TRUTH: We grieve for every animal that we must euthanize*, and we never make the decision to euthanize lightly. But because we accept every animal that comes to us, we are often faced with that decision. Few people want to adopt a pet that has a severe illness or an untreatable medical condition or worse.
And we cannot in good conscience place animals that are aggressive, so we conduct a behavior evaluation on all dogs to help ensure a successful adoption. Our dog behavior evaluation is based on the work of two nationally recognized animal experts, Emily Weiss and Sue Sternberg, who respectively, through scientific study, have developed the SAFER and Assess-A-Pet behavior evaluations. The tests have proven to be quite accurate in understanding an animal’s temperament. For example, it was recently found that of the dogs who reacted aggressively during testing, 89% had a history of the same behavior.
Currently, there is not a standard behavior evaluation for cats; however, one is being developed by behavioral experts. Until these scientific measures of a cat’s temperament are put in place, we will continue to evaluate cats as we do today. At this time, we review each cat’s behavior history if it is provided at the time of surrender and then we evaluate how the cat reacts to humans and basic handling by veterinary staff while it is with us at Animal Humane Society.
We do take into consideration that shelter environments are very stressful for animals and that their behavior can be hard to assess. In situations where the animals display mild defensive aggression, they are given time to get used to their surroundings and re-evaluated again in three days.
In 2009, Animal Humane Society took in 20,646 felines while our community adopted only 10,781. Sadly, the disparity between the number of animals surrendered to our shelters and the number the community adopts contributes to euthanasia as an outcome for animals, primarily cats. There may be less significant health or behavior issues involved in these cases, but they are issues that can be addressed if someone would choose to adopt.
We are always working toward bringing an end to euthanasia at our shelters because of this disparity. We’re constantly reviewing the latest research to find ways to improve what we do. We are committed to reducing euthanasia by continuing to review protocols, as we’re doing with our Bound for Home initiative.
Further, Animal Humane Society is a founding member of the Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare (MnPAW). As a coalition of shelters, animal control entities, rescue groups and other pet-focused organizations, MnPAW’s sole mission is to reduce euthanasia and lower the numbers of incoming animals across Minnesota by sharing ideas, expertise and resources in a coordinated way.
Our goal is always—always—to do what’s best for animals and what is right for the communities we serve.
*Animals are not euthanized in gas chambers at Animal Humane Society. They are humanely euthanized through injection with caring staff by their side.