SPCA tries to find homes for its animals

Resident raises questions about euthanasia practices
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officials said they are relentless when it comes to finding homes for every adoptable animal in the county. But some, such as Loomis resident Katie Cather, say euthanasia numbers provided by the Placer SPCA are misleading at best. Cather wrote in a Feb. 29 letter to the editor that according to online data, the Placer SPCA killed 42 percent, or 1,900, of animals in its shelter in 2006. Those numbers are inaccurate, said Leilani Vierra, Placer SPCA chief executive officer, in reference to Cather's statistics of the Placer SPCA. She said they are not published numbers from the SPCA. She said the center takes pride in its meticulous record keeping. Our goal has always been to be a transparent organization, Vierra said. Cather went on to compare the Placer SPCA statistics with those of the county's animal shelter. By comparison, the public county animal shelter, with far less resources, killed 22 percent of the animals that arrived at county facilities, Cather wrote. While the Journal was not able to confirm Cather's statistics, Placer SPCA officials said they euthanized 1,221 out of 3,683 animals in 2006, which gave the shelter a live release rate of 67 percent that year, according to Matt Green, Placer SPCA director of operations. Cather further alledges the Placer SPCA is OK with their death toll. ¦ It's hard to believe that Roseville has naughtier or more diseased animals than the rest of the county and therefore requires higher rates of killing. Most likely, PSPCA is complacent with the death toll because people send them donations regardless of their animal outcomes, Cather wrote. Vierra said the center carefully evaluates all animals. The center uses a behavior evaluation created by a noted national SPCA behaviorist. We feel a huge responsibility to the animals and people of this community, Vierra said. We work hard to determine the most usable home for the animals and to ensure the safety of those animals. Denise Fiddyment, Placer SPCA board president, said the shelter does not euthanize adoptable animals. It will, however, euthanize animals with contagious health problems, and those animals with a poor quality of life because of their health. The organization also euthanizes animals with unsafe behavior issues. I would like to emphasize that none of these animals were euthanized simply for time or space and none of them were adoptable based on the above criteria, Fiddyment wrote in a letter that the SPCA supplied to the Journal. Almost all shelters follow state law when it comes to determining which animals they euthanize, according to Mike Winters, Placer County Animal Services program manager. Winters said typically animals are euthanized when they have an untreatable condition or disease. Liz Zablotny, a county animal care technician, helps with temperament testing at the shelter. Usually, if they're going to snap or bite a handler or person, we try not to put them on the floor for the public for safety reasons, Zablotny said. According to Winters, the shelter has not euthanized an animal because of lack of space in the 7,000-square-foot shelter during his two-year tenure. The department has two shelters under its wing ” one in Auburn and another in Tahoe ” where it can transfer animals if space gets tight. Currently, the Auburn location has room for about 80 cats and 50 dogs at one time, Winters said. Winters said he is proud of the shelter's live animal release rate. Over the past year or two, that rate has increased from about 60 percent of animals released to either a rescue group or family to almost 73 percent of animals released for 2007. That means the number of animals it euthanizes has decreased. In 2007, the shelter euthanized four healthy dogs and 18 cats, Winters said. Some of the reasons a healthy animal may be killed could be it is a feral cat and therefore cannot be handled. Also, orphaned puppies younger than 8 weeks and with no mother typically struggle to survive, Winters said. The number of unhealthy animals put to sleep totaled 157 dogs and 563 cats, Witnters said. Winters credits the decline in pet euthanasia to help from local rescue foundations, and an aggressive campaign to encourage the public to spay and neuter their pets. Rescue foundations in the area take animals from the shelter. They treat some animals that need medical attention, and then try to find homes for each one they take. Georgiana Lohman, president and co-founder of the Auburn Area Animal Rescue Foundation, said it is important to take an animal out of a shelter environment. She said once animals are in a stable foster home situation, they feel safe and begin to show their true character. It makes all the difference in the world ¦ when you get an animal in an environment where they feel safe, Lohman said. The county shelter also works and receives help from the Placer SPCA, Winters said. He said he thinks the SPCA and the county animal shelter share the same goal of reducing the number of pets in their care. Our goal in the shelter business is to put ourselves out of business, Winters said. Nobody wants to euthanize animals. We would all prefer to place them into homes. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment.