Many people think that the dogs who get euthanized in high-kill shelters are the ones that are aggressive, have major disabilities, or are very old. The least adoptable dogs, in other words. But would you expect that even a beautiful, healthy, young golden retriever would be euthanized just for being “shy?”
The sad truth is that it happens, and it’s not necessarily uncommon. Even more upsettingly, some dogs get euthanized for appearing shy in the context of a crowded shelter, when in reality, they might be wonderful pets once they’re out of that stressful environment. And then there are pets who are killed for no discernible reason other than the fact that the shelter is too crowded and someone has to go. The system is cruel all around.
That’s what almost happened to Darla. Darla is a lovely golden retriever, the type of dog countless people would love to own. She’s going to have no trouble at all being adopted. And yet, simply because Laredo Animal Care Services was underfunded and overcrowded, she was slated for euthanasia because the stressful environment of the shelter had rendered her a bit shy.
Luckily, there are kind people in the world who work with these high-kill shelters in an effort to rescue as many dogs as possible who would ordinarily be euthanized. Clare Callison, the director of national operations for Austin Pets Alive!, is one of those people.
Callison happened to be working with Laredo Animal Care Services on the day that Darla was to be put down. The dog was so terrified that she had to be wheeled to the euthanasia room in a wheelbarrow, and while she was in the middle of that fateful journey, she just happened to cross Callison’s path. Callison asked where the beautiful golden girl was being taken and was told that she was to be euthanized.
Callison spent a few minutes getting to know Darla and immediately decided to use Austin Pets Alive!’s animal transport program to get her to a no-kill shelter where she would be allowed to live without fear of euthanasia.
“I sent her photo to one of our partners, Mile High Lab Mission in Denver,” she says. “Immediately, they said yes to taking her.”
There was already a flight planned from Texas to Colorado to take dogs in similar situations to Mile High Lab Mission and nearby facilities, so Darla was able to get a spot aboard that flight. The shelter was even able to set up a foster family placement for her, so she was able to go straight to a home environment instead of back to a shelter.
“The pictures and video we got of her are pretty incredible,” Callison reports. “We knew Darla would be fine, but it happened within minutes. She never wagged her tail in the shelter, but she was wagging her tail immediately at her foster home. “She is a completely different dog.”
Callison hopes that stories like Darla’s will inspire more people to foster, adopt, and get involved in animal rescue in other ways.
“There are dogs like Darla, purebred golden retrievers, that are at risk of being euthanized because of a lack of resources. There’s a place for everyone to be able to contribute and help with this problem,” she says.
“If people want to help any shelter right now, they should foster. We feel that even if we had a 2% increase in fostering across the country, that would solve this problem. And not everyone can foster, so obviously there are other outlets, like adoption, volunteering, and donations,” she continues.
We’re so grateful that there are amazing people like Callison out there doing their best to work with high-kill shelters to save their animals rather than just admonishing those organizations from a distance. Of course, even high-kill shelters are doing what they are able to do to help animals; they’re just underfunded, understaffed, and often misguided. It’s going to take a lot of people working together to dispel the myth that euthanasia is a necessary part of animal rescue. Let’s work together to ensure that all pets are given the best possible chance at life!Whizzco