Got room for me? Thats what
these dogs at the Animal Shelter of Wood River Valley would like to know. Shelter
officials are confident that its no-kill policy has been working since it was invoked last
year. (Express Photo by David N. Seelig)
McCann, 25, who was in pre-veterinary medicine at the University of
Washington for two years, underscored in an interview that her philosophy appears to be at
odds with Hailey Mayor Brad Siemer. The mayor apparently opposes the no-kill policy.
At a recent Hailey City Council meeting, Siemer suggested he sees the
shelter as an overcrowded facility and that his perception of the problem is rooted in the
shelters no-kill philosophy.
Siemer didnt return several telephone calls to his city hall office
from the Idaho Mountain Express. However, Gardiner said that as the result of
discussions with Siemer, he believes the mayor misunderstood the shelters policy and
is "very comfortable" with the tentative agreement.
McCann, who became the shelters manager four months ago, said she
believes the shelter can come up with better solutions to killing the animals.
Temporary periods of overcrowding have been caused by unthinking people
anonymously dropping off unwanted dogs and cats in the dead of night. During a two-week
period in January, McCann said, about 30 puppies were left at the shelters doorstep.
A sign on the shelters front gate declares, "Do Not
As for Siemer, McCann said shes never met the Hailey mayor and that
"to my knowledge," since shes been there, hes never visited the
McCann said the community must be part of the solution to potential
overcrowding at the shelter.
"Having a pet is a life-long commitment," she said. "People
see the shelter as a problem solver rather than taking responsibility to care for their
Bringing a pet to a shelter, McCann said, should be a last resort, after
the owner has done everything in his or her power to keep the pet.
The shelter operates on a yearly budget of $300,000. It is funded in
partapproximately $24,000 a yearfrom the proceeds of dog license sales
throughout the valley. The bulk of the shelters funding, she said, comes from
private sources and fund-raisers.
According to agreements between the shelter and the valleys cities,
the shelter is bound to take in all dogs and cats delivered by any animal control officer.
The agreements also call for the destruction of animals that remain unclaimed after five
McCann said the agreements were made when the shelter euthanized animals.
"We are now renegotiating the agreements to better represent our
current no-kill policy," she said.
McCann said that due to overcrowding, there is a one-month waiting list
for pets voluntarily surrendered by their owners. However, the shelter will take in any
stray animal picked up by animal control officers or left anonymously on the
McCann said the shelter will stick with its no-kill policythat
killing the animals is not the cure for overcrowding.
If all the animals that went unclaimed for five days were killed, there
wouldnt be many dogs and cats left in the shelter, she said.
"Killing unclaimed animals only covers up the symptoms instead of
solving the root problem," McCann said. "The animals are caught in the middle of
it. They dont choose to be here."
McCann said the shelter has adopted an aggressive spay/neutering program
as a way to reduce the number of unwanted or abandoned pets.
"If people spayed and neutered their pets we wouldnt have an
overcrowding problem," McCann said. "People can become actively involved in the
solution to overcrowding at animal shelters by voting for stronger spay/neuter laws."
McCann noted that the shelters no-kill policy is not absolute.
Aggressive, dangerous animals that cant safely be put back into the
community, or animals that are sick and cant be cured, are killed, she said.
McCann said the decision to put an animal down is a hard one, but one that
shelter workers and the board of directors must confront.
"Everyone at the shelter evaluates animals at risk. The final
decision is then made by an euthanasia committee," she said. "Our board
doesnt want to see any animals die, none of us do."
The shelter, she said, takes in 30 to 40 pets a month. Part of the
overcrowding issue is a matter of finding a balance between the number of pets adopted and
the number taken in.
Dog trainer Gary James works with the animals at the shelter to help make
them more adoptable.
James said the community can help place dogs and cats by volunteering to
walk dogs and giving the cats some attention.
"Human contact is the key to getting them back into good homes,"
For her part, McCann said there are not enough workers at the shelter to
always give the animals the attention they require.
"It has to be a community thing," McCann said. "We have to
get the community involved in finding homes for the animals."
The shelter is dedicated to caring for animals, McCann made clear.
"Thats the only reason were here," she said.
"We dont get paid a lot and its a tough and grueling job. Our motivation
is that we care for animals and want to give them a good home between homes."
McCann and James said the community can help the shelters cause by
donating time and money.
The shelter recently opened an isolation roomfunded by private
donationsto keep sick animals separated from the healthy population.
Plans are also in the works to expand the shelters facilities and
staff over the next year.
"Were waiting for snow to melt to expand the outdoor kennels
and add indoor and outdoor dog runs," McCann said.