Athens Review, Athens, Texas

September 3, 2013

A reminder of hard truths at humane society

Jayson Larson
The Athens Review

Athens — In our Friday edition, we reported on a conflict that arose when the Henderson County Humane Society euthanized eight puppies within minutes of receiving them from an area man.

The man, who lives near Kemp, had traveled to the animal shelter in Tool and was turned away due to space issues — an all-too-common problem faced by animal shelters everywhere. He was directed to the humane society in Athens, and upon arrival, he says he was told the puppies would have a chance to be adopted.

Before leaving the grounds, the man had a change of heart and asked for his animals back. He was informed they had already been euthanized.

HCHS director Norma Lambert told us earlier this week that her organization doesn’t regret the actions it took because they followed their standard operating procedure. She admitted, however, the man should not have been told his animals had a chance to be adopted when, at first glance, workers at the humane society knew otherwise. Trying to spare someone’s feelings regarding their animals is commendable, but in these kinds of cases, the truth — even the hard truth — is almost always going to be the best policy.

We won’t rehash all the other details here (you can read the article on our website at athensreview.-com), but the story provided a reminder that humane societies such as ours face a dire situation where the needs are endless and the resources are few.   

As we delved deeper into the details, we were forced to reflect on some of the harsh realities workers face at humane societies and shelters.

Space and funds to care for animals falls far short of the number of animals that enter the gates — Lambert says that number is around 600 animals per month, or 7,200 per year.

Workers know which animals are “adoptable” and which ones aren’t. The ones that aren’t — a judgement that, in this particular case, is made by workers who have years and decades of experience — are often euthanized.

If space weren’t an issue, we suspect more animals would survive. Lambert herself said in April that more funds could mean “we see for the future that there would be no need for any animals to be put to sleep.”

Even so, we suspect many people will be outraged to hear that the fate of some animals at the shelter hinges on something as arbitrary as “adoptability.” It’s just that many of those same people aren’t outraged enough to help so that less of those difficult choices have to be made.

The community bears some responsibility to help alleviate the problem. Getting your pet spayed or neutered is a big part of the solution. Lambert says such procedures have cost the humane society $35,000 over the past four years.

When making a decision to take on animals, we must consider all the factors, counting not just how much feeding and sheltering them might cost, but what it will cost to help control the animal population.

Not making those considerations may ultimately be costly to the animal.

— Athens Review