I like to research the circumstances that make job announcements available to those seeking employment in public animal welfare. Many of the vacancy openings are the result of mistakes by the director. These mistakes almost always center around decisions that are made as they relate to the euthanasia of a pet. The following accounts are intended to rethink your euthanasia decisions. Once euthanasia is carried out, there is no “do overs.”
Court order euthanasia — Most communities have laws the sentence dogs to death for being vicious. When you are issued an order from a judge to euthanize an animal, please do not forget the owners appeal process. Too often you hear about a dog being euthanized while the dog owner is seeking an appeal. In cases like these, you should always be slow to follow the judges order. Even when giving a specific date by which to execute the order, wait. There is nothing worse than to have a judge reverse an order after the dog has been euthanized. I was once told by a judge that I would never be held in contempt of court if I delayed his order to perform euthanasia. You should always delay a sufficient length of time to insure that the appeal period has expired. Work with your city/county attorney to watch clerk of the court filings to make sure nothing gets past you in the complicated court process.
Aurora Colorado had a case in which the owners of a dog were charged with animal cruelty for having sex with their dog. This case demonstrates the problem with dogs being held for trial. I have had cases that required a dog to be held for over two years while the owners kept delaying the court proceedings. Court ordered custody of an animal is never in the best interest of the animal. While an animal is in custody, the animal undergoes such protection that it limits the animal to social interaction. It is not uncommon that the animal will begin displaying aggression as it sits in a cage day after day. When the dog is finally handed over to the animal control department for disposition, they are faced with an animal that fails to meet their adoptions standards.
Keep in mind that the community has been watching this case on the news for months as the case went through the court system. People would naturally take a vested interest to see that this dog have a good outcome. Aurora animal shelter staff did not recognize this investment when they decided to euthanize the dog. To them it was just another unadoptable dog that needed to be kept off the streets. They quickly recognized their mistake; but, as always with euthanasia, you cannot undo your mistake.
Here is how I would have handled the situation: I would contact all of the animal behaviorist/trainers in the community and ask them to submit a bid as to how they would turn the dog’s behavior around. These folks would be begging for an opportunity to get their names in the news as they worked with the dog. Most would be willing to provide their services at no charge because of the media attention that they would receive. I would give the trainer as much time as they needed to make the dog adoptable. Even if the effort failed, you could show the amount of work that you performed to a favorable outcome for the dog.
I know that you are constantly dealing with overcrowding in your shelter, but sometimes it just makes sense to think slowly when it comes to making the hard decision.