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Animal Services Oversight?

As Lane County prepares to turn running its animal shelter over to a nonprofit agency — Greenhill Humane Society submitted the only proposal — local animal advocates remain concerned about keeping the county’s focus on saving, not euthanizing, adoptable animals.

 When it comes to euthanizing dogs and cats, “there needs to be an oversight committee and people from various rescues involved with that oversight committee,” Lisa Warnes of Save the Pets says. 

Once heavily criticized for killing too many pets, Lane County Animal Services (LCAS) has responded to the No Kill movement by dramatically reducing the numbers of animals killed and increasing those adopted over the past five years. LCAS’s advisory committee has a subgroup that meets specifically to give guidance on euthanasia.

Animal advocates such as the No Kill Community Coalition would like to see that committee continue, but Warnes says she hasn’t seen any moves in that direction under the new proposal. Adding to the concerns is the recent news that Greenhill euthanized three dogs for behavioral issues.

Greenhill’s executive director Cary Lieberman says, “Greenhill will maintain LCAS’s ‘no kill’ policy, although that’s not what they call it officially.” He says Greenhill’s practices and policies are consistent with what most people consider “no kill.” 

Lieberman says the dogs that were put down had all bitten people. A dog named Riley, who came from LCAS, rarely broke the skin, but “but he would bite hard enough to bruise.”  

He says that Riley’s resource guarding level was five on a six point Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming (SAFER) scale. “We do not feel that it is safe to work with level five or higher aggression in the shelter setting,” Lieberman says. Despite that, he says Greenhill “spent months trying to find a suitable home or rescue, and volunteers and staff worked with him daily.”

“I have a strong concern over it being just the vet and the trainer deciding who will be euthanized,” Warnes says. She says and other citizens concerned about Lane County’s pets will be advocating for an oversight committee at upcoming City Council meetings. 

Lieberman says, “the suggestion has been made to us by some people in the community that we should have an external review committee or two on top of what we already have in place, and we’re exploring it.” He says Greenhill currently has an Animal Care Committee that meets monthly made up of volunteers, staff and veterinarians, which reports to the board of directors, as well as an annual external audit. He says he is open to suggestions for anything that improves the level of care and ability to find animals homes.

Warnes says that it seems splitting LCAS up due to county budget cuts was a done deal from the beginning so “all we can do is demand a really solid, fair, unbiased oversight committee.”