The shocking cruelty reported in the media that shamed Dallas Animal Services into paying for a $25,000 shelter evaluation by HSUS has prompted some planned changes at the shelter. First let’s take a look at the HSUS evaluation from November 2010, which included the following items:
- HSUS dinged the shelter because a worker was observed spending 5 minutes trying to coax a scared dog out of a carrier with treats. (page 28)
- HSUS recommended the shelter consider killing feral cats before the 72 mandatory holding period if they were planning to kill them after the holding period anyway. (page 33)
- The shelter was leaving parvo dogs in cages with other dogs. Puppies described as “moribund” were laying on top of food in a dish. A worker removed them for euthanasia and returned to the run where the rest of the litter and an adult dog were still housed. Without so much as washing her hands, the worker put additional kibble in the bowl and left. (page 42)
- While the shelter lacked an official foster program, some staff members would take home orphaned pets or those in need of socialization. HSUS recommended this practice be halted. (page 60)
- HSUS observed “several friendly cats” killed by IP injection. The doses of FatalPlus logged in the records were too low (by about 33%). Yet “the HSUS team was impressed by staff’s approach to euthanasia and the level of competence displayed during the site visit”. (pages 67-68)
The evaluation reveals a number of deeply troubling issues at the shelter (and to my mind, some terrible recommendations from HSUS). I did not see any recommendations from HSUS that Dallas Animal Services needed to get more staff certified to kill pets. They do make their standard recommendations about making the kill room cheery for the employees and offering counseling in compassion fatigue. The shelter however is planning to increase the number of euthanasia technicians from 17 to 31:
The city destroys thousands of animals each year,and the change is intended to help relieve the stress that action puts on a handful of people, [Assistant City Manager Joey] Zapata said.
Instead of so much focus on killing, I’m wondering why neither HSUS nor the city of Dallas seem to be focused on increased lifesaving. Instead of killing feral cats more quickly, how about establishing a TNR program? Instead of discouraging staff from taking home newborn and other special needs pets, why not encourage a comprehensive foster program and allow staff to participate if they so choose? Instead of spreading out the killing among more staff members, why not train more staff in progressive adoption techniques and keeping pets healthy in a shelter environment?
And to the worker who spent 5 minutes trying to coax a scared dog out of a carrier – yeah, it may not be the most efficient use of time according to HSUS but I just want to say thank you. I take heart in knowing there are people like you at the shelter.