, Muskogee, OK

December 12, 2012

Animal shelter seeks to stop euthanization

— By Chesley Oxendine

Times Correspondent

Fort Gibson strays may soon find themselves transported to more likely adoptions in northern states, if what local dogcatcher Jim Whitehead and BRB Roofing employee Darla Briggs proposal gets approved.

The two presented an alternative to euthanasia during a Nov. 26 Board of Trustees meeting. Using local representatives of rescue organizations throughout Oklahoma, Whitehead suggested moving animals to states where stricter spay and neuter laws make for higher adoption rates.

“We’ve already done five animals,” Whitehead said to the board. “Instead of euthanized, we’ve had them shipped off to places like New York, Denver and Chicago. The mindset is totally different there.”

The board immediately raised questions about the cost of transportation versus putting animals to sleep. Whitehead said the cost was comparable.

The dog catcher has to pay a veterinarian to perform the euthanasia with an initial service fee of $50, followed by per-animal charges of $8 to $18, depending on the size of the animal.

Whitehead said he could perform the procedure himself, but “wanted no part of it.” Instead, the transportation of each animal would be about $50.

“I went to school for it, but I just don’t like to do it,” he said. “I have someone else take care of it, and then I dispose of the bodies.”

Briggs suggested putting that budget toward transportation was a better idea.

“It supports adoption, it’s low cost, and we’re focusing mainly on life,” she said.

Briggs, who described herself after the meeting as “simply a concerned citizen,” said she thought the meeting went well.

“I think they’re for it,” she said of the trustees. “Let’s see what we can spend, but I think this will be a huge benefit for the animals.”

Beyond their discussion of animal transportation, Briggs said she and Whitehead hoped to raise awareness of more local efforts, such as Fort Gibson’s own shelter.

“A lot of times, when the shelter is mentioned, people say ‘really?’” Briggs said. “They didn’t know. If they did, we might have more people open up their homes. If you’re looking for a pet, you should check with Jim first.”

Whitehead said many of the animals he caught were suited for potential home life.

“These are perfectly fine animals,” he said. “They’re full of life.”

Of course, Briggs said, there would be fewer strays if pet owners more frequently spayed and neutered their dogs and cats.

“What we want people to understand and really want to encourage is that they need to spay and neuter their pets,” she said. “There’s quite a few low cost programs in the area.”

She offered Spay OK in Bixby, which includes a rabies shot with the operation, and Coins for Critters in Muskogee as cheap options for spaying and neutering.

“It would make my job a lot easier if people went out and did that,” Whitehead said.