You Must Weigh at Least THIS MUCH to Survive

Which of the following would you think might be factors in determining whether a shelter allows an impounded kitten to live?

  • Veterinary assessment of health
  • Ability to eat without human assistance
  • Available space at the shelter
  • Available space in the shelter’s foster home network
  • Potential for owner redemption or adoption

If you are an ACO in Anne Arundel Co, MD – your answer would be None of the Above.  County ACOs have been under official order for more than a year to immediately kill all impounded pets based on a single criteria: weight.  Specifically, 1.5 pounds.  Any animals weighing less that that must be killed.  Even if they are healthy and friendly.  Even if they can eat regular pet food just like an older pet.  Even if there is room at the shelter.  Even if someone is willing to take them home to foster or adopt them.  Just weigh ’em and kill ’em.

Apparently ACOs were leaving the killing of the baby pets to the vet techs so a memo was issued that any ACO who failed to immediately kill pets under the weight limit would face disciplinary action.  A group of ACOs were recently fired by the county and exposed the policy to a local animal advocate who went to the paper.

Lt. Glenn Shanahan, the county police officer who oversees AC, says the policy is appropriate because small kittens could become sick and infect other cats at the shelter.  He fails to mention that small kittens could also not get sick and end up getting adopted in short order.  When the paper asked how many pets had been killed under the policy, he told them to file a Public Information Act request.  They did.  Stay tuned.

Thank you to reader Kelley S. for the tip.

20 thoughts on “You Must Weigh at Least THIS MUCH to Survive

    1. Seventeen years ago this month, I adopted a four-month-old kitten who weighed one and a half pounds. The shelter SHE was in didn’t kill her; they tried to figure out why she wasn’t growing and thriving like her litter mates. They agreed to my adopting her because I was able to make the case that she might not be coping with the shelter environment, and might do better in a quiet home with only two other cats.

      They made that decision because they wanted what was best for her.

      I named her Retsina, and she died last February at the age of sixteen, having spent last five years with the vets asking me, every year, are you sure she’s that old? Really?

      That’s the difference between a shelter and a kill center.

  1. YesBiscuit, could you let us know the results of the Freedom of Information request?

    We are currently FEEDING a litter of 5 kittens. When we got them they weighed 8 ounces. They have not gotten sick. They have not gotten any of the animals in the foster home sick. Amazing, that, huh?

    1. I’m sure going to try to catch it if the paper publishes anything on it but I can always use an extra set of eyeballs…

      You should document your MIRACLE KITTENS – I’m sure Nat Geo would be interested!

      1. I know, they are GROWING TEETH now. Oh my God! Soon they will be able to DRINK milk from a saucer!!!!!! I will take pics today to send to National Geographic!

  2. of course the AAC shelter never gets nursing cats/dogs that could help out unweaned babies. And of course they know of no citizens with such nursing dogs…

    1. Emily, if you read the article there is a quote from the guy in charge something like “We do all we can to avoid killing pets”. So there ya go – he’s doing everything humanly possible! I imagine he’s got litters farmed out to every neighbor, friend and family member within a 3 county radius…

  3. Does this law apply only to cats or to dogs as well?

    The last cat we adopted out was 2lbs – at age… 10? In perfect health, just a really, really tiny girl. One can imagine how much she weighed when she was six months.

    What about tiny dogs? Especially young, tiny dogs? These are the EASIEST animals in the entire shelter to adopt out. They also fetch the highest adoption fees.

    This is not only aggravating in a “killing innocent animals for no good reason” way… but in a “sabotage your own shelter” kinda way.

    Thanks for posting this, Shirley.

    1. @Kim – it says “all impounded pets”, so I would think that would include dogs.

      I hope this goes national and shames them into stopping this practice.

  4. Simply appalling. My impression was that Anne Arundel Co. was fairly progressive in many respects, which makes this policy even worse. And as others have pointed out, it just makes no sense because these baby orphans are among the easiest to get fostered and even to fundraise around! As for the contagion issue, the tinies are much more likely to get sick from something already in the shelter than to bring in new diseases. I hate to think that laziness is behind the policy, but that is the only explanation I can think of, based on what has been reported.

  5. “As for the contagion issue, the tinies are much more likely to get sick from something already in the shelter than to bring in new diseases.”

    That is an EXTREMELY good point.

    It should also be noted that far too often bacterial infections (that are so easily contracted by babies) are misdiagnosed in a panic as viral infections because the symptoms are practically identical at that age. Something as simple as the failure to properly sterilize a nipple or a piece of bedding can affect an individual or an entire litter – causing the shelter to euthanize the entire holding area “as a precaution.”


  6. Our local shelters euth anything under 2 lbs unless taken by rescue. But they do make an effort to have rescues take the kittens. I don’t understand not opening it up to rescues at all. What is the rational behind that?

    I do understand the rational behind not keeping kittens in the shelter environment, because almost every kitten there does get sick, but to me it’s a question of proper sanitation, not a cut-off weight.

    Most shelters are more like factory farms than they are refuges for animals.

  7. This is one of THE stupidest policies I have ever heard of, and there are many stupid policies in the kill ‘shelter’ world.

    Give the pet a bowl of food and WALLA! They gain weight. Give them extra food.

    I’m sick and tired of trying to rationalize with irrational buttholes who find every reason to kill, instead of every reason to save.

    They are murderers. No excuses.

  8. “Lt. Glenn Shanahan, the county police officer who oversees AC, says the policy is appropriate because small kittens could become sick and infect other cats at the shelter.”

    Hey Glenn, you’ve lost so much weight! Better kill you…you might get sick and infect other humans. Nothing personal.

    (Not really, just showing that Glenn is suffering from a severe case of headupthebuttitis.Put down the friggin donut and wake up, Lt. Shanahan. If YOUR life was about to be taken because of your weight, you wouldnt give any of that bureaucratic B.S., you’d scream bloody murder.)

    It’s really incredible how stupid humans are. I mean stupid. Dumber than a rock kind of stupid.

  9. And you have to wonder how often their scales get calibrated. Under 10 pounds, some scales are not very accurate. “Sorry, Kitty–you weigh in at only 23 ounces, not 24 ounces (pound and a half). Blue juice for you. But your littermate is 25 ounces–let that one live.” Blanket policies rarely serve animals–or people–well.

  10. This aired on the local news on 11/1, and it sounded like they were already back pedaling pretty quickly on having this be policy. I suspect they will change the policy, but keep doing it anyway. I reached out to some people over that way after seeing the initial story, and reports on the shelters practices are not good. Director will not even work with rescues. The shelter is considered a police operation. The saddest story involved young Lab found as a stray. The lady who brought it in wanted to adopt it, if the owner was not found. She went in every day to check on the dog, and expressed her desire to adopt it to the staff On day five the stray hold was up, she went in to adopt, and they had already killed him. I’m glad to see petition was started, but there should probably be one directed at John Leopold, the county executive, and it should encourage him to improve everything about the shelter. This is a fairly affluent community, there is really no excuse for this. When I checked the available pets online, the day after reading the original story, there were 7 cats, and no dogs. I’m very interested to see the kill & adoption rates.

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