NC Shelter Works the Media

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, the animal shelter in Craven Co, NC killed 5300 pets.  Total intake was 6267:  2546 dogs and 3721 cats.  That would be an 85% kill rate.  The article notes that the shelter takes in “dead and diseased animals, unsocialized animals, and animals brought in by other shelters and their owners specifically to be euthanized” and states that “1,438 canines and 693 felines were suitable and available for adoption”.

These numbers indicate the shelter received 1108 dogs and 3028 cats that were sick, feral or otherwise unsuitable for adoption in the shelter’s opinion.  To put it another way, out of every 100 cats that came through the front doors, only 18-19 were suitable for adoption in the opinion of the shelter.  The rest were killed.  These numbers seem awfully high to my mind.

Of the pets the shelter deemed adoptable, only 967 left alive.  The kill rate of adoptable pets was 55%.  Of the 45% saved:

The shelter makes a routine practice of turning over purebred dogs to the specific breed’s rescue organization in North Carolina, [shelter supervisor Kathryn] Smith said.

In addition to the alarmingly low numbers of pets the shelter deems adoptable and the even lower number that actually get saved, the shelter draws fire from pet welfare groups because it kills about half of its pets in the gas chamber (the other half are killed via lethal injection).

Despite all of this, the shelter supervisor finds time to blame the public when the local paper shows up:

The biggest problem, Smith said, is not the euthanasia method, but rather the need for it at all. She is easily able to recall countless incidents when people have brought their family pets to the shelter with excuses why they can’t keep them.


Smith becomes animated as she tells the tales, all of which represent a lack of responsible pet ownership.

Gee, if only the shelter had someone in a leadership position who became animated about saving pets.

“It’s not the fact that we use carbon monoxide or lethal injection or what. The fact is we have to kill dogs and it’s not our fault,” said shelter supervisor Kathryn Smith. “I’m not going to take the blame for that.”

Yeah, I think you’re on to something there.  Use media opportunities to blame the public and deny responsibility for your own actions.  And don’t let those pesky pet advocates get you down.  You just keep right on doing what you’re doing – you know, since it’s going great so far.

Oh by the way, how many people came into the shelter wanting to adopt or volunteer following your interview?  I bet your phone lines were burning up with all the public interest you generated in saving pets.  But if that didn’t happen, I’m sure that’s not your fault either.

8 thoughts on “NC Shelter Works the Media

  1. Once again, I don’t understand why you reserve so much venom for shelters rather than for those who are really responsible for the problem. I’m referring to irresponsible pet owners, backyard breeders, landlords who won’t allow pets, and elected officials who don’t direct adequate resources to animal shelter operations and expansion.

    In this post you are critical of the shelter operator for not doing more to save pets. As the
    old saying goes, it’s hard to drain the swamp when you’re up to your armpits in alligators. I don’t believe that shelter supervisor Kathryn Smith is playing any blame game here. She’s telling it like it is. Casting aspersions towards her is like yelling at the girl at McDonalds because your soft drink doesn’t taste like champagne.

    1. But shelters like this are not even attempting to “drain the swamp”. They are killing the alligators.

      Again, shelters need to use media opportunities to educate the public and push their merchandise, so to speak. This shelter squandered away this media opportunity to regale the reporter with tales of irresponsible pet owners. Not only does that not help any pets get adopted, it makes the public think of the shelter as a bad place, full of defective animals and staffed by people who will judge you harshly if you bring in a pet.

      There are irresponsible and even scary pet owners without a doubt. There are also irresponsible/scary parents, bar patrons and internet chat room users. In fact, there are irresponsible people in all walks of life, doing all manner of things. That fact in no way justifies killing the victims of the irresponsibility.

    2. Not taking that metaphor far enough. It’s more like this:

      You claim that all you want is to drain the swamp, and you take tax payer money that is earmarked for swamp-draining, but then make no attempt or plan to drain the swamp. All you do is kill the alligators and complain that there are swamp-dwelling creatures in your swamp.

      And when a news crew shows up to do a swamp-draining interest story, instead of taking the opportunity and, say, asking the community for volunteers to have a weekend swamp-draining party, you rant about how they don’t provide enough taxes and it’s THEIR FAULT the swamp hasn’t been drained yet.

    3. To hell with your “old saying”. What is a shelter? By definition it is “something that covers or affords protection” or in the form of an establishment it is there to “providing food and shelter”. And THAT is what our shelters are supposed to do! Killing healthy/treatable animals is no where a part of that definition.

      People are always going to be imperfect – and we are always going to have those that aren’t ‘animal people’ and shouldn’t have them. But through education and programs we CAN see a decrease in the number of homeless pets. When we have shelter directors who BLAME the general public for the animals being there – given that the majority of the pet loving public would never want their animals there in the first place – it is a last ditch effort when people lose their jobs/homes and have no other option. We have plenty of examples of how a shelter can operate to fulfill their obligation to the animals…and, unfortunately we have MANY bad examples of a shelter that doesn’t take the public that they NEED to help them and USE them. Instead the shelter directors play the blame game and point fingers at ALL people with animals. Yeah, that’s going to make people want to sign up and help those shelters. If I had a shelter director saying “I” was part of the problem I would probably show him/her my ‘special’ finger and walk out.

      A shelter director needs to be sensitive to both animals AND people. Not everyone can be perfect like you obviously are. In fact ‘perfect’ people like you help to perpetuate the problem at shelters because you also blame the public. The SAME public that CAN help fix the problem.

      Given we have so many people looking for animals – why aren’t these shelter directors REACHING OUT to the public instead of isolating them? Why don’t we see more programs that help educate people, provide free & low cost spay/neuter, free & low cost vaccines, free & low cost dog licensing, and free & low cost obedience dog training classes??? Why aren’t these shelters offering pet retention counseling to help people keep their pets, as opposed to taking them in and killing them?

      When given FREE media – these shelter directors should be reaching out to the public for help & support. They should be tlaking about how they want to see these animals live and have forever homes. They should be working with rescues and fostering programs. In fact I think these shelter directors are so stuck back in the dark ages that they could care less about the animals…while they sit there and play the blame game – that energy could be directed at saving animals!

      If you think that the only people responsible are the “irresponsible pet owners, backyard breeders, landlords who won’t allow pets, and elected officials who don’t direct adequate resources to animal shelter operations and expansion” – what are YOU doing to fix this? Are you purchasing properties that allow the tenants to have pets? Are you educating the “backyard breeders” as to what impact they are having on the animal population? (And what EXACTLY is a backyard breeder? I want YOUR definition – not the HSUS definition!) Are you writing YOUR congressperson to promote more funding being directed to these shelters & programs that they should have BUT don’t? Better yet – what fundraising efforts are you making to help raise money for these shelters?

      Personally I think we should fire each & every single director that blames the public and replace them with regular old Joe Shmoes that have a house full of animals that they love and adore – with their own rescue/foster programs – and I guarantee that we’ll see a change in our shelter system!

      Put a couple of animal loving angry women in those shelters – hell, let the volunteers run the shelters – and I guarantee we will see change were the current shelter directors are FAILING! Our shelter directors should be doing more WITH the public – they should be making the shelter more inviting to people and I guarantee you will see a change in attitudes – from the people who volunteer (or soon will due to the changes) down to the general public that wants to help but doesn’t know how BECAUSE the shelter directors don’t want their help. The seem to enjoy killing animals and blaming others for it.

      I apologize but your response to what Shirley reports is no better than what the shelter directors do! The shelter directors are supposed to be the animal *experts* and as such they need to lead the charge of change….instead they continue to cut off their own potential resources.

  2. No, it’s complaining to the girl at McDonald’s because your soft drink tastes like formaldehyde.

    Ms. Smith thinks that killing pets in the gas chamber (a scary, agonizing death, used primarily because many pets can be killed at one time, saving time and money) can reasonably be called “euthanasia,” and that it’s a reasonable thing for a “shelter” to do.

    This shelter CHOSE, when they had a tv crew on the premises, to kill a four-month-old puppy and deliver a rant on how it’s all the fault of the Bad Public, how this is what “we” do to our best friends, INSTEAD OF using the free publicity to clean up that puppy and others, put bandannas on them, and PROMOTE THE AVAILABILTY OF GREAT PETS IN THE SHELTER.

    Do they have a low-cost spay/neuter program? What are their adoption hours? What hours can people come in see if maybe THEIR lost pet is in the shelter? Have they started scanning pets for microchips, on intake and again before killing them?

    What is their ATTITUDE towards people who come in looking for lost pets or looking for a pet to adopt?

    These are not things they can wave away by blaming the Bad Public. There always have been and always will be irresponsible people; it’s the job of shelters to reach out the the responsible people in the community, in order to save more lives than they kill.

    And KILL is the word, not euthanasia, when you’re ending the life of a healthy, friendly animal whose only crime is failing to find a home before its time ran out.

    1. Just wanted to mention Lis that I think you are combining the Miami-Dade shelter story with this NC one. The former had the TV crew and killed the puppy during the visit. This one had a newspaper and blamed the public for their killing.

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