A view from the inside


I recently received a letter from an animal shelter manager. It’s a firsthand view at what goes on in animal shelters across the country, especially in big cities like Los Angeles. I’ve seen the inside of many of the city’s shelters and I always leave with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. There’s just no way to save all the animals that wind up there. I wish it were different, but with so many backyard breeders and people who don’t spay and neuter their pets, it will continue. The following is the letter from the shelter manager, who wished to remain anonymous:

I think our society needs a huge wake-up call. I am going to share a little insight – a view from the inside. First off, all breeders/sellers should be made to work in the back of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know.

That puppy you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore. So how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not. About 50% of all of the dogs that are owner surrenders or strays that come into my shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses I hear are: “We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving to that doesn’t allow pets? Or they say, “The dog got bigger than we thought it would.” How big did you think a German shepherd would get? “We don’t have time for her.” Really? I work a 10- to 12-hour day and still have time for my six dogs. “She’s tearing up our yard.” How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me, “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her; we know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog.”

Odds are that your pet won’t get adopted and how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes, a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers that day to take him for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the “bully” breeds (pit bull, Rottweiler, mastiff, etc.), it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those dogs just don’t get adopted. It doesn’t matter how sweet or well-behaved they are.

If your dog doesn’t get adopted within 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough and a desirable breed, it may get a stay of execution but not for long. Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are that it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Here’s a little “euthanasia 101” for anyone that has never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being put down:

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk – happy and wagging their tails. Until they get to “the Room.” Every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there. It’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by one or two veterinarian techs, depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then, a euthanasia technician or a veterinarian will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff.” Hopefully, your pet doesn’t panic while being restrained, and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and become covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep,” sometimes, they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves.

When it all ends, your pet’s corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back, with all of the other animals that were killed, waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremation? A trip to the dump? Get rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always get another one, right?

I hope that as you read this, you are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head that I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

Between 9 million and 11 million animals die every year in shelters. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full. There are more animals coming in each day than there are homes for them.

The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope to change one person’s mind about breeding their animal, taking their loving pet to a shelter or buying a dog.

Lori Fusaro has been voted the best portrait photographer by FoxTV three years in a row. She lives in Culver City with her husband, four cats and dog. Contact: Lori@FusaroPhotography.com, FusaroPhotography.com.


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