In 2008, Oprah Show cameras went inside Fort Worth Animal Shelter, one of the many shelters across the country that are at—or over—capacity. The dogs who were not adopted were often euthanized. At the time, the Fort Worth Animal Shelter took in 23,000 dogs and cats a year—that's about 50 dogs each day. Sadly, only four out of these 50 dogs were ever adopted.
The shelter was putting down more than 40 animals each day, and Oprah Show cameras shadowed manager Keane Menefee as he made the difficult decision of which animals to euthanize. "The euthanasia decision is almost more difficult than the actual euthanasia process itself," he said. "You're deciding life and death on a daily basis."
Animals could be chosen for a number of reasons, including medical issues, behavior issues and simple shelter capacity issues. When an animal was chosen, a red "E" was marked on its cage. At that point, these animals only had one more day to be adopted.
When it came time, dogs were individually taken into the euthanasia lab. After the dog was muzzled for safety reasons, Keane injected it with a dosage of Fatal Plus or sodium Phenobarbital. In all, the process took three to five minutes. The dog's body was put in a body bag and placed inside a freezer until the next morning, when a service arrived to take it to a landfill.
Keane said putting an animal to sleep never got easier for him. "I have three dogs and two cats, and I have a great love for animals. I feel when I'm putting a dog down that I try to use the same compassion that I have as if I was putting my own animal down," he said.
"We're happy to report that since then, the Fort Worth Animal Shelter opened a spay and neuter clinic and have fixed over 2,000 animals, and they teamed up with PetSmart Charities to [become] a booming adoption center," Oprah says. "Here's the best part...since it opened this past April, Fort Worth says they have not had to euthanize a single healthy, adoptable animal."
To make a difference across the country, Cherie Travis, the commissioner of Animal Care and Control in Chicago, says pet owners must spay and neuter their animals.
"If people in this country sterilize their pets and adopt from shelters, this problem is fixed," Cherie says. "There are healthy, adoptable animals at every shelter across the country and they're beautiful animals. People just need to give them a chance."
That show increased awareness and spurred action. House Bill 2525, a bill to tighten regulations and stop inhumane treatment at large dog-breeding facilities, passed the Pennsylvania Legislature on October 8, 2008.
Now, San Francisco is considering some groundbreaking legislation with a bill that would ban the sale of all animals in stores, with the exception of fish. "It would be the first city to do that if they go through with it," Lisa says.