WRAL Investigates

Volunteers: Wake animal shelter too quick to kill dogs

Posted September 15, 2011

WRAL Investigates

— The kill rate at the Wake County Animal Center has soared in recent months, prompting concern among some volunteers.

In January, the Wake County shelter euthanized 131 dogs , or about 18 percent of those brought in. By August, that number had climbed to 327 dogs put down, or nearly 42 percent of the intake.

Euthanizing animals is a fact of life at most government-run shelters to control the pet population, but Wake County shelter volunteers came to WRAL Investigates to report their belief that the shelter now is too quick to kill.

“They're like our kids. I mean, we get attached to them. We go in and look after them,” volunteer Julie Powers said.

“We’re all the animals have,” volunteer Rosalie Nally said, noting that she has shed a lot of tears over the increasing dog deaths.

The Wake County shelter is generally regarded as one of the more compassionate government-run shelters in the state. By comparison, the shelter in Cumberland County euthanized 73 percent of its dogs last year, and the Mecklenburg County shelter put down half of its dogs.

Managers at the Wake County shelter had set goals of moving toward a "no kill" policy, but they said a rising intake and the spread of sickness forced them to moved in the opposite direction.

Andre Pierce, Wake County’s environmental health and safety director, said managers had to make a tough call after a fast-spreading case of endemic pneumonia and distemper went through the shelter in May. Instead of continuing care for the contagious dogs, they euthanized them.

They then then took a harder line, he said, and any dog showing signs of an upper respiratory infection was put down.

Dog at Wake County Animal Center Volunteers criticize rising kill rate at Wake animal shelter

“Anytime you have congregating animals or people, you've got an opportunity for disease spread. So, we would love to see rescue partners consider us first,” Pierce said.

The shelter couldn't find foster homes fast enough, however, and its limited isolation space wasn't enough to stop the spread, he said. The shelter’s euthanasia rate for dogs has climbed higher than its overall average last year of the 28 percent.

“We have to change that protocol and go towards a more life-saving mission,” Nally said.

"We really want to come together as a group to figure out ways that we can stop this needless killing of animals," Powers said.

Volunteers say it’s ironic that the kill-rate climbed just months after a Wake County status report on moving toward a no-kill equation.

“There's been a lot of turnover with shelter management and change,” Powers said.

Volunteers said they also worry that ongoing issues with the heating and air conditioning units might contribute to sick animals. Whatever the challenges, volunteers said they want the shelter to work smarter to save animals through treatment, cleaning, organization and foster care.

“Too many of the dogs that we've just taken photos of that seemed healthy are gone,” said volunteer Al Silverstein.

Pierce says the shelter is committed to finding better ways to save the dogs.

“No one wants to euthanize animals. We would much rather them go to a permanent home – a forever home – and go out the front door rather than go out the back door,” he said.

Still, managers and volunteers agree that, until the steady flow of unwanted animals stops, they can't all be saved.

“This is the reality of what happens when you surrender your pet to a shelter,” Nally said.


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  • peggyharrell Sep 19, 2011

    MANDATORY spay/neuter, FORCE people to be responsible!!! Charge them a large fee for shelter surrender, arrest them for abandonment/neglect............it's too easy for the deadbeats!!!

  • kickchick2000 Sep 19, 2011

    I volunteer at the shelter and I can assure you in the summer months the inside of the shelter is brutal, very hot and very humid. If you step foot into the kennel rooms you will be sweating within minutes. Regardless of if the system was working when installed something isn't working correctly now. I'm not an HVAC person so I do not know if the issue is with the system or with something else. The main concern and point is the extremely high number of sick animals with are being PTS, the heat and high humidity may be contributing.

  • archangel44369 Sep 16, 2011

    To jaygreyam:
    If you read my post, I said that within the last 15 months, the HVAC was newly installed, not just working 15 months ago.
    I take great offense that someone wants to blame my bldg, my HVAC equipment for the ignorant actions of dead-beat pet owners or Wake County policies on animals.
    People...quit looking to the government to be the fix all...Cheers to all of you who adopt and keep your beloved pets, as for the others, do your part and adopt a pet and be responsible, spread the word to your fellow citizen to be proactive and responsible and quit looking to the governemnt to be the "catch all"...Our tax dollars concerning this issue are being well spent.
    Prior to the HVAC upfit, the dog kennels only had heat, now they have both heat and air, and the air is not recirculated like in your home, but a "Once through" setup. Do you realize the cost in energy of heating or cooling the air and then dumping it back outside?

    Be responsible in NC and Wake County.

  • bigboohoo Sep 16, 2011

    ikeyboy it is obvious you are proSPCA but what about all those years they lied to the public claiming they were NO kill when they just were killing in their Garner facility. Yes when they had the Cary, Garner, etc contracts and the animals were being dropped off at the Lost and Found center in Garner not even half of them made it to the nice and shiny building which allowed them to be available for adoption. At least with the county shelter those animals have a chance to be given a new home. So please do not get on here and preach that Wake County Animal Shelter can be compared to the SPCA. The 2010 SPCA took in over 2,685,000 cash!(Found on their filed tax form) In this economy they should be giving away free spays and neuters! I wonder how much in donations the Wake County shelter has been given? I doubt it comes close

  • rescuefan Sep 16, 2011

    "My ex took his dog there and 24 hours or less later...he called them to get his dog back and they had already put her down...either that or they sold or to a dog fighter...either way its wrong.

    You are right, it was wrong. It was wrong of your ex to take his dog to the shelter. They only are required to hold stray, owner surrenders can be euthanized as soon as they come in the front door and are handed over. So it wasn't the shelter's fault the dog died, it was your ex's fault.

  • backwards Sep 16, 2011

    Show that you care about saving the lives of animals. Don't eat them.

    This is the best time of the year, deer hunting starts....woohoo

  • NCSUalum99 Sep 16, 2011

    'Give the animals away to a loving home. Why charge the high fee?'

    High fee? $95 for an altered and vetted dog is EXTREMELY cheap. Many shelters charge around $30 for a pet with just their basic vaccinations, then it's up to you to get them fixed and vetted.

    This report is heartbreaking but the WCAS does exceptionally well compared to other shelters in the state. It's a very tough job I'm sure and I have lots of respect for the people who can deal with that on a daily basis. Lots of people on this forum are sorely misinformed....what are these "hoops" that everyone keeps talking about? The last time I was there, there was a man who was about to adopt a dog until he found out it was $95, not $45 like he thought. The attendent informed him that only the dogs who were brought in already altered were $45 and he responded with "ok, where are those?". Needless to say if you can't afford the extra $50 you have NO business owning a dog, but the shelter certainly didn't turn him away. I adop

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Sep 16, 2011

    Show that you care about saving the lives of animals. Don't eat them.

  • itsnotmeiswear Sep 16, 2011

    I'm sure some of the increase is due to the economy. I have three large dogs in my home. One is a mutt. The other two are Goldens. The problem is not whether you buy the dog from a breeder or adopt the dog from the shelter. The problem is when someone doesn't consider the long term responsibilities of pet ownership. It's not just your situation today, but where you expect to be 12+ years from now. If you don't have a plan, don't add another life to the mix.

  • Riptide12 Sep 16, 2011

    Safe Haven for Cats has a great spay/neuter program for $75. You get a spay/neuter, rabies shot, distemper shot, nails clipped and ears cleaned. They also accept vouchers. Check them out!