Death with dignity

Animals, as well as people, deserve to die with dignity. This is not the case for feral cats that end up at Sacramento City Animal Control.

These cats are pulled out of their cages by means of a 4-foot steel “control” pole with a wire loop that is placed around their necks and tightened to the choking point. The cats are held on the cement, and their back legs and tail are stepped on in order to keep them quiet. They are then stretched out and injected in the stomach with sodium phenobarbital.

What a sad, inhumane way to die.

This is not only a cruel way to kill a cat, but it is in direct violation of the law and the current practice of shelters throughout the state. The acceptable practice is to either use a Plexiglas shield or net to restrain the cat and then to tranquilize the animal prior to euthanasia.

Leading authorities in the field of euthanasia say it is inappropriate and unnecessary to use a control pole on feral cats. Control poles, dubbed “out-of-control poles” further terrorize these cats, who have been taken out of their natural environment and are extremely frightened.

Better-educated, more progressive, humane shelters in California use nets to restrain feral cats. A net, just like a fishing net, minimizes the cats’ movements, therefore greatly minimizing the cats’ ability to hurt themselves or the person handling them. In addition to using a net, humane shelters administer a pre-euthanasia tranquilizer or sedative.

Why are feral cats killed in such an inhumane way at our local shelter when there are more humane methods of euthanization available? Is it a matter of cost? Training? Time?

It’s not because of cost. These nets retail for under $10. Lack of training is not the reason, because a leading expert in humane methods for euthanizing feral cats trained city animal control personnel last fall. And time should never be used as an excuse or justification for using the wrong equipment.

Sacramento has a shelter that solely processes and kills animals. Minimal effort is made to reunite lost pets with their owners or to find homes for adoptable animals.

I have been a volunteer at the shelter for almost three years. After speaking out about the horrible practices at the shelter, I and other volunteers were denied access to the areas that house the feral and sick cats. I believe that barring volunteers’ access to these areas is an attempt to keep these dirty little secrets hidden.

Yes, cats are killed every day at the shelter. The question is, must they die in this manner? No cat deserves to die in such a horrible, cruel and inhumane manner. The least we can do is afford them a peaceful death. A death with dignity.