Editorial: Discussing animal shelter policies can be healthy, productive

Stories in the South Whidbey Record about dogs and cats are always well read. Reactions are usually strong, whether it’s about kitties being abandoned, a pooch being rescued from a cliff or abandoned dogs running loose in a state park. Affection for these critters is something that unites the island.

That’s why the nonprofit organization Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation, or WAIF, was able to build one of the nicest animals shelters in the region. Residents donated large amounts of money and supporters worked for years to raise funds for the facility near Coupeville.

It’s also why WAIF is sometimes criticized. People have strong opinions, sometimes based on misunderstandings, about how the shelter handles animals, as described in a recent article.

People have a lot of ideas about how to enrich the lives of shelter animals. Sharing and discussing them in public is a positive thing that should be encouraged. One local woman, for example, asked why WAIF volunteers can’t take a dog or two on a field trip to a nearby dog park.

It’s an idea worth considering.

WAIF should also consider holding regular forums where officials can promote WAIF and listen to ideas and concerns.

When it comes to animal shelters, the strongest opinions usually revolve around the issue of euthanasia. WAIF only euthanizes about 6 percent of the dogs and cats that come to the shelter, which is a very low number compared to other shelters.

Animals are never euthanized for space, but only when they are unadoptable because of sickness, injury or behavior.

And there’s no question that some of the dogs that end up at WAIF are dangerous.

WAIF officials say that it’s irresponsible to adopt out a dangerous dog, and euthanasia is sometimes the most compassionate answer.

But some people feel an aggressive dog can be changed, trained or taken in by the right person.

This difference of opinion even led to a lawsuit and a late-night burglary years ago.

In an ideal world, dogs would be treated well their entire lives, aggressive behavior would be dealt with appropriately in puppyhood and there would be no need for animal shelters.

In this world, however, one of the best things animal lovers can do is volunteer at a shelter and spread the affection around.

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