WRAL Investigates

Wake shelter stops killing dogs with respiratory infections, for now

Posted November 10, 2011

— The Wake County Animal Center announced Thursday that it will temporarily stop killing dogs that show symptoms of upper respiratory infections. The change comes one day after WRAL News reported that the shelter killed an 8-month-old dog named Sassy, hours after she appeared on Tuesday's noon news as the "Pet of the Day."

Calling Sassy's death an "indefensible mistake," Wake County Deputy Manager Joe Durham said the shelter is taking immediate steps to give sick dogs antibiotics and place them in a new quarantine area.

The shelter will also now allow rescue groups to adopt some of the sick animals, if they have safe, quarantined areas to treat them. The deputy county manager says they'll take about 30 days to discuss changes to the euthanasia policy and get input from animal rescue groups.

So far this year, the Wake County Animal Center said it has euthanized 878 dogs.

Sassy, a Labrador/hound mix, appeared to be in good health Tuesday afternoon when she and a shelter staff member appeared on WRAL's noon news.

About five hours later, a kennel technician reported Sassy was demonstrating a "honking cough and green nasal discharge," according to Durham.

"At that time, Sassy was identified as a dog that needed to be euthanized, based on her demonstrated symptoms," he said Wednesday.

Wake County Deputy Manager Joe Durham Wake shelter changes kill policy for now

Members of the public flooded the animal center's Facebook page, as well as WRAL's, with comments Wednesday, expressing their anger about Sassy's death.

"I'm sorry hundreds of dogs have lost their lives as a result but Sassy‚Äôs legacy will live on," Wake County SPCA Executive Director Hope Hancock said. 

Kim Parker, of the advocacy group Wake Voice for Animals, said she is happy the county has suspended the policy, calling it the "right thing" to do. 

"When this policy took effect, we were all pretty much astounded, and so we are pleased that they have decided this is not a good policy," Parker said. 

The animal center has come under scrutiny in recent months after volunteers complained that the shelter's kill rate has soared.

Wake shelter kills 'Pet of the Day' dog Wake shelter kills 'Pet of the Day' dog

In January, the Wake 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.

The center had set goals of moving toward a policy of increased adoptions, officials said, but a flood of incoming animals and the spread of sickness pushed up the euthanasia rate in recent months.

Shelter makes more changes

Durham, the county's deputy manager, said a third party veterinarian was brought in two weeks ago to review their policies. The vet will remain there for the next 45 days.

Durham said that the shelter has also amended its policy about euthanizing puppies and kittens that bite and scratch. In the past, any dog or cat that scratched or bit a worker or animal control officer was put on standard 10 day rabies watch and then euthanized. A new state statute requires that those animals be evaluated to see if it was a fear bite or aggression.

In the past two weeks, Durham said the decision was made to amend the policy concerning young animals. It was unclear how this policy would affect older animals.

148 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • alphapack Nov 14, 1:31 p.m.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMR9scfrsx0

    when are we going to organize and do something? actual video of dogs being gassed at Yadkin NC.Tax payer dollars supported this.

  • alphapack Nov 14, 1:12 p.m.

    yes,according to WRAL online posts-they stopped almost a year ago from gassing(not "years" ago).Here is a list of NC pounds that still do gas:http://justonemorepet.wordpress.com/2010/04/20/stop-gas-chambers-in-north-carolina-animal-shelters/

    Question: why all the comments and no outright active group participations to stop gassing and start open public inspection of the pounds,even during gassing?? all personal comments and no thought given to active organization to stop inhumane practices at the pounds? Oh,so it is OK that Sassy was not gassed? Why are people not meeting to stop these horrors that occur at the pounds? you all pay for this outrageous cruelty and killing.So all you think to do is grumble in a blog or talk about your rescued pets? great,but when we will all start to organize and do something viable and legal to end the current practices? we all KNOW the reasons why we have pounds.We all KNOW the politics of why many still gas.So,WHY are WE NOT DOING SOMETHING???

  • unonot Nov 11, 6:31 p.m.

    I have seen several comments stating that Wake County "gassed" Sassy. This is not true. The Wake County Animal Shelter does not use gas and stopped that practice several years ago. Please know your facts before you make such a comment.

  • quaten Nov 11, 5:25 p.m.

    Ten bucks says that most animals inducted to the shelters are not true wild strays, rather discarded pets by owners who simply want to rid themselves of the responsibility of pet ownership. It probably has less to do with spay and neutered stray animals and their offspring, than it does with pets who have become discard-able.

    Anyone from the shelters disagree?

    I live in the rural outskirts. I can no longer count on both hands how many times I've witnessed pets being discarded "back into the wild". I know this because the poor animals eventually end up at my doorstep. One time I arrived home to find a puppy tied to my porch railing with a note attached "Please take care of me". The obvious clue is that wild cats and dogs aren't born spayed or neutered.

    To the city folk from the rural folk: Stop discarding your unwanted pets "back into the wild". Please.

  • PokeyGirl Nov 11, 4:25 p.m.

    "I have read several comments about why so much attention is given to situations like this when there humans in desperate situations. Animals do not have the voice we humans have , we have made them dependent on us which means it is our responsibility to take care of them. In reality it is the fault of humans for situations like this. The fault of unresponsible pet owners who do not have their pets spayed/neutered or vaccinated,causing the over crowding of shelters,many many strays and the spread of disease.- bubbasu1"

    EXACTLY. Well said.

  • alphapack Nov 11, 3:41 p.m.

    PLEASE use this sad situation to STOP GASSING the pound animals.They have suffered enough by being dumped as unwanted.To add to the cruelty? die by gassing-animals suffer horribly-they implode and bleed out.PLEASE ORGANIZE to stop gassing.SASSY suffered in more than one way.So did the many other "unseen" Sassys.Why has no one realized that Sassy and many others have/are being gassed in North Carolina daily??Fine to make comments,but better to complain and stop this horrid,cruel practice.I have been fighting for over 20 years in NC and I have no support,other than sympathetic response.The State Veterinarian is the one who makes the gas chambers and turns around and sells them to NC pounds and hunt clubs.WRAL-expose the gas chamber stories,please.People? please COMPLAIN to your reps and senators AND the State Veterinarian's office.This is nothing more than a political game for money at the expense of animal suffering.

  • driverkid3 Nov 11, 12:17 p.m.

    Every pet I've ever had but one was either adopted or a stray. Years back, I bought a cat and that was one of the most evil animals I'd ever seen. I didn't toss the cat out, I did find a home for him. The furbeast I have now was beutered within 4 months of the time I got him, and I paid for that myself. I loved all my animals, even that evil cat. I will never, ever buy another animal, there are too many that need me as much as I need them.

    For those that think it's just a dog, or it's just a cat, let me remind you of this. There are multiple agencies and organizations that take care of kids, and WAY too many people that have them without having the means to support the kids. I donate to an animal shelter, and let the kid people take care of them. An animal is nowhere near as expensive to raise as a kid.

  • bubbasu1 Nov 11, 12:06 p.m.

    I have read several comments about why so much attention is given to situations like this when there humans in desperate situations. Animals do not have the voice we humans have , we have made them dependent on us which means it is our responsibility to take care of them. In reality it is the fault of humans for situations like this. The fault of unresponsible pet owners who do not have their pets spayed/neutered or vaccinated,causing the over crowding of shelters,many many strays and the spread of disease.

  • jmacgaffick Nov 11, 10:51 a.m.

    That is not a fair practice to put any kind of animal down for being sick especially since it is treatable. If the dog was prone to biting people I could see putting the dog down, but being sick, come on.

  • ncyankee62 Nov 11, 10:37 a.m.

    I guess cats are still fair game, huh? Does anyone else realize twice as many cats are being put down? As usual, cats take a back seat.

More...