Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer, DailyBulletin.com
Tens of thousands of animals are euthanized each year in San Bernardino County animal shelters but few people realize what becomes of the remains of dogs, cats and other critters.
Animals that aren't adopted after several days are euthanized with injections of sodium pentobarbital, then picked up by D&D Disposal, a firm in Vernon, near Los Angeles.
Once there, the remains are boiled, ground and processed into animal by-products that are then resold for use in lubricants, polish, soap, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, gelatin and fertilizers, according to a 2004 report by Los Angeles County.
That came as a surprise to some officials at the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley, which also contracts with D&D and plans to review the way its remains are handled to ensure the process is consistent with the wishes of people who drop off animals.
"As a Humane Society, we would never consent to allowing the bodies of these precious animals (to be) used in research or any medical uses and research, or certainly not to be reused in a form of food for any purpose," said Carin Orange, a development coordinator with the local Humane Society who said she was under the impression the remains were cremated.
County animal control officials said they weren't surprised.
"I've heard of those potential uses for the animals' remains," said Brian Cronin, division chief for the San Bernardino County's Animal Care and Control Division. "The reality is that those responsible pet owners who would elect to dispose of their animals through other means can choose to do so."
Owners of euthanized animals can opt to have them cremated or buried at their own expense, Cronin said.
"Unfortunately, for government agencies ... this is the most cost-effective option that's available, and it's my understanding that's why every other agency uses this service," he said. "In our priorities, we prefer to invest in those animals that are alive and in the shelter and in the community."
Bill Gorman, president of D&D Disposal, said the firm doesn't conduct media interviews and declined to discuss what his company does with animal remains.
But the April 2004 report by Los Angeles County Animal Shelters detailed how euthanized animals are recycled in a process known as "rendering."
"The remains are placed in large vats and heated to a high temperature in excess of 265 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point they become sterile and free of pathogens," the report states. "Then a series of mechanical (processes) occur that separate the fat, liquid and proteins into separate collection systems."
According to the report, every public animal shelter in Southern California pays D&D - also known as West Coast Rendering - to pick up and dispose of euthanized animals.
The firm also handles larger animals such as deceased horses and other livestock. In some cases, the remains of appropriate animals are processed into feed for livestock, pets or even shrimp.
State law requires animals brought to a shelter be held at least 72 hours before being euthanized.
San Bernardino County mandates animals be held at its shelter for at least 96 hours, Cronin said. Dogs and cats that shelter officials feel are highly adoptable are held longer.
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