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A view from the inside Lori Fusaro | Mon, Oct 24 2011 12:19 PM

 

            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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Khryste L Says:

Thu, Feb 09 2012 10:19 AM

Wow, reading this left me feellng sick and shaken and angry. All that is needed to fix this is some compassion and a little common sense. Why is that so difficult?


Lisa S Says:

Fri, Oct 28 2011 07:09 PM

Lori, You have big balls to write this article. And I mean that in that in the most complimentary way!!! I have seen similar scenes. It took me a while (and some life experience) to get to the point where I could look at "what is" and work to change it. Everyone who goes out to get a pet should know what the euthanasia rate is. Everyone who thinks "Oh wouldn't it be fun to have a litter of puppies." Should visit a shelter and take it all in. Dead puppies and kitties in piles are not cute . . . they are a tragedy-a preventable tragedy. Thanks for sharing.


CE Says:

Fri, Oct 28 2011 06:53 PM

Such a terribly sad picture, it makes me cry


Cara J Says:

Fri, Oct 28 2011 06:52 PM

Wow. It makes me cry too.


Joni S Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 08:38 PM

Sorry but a lot of the killing in animal shelters is the fault of the animal shelters. There is so much more most of them could do to increase their leave alive rate but don't. And spay and neuter laws do NOT work. Studies show that they only increase the kill rates at the shelters not decease them. There will always be people that don't do right by their pets just as there are people that don't do right by their children but we don't kill the children.

Studies show that most people would spay and neuter IF they could afford it. No cost and low cost spay and neuter works better than laws and in the long run are cheaper than building larger and larger shelters.


Chris Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 07:21 PM

Such a terribly sad picture, it makes me cry


Amy M Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 05:54 PM

I didn't want to read this article at first - not wanting to be depressed by another sad shelter story or maybe it was even one of those "Snopes" stories, but unfortunately after volunteering in a local shelter for over a year now, it sounds all too familiar - the reasons and excuses, the overcrowding and the stress the dogs undergo. I really wish more people realized and experienced the outcome of their actions. A lot of people want to blame the shelter, but the responsibility lies solely on the shoulders of the pet owners. I vote for stronger spay and neuter laws instead of laws that outlaw certain types of dogs and hope this will make a difference. Lisa, I think your article is a good one for people to hear and I hope it gets the word out. Please spay and neuter your pets!


Mara Thompson Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 05:54 PM

Kudos to you Lori-- love our animal family...


LP Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 05:17 PM

Fifteen years ago or so, the city of L.A. put up a billboard with a photo of barrels full of dead dogs and cats, euthanized by the city, as part of its campaign to get people to spay/neuter their pets. There was a huge outcry and the billboard was removed. It's okay to kill these pets; it's not okay to show it.


Krissy L Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 04:37 PM

so terrible. =(


Eric Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 04:12 PM

‡:(


M'Lissa Says:

Thu, Oct 27 2011 04:09 PM

I knew this would be a sad story to read and sure enough...tears! Wish everyone had a true heart for animals. Some people just simply don't care for other living creatures.


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