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West Milwaukee, WI 53215

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Euthanasia.  "Putting to sleep."  "Putting away."  Destroying.  All of these are terms that are used to refer to what we are all too often required to do; kill animals.  Although many of these are ailing, terminally-ill, elderly, or severely injured animals; in some cases they are babies, kittens or puppies, or even young healthy adults.  Often they are litter trained, house-broken, obedience trained, spayed, neutered, declawed.  They can be purebred or mixed-breed; but, they are ALWAYS heart-breaking.  It is not fair and in a world where spaying and neutering are everyday surgeries, there should be no excuse for the daily ritual of animal euthanasia.  Sterilization is the one alternative to euthanasia; but the brutal statistics speak for themselves--we are drowning in pets.  Those who are not brought to the shelter face abandonment, suffering, and cruel death.  


Those who are brought to any of the shelters located across the country have at least the chance of finding a new home, warm clean surroundings while they wait for placement, and, when resources are exhausted and they can not be placed, loving hands to render them a painless death.  Humane officers can give you countless examples of "life worse than death" for helpless animals abandoned to the streets.  They see the suffering, the brutality, to which animals are subjected.  Compared to the pain of continued existence, euthanasia can be a blessing.  But, our continuing objective is to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate euthanasia as a form of population control.  Only then, when every animal has the opportunity of finding a permanent home, will animal control agencies across the county be in the position of directing all of their resources towards ensuring a higher quality of life and a pain-free existence for the animals for whom we care.


Holding Periods


Under Wisconsin Stats. 173, stray animals are normally held for waiting period of seven (7) days to give the owner a chance to redeem their pet.  In certain circumstances, a stray animal may be euthanized immediately.  If there exists the condition where the animal is hopelessly injured beyond reasonable recovery and immediate euthanasia is to prevent unnecessary suffering, the seven day holding period may be waived.  Shortened holding intervals are also recognized for the animal that poses an imminent threat to public health or safety, the animal that poses a threat to the health or safety of itself or its custodian, or when its destruction is ordered by a veterinarian.  Euthanasia decisions of unwanted animals and strays that have completed the 7 day holding period, are based on cage space, health, temperament, and availability of adoption services and other resources the animal control facility has at its disposal.


Euthanasia Procedures


Prior to the administration of a lethal dose of a concentrated barbiturate, animals that are scheduled for euthanasia are given a sedative and allowed to rest quietly.  When the sedative has taken effect, dogs are given their lethal shot in a vein in the foreleg and cats receive their injection directly in the heart.  These procedures involve a minimum of pain, the least amount of stress and apprehension on the part of the animal, and the minimal degree of exposure to injury from or to the staff involved.  All euthanasia personnel are carefully trained in techniques to insure proficiency and efficiency of the tasks.  It is not unusual to hear staff members talking to the animals they inject, soothing them and making the complete euthanasia process the most serene experience as possible.  For all those involved in the task, euthanasia is the most difficult aspect of animal welfare functions.  Even when immediate euthanasia is required to prevent unnecessary suffering in an injured or otherwise compromised animal, it is not easy to keep from feeling depressed, angry, or outraged at the very waste of an animal's life.  Carelessness or failure to assume responsibility by some owner in an animal's life causes the conditions we see in the animals brought to animal control facilities.  Until pet population is controlled through animal sterilization procedures and responsible pet ownership is assumed by every pet owner, the reality of animal euthanasia will continue to be a necessity for animal control agencies.