Animal Writes
10 February 1999 Issue

Death by Apathy

He died a number, 92328. No one knew his name when he was found
roaming the streets. No one needed to. He would only have six days to live.
He was a brown German Shepherd mix, about 5 years old, with a leather
collar and a skin condition on his face. The skin condition, diagnosed as
mange, could have been the reason he no longer had it.
"No one considered adopting him," said Larry Atwell, assistant director of
Broward County Animal Control Shelter, Florida. So he was killed -- one of
50 animals destroyed at the shelter each day with a poison the color of
"There is always that feeling inside when you do it," says Dr. Nelson Manzor,
the veterinarian who decides which animals are destroyed. "It feels worse
when they are healthy, good-looking animals that must be killed because we
just don't have the room."
It's a lousy job, but it must be done every morning before the shelter opens
for business. Most counties in every state have too many animals. And too
few people willing to give them homes.
Across the country about 3,200 kittens and puppies are born every hour,
compared to 215 humans.
The incredible birthrate, which has reached epidemic proportions, is blamed
mostly on pet owners who don't neuter their animals. It is worsened by
thousands of others who simply abandon their pets every year.
Every morning in pounds and shelters, the killing continues. It takes a lot to
adopt a pet -- devotion, dedication, patience. People prefer young, healthy,
purebreeds. But the world is full of old, sick, mangy dogs and cats. So they
end up at a shelter some morning, like 92328.
Each morning, the vet decides the animals' fate by initialing a card. The
sick and old -- deemed "un-adoptable" -- are the first to receive his initial.
One by one, dogs with the initial are led out of their cages by a shelter
employee. They go down a hallway, turn at the soda machine and go out-
doors to a small wooden table. Cats receive the injections in another room --
sometimes in their cages. Then their bodies are piled in a corner.
Some dogs whimper as they are lifted on the table. Most wag their tails,
happy for the attention and freedom from the confining cages. "They don't
know what is happening." "That makes it a little easier on us."
A vein on the front foot of the animal is located. The needle, containing
Sodium Pento Barbital -- Fatal Plus, according to its label, is driven in.
Usually the vein is hit on the first attempt; a second if the animal gets excited.
It takes less then 10 seconds for the blue liquid to kick in. These last few
seconds are spent petting the animal, trying to get it to lie down.
In an instant, it happens. The heart stops. The respiratory system collapses,
and, says a pound employee who holds the dogs as they receive the shot, the
bodies go limp in his arms.
There is no time for mourning. There are too many others.
The shelter saved 92328 for last on this day. He dies like most, with tail
wagging and nary a whimper. He even tries to lick the employees hand as
he is lifted onto the table. Eight seconds later, he is dead.
His body, like the others, is loaded onto the back of a pickup truck. The
truck, with a tarp covering the animals, travels to an incinerator adjacent to an
animal shelter branch, where the carcasses are burned. Work is done for
another day.
92328 is just one example of the mass killing that goes on in our nation's
shelters every day. Spaying and neutering pets can help spare other animals
from ending up like 92328 -- an innocent animal without a home that had no
choice but death. "PAWS" is desperately in need of more spay volunteers
and participating veterinarians to help combat the pet overpopulation problem.
Currently 19 veterinarians participate in "PAWS" program to help reduce the
numbers of pets being killed in pounds and shelters.
If you would like to join "PAWS" corps of volunteers or can suggest
veterinarians in your area to participate in "PAWS" spay/neuter program,
please call: (717) 957-8122.
Spaying and neutering attacks the root of the problem: pet overpopulation.
92328 faced a tragic death, others don't have to.

Source: [email protected] 

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