1145 Pets at GA Shelter Killed with Drug Dosage Based on a Guess

One of the Floyd Co AC shelter’s stated goals is:

To provide unwanted, sick or injured animals with humane euthanasia, according them dignity and respect during that act.

The GA shelter recently expelled their volunteers who had been helping to save lives.  Even though the volunteers helped reduce the number of pets killed at the shelter, there have been 1145 pets killed in 2010 (stats through September 30).  The report details the total number of animals taken in YTD (year-to-date) as 4627  (with 116 of these classified as “others”) and breaks down their disposition as follows:

  • 2859 adopted or rescued
  • 1145 killed (248 dogs, 897 cats)
  • 129 returned to owner
  • 104 died at shelter/escaped/taken to vet

Those numbers add up to 4237 – a difference of 390 animals.  I’m guessing some of those can be accounted for by the “others” category and the shelter may have hundreds of animals on hand.

This week, a woman sent a list of questions about the shelter’s practices to the local newspaper.  She comments beneath the article that she received an e-mail from shelter director Jason Broome answering her questions and that she has posted the information here.  In his response, Mr. Broome states that all current shelter staff were trained in euthanasia techniques by two local vets in 2007.  Those vets were Drs. Goldberg and Todd.  That sounds appropriate, which is why I was surprised to read this bit:

6. Did FCAC ever guess about the weight of an animal when using medication for euthanizing?
Yes.  Until 10-26-2010 we were inspected annually by the DOA and never instructed to obtain a scale for the purpose of euthanasia.  However on the 10-26-2010 DOA visit, FCAC staff was instructed and did obtain two scales (one for small animals, one for large animals) for use in the facility on 10-27-2010.

Did Drs. Goldberg and Todd fail to include weighing the animal as part of their instruction to the shelter staff in 2007?  (If so, I wonder what else they left out.)  No one in the shelter thought that guessing the pet’s weight was inappropriate?  Doesn’t it say on the bottle that the dosage is based upon the animal’s weight?  Surely it doesn’t say “Use the dosage that you guess might be closest to the actual weight of the animal”.

Perhaps this accounts for why some animals at Floyd Co AC had to be re-injected with the euthanasia drug after the initial dose failed to kill them.  Mr. Broome’s answer to question 5 refers to “seemingly normal animals” sometimes requiring “more than the recommended dosage”.  Since that dosage at Floyd Co was calculated based upon a guess of the animal’s weight, I have no doubt that could happen.

In summary, from January 1 through September 30 of this year, 1145 animals had been killed at Floyd Co AC using a dosage of euthanasia solution based upon a guess of the animal’s weight.  Some unknown number of animals had to be re-injected with more of the drug because they were left alive after the initial injection.  No one at the shelter, including the director, thought this was inappropriate.  As of October 27, the staff now weighs the animals before killing them.

13 thoughts on “1145 Pets at GA Shelter Killed with Drug Dosage Based on a Guess

  1. God help us.

    “Some unknown number of animals had to be re-injected with more of the drug because they were left alive after the initial injection. No one at the shelter, including the director, thought this was inappropriate. As of October 27, the staff now weighs the animals before killing them.”

  2. THIS IS SICK !!! They saw nothing wrong with injecting them with 2 lethal doses??? CRAZY !!
    In this day and age, these workers should be ashamed, embarrassed and FIRED ! Where is their humanity , their common decency ???????

    1. In fairness, I want to point out that apparently many shelters do this (weight guessing to determine pentobarb dosage) and that HSUS says it’s fine to do it that way. I don’t agree (but that’s just my opinion) and no Vet I ever worked for in private practice euthanized without an accurate weight of the pet. It’s also possible that even with an accurate weight, a second injection could be needed although I think that’s rare.
      This shelter has been the subject of quite a lot of internet rumors (which are unverifiable) about the shelter putting not-dead “euthanized” animals in the landfill. The shelter director denies these rumors in his response at the link.

  3. I’ve personally witnessed a second injection twice. Once, the pet merely failed to pass away. The second, it appeared to, and was alive the next morning in the clinic (or I wouldn’t have bought that rottweiler resurrection story so quickly and without question).

    But guessing weight is absolutely unrealistic. I work with animals EVERY DAY and if there’s one thing I know it’s that people can seldom guess their OWN pet’s weight properly. There would be a massive waste of pentobarbital either way (not a cheap drug, either).

    My second big issue is… how is this legal? It was my understanding that pentobarbital is a tightly controlled substance, and without a veterinarian to guarantee the rate of use and sign off on each injection, where is the supply coming from and who is ensuring that this drug is being used safely and appropriately?

    Euthanasia is a delicate procedure and should be done only by a veterinarian or only under the close and personal supervision of a veterinarian.

    Killing, under any name, shouldn’t be that easy. (Fill in forms A1, A2, B8, grab an apron and some gloves and come on back!).

    It’s no wonder some of these places are like a magnet for twisted personalities.

    1. Guessing an animal’s weight is shoddy practice IMO, especially when you are touting a stated goal of providing a “humane” death. It’s easy to be off by quite a bit when guessing an animal’s weight. I can think of many times when I’ve looked at a dog and gotten a mental impression of overall size and then picked up the dog and realized immediately my visual impression was way off. Further, I find it hard to believe that not one, but TWO vets would have failed to instruct the staff to weigh the pets in order to determine an accurate dosage of euthanasia solution.
      As far as waste of the expensive drug goes, I have heard – unverified – from more than one shelter employee (at other shelters) about directors verbally instructing staff to “just use 3ml of euthanasia solution on all dogs”, regardless of size, in order to save money. 3 ml would be the appropriate dosage for a dog weighing 30 pounds. Unfortunately, most dogs happen to weigh something other than 30 pounds. Unacceptable to my mind.

  4. Shelter killing doesn’t require a vet to be present. At least in South Carolina. And most use a drug called Fatal Plus. It can come in a powdered form, has to be reconstituted. I believe this is where any “failure” of the drug can come from. It can “settle” if not shaken. If not properly mixed , in the first palce, you may not have the proper dilution. ie: the solution may be too diluted or too strong. And , you don’t have to have the vet order the drugs if the shelter has a drug license.
    And,sadly yes, in my experience, “guesstimates” are the rule in a euthanasia room.

    1. My hope is that, by shining a light on such practices, we can get them changed. For the shelter pets who truly do require euthanasia – that is, medically hopeless and suffering animals – it’s my belief they should receive a dose of euthanasia solution based upon their actual weight.

  5. As a euth tech, I have to say, first off, Fatal-Plus, while not free, is not that expensive, either. A 100ml bottle is around $7-8; secondly, when working, I always overdosed and yes, it was always a guess. Unfortunately there’s not scales sitting alongside a road where a dog may have been hit by a car but didn’t die and I have to perform euth. alongside the road (moving the broken dog is just too hard on it).
    Other shelters may be in a hurry and not dose properly – OR, the dog may have a poor vascular system and the drug doesn’t do what it’s supposed to – even when used at the proper dosage.
    Remember, this is a SEDATIVE. Basically, what you are doing is giving the dog an overdose of a sedative. So even if you have to administer a 2nd injection, at 1/2 the recommended dosage (for instance, 1/2 ml. per 10lb. of body weight, so a 100lb. dog would get a 5ml. dosage) the dog will be almost comatose. So a second injection is not even going to be felt.
    And in the years since I’ve been doing rescue, then Animal control and now rescue again, I’ve gotten accurate within 10lb. of “estimating” a dog’s body weight, so it can be done.
    In fact, my husband is a paramedic, and they don’t carry scales around with them, yet he has to measure out drugs on scene without a scale, so Animal control isn’t the only place this occurs.
    Emergency rooms (for humans) same thing…
    Food for your thought, anyway :-)

    1. Y.F. – I’ve been known to use what many would consider methods far less humane than Fatal-Plus to kill an injured animal in the wilderness or on the side of the road. In an emergency, you work with what you have and do the best you can. Period.

      But we’re not talking about an emergency. We’re talking about a shelter that presumably has had 72 hours to weigh this animal.

      You go to see your general practitioner, they track your weight so that your prescriptions are effective.

      You take you pet to the vet, where’s the first place they go – up on that scale, to ensure proper dosage and to track weight trends.

      It’s not just the guessing, or the use of clinic staff to perform euthanasias (which is jaw-dropping as far as I’m concerned) or the lack of care for individual life. It’s the inconsistency of it all. For some reason I can’t purchase Advantage over the counter. I have to purchase it from my vet, at their chosen markup – and even then only if my pet has had a physical in the last year. If not, add $45-$100 for that depending on your clinic. But a back room shelter worker can guess a weight, measure out and dose a product called Fatal-Plus with the intention of killing that pet.

      You know, Y.F. – I betcha those two posed cats photographed a while back weren’t feeling much pain at the time either. Just because an animal is “near comatose” makes our treatment of it just?

      1. You can buy Advantage anywhere – even Petsmart and Petco carry it.

        And I never said it was “just”, but it isn’t the hand-wringing event some are making it out to be.

        I just think many people do not understand how euthanasia works – and if done properly, or even half-assedly (is that a word?) if the dog is halfway to being dead, that is, in a deep coma, a second stick is not going to do any harm.

        I’ve been on scene, where a dog has gotten run over, for instance, but didn’t die so I was called to euthanaize, and when the law enforcement officers saw me euthanize, using first a sedative then sodium pentobarbital, they’d comment that when it’s their time, that’s how they want to go.
        It’s far from being inhumane, no matter if only half a dose is used, if you are off by 10lb., or what-have-you.
        I might mention, this very same drug is/was used for human epilepsy and even as a sedative, at a lower dosage that it takes to kill a human, of course – so underdosing a dog is, again, far from abuse or being inhumane.

      2. As Kim pointed out, this isn’t a roadside emergency situation; it’s a “shelter,” so-called, that had 72 hours to get a correct weight on the animal that it is killing.

        Having shelter staff do a half-assed job based on a guess shows a fundamental disregard for the animals whose lives they are ending. And that attitude is behind the other abuses at that “shelter.”

      3. Y.F. – before spouting that you can purchase Advantage “Everywhere” perhaps you should consider that “everyone” who reads this blog does not live where you do.

        I live in Canada. Specifically in Ontario, where Advantage is a veterinary only product. Same as Capstar and safeguard.

        Once again, I suggest before posting you get your facts straight.

        Oh, and I’ll remember this quote “if the dog is halfway to being dead, that is, in a deep coma, a second stick is not going to do any harm.” when one of your family members is on their death bed.

        Make sure to write it on their chart “Don’t worry about dignity, Doc – she’s in a coma, she’ll never know the difference.”

  6. I would like to see ANY of you who are complaining perform a euthanasia. Those who perform euthanasias have more heart than you can imagine. To perform a euthanasia (day after day) is incredibly emotionally draining and for you to sit there behind your safe little screens sickens me.
    It’s is called Fatal PLUS for a reason. It is an overdose and it is formulated in order to be given in dosages rated for 10 lb increments. A 2 pound canine can get the same as a 9 lb and it is just as effective. If your were to educate yourselves on how the injectable works, it might be helpful in you understanding how estimating weight is a totally acceptable and humane procedure of euthanasia. If you have the courage, the heart, the soul to be able to relieve these creatures of their pain and suffering then do so. Otherwise you have no right to criticize. Oh, and while you are at it, make sure you weigh that Rottweiler that is trying to tear you head off before you do it.

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