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Shelter: Animals lack designation

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

Sanger not deciding whether strays are adoptable or not

GAINESVILLE — Stray animals sent from Sanger to Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter are arriving not designated as adoptable or unadoptable, and that has skewed the facility’s euthanasia rates, shelter officials said.

Those rates have elicited complaints from Sanger residents and prompted the Sanger City Council to consider changing shelters to improve adoption rates, but Noah’s Ark officials say they don’t understand why.

Sanger’s contract with Noah’s Ark calls for the city to ship an average of 15 adoptable animals per month. Noah’s Ark also euthanizes animals for the city under a separate part of the contract after the city deems them sick, disabled or aggressive.

Shelter manager Jennifer Keahey said Noah’s Ark calculates separate euthanasia rates for adoptable pets and those animals the city deems unadoptable. However, Keahey said, Sanger began mixing adoptable pets with aggressive and sick animals, leaving assessments to the shelter.

“For well over a year, we have received such animals, and it’s reflected in our records,” she said. “Adoptable animals are vaccinated, treated for fleas and worms, spayed or neutered, microchipped and treated for any minor medical issues they might have.”

Sanger Mayor Thomas Muir said the city relies on the professionals at the shelter to assess each animal’s adoptability, a task that shelter officials say isn’t in the contract.

“That is what Noah’s Ark does for us now and what we would expect another shelter provider to do for us going forward if we chose someone else,” Muir said.

Keahey said Noah’s Ark removes the burden of euthanasia from Sanger’s records.

According to Noah’s Ark’s records, the shelter has received aggressive dogs, feral cats and diseased dogs from Sanger. Keahey said there can be no expectation to adopt out such animals.

“Many facilities who call themselves no-kill have the liberty of closing their doors when they reach capacity,” she said. “We receive every animal that Gainesville Animal Control picks up. We can’t say no. Even so, we maintain space for Sanger’s animals, as per our agreement.”

A few Sanger residents reviewed Noah’s Ark’s records and criticized the Gainesville-based animal shelter for its euthanasia rates, which Keahey said are misleading. She said none of the 114 adoptable animals transferred from Sanger since Jan. 1 was euthanized. During that same time, the shelter reported euthanizing 65 animals it deemed aggressive, sick, untamed or severely disabled.

“They’re making us look like the bad guys when we’re doing all we can to give every animal a home and being responsible,” she said. “I don’t like putting an animal down, and they’re going to sit here for as long as they can — and that can be months. I think some people are under the impression that every animal is adoptable.”

Veterinarian Shelly Gomulak said the staff spends time with each animal.

“We don’t just look at an animal and say, ‘OK, he’s aggressive. Put him down,’” she said. “We take each one and get to know them for a couple of days.”

Gomulak said Noah’s Ark officials try to educate people about spaying and neutering their pets to prevent overcrowded shelters and decrease the amount of strays.

“Half of the animals in here would probably have homes if more people spayed and neutered,” she said. “People think we’re the bad guys when we have to put down an animal, but no one is criticizing the owner who doesn’t spay their animal, leaving it up to us to clean the mess. They’re the bad guys.”

Noah’s Ark takes in dogs and cats and searches for homes for each one by using social networking sites and word of mouth. Keahey and Gomulak said they’ve had a great relationship with Sanger officials and that the city has praised their work.

However, Sanger officials invited Pilot Point-based animal shelter All-American Dogs to a Sept. 4 council meeting to discuss adoption rates. Muir said he felt it was necessary to explore options after Noah’s Ark began receiving criticism from a few Sanger residents.

“The core problem of pet owner negligence will not go away by us changing our animal services provider,” Muir said. “Perhaps a private shelter can do a little better than our current arrangement, but I do not believe this is guaranteed.”

Muir said Sanger does not have any plans to end its contract with Noah’s Ark, but he said the council will have another workshop meeting on the animal control issue in October.

An All-American Dogs representative told council members his shelter assesses an animal’s adoptability and that the shelter has a 10 percent euthanasia rate. But Gomulak said All-American Dogs is selective in what it chooses to take from each of the 12 cities it serves.

“They have the benefit of being a privately owned company. They can decide to take in the best animals that are more likely to get homes, but what happens to the animals they turn away?” she said. “If they sign with Sanger, I guarantee that their euthanasia will be the same as ours because they will be forced to take in everything.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is .