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What Now?

Answering clients’ questions about the fate of surrendered animals

  • Woman surrendering pets to shelter

    TRACI DABERKO

When people surrender animals to a shelter, there's one question they almost always ask:

"What's going to happen next?"

In the cases where euthanasia is a possible outcome, answering that question can be a tricky balancing act. On one hand you don’t want to give people false assurance that you'll easily be able to adopt out the large-breed dog with a history of aggression, or the 15-year-old cat who's forgotten how to use the litter box. On the other, you don't want people to come away with the idea that the shelter is the place where animals go to die. Emotions run high whenever euthanasia is part of the mix, making the issue particularly sensitive for everyone involved.

Staycee Dains, shelter operations supervisor for the city shelter in in San Jose, Ca., says some clients lower their voice to a whisper and ask, "Are you gonna kill it?" Others can't even bring themselves to use such blunt language, she adds: "They'll say, 'Are you gonna …' and they won't even finish the sentence." The euthanasia question "comes up in one way or another with almost all but the most casual of stray surrenders," says Jessica Danyow, director of operations at the Rutland County Humane Society (RCHS) in Vermont. "And I think a lot of that is because people still suffer from the general misperception that most animals surrendered to shelters have only a short period of time before they're euthanized across the board."

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