As a life-long animal lover, I’ve been following the Upper Keys Animal Shelter story with interest. Here’s the latest from the Citizen: Shelter contract renewed with changes.
It’s a sad situation. The Upper Keys shelter has the highest euthanasia rate by far of any of the three shelters. There’s been no real effort to get to the bottom of it. When the Free Press first reported on the issue, the County Administrator was quoted as saying he would have someone look into it. That seems to be where it ended.
The media coverage has been bizarrely silent on one very important fact. The Upper Keys Shelter gets about half the funding as the other two shelters. It seems obvious that this would play some role in the high euthanasia rate. Presumably, it’s cheaper to simply dispose of unwanted animals than to provide them with food, housing and medical care until they can be adopted.
When it comes to the Upper Keys Shelter, cost definitely seems to be the driving factor. There’s been no discussion of service levels or desired outcomes or proposed improvements. It all seems to be about keeping costs under some arbitrary number. But money is not such a factor when it comes to the other two shelters. Why?
The Upper Keys Shelter and the Key West Shelter handle a very similar number of animals, yet the outcomes at the Key West Shelter are so much better. Why? The local newspapers have steadfastly ignored the reality of the differing funding levels. But it certainly makes intuitive sense that the Upper Keys Shelter could do a lot more if they had another $200,000 or $300,000 per year to work with. Has county staff made any effort to compare the shelters? How they operate? What resources they have? What facilities they have? What medical care they provide? How many animals they can house and for how long? How do their outreach strategies compare? How do they find homes for the animals? Do the shelters work with each other to find homes? Do they work with other pet rescue organizations in the area?
I’ve written on this subject before here, here and here. These posts contain links to other newspaper articles and county documents. It’s a sad subject, but the fact that the county has decided to maintain the status quo no questions asked is the saddest of all.