Confirming Stray Hearts No Kill Shelter Status
by Diane Padoven, Former Acting Executive Director
I would like to address the euthanasia policy at Stray Hearts. First of all, our policy has not changed. We are a No-Kill Shelter. No-Kill in the sheltering world means the following:
No-kill means that we save all the healthy, treatable, manageable, and rehabilitate-able animals, regardless of age or appearance. It does not mean that no animal is ever euthanized. Animals may be euthanized for two primary reasons:
• Medical: poor medical prognosis based on a veterinarian recommendation.
• Aggression: dogs who pose a genuine risk to public safety, which may include aggression toward humans or other animals.
We will NEVER euthanize for space.
With the above two criteria, we expect our lifesaving percent to remain at 95% or higher.
But I ask you to consider three things:
1. Liability: Yes, no one wants legalities to be a factor when making such a heartbreaking decision. But the community is depending on us to protect the shelter. Losing a lawsuit filed against us could put us out of business. We simply to not have the funds to pay a large settlement. And insurance probably does not cover us in situations where we "knowingly or should have known" we were adopting out a dangerous dog. We have over 150 animals in our care right now. What would happen to them if we were shut down and had to close for lack of funds?
2. Morality: Have you never accidentally left a gate open? Or had damage to your fence? Or had a stranger or small child wander into your yard? Or any of the million ways an accident could happen? How would we feel as a community if a dangerous dog we adopted out killed a child, or seriously maimed a person? Think it could never happen? Read the 100s of stories where this has happened in communities around the country, around the world. Are we really saying that we are ok with releasing dangerous dogs into our community, or other communities?
3. Animal Humane: There are dogs are too dangerous to be adopted out and sometimes we are advised that they are not candidates for sanctuaries any longer. So how humane is it to keep a dog in a cage for its entire life? Without socialization? I personally have watched these dogs slowly lose their minds. Ask the many volunteers who come to me with tears in their eyes as they report what is happening. The dogs spin...around, and around, and around...day in, and day out. It is heartbreaking.
A lot has been posted on Facebook regarding our policy. And, while no one likes being personally attacked, I understand the passion behind the anger. No dog should ever be at the shelter for 1-2 years. These dogs have been treated in the most inhumane manner possible. And we need to ensure it never happens again. How? By implementing better and more robust assessment protocols. By identifying aggressive tendencies in dogs within the first 30 days, they are in the shelter. By creating behavior plans THEN to try within the next 30 days. And if these dogs cannot be helped at Stray Hearts, as we do not have a behavior training program with a trained behaviorist for severely aggressive dogs, we need to get these dogs into sanctuaries at that time, not 2 1/2 years later when no sanctuaries will take them. BTW, despite what folks are saying, as far as we know, there are no animal "behaviorists' in Taos or Taos County. A behaviorist holds a Ph.D. There are certified trainers, and self-taught trainers and both are very valuable to our organization. So we are working with a behaviorist as well as our local trainers when making these decisions
We have had some people in the community step up to help with this go-forward plan. Their help with transfer coordination, training, foster programs, collaboration, and resources will be invaluable. This will enable us to maintain a life-saving percent of 95 or higher.