Irvine Animal “High Kill Shelter?”




It’s an old and heartbreaking debate:  Whether or not there should be animal “kill shelters,” which euthanize residents in order to save space and control population.  Animal advocates and lovers loudly and consistently call for the shutdown of kill shelters, demanding that enough resources be allocated to keeping resident animals alive and comfortable in shelters until such time as they can be adopted by caring humans.  Also of concern is the fact that conditions within kill shelters are often deplorable, with extremely limited cage space and poor food allotment to animals.

One shelter that has earned a reputation for standing against such inhumane practices is the Irvine Animal Care Center.  This erstwhile laudable facility, hosting an enclosure of 3.73 acres that is more like a park than a shelter, reports taking in thousands of homeless, abused and neglected animals every year, and providing them with good food, comfortable accommodations, the opportunity to socialize with other animals, and even quality medical care.  Its spectacular “Third Chance Rescues” program takes in dogs from nearby shelters that would otherwise euthanize the animals, and introduces them to families interested in adoption.  Even older animals are considered, with the “Seniors for Seniors” program finding elderly people to care for dogs in their golden years.  Irvine itself is classified as a “low-kill” shelter, meaning that while it does utilize euthanasia, it pledges only to do so in the cases of terminally ill animals who are suffering and beyond help.

Unfortunately, staff members and volunteers who work at Irvine have recently had cause to question the facility’s practices.  They say that while it once was indeed a model for humane animal shelters that treated its residents with dignity and respect, things have changed in recent times, and that at least a dozen animals have been put down despite not suffering from any terminal illness.

According to the Orange County Register,  “After months of expressing their concerns to city officials, a group of 60 animal-rights advocates took their voices to City Hall” – and ONLY NOW Mayor Steven Choi said he’s going to study claims of abuse, inhumane euthanasia and questionable management at the city animal shelter and wants City Council to take action.

Emotionally devastating are the stories of Tate the Chihuahua and Cody the Cat, both recorded euthanized for dubious  reasons.  Further cases include the testimony of Dr Gayle Roberts, a veterinarian working at Irvine who was asked for advice on the treatment of a rabbit with a dislocated hip.  The injury was not terminal, and could have been repaired in order to allow the rabbit to live happily, so Dr Roberts suggested surgery to correct the hip.  Later, however, she was to discover to her shock that the rabbit had been killed.

Fed up and disgusted with the shift in behavior at the shelter, at least ten Irvine staff and volunteers have resigned in protest.  They have also joined with some sixty animal right advocates in approaching the city council with their concerns, and appallingly, they have been stonewalled.

Animal handling policies at Irvine haven’t changed, the shelter insists.  Nothing is different now than it ever was; just check the records.  And indeed, official numbers list no increase in cases of euthanasia at Irvine.  The problem here is what’s going on behind the scenes, perhaps inscribed in the shelter’s books, according to people who have actually been there and seen it.

The city council’s lack of attention to this matter is unconscionable and not to be tolerated.  Irvine staff and volunteers are accusing the shelter of killing for convenience, saving on space rather than alleviating the suffering of helpless animals. This is an appalling charge and must be fully investigated by an independent authority, whose findings and recommendations should be promptly acted upon. Dogs have rightfully earned their title as “man’s best friend”, and many other animals have proven dauntless companions to humans. What kind of friend would we be if we abandoned them in their hour of need?

About Irvine Valkyrie

Irvine Valkyrie is Katherine Daigle, the once and future Irvine mayoral candidate, an independent-minded Republican who is aligned with neither of the two dominant Irvine political cliques.