KEPR in Washington reports that 3 seriously injured dogs were surrendered to the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter within the past week when their owners could not afford to pay for the necessary veterinary care. When I hear about these types of stories, I am sad for the families who are forced to give up their pets due to financial concerns. I also feel sad for the animals who, in a time of crisis, are likely confused and possibly depressed as they find themselves suddenly away from home in a strange, stressful environment. I always hope the shelter has some strategies in place to prevent these types of surrenders whenever possible.
But in cases where that’s not possible, I am thankful the owners cared for the pet to the best of their abilities for as long as they could and when the animal’s needs exceeded their ability to pay, they sought help for the animal. Our shelter system is a safety net for pets who become homeless for whatever reason, regardless of whether their former owner died, became homeless himself or any other circumstance – known or unknown. This is what shelters are for – to help homeless pets in need, no matter how they became homeless.
This is why I was astonished to read a quote from Tri-Cities Animal Shelter director Angela Zillar implying that the owners who surrendered their injured pets should have killed them:
“I don’t want to be the person that has to hold a dog while it takes it’s last breath. That’s not my job, that’s not what we’re here for. This is not what we should have to do.”
Right. But that’s not what the owners should have to do either. Because these animals have a right to live. Their owners loved them enough to give them up in order to protect that right. Serving as a refuge of last resort for animals in need is exactly what you’re there for and what your job is.
Tri-Cities is reportedly getting vet care for the animals but unbelievably, also threatening the owners with prosecution:
Those owners could be facing criminal charges.
Animal control works with the prosecutor to hold owners accountable for potential charges of animal cruelty, abandonment and theft.
Unless the director has evidence the owners intentionally caused the injuries to these animals, I don’t see how any cruelty charges would be applicable. Abandonment implies they left the animal tied to a tree in the woods when in fact, the article makes clear the pets were surrendered to the shelter due to an inability to pay for vet care. Theft, I don’t even know.
Surrendering injured animals to the shelter when the owner can’t afford to pay for vet care and has exhausted all options is what we want people to do. It’s why shelters exist. Without that safety net in place, we are driving people to acts of desperation such as abandoning the injured animal in a highly visible location in hopes that a Good Sam will take him in and provide the necessary care. It does not matter one iota how the pet became homeless, it matters only that he is. And once he is, it’s your job to help him Angela Zillar. Full stop.
I wonder how many people in the areas served by the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter have seen this article and now believe if their pet ever becomes injured beyond their ability to pay for care, they need to either kill the animal or do something illegal in order to avoid prosecution by animal control. I hope local taxpayers contact their elected officials and demand that the shelter director stops threatening the public with prosecution and starts doing her job.
(Thanks Mary for the link.)