FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – In a quiet city office Wednesday morning, Fort Worth’s code enforcement managers agonized over a life or death decision.
Living conditions at their animal control shelter are unacceptable. Adoptions have not eased the problem. They will have to kill animals to make room; it could start as soon Wednesday night.
The decision didn’t come easily.
“We are never going to be able to adopt our way out of this problem,” said Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett as he choked back tears. “We’re never going to get there. It starts with people being responsible for their pets. Spay and neuter and everything else. It’s just horrible.”
Fort Worth has not euthanized an adoptable animal since 2010 thanks in large measure to its innovative practice of setting up animal adoption centers in Petsmart stores. On average, 450 animals a month find homes with the program.
But the record surge in the numbers of strays coming in has not slowed. On Tuesday, 55 people adopted animals.
Seventy-five more strays were brought in the same day.
Some animals have been in the system for more than a month despite trips to the adoption centers. Many that have not been adopted are larger or older dogs.
“The adoption demand just isn’t there,” Bennett said. “And so we are for the first time in many years facing the euthanasia of some of these animals. I’d like to say it’s a crisis and play this out to world to come help us again. But there’s a reality that we’re facing here and the reality is that for some time to come we’re going to be operating at capacity.”
There are two or sometimes more dogs in cages that are meant for a single animal. It is uncomfortable for the dogs. And diseases can quickly spread in these conditions. Dogs can also become stir crazy after long periods in a cramped cage.
Between 80 and 100 animals could face euthanasia Wednesday night unless there is a last minute rush from rescue groups to remove them from the shelter’s population.
But Bennett said the constant influx of animals will leave them no other options. It will likely be sooner rather than later.
Euthanizing the animals is an emotional decision for Bennett, who is a self-professed dog lover and is often seen with his own rescue dog, which has become the mascot of the animal shelter. But what’s the alternative?
“The alternative?” Bennett said as his voice quivered with emotion. “You look at this little fellow over here.”
Bennett pointed to a nearly motionless, emaciated pit bull in a kennel. The tan dog’s body was covered with injuries and his ribs and hipbone stuck out prominently.
“He came in yesterday starving to death on the street and fighting with other animals for food,” Bennett said. “I could stick a finger between his ribs. You know, we see this every day. And people ask us, ‘What’s the alternative?” It ain’t good.”
But it now seems the alternative that isn’t good is the only alternative Fort Worth has.