WRAL Investigates

SPCA, county shelter disagree on euthanization policy

Posted October 18, 2011
Updated October 19, 2011

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— For years, the public Wake County Animal Center and private SPCA of Wake County have partnered to save abandoned animals. However, the county animal center's soaring kill rate has driven a wedge through that bond.

In January, the county animal center euthanized 131 dogs, or about 18 percent of those brought in. By August, that number climbed to 327 dogs put down, or nearly 42 percent of the intake. Just-released September numbers show 281 dogs euthanized, 40 percent of intake.

"I would use the word 'tragic' for what's happening," said Lisa Kroll, the SPCA's associate executive director.

Hope Hancock, executive director of the SPCA, says she attributes the increased euthanizations to "a void of leadership" at the animal center.

Managers at the animal center set goals of moving toward a policy of increased adoptions, but said rising intake and the spread of sickness pushed up the euthanasia rate in recent months.

Cat SPCA, county shelter disagree on euthanization policy

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

"There's always a tension between public health and animal rights," Pierce said. "Our main concern is that infectious animals don't present their symptoms to other animals."

The shelter can also be held liable if it adopts out animals that are sick or potentially, he said.

Wake Animal Center volunteers reached out to WRAL Investigates in September because of growing concerns that the shelter was too quick to kill.

The center is different than the SPCA, because as a public shelter, it cannot turn away any animal brought in the door.

When WRAL asked if the Wake County shelter should turn to rescue groups to take treatable dogs instead of putting them down, Pierce said the center is looking for ways to find foster homes faster.

However, SPCA leaders argue the Wake Animal Center often lacks communication and common sense. The county still considers four kittens being fostered at the SPCA as "unadoptable biters."

Hancock said the SPCA would not consider euthanizing those cats. "That doesn't make sense to me," she said.

Managers of both shelters say they're open to continuing their long-standing relationship. The SPCA offered to share health management best practices with Wake County. Pierce agreed to consider easing adoption policies on animals that bite or scratch.

Kroll said it's time for the county to change it's "quick trigger" euthanasia policy. "When you're in the business of animal sheltering, you learn how to deal with that sort of thing in a reasonable way."

122 Comments

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  • vich66 Oct 20, 11:51 a.m.

    I was reminded yesterday that I seldom know as much as I think I do.

    I learned that the move to WCAC being the only intake facility was much more complicated than I care to figure out after the fact.

    What I do know is ...

    The volunteers AND STAFF at the WCAC care very deeply about every animal that comes in to the facility.

    That the world is filled with harsh realities and we can only move forward from where we are right now.

    That the SPCA, rescues and foster parents are a VITAL part of what the WCAC is able to do for these animals.

    That the WCAC does NOT use a gas chamber (it was dismantled long ago).

    That a new director has been hired and will be starting within the next month or so.

    That these animals need me (and all volunteers); maybe even more so than the lucky ones who have been pulled by rescues.

    SPAY & NEUTER is the ONLY option!

    Don't Shop! Adopt!

  • Ambygirl Oct 20, 8:44 a.m.

    BrindAmourFan-- You are absolutely right! it is expensive and no one seems to understand that these facilities take upon themselves for these animals. Adoption fees are low compared to what the actual expense is that is put into the animals to have them ready to adopt. Just the spay/neuter alone is expensive, let alone the vaccines they need. Plus feeding is a nothing short of an arm and a leg! :) When you go and find the "one" (possibly 2) that are meant for you, those adoption fees will be worth every single penny! Thank you for everything you do to help make our furry friends ready for a happy home!

  • BrindAmourFan Oct 19, 5:57 p.m.

    maybelle: You may be right, but if you can't afford to pay the fee, how can you afford to take care of the animal? Providing adequate pet care is expensive. Even the healthiest dog requires routine preventive care ($200-$300/year) and food in its bowl 2X/day. I have fostered with an animal rescue group for the last 4 years. Unlike WCAC, the group can't afford to pay for the dogs' food/toys, but it does cover the veterinary care, even for dogs with significant illness/injury. Yes, it charges an adoption fee; some believe it's too high. But consider this: The cost to have a dog vetted, vaccinated, spayed/neutered, microchipped, and maintained on heartworm/flea prevention is *expensive*. If you're adopting a dog that has incurred significant medical bills, we don't raise the adoption fee and pass that expense on to the adopting family; we absorb it and work our tails off to raise money through fundraising.

    How can you help? GIVE -- time or money, either one, it all makes a difference!

  • BrindAmourFan Oct 19, 5:52 p.m.

    Ambygirl: What a great attitude to have -- thanks for stepping up and taking responsibility. We need more of you!!

  • maybelle Oct 19, 5:20 p.m.

    I bet more animals would be adopted if they lowered the price they charge for the animals.

  • Ambygirl Oct 19, 5:05 p.m.

    I have to say I was not a good parent and my baby got pregnant before I took her to be spayed. She had puppies and I found homes for all that I could. But I did not and will not take the rest to the pound. I will keep them and take care of them because it is not their fault I was irresponsible. They are all sweet, loving and wonderful dogs. They have an acre of land to run and play, dog houses and plenty of food. I had 2 girls in the bunch and took them to SnapNC and got them spayed as soon as they were old enough. The 3 boys are getting neutered this month. I gave them all their shots that I was allowed to buy at the farm supply store and all will have their rabies shots now that they are of age at SnapNC. SnapNC is a great organization! It's not an easy job but it is my responsibility. It is not the responsibility of WCAS or the SPCA for my mistake. We as humans have to be accountable for our actions. I certainly will...

  • terriersrfun Oct 19, 4:53 p.m.

    Another route to help prevent "accidental" litters is education. Most dogs and cats mature before they are 1 year old. Some "old wives tales" that are FALSE include: 1) dogs and cats can't get pregnant or impregnate if they are less than 1 year old and 2) dogs and cats can't get pregnant during the first heat cycle. These are ideas are false, invalid, mistaken, wrong.... I like the idea of having a pet ownership lesson taught in our schools.

  • terriersrfun Oct 19, 4:39 p.m.

    When the SPCA was the intake facility for Cary, Garner and Raleigh, they too had to euthanize many animals. Until we reduce the inflow of animals to a manageable level, euthanization of shelter animals will not go away. Breeders should be licensed and regulated. Spaying and neutering has to be mandatory. Craig's list and the newspaper are full of people selling ill bred puppies every day; many will end up unwanted and discarded at the shelter.

  • nadianboone Oct 19, 4:18 p.m.

    I think there is a huge difference in SPCA and animal shelters. When I visited SPCA I saw smiling, educated people who cared about the animals. For instance, how "awesome" is the "pit crew"? In the animal shelters across NC, they just want to reduce the numbers and work as less as possible. I wish SPCA had more say for animals in NC. Hope Hancock has transformed the SPCA and has done so much in educating the public about animals and their well being. We are lucky to have her.

  • WCPSS_Hater Oct 19, 4:01 p.m.

    The SPCA did not choose to stop taking the stray animals of Raleigh, Cary, & Garner. Wake County Env. Services chose to stop reimbursing those cities for animals housed at the SPCA. No surprise that the cities faced with already tight budgets switched to taking strays to the county shelter. THEN, the county got more money from the commissioners for a larger shelter b/c of the increase in the # of animals coming in. At that point, the SPCA decided to become "No-Kill." Do they still transfer animals from the county shelter 1-2 times per week? Yes. Do they take transfer animals with minor illnesses or kittens who bite? Yes, because they know that they will be euthanized under current policies.

    The County could do better (hiring senior management would be a start). The SPCA doesn't have to seek the approval of anyone, except their supporters. The SPCA isn't the government, but they are representing a lot of private citizens, who are disturbed by county shelter policies.

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