Archive for Wednesday, August 6, 2003

At the pound

High number of animals euthanized

August 6, 2003

All dogs have their day.

But once they've spent a few days at the local animal impoundment shelter, they may not have tomorrow.

Tonganoxie veterinarian Vickie Smith does what she can to find homes for animals brought to her by the local animal control officer.

But usually, there's no one wanting the wandering pets. For them, there's only one way out of the pound -- a lethal injection of an anesthetic.

Although the euthanization process is painless, Smith wishes it didn't have to be done.

"It's just horrid," Smith said. "I hate doing it, my help hates doing it, we all put it off as long as we can because we all hate doing it so badly."

One of her assistants cries when the dogs and cats are put to sleep.

Smith is past the crying stage.

"But it makes me ill," Smith said. "I get headaches and my stomach hurts. You just have to grit your teeth and do it."

According to Shane Krull, Tonganoxie city administrator, the city pays Smith to keep the dogs for three business days.

Then, the city pays for euthanization and disposal of the animals.

Although a few fortunate dogs and cats are picked up by their owners within the three-day kenneling period, and new homes are arranged for a few of the others, most aren't so lucky.

"The bulk of the cats that we pick up are all killed," Krull said. "A considerable amount of the dogs are typically euthanized, as well."

In the last three years, the city has spent an increasing amount on stray dogs and cats.

"It's gone up approximately $500 per year," Krull said.

"You get more people and you get more pets on a percentage basis," Krull said.

The current city's 2004 budget for animal control is $6,327, Krull said.

Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator, said this includes $2,427 for the animal control officer, up to $3,500 to Smith, who is paid on a contractual basis, and $800 for dog tags and other related expenses.

Smith is paid according to the breed and size of the animal and how long she keeps them. Her rate is unchanged from last year.

In fiscal year 2003, the city paid Smith a total of $2,078. Smith's office records indicated that this included services for about 80 cats and dogs.

Bard noted that through June, the city had already paid Smith $1,448.

"We've just had a lot more stray cats," Bard said. "They've got traps out all over town. ... They're all wild, you have to catch them in a trap. By no means are they family cats."

Smith stressed that her facility is not an animal pound. She does not accept animals from individuals -- only from the city's animal control officer.

Krull said an obvious solution to the stray pet problem is to spay and neuter pets.

"It's very sad," Smith said. "That's what I really want people to realized is that when they just turn a dog loose or let it have puppies and dump the puppies in the park, they don't all end up in a happy home."

Putting the animals down isn't a solution.

"It's not a situation of where we want to put them to sleep," Smith said. "There just aren't enough homes and funds to take care of all of them."

Smith's office keeps a list of people who want to adopt a specific kind of dog or cat. Once in a while, they find a home for a stray.

"However, the bottom line is this is not a funded situation here," Smith said. "We can only do so much and if I have this kennel full of strays, I can't make a living."

Smith said dogs should wear collars with identification tags, or they should be identified with microchips. All dogs brought in are scanned for microchips.

"We try to make every effort we can to find the owner, even though that's not really our responsibility," Smith said.

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