The City of San Bernardino, CA, animal shelter is currently defending itself against criticism of how it operates, even though its euthanasia rate has been cut almost in half since 2010.
Criticism is not unusual for municipal shelters, which are typically underfunded and understaffed, with kennels continuously filled by an endless flow of pets that have been discarded, abandoned, neglected or abused. Often shelters become the targets for the anger of animal lovers who are overwhelmed by the sadness of the day-to-day realities of unwanted pets.
But officials at the San Bernardino shelter claim some of the criticism has gone too far and has led to death threats against shelter workers, KABC-TV reports.
A video posted on YouTube shows someone visiting the San Bernardino city animal shelter who is critical of how many animals are put down.
Rene Hersey is a private party who takes pictures of animals at the shelter and puts them on-line, hoping that providing greater visibility will result in more adoptions. She claims she has noticed many empty cages. However, she also says she doesn't question the dedication of the workers.
"I know that the shelter tries. I think that there are always improvements that could be made," said Hersey.
"There's a feeling that we have room for animals, yet we continue to euthanize, which is totally not true," said San Bernardino Police Lt. Rich Lawhead, who assists with the management and operation of the shelter.
In a phone interview with ABC News, Lt. Lawhead says that in 2010 the San Bernardino City shelter had to euthanize 74 percent of the animals coming in. This year that number is down to 40 percent.
Still, he says workers at the shelter have been targeted with death threats from critics who say they're not doing nearly enough to save animals.
"We have had to relocate some of our employees because of addresses that were put on Facebook and other things, and that's just another expense for the taxpayers that take dollars away from the animal shelter, when we have to pay for hotel rooms and we have to relocate employees to make sure the employees are safe," said Lawhead.
A police officer told ABC7 that about 80-90 percent of the cages are occupied.
Those who run the shelter remind the public that the city of San Bernardino is going through bankruptcy, so the shelter depends greatly on rescue organizations and volunteers.
Author’s note: A municipal animal shelter has a legal obligation to take in stray animals. It is a sound management policy to maintain empty kennels for that purpose.
A shelter that maintains 100% capacity will end up either overcrowded—with the animals harming each other—or having to turn away animals desperately in need of help. Most public shelters also take in animals relinquished by owners, so that they are not dumped in the street.
Anyone who is endangering shelter employees and/or their families should also be reminded that doing anything to cause employees to be fearful to come to work merely reduces the care the shelter can provide for the animals.