 2013, shelter staff had to put down 1,866 cats and 812 dogs. Of that total, 212 cats and 426 dogs were euthanized at their owner’s request.

Total animal intake at the Ogden facility last year was 5,633, said Shelter Director Chad Ferrin, a lieutenant with the Weber County Sheriff’s Office. So almost 48 percent of the canine-feline population, for various reasons, were given injections to end their lives.

“I can’t think of a job much worse that you could ever be asked to do than euthanize an animal. It’s a very saddening and heartbreaking experience,” Ferrin said, noting they make every effort to improve outcomes.

Unfortunately that work remains a necessary part of the job, but Ferrin said that pet owners could provide a big assist by getting their animals spayed or neutered.

“That makes them healthier animals, helps control our population and reduces our need to euthanize animals,” Ferrin said.

Many of the euthanized cats were feral, making them unadoptable because of their inability to socialize with humans. A portion of that population also suffered from respiratory disease or some other feline ailment that can spread rapidly. Weber’s shelter isolates feral and sick cats from the rest of the feline population, Ferrin said. And steps are being taken to reduce the need to euthanize the unadoptable feral cats.

“We’re in the process of partnering with Best Friends Utah,” Ferrin said, to launch a program to spay, neuter and vaccinate feral cats and then release them back into the community.

Collaborating to save lives

In March, Best Friends unveiled its new campaign to make Utah a no-kill state by 2019. No-kill means that no more than 10 percent of the population would be euthanized and that would be due to sickness or behavioral challenges.

On Weber’s limited budget, medical care is at a premium and area veterinarians have stepped up to donate medications and expertise to help care for the shelter population.

“Kennel cough is a big thing for shelters and once you get it, it’s very difficult to control,” Ferrin said. “Many vets will look at a dog and diagnose without charging us. We’re fortunate to have wonderful partnerships with our local vets and volunteer rescue groups that help us manage some of things we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

One of those groups, Black Dog Walk, launched in 2009 to bolster outcomes for animals often overlooked by people seeking new pets.

“We started out trying to bring awareness about black dogs being the last to be adopted and the first to be put down,” said Loa Collins, pack leader for Black Dog Walk. “It grew into much more than that.”

Municipal shelters rarely have enough funding to care for the population that comes through their doors, Collins said. The alliance with Best Friends should help, she added, and in recent years Weber’s shelter expanded its network of partners who can intervene and make a difference for less adoptable dogs.

“Now they have several they can trust,” Collins said.

Being more proactive

The shelter’s adoption specialist, Laura Jolley, also maintains a Facebook page, Twitter feed and website that features current adoptable animals, Ferrin said. In addition, the shelter purchased a trailer about two years ago labeled the Adoption Waggin’ that travels to various sites twice a month to boost visibility of available cats and dogs.

At present, all Weber County cities contract with the shelter for services except for Pleasant View, Riverdale and South Ogden, which do their own sheltering, Ferrin said.

Each city is charged an $85 fee per stray animal brought in to the shelter, exempting pets who get successfully returned to their owners. The shelter is currently considering replacing that per-animal fee structure with a percentage-of-use system based on city size, Ferrin said.

Weber’s shelter is also seeing reduced intake numbers. In 2008, 9,170 animals were received, and by 2013 that total dropped to 5,633.

Ferrin credits that decrease of 3,537 intakes to increased due diligence in the field. Animal control officers have been asked to spend more time checking microchips and licenses before transporting animals to the shelter.

“Through our computer management resources, we try to locate owners so they can return the animal back home rather than bringing it in,” Ferrin said, a step he believes serves everyone better.

A few years ago, the shelter began requiring that animals retrieved by owners be microchipped before they go home, a cost included in the impound fee.

The shelter has also become more aggressive about licensing, and making sure that pet owners’ contact information is up to date.

Ferrin said that Best Friends is also helping to connect their more aggressive dogs to coalition members who can possibly place them in appropriate homes.

“Last year, of all the dogs that came into the shelter, we were able to find good homes, return to owners or rescue about 74 percent,” Ferrin said.

For more information, go to http://www3.co.weber.ut.us/animalshelter/

One contract city’s experience

Ogden’s Police Department recently released its annual animal services report for 2013, revealing harsh data along with efforts to improve outcomes.

Of the 1,854 animals that Ogden Animal Services delivered to the Weber County shelter, 897 were euthanized, 388 returned to owner, 324 adopted, 122 transferred to foster homes or rescue organizations, 80 disposed of because they were dead on arrival, 42 died at the shelter, and one who escaped.

Of that 1,854 total, 1,000 were cats, 799 were dogs. The remainder were birds, livestock and “other.”

John Harvey, a retired Tennessee police officer who now serves as deputy director for Ogden’s support services, also oversees Animal Services and said they “retooled the bureau” after he came on board in December 2012.

Feral cats accounted for the bulk of Ogden’s high euthanization numbers, Harvey said, and he hoped to encourage more partnering with groups that could help fund spay/neuter services for the free-ranging felines.

Harvey has also urged his officers to take extra steps to get animals back to their owners.

Increased pet licensing is a priority — a step that necessitates up-to-date vaccinations. Last year the city used a low-cost auto-dial system to let people know their pet licenses had expired.

“Our ultimate goal is to get all that online,” Harvey said. “We want to make sure that people are taking care of the animals they’ve got and are not just letting them run amok.”

Ogden Councilmember Amy Wicks expressed concern over the high euthanization numbers and said she hopes for increased partnering with groups that provide free and low-cost spay/neuter services.

“As far as getting animals adopted, I think we can do better,” Wicks said. “We have this partnership with the county, and there is an expectation they’ll work diligently to make sure that animals who are adoptable get a chance to get into homes.”
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