The week beginning Monday, July 21, 2014 was not a good one at the Devore Animal Shelter, near San Bernardino, California.
But for one unlucky impoundee it would be his last.
Devore Animal Shelter, located in Cajon Pass along Interstate 15 in southern California has a notorious history of controversy; there have been ongoing complaints and protests concerning their policies in regards to euthanasia of healthy and adoptable animals. Known in rescue circles as “high kill” in nature, they are only one of perhaps hundreds of similarly fatal holding tanks for thousands of unwanted, stray or otherwise excessively numerous animals of all varieties; former pets, wild (feral) cats, owner surrenders, injured/homeless animals, the list goes on and on.
On Monday morning (7/21) for unclear reasons, Devore Shelter Administrator Doug Smith had “red listed” some 22 cats in number, in other words, assigning certain death by euthanasia, unless rescuers/fosters/adopters could be found in short order. Rescue groups and concerned individuals in the region were alerted and were scrambling to get as many of these doomed cats out of Devore as quickly as possible.
Facebook exploded with comments, mostly negative from the rescue community; it seemed there was no situation of overcrowding, one rescuer expressed his outrage concerning all the empty cages at Devore, reinforcing the ongoing and familiar perception that the shelter administration was once again engaging in the practice of “bullying” the local rescue community. The shelter's answer to inquiry regarding this was that “truckloads of cats” had been brought in, creating a space issue.
The exact circumstances that day weren't fully known, but what was clear was that there had to be swift and immediate action. The strain upon the rescue community was enormous; Facebook comments by rescuers and others ranged from terse to desperate, and then elation each time a rescue was secured.
This scenario played out over the next two to three days, and on Wednesday, July 23, there were only two cats left to be saved from death. Union Jack and Bali were still without a rescue plan. There were dozens, if not hundreds of concerned individuals nationwide trying to ensure a plan for these last two, and finally Union Jack's safety was secured, leaving Bali alone to face certain death.
It is well known in rescue circles that when an animal is confined for a significant period, the associated stress results in animal's vulnerability to disease. When this occurs, it is almost a certain death warrant for the animal in question; shelter caretakers will want to eliminate what could be a potential source of infection for healthy animals at the facility.
Such became the case with Bali; his status was changed to medical waiver, making it less likely for him to be adopted out. Extensions were granted in hopes that a rescue could be still be obtained, frantic efforts to save him could not be consummated to the shelter's satisfaction (within their desired time frame) although it is felt by rescuers that Bali's rescue was imminent. Calls were made directly to the shelter staff, but they were not willing to grant further extensions. It is believed California's Hayden law regarding required holding times when a rescue is imminent may have been violated by Devore's administration and there is strong support within the rescue community at this time to seek shelter administrator Doug Smith's termination.
The sad irony here is that what were once actually “shelters” have become nothing more than custodial holding tanks for the hundreds and thousands of unfortunate animals who are abandoned, discarded, or otherwise homeless or undesired. Euthanasia rates nationwide are excessive; some estimates place the percentages at 80 to 90 per cent, depending on location and interest and availability of local rescuers and concerned individuals. Some have even called for the term “shelter” to not be used anymore, as research seems to suggest that animals actually have a better chance of survival in a non controlled environment.