"The Last Resort": The Sad Truth About Animal Shelters - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

NEWS 12 SPECIAL REPORT

"The Last Resort": The Sad Truth About Animal Shelters

This year, up to 15,000 animals will show up at Caddo Parish Animal Services.

Only 3,000 will come out alive.

Those numbers feed the controversy over euthanasia, among animal rights groups and people who love animals.

In a News 12 Special Report, we go inside Caddo Animal Control to see first hand, the challenge it faces, and the tough decisions people there have to make.

The signs in the lobby at Caddo Animal Services urge adoption.

One walk through with cages with kennel manager Annette Lewis explains why.

"Friday was not a good day, because i had 84 go down on Friday", Lewis said.

In the language of the shelter, "go down" means euthanized.

It's the last resort in handling the overwhelming number of animals that come to Animal Services, but a step that's put to use in staggering numbers.

"We take in 13 to 15 thousand animals a year; of that number, we adopt out no more than a thousand", Dr. Michael Dale says.

Dr. Michael Dale is the director of Caddo Animal Services. He can save another 2000 by relocating them, but he still agonizes over the deficit, and what it means to the vast majority of animals under his care.

Last year, Dr. Dale's staff had to euthanize an average of 46 dogs a day. This year, they're averaging 70 and those numbers are rising.

"It's bad", Dale says. "We don't like it. we don't condone it, but we have no choice."

He's out of choices, he says, because he's out of space.

He has room for 170 animals here. Hore than 2000 came in during the first three months of this year.

"I lay awake at night thinking about it", Dale explains, "And it never ends. It never ends. In fact, it only gets worse."

To take some of the sting out of what he calls the worst part of his job, Dr. Dale sets professional guidelines for determining which dogs get a chance at adoption, and which ones will be put down. He likens it to triage at a MASH unit during a war.

Animals that are vicious, or injured or sick, are marked for destruction right away.

Those that come in without a collar get four working days before their time is up. those that come in with collars get seven.

Those that are healthy and have good physical and mental disposition, those are out adoption candidates. Those that don't make the cut face a certain fate.

It falls on Lewis, the kennel manager, and her staff to carry out the inevitable.

They rotate out a week at a time to keep it from getting to them.

Dr. Dale also demands absolute compassion and sensitivity in carrying out the process. He says he gets constant pressure and criticism from animal lovers and animal rights groups over the number of dogs put to death.

He understands their concern, and shares it. But he also has to protect public safety and public health and with such limited space and resources, that means doing something he'd do almost anything to avoid.

"The good Lord put this animal here and he's breathing and looking at men one minute," Dale said. "And the next minute I've taken his life away from him."

Dr. Dale says, "It's always bothered me and when it doesn't mother me, it's time for me to do something else."

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