High euthanasia rates attributed to preventable diseases at area animal shelters. Both rescue efforts and shelter facilities crippled by visitors failure to follow simple rules of hygiene.
Many things have been said about the so-called high kill animal shelter at Devore, California. It has been widely criticized for its supposed “quick fix” policies of frequent and regular euthanasia as a solution to the ongoing pet overpopulation problem. Animal rights activists blast this and other shelter facilities across the nation for supposed acts of cruelty and abuse against animals within their auspices. While cases of abuse and negligence have been documented as taking place within the animal shelter community, it should be emphasized that a shared sense of responsibility needs to be acknowledged if more animals are to survive the shelter environment to find adoptive homes.
According to Supervising Animal Control Officer Doug Smith at the Devore shelter, the failure of visitors to adhere to personal sanitation guidelines continues to have a detrimental effect the shelter's ability to maintain a healthy, disease free environment for their cats in particular.
Smith states that when visitors to Devore's cat room make physical contact with multiple cats in their cages, the transmission of hard to detect illness can and does take place, further straining the resources of an already financially strapped operation. Both the city and county of San Bernardino in southern California continues to suffer through an ongoing finanical crisis. The city of San Bernardino recently declared bankruptcy and is in a state of near financial collapse. Both city and county resources have been severely diminished , workers have been discharged for lack of funds with the exception of bare essential services.
Smith, who has been involved in animal welfare services for 30 years emphasized that perhaps the biggest underlying factor in high kill rates at Devore and other facilities is the lack of awareness of the public's behalf about the vulnerability of cats in their auspices to disease. In addition to the viral and bacterial element in this problem, what is easily overlooked is the effect of stress caused by the shelter environment on the animals which further weakens what may already be compromised immune systems.
Serious outbreaks of URI, or upper respiratory infections have been commonplace at this and other facilities. Co-administrator Renee Mc Elwee of Kitty Devore Rescue Network, which has partnered with Devore since 2011 states that "It is a major problem. That one simple act, touching one cats nose and then touching another can erupt into serious problems for them and for us. Last year the URI epidemic resulted in almost every cat coming out of Devore being sick. Almost every cat was pulled MW (medical waiver) for six straight months. For those months we scrambled daily to save as many as we could with even less time than usual. And the expense - phenomenal. I know that people faulted Devore staff for this, saying they weren't cleaning properly enough so the epidemic could finally be arrested."
While hand sanitation stations are within and at the entrance to Devore's catroom, the problem seems to be that the visiting public doesn't acknowledge them. Perhaps the message needs to emphasized in much stronger terms: A single touch can kill. If you love and care about these animals take ten seconds to potentially save a life. Clean hands are essential and critical in this environment. As Smith points out, sick animals are not adoptable and are the most likely to be quaranteened or euthanasized. While efforts are constantly made to maintain a clean shelter environment, the responsibility also literally is “in the hands” of the visiting public. Rescuer partners, shelter workers, and most importantly the animals will all benefit from an increased sense of public awareness regarding this.