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SPCA: Wake Shelter Needs to Stop Gassing Animals

SPCA supporters met Monday night to raise public awareness about conditions at the Wake County animal shelter. They say the facility should sterilize all pets and stop using a gas chamber.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County should hold off from building any new animal shelters until it changes its management practices, according to animal advocates.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, wants the county shelter to stop euthanizing animals in a gas chamber and to start spaying and neutering all pets before they are offered for adoption.

"Our demands are that the county come up to a basic level of animal sheltering," said Hope Hancock, executive director of Wake County SPCA. "This county is progressive, (but it's a) backwards practice that there's not 100 percent pre-adoption sterilization here."

Michael Williams, director of the county shelter, said there is nothing cruel about the shelter's gas chamber.

"We are fully compliant with the current and proposed state rules, and we only use it in about 6 percent of euthanasia we perform here," Williams said.

The county shelter has euthanized 1,540 dogs and 3,363 cats since last July.

In fiscal year 2007, the SPCA shelter took in 5,651 animals. Of those, 2,774 were either adopted or reunited with their owners and 2,877 were put to sleep.

“To get the lethal injection, it requires you to engage them (animals), be close to them. Some are not conducive to being close to. They'll scratch or bite, something like that,” Wake County Environmental Services Director Thomas Esqueda said.

The shelter does sterilize most pets before adoption, Williams said. Pets that are too small or too sick aren't spayed or neutered, he said.

“Fertile animals are being adopted out, they are procreating at rapid rates and the tax payers are having to pay to collect and bring these animals in," Hancock said.

Cary and Garner will begin sending their stray animals to the Wake County shelter on July 1.

In the past, the SPCA took in those animals. The county reimbursed the SPCA more than $300,000 for its services last year. By having residents of Cary and Garner use the shelter, the county will not have to pay. The SPCA argues that the shelter is not the best option for the animals.

"Their facility is not up to standard," Hancock said.

The county shelter took in 10,276 animals last year. Williams said Cary and Garner should add an estimated 1,500 pets a year, which the shelter can absorb without problem. Hancock disagrees.

"That's a capacity issue," she said.

SPCA supporters met Monday night to come up with a plan to raise public awareness about conditions at the shelter. They urged animal advocates to contact their local representatives in hopes of improving animal treatment.

"They have no one but us,” SPCA Shelter Manager Deborah Steely said.