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Animal groups question Stockton Animal Shelter's euthanasia methods, rates

10:33 PM, May 21, 2012   |    comments
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STOCKTON, CA- Amber Bean of Stockton was frantic when her cat Prayer went missing in March.

"I put posters up and letters in neighbor's mailboxes," Bean said.

A neighbor had picked up her cat, thinking it was feral and took it along with other to the Stockton Animal Shelter. However, Amber was too late when she rushed to the shelter to get Prayer the next day.

"My cat was euthanized the next day, it was horrible," Bean said. "They said he was sick, but he wasn't. He was healthy."

The shelter is required by law to hold stray animals four days, but officials said the hold time can be reduced if the animal appears to be sick.

Shelter director Pat Claerbout came under fire by critics last summer for euthanizing more than 900 animals during the month of August alone; 466 dogs and 505 cats.

Claerbout defends that choice.

"It was a situation of overcrowding, to be able to move forward and save animals in the long run we had to get the population down to what this shelter can hold," Claerbout said.

RELATED STORY: 971 animals euthanized in 1 month at Stockton shelter

Critics said the large numbers of euthanizations is troubling.

"She believes with an overpopulation of animals, the only way to control them is to kill them," PUPS Rescue in Stockton owner Marilyn Williams said.

Williams has filed a formal complaint with the Stockton Police Department, which oversees the shelter, claiming mismanagement, unsanitary kennel conditions and poor record keeping.

"We can't even check euthanasia records, they seem to be with holding them from us," Williams said.

Euthanasia reports obtained from Stockton police are not completely filled out, providing little information about how long a dog or cat was held before being euthanized. Some animals appeared to have microchips; one animal was euthanized due to apparent allergies.

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Euthanasia records for the past two years obtained from the city had surprisingly different numbers from those provided by Claerbout in August 2011; the city reports that 297 dogs were euthanized compared to the actual number 466.

Claerbout couldn't explain the discrepancy.

When UOP Professor Eileen McFall tried to rescue Gracie, a 3-year-old pit bull, the shelter said no. The shelter said treating a growth, what looked like a tumor, on her face would cost too much. But McFall appealed that decision to the city council and, eventually, Gracie was released to her.

RELATED STORY: Animal rescuers take Stockton stray from death's doorstep to loving home

McFall took Gracie to a vet, who found it wasn't a tumor, but an abscess that was treated for $375.

"I wanted to rescue her; I don't know why they turned me away," McFall said. "Part of my message to city council was you don't get to decide how much a rescue group or anyone else is willing to spend to save an animal."

Gracie is now happy and healthy living in a new home.

"The documentation I've seen gives me serious concerns," Animal Rights Attorney Jill Telfer said. "If I was the city I'd be looking into the issue right away."

Telfer is concerned the shelter isn't complying with the 4-day hold for stray animals and denying some rescue groups access to adoptable animals.

Claerbout said she's complying with the law, looking out for the welfare of animals and working with rescue groups, despite no full-time vets on staff, budget cuts and an outdated 40-year-old facility.

"It's what we have today, we have to make the best of it, we keep moving forward and doing our best," Claerbout said.

Claerbout said animal adoptions have doubled this spring compared to 2011.

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The Stockton police is still reviewing the formal complaint against the animal shelter.

News10/KXTV

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