The idea behind animal shelters is simple. Sometimes people are jerks, or careless, or victims of bad luck -- and the dog they committed to "for life" ends up homeless. The animal shelter the last resort for animals that have nowhere else to go.
I could use this column to go on about how shelter kill more healthy dogs and cats than any other cause of death. They call it euthanasia, but the end result is still death for the animal.
But today I won't. Today I want to ask, what happens when the dogs end up in a shelter where the people who run the shelter who don't really care about animals? Where the abuse they suffer is worse than it would be if the dog was just left out on the street?
Sadly, it happens. And it apparently did in amazing fashion recently in Memphis. On August 18, the dog pictured to the left entered the Memphis Animal Shelter as a seemingly healthy, vibrant puppy.
On September 4th -- only 3 weeks later -- the dog was found starved to death in the shelter. And this puppy wasn't the only case -- but was actually one of three dogs in the shelter that was found starved to death. Veterinarian reports note that the dog had not eaten anything in at least 72 hours prior to his death.
What -- the- hell?
The city animal control department is responsible for actually enforcing the city's animal cruelty laws -- not violating them on their own. And apparently, problems have been going on for awhile --- as the death rates in the city shelter have risen sharply over the past few years -- from 75 animals dying in the shelter in 2006, to 119 in 2007 to 193 in 2008.
The Memphis Mayor, AC Wharton, seems legitimately concerned about the issue -- and has halted all shelter euthanasia (which is at 250 animals per week -- 13,000 animals a year) until the criminal investigation is complete.
We can, and must, demand better from our animal control departments. These departments are tasked with not only providing public safety from animals -- but providing safety for animals from the public, both in terms of cruelty and abuse, and in terms of minimizing and eliminating shelter euthanasia. Memphis is major need of a dramatic overhaul of the entire department -- and I hope someone sees jailtime over this one.
Hat tip to YesBiscuit! on this, who has been following the story from the start:
Here's her original coverage on the raid.
And her understandably emotional response to the story about the puppy above (including the "after" image)
And For the Love of Dogs has some very thorough coverage of the events there as well.