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Some Still Kill
The SPCA goes "no-kill," but that doesn't mean local shelters have followed suit.
Jul 08, 1999

Unwanted animals will still be killed in local animal shelters, despite all the attention given to the SPCA''s "no-kill" policy.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will no longer be euthanizing "adoptable" animals, but Monterey County and local cities will be doing it for them.

Monterey County''s three other animal shelters--two of which opened July 1, after the SPCA severed contract agreements with local cities--will routinely euthanize animals that can''t be placed in new homes.

"It is a concern. You''re moving the problem from one location to another," says Cathy LeMoine, project manager for Monterey County animal control, which runs one of the area''s two new shelters.

The new shelters--the county facility on the former Fort Ord and another run by the city of Salinas located on Work Street--are both temporary locations hastily constructed after the Monterey County SPCA informed local cities and county officials last November it would no longer accept stray animals.

The SPCA is the first--and only--local shelter to fully embrace "no-kill," which means no "adoptable" animal will be euthanized.

That policy, coupled with a law that extends the length of time animals must remain sheltered before being euthanized, means the SPCA won''t have the space to accommodate the county''s strays. Last year, about 13,000 animals ended up at the SPCA. Of those, about 2,500 were adopted; another 2,500 animals, considered adoptable by SPCA staff, were put to death because there weren''t enough cages to go around. (The remaining 8,000 or so animals were either returned to their owners, sent to foster care programs, or were put down.)

Vicious or ill animals will continue to be euthanized in shelters throughout the county, including the SPCA.

"We do make a distinction between killing and euthanizing," says SPCA spokeswoman Peggy Miars. "In the past, we killed animals. They were healthy, they were adoptable, but we didn''t have space so we killed them."

Not any more, Miars says. The local SPCA will never again kill a dog or cat that is suitable for adoption. If a dog needs basic training to make it more attractive to a prospective owner, then SPCA volunteers will train it. If a cat needs grooming to look more presentable, it will be groomed. And all animals will remain in one of the SPCA''s 201 cages until a home is found for it.

But the SPCA has, arguably, created a situation that ensures its "no-kill" policy will succeed admirably. As of July 1, the agency will only accept owner-surrendered animals from all areas of the county. Such animals may already make a pretty good pet and may easily be placed.

Strays--which accounted for about 66 percent of the animals taken to the SPCA last year--will go into one of the other three shelters, depending on where they are found. Animals found in Marina will still go to that city''s shelter on Lake Drive; animals found in Salinas will go to the Work Street shelter; and animals found in other cities and in unincorporated areas of the county will be taken to the county facility on Fifth Avenue in Fort Ord.

In those shelters, animals will still be euthanized when cages get crammed.

"There is no such thing as a ''no-kill'' policy," says Mike Swift, community services officer for the city of Marina. "Anybody who is foolish enough to believe anybody can have a no-kill policy will be surprised. We all euthanize, we have to. We keep animals as long as we can, but our biggest problem in Marina is space."

"Ideally," Swift says the Marina shelter would hold five dogs, although it currently houses nine. The shelter also has 11 cat cages, but currently houses about 30 cats, including kittens that share cages.

The county shelter can accommodate up to 60 dogs and 60 cats. After the animals have stayed there for four business days--the number of days required by the new law--they can be destroyed, LeMoine says. The Marina and Salinas shelters will keep animals for six business days.

"The way the law reads is you can euthanize any unadoptable animal," LeMoine says, "but it also allows each shelter to come up with its own definition of ''unadoptable.'' We are going to define ''unadoptable'' animals as animals that are not going to a home."

It''s too soon to tell if more or fewer animals will be destroyed in light of the new law--and considering the SPCA''s new policy of only taking "adoptable" animals.

"Because we have to hold animals longer, there''s a potential more adoptable animals can be euthanized while another, maybe not as adoptable dog is still in that holding period," LeMoine says.

Still, she says, the end of the required days doesn''t necessarily mean the end of the road for animals. Representatives from the SPCA and from local animal rescue groups will visit the shelter regularly and will take animals they feel are adoptable.

"Through our efforts, we''re hoping to get the entire county to be ''no-kill,''" Miars says.

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