How Did We Get Here?

How would it be if Joe Smith took 100 dogs a day to his local vet for killing?  I bet there would be questions, not the least of which would include the issue of why so many healthy/treatable pets should be killed.  Maybe he would explain that people kept bringing him dogs and cats – strays, pets no longer able to be cared for, litters of puppies and kittens, etc – and that he put a giant sign out by his mailbox saying “Pets Available Here” but that very few adopters came by relative to the number of pets dropped off.  He is just one person and can’t possibly care for all these pets and apparently no one else wants them either so what else is there to do but round them up each day and take them to the vet’s office for killing.

The vet might realize this is a community issue and it’s not right that this man should be expected to bear the burden alone.  The vet goes to the next meeting of county officials and explains what’s happening.  The county agrees this is a community matter and decides it would be appropriate to use county taxpayer money to help this guy out.  They figure with adequate funding, they could pay an on-site veterinarian and staff to support the man in caring for all these pets, build indoor/outdoor housing for the animals, and buy food, cleaning supplies, medicine and other necessities.

Since the county will be using taxpayer money to fund this effort, they know they’ll need to explain how it will benefit the community.  Otherwise, nobody is going to support it and without strong community support, the project is unlikely to succeed.  It is the public who will be relied upon to adopt, foster and network online to get all these pets into homes.

So the county explains to the public that their tax dollars are needed to prevent friendly pets from being needlessly killed.  They explain that Joe Smith can’t do it alone – nor should he be expected to.  No one wants healthy/treatable pets to die when there are enough homes for all of them – maybe not immediately, maybe not all in the county – but the homes are there and with the community’s support, all the pets can be cared for until a permanent home is found for each of them.  This will be their shelter.

The pet loving members of the community step up and begin to make donations, volunteer to help care for the pets, foster and network online.  Mr. Smith and his staff have been given enforcement duties as well in order to investigate claims of abuse.  Things seem to be going along smoothly.  The public has really embraced their shelter.  The future looks promising.  But everything is not as it seems.

At the next county meeting, a shelter volunteer speaks up.  He says the first thing Joe Smith did when he got the new facility and funding was to institutionalize the killing.  He hired a vet to kill the pets in-house which he said would save taxpayers money over him having to truck them out to a clinic every day for killing.  And he turns a blind eye to his staff abusing the pets in the shelter so long as they don’t leave any evidence behind.  The staff member whose job it was to vet and coordinate with rescues had her job eliminated after she addressed her concerns about the shelter to Mr. Smith.  He notified everyone of the “good news” in an e-mail titled “Additional savings in our budget”.  A volunteer offered to do the same work so that pets could get out to rescues but Mr. Smith refused and told that volunteer his services were no longer needed.

After hearing all this, the community is seriously concerned.  They begin demanding answers from county officials.  If these allegations are true, the people have been betrayed.  This is supposed to be their shelter.  The idea that the community’s pets are not only still being needlessly killed but also abused is outrageous.  And taxpayers are funding it all.

But the county sees things differently.  They reassure the public that Joe Smith and his staff will investigate the abuse claims being made against them.  They explain to people that the killing of pets is necessary because the public is irresponsible and uncaring and contributes to pet overpopulation.  People need to understand that pet killing is not an easy job and they should be grateful to Joe Smith and his staff for performing this unpleasant task.  Finally, they remind taxpayers of all the savings Joe Smith has managed to produce within his budget.

Some people are confused.  How could the shelter staff possibly investigate themselves for cruelty?  Does that even make sense?  Others feel bad for questioning the shelter staff’s motives when they hear how difficult it is for them to kill so many pets every day.  Still others are quite pleased to hear about the budget savings and figure Joe Smith must be a pretty good guy after all.

For the few who are still asking questions, the county explains that the results of the cruelty investigation must be kept private, and that surely everyone can appreciate that.  Additional concerns may be addressed to the county public information officer.

So here we are.  This is your shelter.

15 thoughts on “How Did We Get Here?

  1. I live in Europe and am very grateful that pets are not shelter killed.. actually they can stay in the shelter for years waiting for an adoption (and looked after by vets and a load of loving volunteers)!

  2. Our county is attempting to install an Animal Control Shelter Advisory Board. A group of volunteers from the community to work together with our Animal Control to improve conditions and booster adoptions. We will also oversee situations like the one in the article to ensure humane treatment of all animals in the county. Someone needs to step up and control Joe Smith. This is HIS killing clinic, NOT the community shelter everyone is being led to believe it is. Has anyone witnessed any of these animals being “dropped off”? Very suspicious any way you look at it.

  3. For me, the key word in this scenario is betrayed. I think it is perfectly reasonable for people to expect that their tax dollars and donations will be spent not on Fatal Plus and not on operating a disposal facility but on the life-saving work that the name “shelter” implies. I work in a city which has a so-called shelter with a 1.6 million dollar operating budget. Care to guess what percentage of that budget goes to animal care? Less than two percent. I speak the truth and can prove it if asked to do so. This is not a shelter. It is an animal control department which operates a disposal facility. It’s not up to me to explain, rationalize or deduce how we go here. It is up to the city which operates the shelter using my tax dollars to explain why it is easier to kill than to save with all that money being thrown at the operation year after year after year. It’s about accountability. It’s about betrayal. And it’s about death which – in spite of how the shelter director/vet speaks about the act – is in fact final and which ends a life which would otherwise be filled with love, compassion and purpose.

    We have been betrayed and with each passing day, the body count goes higher.

  4. “It’s about betrayal. And it’s about death which – in spite of how the shelter director/vet speaks about the act – is in fact final and which ends a life which would otherwise be filled with love, compassion and purpose.

    We have been betrayed and with each passing day, the body count goes higher.” Brie

  5. Ok. Ocean’s 11 time. “Are you in or out?” If we want answers to questions about Mr. Smith here’s where we start. We need help. From all of you. Please see links in YB post “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Advocates Seek Shelter Reform” : paragraph two “here” and paragraph three “here” for points to address. We all know there are many Mr. Smith’s in this country. It starts with this one.

    “… of the Public Information Officer (PIO) is to facilitate the flow of factual information from CFD t … requests for information and service from (but not limited to) the media, the business community, a … Public Information Officers…” – 43KB – 7/20/2010

  6. According to this document,

    Melissa Knicely is employed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care and Control Division as the Public Information Specialist. If transparency and accountability are an important part of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care and Control Division their Public Information Specialist Melissa Knicely should be able to address any questions and/or concerns. She can be reached at 704-336-3627 or

  7. How literally are we meant to take this story? Was/is there actually a Joe Smith? If so, what is his relationship to the shelter now?

    1. Not literally Jeanne, I was just making up an example. But the fact that you considered it to possibly be real speaks volumes. This fictitious scenario is not uncommon.

      1. Thanks for clarifying. I was just wondering. The scenario is all too real, especially in rural counties where there might be a single sheriff’s office employee or even a self-appointed “dog catcher” rounding up stray dogs and having them killed by a crony vet. If such a person stayed on after a shelter was built, he/she could become a major obstacle to progress. Sometimes it only takes one.

  8. While this is obviously fictional, it’s also obviously based on fact. (How well I know.) One more part of the equation could be that the vet is one of the county officials. Then what do you do? Conflict of interest is often overlooked if the community is small enough that people have to wear more than one hat. That’s all I can probably legally say.

  9. This story is circulating again so I thought I’d cannonball into the pool party and say that I read this stuff and just shake my head at the whining and hand wringing.

    I don’t know how to politely say this, but I don’t care what you do to improve sheltering – it will always suck. In any form. It’s a rotten apple and I don’t waste time polishing rotten apples. Shelters are horrible. Time to put them behind us.

    Who in their right mind thinks jamming social animals into cages or small rooms is the right way to treat them? Talk about stupid.

    Shelters kill the animals whose behavior they can’t “fix.” Never mind the basic fact that shelters cause most behavior problems. And that shelter directors don’t have a clue how to actually handle animals. Shelters are prisons with active death rows. A few have limited the killing to 10%. Big deal! They’re still prisons and that’s still too much killing.

    Boards of directors and local governments hire business people for their fundraising or prison management skills. And then communities wonder why things never really get any better?

    They finally get tired of listening to the complaints so the officials put up a new prison to replace the old one… lo and behold the problems just keep coming.

    The “best” shelter in the country is run by a woman who was a lawyer in Washington before she became a shelter director. Is it any wonder nothing new ever, EVER comes from shelter directors? Same old, same old. Just repackaged and warmed up.

    Whatever happened to hiring people who had come up through the ranks and earned the position by experience and accomplishment? Want to see what 50 years’ experience gets you? Take 3 minutes and watch the slide show (link below). Here’s what no shelter director will ever be able to create because they don’t know animals or how to handle them. This is the result of understanding what makes animals tick. Every experienced rescuer I know will watch this and shrug her shoulders and say, “Well, of course.” Then go back to complaining about all the Joe Smiths.

    Watch this short slide show and ask yourself, “Self, why not?” Do what’s on the video and that will be the end of all the Joe Smiths…

    Slide show =

    (Thanks, Shirley, for letting me rant!)

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