BRADENTON -- One morning three weeks ago the Manatee County Animal Services shelter was at capacity with 120 dogs and 100 cats.
Eighteen more strays were brought in by its officers.
“We were full. Every kennel had one or more animals in it. We had no place to put the rest,” said Bill Hutchison, the county’s director of public safety at Thursday’s Manatee Tiger Bay Club luncheon. “You can guess what the result was.”
A number of them were eventually euthanized.
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It was an example of the dilemma the county animal shelter, which adopted out 150 animals in the last two months, is faced with as it works toward a “no-kill” policy.
“Do we kill animals? Yes, because we have no choice,” said Hutchison, who has seven rescue cats from the shelter. “Do we like it? No, we don’t.”
Joining him on the panel, moderated by Tiger Bay President Greg Porges, were Kris Weiskopf, the Manatee County Animal Services chief, Keith Pratt of Bishop Animal Shelter and ASPCA, Rob Oglesby of Honor Animal Rescue, and Denise Deisler, the Humane Society of Manatee County executive director.
The subject was a passionate one. Dr. Scott Clulow wanted to know when the county would be “no kill.”
“This is what we’re striving for, but it’s not easy,” Weis- kopf said. “We need help from the community.”
Deisler agreed, saying how the Humane Society has focused on educating the public about prevention programs like its high volume/low cost spay-neuter clinic and its Pet Safety Net.
The first has serviced 11,000 animals since opening two years ago.
The second helps owners be proactive -- from getting dogs to stop chewing up the couch to getting free pet food in tough times.
“So people can address problems they have rather than give up on that pet and it ends up in a shelter,” Deisler said.
Then there’s the Gulf Coast Animal League, whose volunteers have engaged in an effective trap-neuter-release program for cats.
“Those animals never make it into our system, so we’re that much ahead,” Hutchison said. “Those are critical pieces toward ‘no kill,’ but no one piece is enough.”
A foster care program is yet another piece to be introduced, said County Commissioner Carol Whitmore.
“Manatee County is doing everything humanly possible with money and staffing to achieve ‘no kill.’ That’s our mission, but we don’t have everything in place yet,” she said. “We need those rescue groups, the foster program. No way this’ll happen without people stepping up to the plate and helping.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.
WANT TO ADOPT?
If you’d like to adopt a pet from the Manatee County Animal Services shelter, visit www.mymanatee.org/pets.
Animal Services is at 305 25th St. W., Palmetto. Information: 742-5933. You can also visit the downtown Bradenton satellite adoption center at 1002B Manatee Ave. W., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Information: 742-5824.