Shelter plans to euthanize sooner

Animal Services hopes to reduce disease and give healthy animals better chances for adoption at the Falkenburg Road facility.

Published May 19, 2005

TAMPA - It's a hard-nosed proposition: Reduce shelter time for stray dogs and cats in order to save more of them.

In a change that puts county policy more in line with governments across the country, Hillsborough's Department of Animal Services will not wait as long to euthanize impounded dogs and cats at its overcrowded shelter on Falkenburg Road.

Every year, thousands of sick dogs and cats infect healthy ones that would otherwise be candidates for adoption, Animal Services field manager Jim Dickey said. By speeding up euthanizations, the county hopes to reduce disease and generate more potential pets.

The County Commission approved the policy Wednesday.

"We have trouble getting enough adoptable animals," said Dickey, adding there are long lines for the shelter's dogs and cats.

From now on, animal services will keep untraceable dogs and cats for just five days before euthanizing them. Previously, it was a week. And instead of keeping animals with clear identification for two weeks, they will be killed after 10 days.

Between Oct. 1, 2003, and Sept. 30, 2004, shelter employees euthanized 27,968 dogs and cats. About 40 percent were sick or elderly animals brought in by their owners, Dickey said.

The policy shift stems from ongoing overcrowding problems at the shelter, he said. The volume of impounded animals means many of the 610 cages hold more than one animal. Renovations have made space even tighter.

The department found that it was sheltering animals for longer periods than many communities throughout Florida and the nation. Richmond, Va., came closest to Hillsborough in the survey. It keeps untraceable animals for six days and identifiable ones for 11 days. But Midwest City, Okla., waits just two days to euthanize an untraceable dog or cat. Several places kill identifiable animals after three days.

Local animal advocates support the move, said Linda Baker, executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

"They did their research," she said. "It will help to reduce the sickness that occurs because they have so many animals, and help to get more adoptable animals on the floor."