WRAL Investigates

Wake shelter makes changes to treat sick dogs instead of killing them

Posted December 12, 2011
Updated December 13, 2011

— For the first time in eight months, the number of dogs adopted from the Wake County Animal Center is higher than the number killed, officials said Monday.

In the past four weeks, 88 dogs at the county shelter showed symptoms of an upper-respiratory infection. Twenty-seven had to be euthanized because they also had other illnesses or were deemed too aggressive, but the remaining 61 dogs found other homes or remain up for adoption.

The shelter last month suspended its policy of automatically killing dogs showing signs of an upper respiratory infection. The move came one day after Sassy, an 8-month-old Labrador/hound mix, was euthanized within hours of appearing as the "Pet of the Day" for adoption on the WRAL News at Noon.

"It was a little difficult," animal shelter director Dennis McMichael said Monday of the uproar caused by Sassy's death, which occurred on his first week on the job.

The shelter didn't have an area to isolate the sick animals, so officials killed infected dogs to prevent spreading disease to other animals. After suspending the policy, officials created a separate area for sick dogs and now treats them with a 10-day course of antibiotics.

An average of three dogs a day come down with an upper respiratory infection at the shelter.

"What we're keeping an eye on (is), is there any sort of illness spreading into rest of facilities because we're doing that, and we haven't seen that," McMichael said.

Still, he said, treating sick dogs in the shelter isn't an ideal situation.

"I certainly understand the logic behind the (old) policy," he said. "The problem really is keeping the dogs in a facility that doesn't keep them healthier, generally, because they're still stressed. They're being kept with other dogs and aren't feeling well."

The shelter is still studying the effects of suspending the kill policy before deciding whether to make it permanent, he said.

WRAL Investigates Future of kill policy at Wake animal shelter still uncertain

Epidemiologists and veterinarians are being consulted to determine what the euthanasia policy for upper respiratory infections should be, he said. He also plans to form a community task force to look into reducing the thousands of animals that come into the shelter each year.

The animal center came under scrutiny this summer after volunteers complained that the shelter's kill rate soared.

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 fear of spreading sickness pushed up the euthanasia rate.

For the fiscal year that ended in June, the shelter euthanized about 45 percent of the 16,100 animals it took in. Thirty-eight percent were adopted or reclaimed by their owners, and 11 percent were transferred to rescue groups.

The shelter now allows rescue groups to adopt some of the sick animals if they have safe, quarantined areas to treat them.


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  • lauramess130 Dec 22, 2011

    Some education....Any breed of dog can be a killer, if they are abused, mistrained, beaten. But if they are raised right from a loving family, those "feared" breeds can be 100% safe.
    Most People that are unsure about those dogs, in MY OPINION, are not really willing to train them properly.

  • Rico Dec 19, 2011

    A dog can get free health care! Great!

  • kermit60 Dec 14, 2011

    Great concept. Lets spend money on anti-biotics to save the animals so when they aren't adopted we can kill them later. It is sad that there are so many abandoned animals but they are not human beings. If rescue groups or private citizens want to take care of them great, but tax-payer money should not be used to maintain animals that nobody wants. It's like welfare, the more we provide the more of them there seems to be.

  • kickchick2000 Dec 13, 2011

    If anyone is interested in adopting, the shelter is having reduced adoption fee's from now until the 23rd on all their pets. Cats range from $10- $25 and dogs from $25-$45.

  • Responsibleforactions Dec 13, 2011

    I adopted from the Wake Cty SPCA - when I went in I was positive that I didn't want a Pit, then we saw Mya, she was advertised as a Lab, Shepard mix - it was love at first site and we brought her home - Once home and I saw her with her ears back, she has a lot of Pit in her and within a week her coughing was getting really bad so I took her to the vet got some antibiotics and now she is the best dog ever - my 3 year old grandson climbs all over her, she sits and watches him while he is in the bath and will go lay down with him at bedtime until he is asleep then come downstairs to hang with me until time for bed. I love my rescue Pit mix

  • royalnc Dec 13, 2011

    "Let the sick dogs live so that other dogs and perhaps human beings will can get sick." You can't catch anything from a dog that has URI, Sherlock.

  • gnewsome1 Dec 13, 2011

    Let the sick dogs live so that other dogs and perhaps human beings will can get sick. Guess all of the animal lovers, especially those who are blinded by pet sickness and put an animal's life above that of a human being, will be happy.

  • They call me CATMAN Dec 13, 2011

    Adoptions are down everywhere I volunteer with an animal rescue group we have had many returns this year due to the bad economy. Anyone who is looking to get an animal remember it is a life long commitment animals just like people need Vet care every year they are like toddlers they can get into anything. They do get many of the things humans get. URI's, UTI's so please make sure before you get anpet make sure you are ready both Money wise and time wise. They are worth the effort my 3 cats are my babies and they give more to me then I will ever have to give them in care.

  • They call me CATMAN Dec 13, 2011

    pattyjuly25 it is not just that people are afaid to adopt them many insurance companies won't grant homeowners or rental policies if you have a Pitbull or pitbull mix as well as chows. I know I am trying to get a policy and one of the questions they asked do I have a Pitbull or chow. Even if you say no and they find out you do after granting the policy they can cancel the policy and get you for insuance fraud.

  • queene01 Dec 13, 2011

    and by the way moppie- my pitbull sleeps with 2 cats, has her nails painted, and her teeth brushed... now tell me that's an aggressive dog personality... o yea- and when I clipped her nails, her snout is always resting on my wrist.