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New Braunfels Humane Society: Nothing worse could happen than happens there now

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The Humane Society of the New Braunfels area has a new million dollar facility that is the envy of the Texas Hill Country. If you call and ask, you may be told it is a No Kill facility. You will need to file an open records request to find out that is far from the truth. In 2013, more dogs were killed than were adopted; 648 died and 570 found new homes.

This writer spoke to a former volunteer today. Some of the details about this person have been changed to protect his identity, but none of the details about how the shelter is run have been changed. He told me the public thinks the place is wonderful because the building is brand new. He was floored when he went into the areas closed to the public and saw the truth. According to him, animals are neglected, heart stick euthanasia is performed by untrained employees and the decision as to which dogs will die is arbitrary. His reason for coming forward is: "Maybe something wonderful will come from telling my story, because nothing worse could happen than happens there now."

Cages are usually cleaned once a day, but that did not mean the animals got attention. He saw a cat who had been in labor for 48 hours, but whose labor had not been noticed. It was clear the cat had been in labor for some time because a dead kitten was stuck halfway out the mother cat. The kitten's body was cold and stiff, indicating the kitten had been dead for more than a day. Over objections by management, the cat was taken to a vet. Of course the cat was beyond saving at this point and became one of the 1,889 cats killed by the Humane Society last year, over 80% of the cats received. (The New Braunfel's Humane Society rents traps for $1.00 a day and will pick up cats, thereby enabling intake of cats.)

Animals get the same casual inattention there in their last minutes as they receive in their last days. Heart stick is practiced at the Humane Society. It is a very controversial way to kill animals and is not the sole method used by Humane Society staff. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss how it works, why it might be used, etc. It requires sticking a needle directly into the heart. If you miss it is a dreadful way to die and it is not pleasant when correctly performed under anesthesia.

The volunteer described seeing a table covered with kittens who had been killed by the heart stick method and watching one dying kitten whose slowly beating heart kept the syringe twitching. It was revulsion at scenes like this which made the volunteer quit. It is difficult to read it, or write it, let alone see it or do it.

The use of heart stick may be open to debate. What is not open to debate is that heart stick as practiced at the New Braunfels Humane Society is inhumane. The staff doing the procedure is not veterinary staff and were not trained by veterinary staff. This is reflected in their casual treatment of the chemical used to kill. Although the deadly chemical is a controlled substance, it was not locked up and the dosage used was not logged as is standard where best practices are followed.

Everything was haphazard about killing the animals. Interior doors were left open, possibly allowing volunteers to see in, as my source did. The back outside door was sometimes open, potentially allowing members of the public to glance in. Although a great number of animals are killed there, the volunteer related that very few of these had untreatable conditions and, as a whole, the intake dogs and cats were unusually healthy.

I would like to note that the volunteer told me the staff were upset when they had to kill animals. It was part of their job and they hated that part of their job. The volunteer also expressed the widely held view that New Braunfels is a great town and full of animal lovers who have no idea what is happening at the Humane Society.

Several times this volunteer witnessed "house cleanings" when staff management member, Denise Cox, would walk through the kennel area and pick which dogs should be killed to make more room. This was done once or twice a month. Ms. Cox carried a green highlighter and was the sole decision maker. A green "X" meant the animal had to die.

On this particular house cleaning day, lives were at stake as usual and one in particular. She was an older dog, about nine years old. All animals in this area could be given a green X. They were not on the adoptable side of the shelter where dogs could be viewed by potential adopters or owners looking for lost dogs. Those dogs were not in any danger of being killed.

It was different if you were a dog in the staff only area. These dogs were waiting to be put on the adoptable side or to be killed if there was a house cleaning. The volunteer told me this particular dog was a terrier mix, white and tan and just precious. Every time the kennel door was opened the dog would lay her head on the volunteer's leg and look up as if to say, "Please, I am healthy. Please, don't kill me!" In short, she was a wonderful and loving dog. But she was at a disadvantage, because she was being kept where she would only be seen by staff and volunteers. On this side of the shelter there is no chance of adoption. Dogs here are not allowed to be seen by the public and their photos are not posted online. It is not known why this dog was not on the adoptable side. Maybe it was because she was an older dog. Maybe it was because her hair was partially matted. The Humane Society is not a grooming salon. Dogs who are chosen to go before the public will probably be adopted. Dogs who stay on the other side will probably die.

Perhaps Ms. Cox wants to insulate her staff from having to make life and death decisions, but she accepts no advice on which dog should live. Her choices seemed arbitrary to the volunteer, but the volunteer was not included in her decision making process. No one was. No one had input although, as you will see, sometimes the reason for her decision was clear.

Two were looking beseechingly at Ms. Cox that day. The volunteer was thinking, not this dog, please. He knew better than to speak. The dog saw Ms. Cox coming. Sensing something, as dogs do, she stumbled backward into her water dish. The misstep drew Ms. Cox' attention. "Old and clumsy!" She drew a decisive green "X."

The dog died.

The volunteer quit.

Denise Cox was promoted and is now in charge of the Humane Society.

The FaceBook page promoting No Kill for New Braunfels is asking residents to attend the next city council meeting, Monday, February 10, 2014 at 6:00

CITY HALL - COUNCIL CHAMBERS 424 S. CASTELL AVENUE

"Every 2 weeks the New Braunfels City Council holds session. During these meetings, citizens are allowed to address council regarding community issues and concerns. Please join us in stating your concerns to council about what is happening at the Humane Society of New Braunfels. The city is under contract with this organization and DOES have the power to change things. Let your voice be heard. We are asking everyone to wear and animal themed article of clothing so that those that do not wish to speak but wish to show their support can "stand" as a voice for the voiceless."

There is also a website: "No-Kill New Braunfels" If Austin can be NO KILL, New Braunfels can be NO KILL

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I am looking for more volunteers from the Humane Society to tell me what goes on in the area away from the public behind closed doors and members of the public to tell me their experiences. Your privacy will be respected. E-mail marilyn@marilynlitt.com

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