Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Policy on pre-euthanasia calls brings out claws

Humane society's change means no owner notice

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Under the Winnipeg Humane Society's new policy for surrendering an animal, you are the creature's best chance at a second chance.

On Friday, the shelter revoked its "euthanasia agreement," which says a person who surrenders an animal will be contacted if the animal is to be euthanized.

WHS executive director Bill McDonald said people will no longer be phoned about euthanasia, but will be told up front the animal's best chance is if they themselves try to find it a home. "We have discovered in the recent past that there was this misconception that if I sign this (euthanasia agreement), they'll call me and then the animal won't be euthanized," said McDonald.

Animals could be selected for euthanasia due to medical complications, aggressive behaviour or, in the case of cats, shelter limitations. He said the extreme cat overpopulation brought the issue to the forefront.

"What many people didn't realize was that the obligation was that you take the animal (if it is selected for euthanasia). You now become responsible for that animal," he said. "What we're finding is when we phone the people back, they're not willing to take the animal. The new document, which is called Surrender Conditions, we're putting this right up front. If you can't live with euthanasia, don't leave the animal here."

Lynne Scott of Craig Street Cats, a non-profit, no-kill organization, said the policy change will let the WHS "kill more animals without having to explain why."

"They (people) already don't want to send animals there. It was already a place of last resort because most of the cats who go there never come out. This just removes one lifeline that cats had," Scott said. "Mr. McDonald has said that most of the people who signed that form never came and got the cats. Well, if only two or three in a year actually come and get the cats, that's two or three cats that they don't kill."

McDonald said the WHS took in 5,805 cats in 2012, of which 2,437 were adopted. However, when a cat was to be euthanized and the individual who surrendered it was called, the cat was picked up fewer than "one every two weeks."

He said when people were called about cats they had signed over, they often stated they couldn't take the cat, which was why they brought it to the WHS in the first place, and then felt responsible for the cat's death when their original intention was to help a cat.

McDonald said 4,000 stray cats were among the 5,805 cats brought to the WHS last year. Owners claimed fewer than 400.

"We are a high-volume, open-door shelter. Even when we are completely full, we don't turn animals away, particularly the cats, because we know that people will simply leave them in a cardboard box in our parking lot," he said, noting the sheer numbers prevent WHS from becoming no-kill.

"We should be the last resort because we're not a no-kill shelter. I can't make any guarantee that an animal is going to make it through to adoption here.

What you are saying

Comments on the Winnipeg Humane Society Facebook page:


-- Colin Stoesz: "If the no-kill shelters are willing to take the cats, why don't they? The answer is that they can't handle the volume and they aren't willing to take sick animals. The Winnipeg Humane Society is not a babysitter for your animals. If you want to dictate what you want done with the animals, then you must keep your animals, not drop off your problem."


-- Marie Friesen: "No doubt the (WHS) staff and volunteers are dedicated -- it's this "policy" that is absolutely wrong! It seems to me that it's easier to make one phone call than to euthanize an animal that has a chance of being cared for by the person who surrenders the animal. They could also work with the other pet shelters to give them a chance to take on the animals "slated" to be euthanized... they simply choose not to. This is purely about convenience and funding and has nothing to do with the care of animals."


-- Terry Pratt: "Thank God for the Winnipeg Humane Society! They intake and re-home thousands of animals a year... can you imagine the logistical nightmare of trying to contact the many thousands of people who request notification? Why not consider putting some of your efforts into volunteering at the WHS and you will see for yourself how dedicated the staff and volunteers are (and maybe you will find a new furry friend there as well)."


-- Mary Ann Laing: "This is barbaric!!! Many people who find an animal would be more than happy to adopt the lost animal but turn them into the WHS to try to find their owners. Now because of this new ruling, 'found' animals face the chance of death!!"

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 5, 2013 A2

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