ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — A new report is giving more insight into the internal struggles at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County and possible solutions to them.
Best Friends Animal Society visited both locations of the Humane Society of St. Lucie County in May, while also meeting with area animal rescue groups, volunteers, and staff at the shelter to evaluate the organization.
Best Friends Animal Society has a primary goal of helping shelters become “no-kill” organizations.
Their report, based on findings during their visit, suggests the shelter can continue to do more to work toward no-kill status.
It also lays out a plan to improve the organization’s financial struggles, management, community services, animal care, and euthanasia practices.
The report says in 2018, the overall save rate for dogs and cats at The Humane Society of St. Lucie County was 55%, with a 74% save rate for dogs and a 39% save rate for cats.
“When I met with the board and shared my experience of witnessing cat euthanasia this morning, many members of the board were shocked and appalled, asking who made the decision and why. Euthanasia statistics are not being shared with the board,” the report states.
“There is a clear need for strong, consistent leadership to clarify expectations and enforce performance standards,” the report continued.
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Some of the cats being killed are unowned, free-roaming cats (community cats) and their offspring. About half (688) of all the cat euthanasia in 2018 was due to behavioral reasons. “For the Humane Society of St. Lucie County to achieve no-kill status, they must halt the killing of healthy outdoor cats,” the report states.
The report recommends that staff meets every other week to discuss intake, adoption, and euthanasia statistics along with accolades to support good morale for staff.
“There is no system in place to ensure that medications are given, kennels are cleaned or euthanasia decisions are made properly.”
One staff member reported euthanizing dogs for an hour each morning. “This is an enormous weight to carry and for the health of the staff members and the community, the humane society needs to seriously consider implementing the recommendations in this report to decrease euthanasia. Without them, The Humane Society of St. Lucie County will continue to kill thousands of animals each year…”
Reasons for euthanasia ranged from behavior, medical issues, not having resources to treat the animal, age, not using the litter box and not eating.
The Best Friends Animal Society representative said in the report, "During my time at that campus, I witnessed the euthanasia of around 15 cats, including a couple sets of moms and nursing kittens. The reasons given for euthanasia were varied, from illness to behavior.”
In 2018, 500 cats were euthanized for upper respiratory infections alone. The report says they should be given an opportunity to get better with antibiotics before being considered for euthanasia.
The following recommendations were made:
-Establish written protocols for euthanasia, including the decision-making process and when decisions need to be run by the veterinarian.
-Ensure compliance with all staff members.
-Send a euthanasia list each day to rescue groups with a deadline to respond to pull animals from the list.
The report states that becoming a no-kill shelter will also take more support from the municipalities the shelter serves, saying they may wish to pass a no-kill resolution stating they will support the humane society as they continue to implement best practices to increase lifesaving.
The Humane Society chairman said the board will review the report at their next board meeting.