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Euthanasia issue tops shelter list.

Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

Lane County staff members by the end of the year will present a plan for saving more animals at the county shelter, following action by the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.

The board unanimously adopted 30 recommendations of the Save Adoptable Animals Task Force, which reviewed the county shelter for three months.

The board action reflects a philosophical shift at the shelter from regulation of codes to complete animal services, said Rob Rockstroh, director of Health and Human Services, which oversees the shelter.

"We have to work much more broadly with the community in saving adoptable animals and being more transparent about all of our transactions," Rockstroh said.

To reflect the new attitude, the department will be renamed Lane County Animal Services, he added.

The Board of Commissioners organized the task force in response to advocates who have pushed the Lane County Animal Regulation Authority to reduce the number of cats and dogs that are put down.

Last year, the shelter received about 2,000 dogs and put down almost 300 because they were deemed unadoptable or because there was no room. Slightly more than half of the 1,600 cats were put down for the same reasons.

Shelter manager Mike Wellington said those numbers represent a drop in the euthanasia rate, but he thanked the task force for publicizing the issue of animal welfare.

"We've had a dramatic decline in euthanasia of adoptable animals in the last few years and we still have more work to do in that area," he said.

Staff members will review the recommendations and report on which items can be implemented immediately and which will cost money, Rockstroh said.

It could be relatively cheap - or free - to change the euthanasia policy, boost volunteer support and improve cooperation with animal groups, Rockstroh said.

But other recommendations could be expensive, he added: A foster program, a trap-neuter-release program for feral cats, a low-cost spay-and-neuter program, more treatment of animals and more shelter programs to reduce kennel stress.

Rockstroh acknowledged the need to satisfy board members and advocates who want more public access to all aspects of shelter animal care, including the decision to put an animal down. The board adopted a recommendation that calls for the distribution of "intent to euthanize" notices to interested parties.

Commissioner Bill Fleenor urged shelter staff members to improve public access, saying, "if someone wants to watch an animal be euthanized, let them do it. If you don't, you're going to have suspicion."

Workers were also told to develop an advisory board or committee that will routinely review shelter operations. The committee could help establish a euthanasia policy but would not likely be involved in day-to-day approval of the practice, Rockstroh said.

But the decision to euthanize could be made jointly by staff and veterinarians, vet technicians or community representatives if practical, he added.

Rockstroh said he is also studying whether the kennel can remain open until 7 p.m. some evenings - up from 5:30 p.m. - by shifting work schedules.

COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER

Staff members will report to the county board on what it would cost to make changes at the Lane County Animal Regulation Authority. Topics to be reviewed include:

Improve policy on when to put animals down

Use of foster programs

Trap, neuter and release of feral cats

Spay or neuter all LCARA animals

Improve volunteer support

Improve medical and behavior treatment

Work with animal organizations

Increase adoption

Relax limits on companion animals

Reduce kennel stress
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Title Annotation:General News; The Save Adoptable Animals Task Force recommends more public access to all aspects of LCARA's animal care
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 4, 2007
Words:584
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