Spare dogs from death sentences

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Giving stray dogs, some of which simply wandered away from loving homes, just five days between being received at an animal shelter to being euthanized is unreasonable, unnecessary and just plain wrong. Yet it may be the law in West Virginia.

Hancock County officials should just say no to it. State legislators should amend the statute as soon as they can.

As is the case in many places, the shelter in Hancock County is operated by an organization under contract with county commissioners. In this case, the Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation manages the facility through a lease with commissioners.

Wisely, commissioners agreed in February to have the lease’s wording updated. The existing agreement’s provisions have not changed since 1997.

A new 17-page lease form, including specifics of how commissioners expect the shelter to be operated, was prepared by an attorney. Last week, animal shelter foundation President Tom Goff discussed it with commissioners.

Something new – and distressing – is included in the updated lease. It cites state law allegedly requiring that dogs received at county shelters be either sold to new owners or euthanized within five days of arrival.

Yes, five days.

Enforcement of the time limit would dramatically increase the number of animals killed at the shelter. The foundation has a gratifying record of finding new homes for many dogs and cats – but not within five days. Had the time limit been in effect last year, it would have meant many of the 310 dogs and 420 cats placed with new owners would have been killed instead.

That provision was not included in the old lease agreement, Goff told commissioners. It is “unacceptable,” he added.

Good for Goff and others in the foundation. Commissioners should strike the offending clause from the lease. No doubt many other counties refrain from enforcing the rule, too.

Ample time – whatever animal shelters can afford – ought to be provided for placing stray dogs and cats in new homes. What amounts to sentencing most of them to death should be rejected.

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