We all know that many dogs lose their lives in animal shelters every year — far too many. However, one Georgia shelter took that to an extreme last week, and animal lovers are demanding an explanation.
The Clayton County Animal Shelter euthanized 64 dogs last week. In a Facebook post, the administration explained the mass killing as a tragic but unavoidable response to a contagious infection among some of the dogs. In a Facebook post last Tuesday, Clayton County Animal Control said:
Last week, CCPD Animal Control in-processed some animals that had serious contagious health issues, which potentially put all animals housed at our facility at risk. After consultation with medical personnel, it was strongly recommended that we euthanize the animals that were infected in order to protect the welfare of the other animals that are under our care. By doing so, we hopefully have mitigated any further issues that would potentially impact the operation of the facility and jeopardize the health of any other animals.
That explanation doesn’t satisfy a lot of dog lovers, and they’re demanding more complete answers. Lisa Fleming, of local boarding service Courtney’s Canine Care, told television station WSB that she was in shock over the news. “You just feel at a loss. You feel defeated,” she said. “That’s like taking my kennel and killing every dog in my kennel.”
Fleming thinks that the action was inconsistent with an outbreak of disease. “If you have a strange illness, why are people coming in and reclaiming their dogs?” she asked. “Why are they allowing local adoptions?”
On Facebook, a group called Clayton County Animal Control Rainbow Bridge has been documenting the dogs euthanized at the shelter since July, 2014. This week, they’re systematically posting pictures of each of the dogs that were put down last week, along with a little information about the dog’s age and how long they were at the shelter before being put down. According to the group, most of the dogs had been at the shelter for very short times, ranging from nine to 14 days.
One of the pictures that has inspired the most discussion shows a litter of small puppies. Their mother was apparently put down shortly after giving birth, and officials from the shelter can’t seem to agree on why. Television station CBS46 reported that the animal control unit told it in an email that the mother was killed because of aggressive behavior. However, when they interviewed Deputy Chief of Police Mike Register off-camera, he said it was because she was exhibiting flu symptoms. “If we don’t euthanize the number of animals that are exhibiting symptoms, you run the risk of jeopardizing the whole facility,” Register told reporters. CBS46 reports that when it asked if medication was considered as an option, he said that it was not.
As readers of Dogster may know, there have been several reports of a new strain of canine influenza breaking out in the United States over the last few months. The strain, which previously had been seen only in Asia, first broke out in the Illinois area, infecting at least 1,000 dogs and causing five deaths. An appearance of that strain near Atlanta has recently been confirmed by scientists at the University of Georgia Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Is that in part an explanation for the mass killing in the Clayton County shelter? If so, it’s not a full explanation; no similar mass euthanizing has taken place in Illinois or Ohio, where the strain broke out previously. For now, people are merely left asking, Why?
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