Dog Daze
Nic Coury

A toy Australian shepherd mix peers through the glass door of one of about a dozen rooms. With captivating, droopy eyes, the dog – whose former family named her Kaigun – gazes at people walking by.

It’s a rainy day in May, and a handful of people browse through the white hallway as classical music plays in the background. They peek from room to room and stay cozy thanks to the rooms’ heated floors, inhaling air that has been purified 14 times in the past hour. They are looking for pets. Future companions.

This place is nestled in a state-of-the-art adoption center, tucked in the back of the SPCA for Monterey County, a nonprofit that dubs itself “the heart of animal rescue” locally.

Inside, Kaigun trembles, not because it’s cold, but perhaps because she isn’t used to being alone. Just a day ago, her former owners gave her and her brother up due to an illness in the family. Earlier that day, she was separated from her sibling after he was adopted.

But hope seems to find its way into the SPCA.

That same day, a Monterey woman who lost her longtime pet a month prior comes in search of a new companion. She found Kaigun listed for adoption on the SPCA’s website. By the end of the day, she has signed papers and takes her new best friend home.

When it’s time to leave the shelter, Kaigun can barely contain her excitement, with her behind fishtailing all the way to the parking lot and into her new owner’s car. As they drive off, Kaigun, looks out the window from the back seat, her eyes pinned to the SPCA.

This is one of numerous success stories at the SPCA, but not all stories end like this. In gradually increasing amounts over the past four years, animals go there to die.

The nonprofit’s mission is to “assure compassionate and humane treatment of all animals,” regardless of health, age, behavior, breed or species. Sometimes that means euthanasia.

• • •

Outside the SPCA facility, neighboring the administration offices and some dumpsters, a square walk-in freezer stores dead animals.

The bodies are placed inside barrels and stored in the freezer. Once a week, a service contracted by the SPCA picks up a load and cremates the remains in Sacramento.

The animals in this freezer were lethally injected by SPCA staff in a room, which the SPCA declined to show the Weekly on a tour. But staff members, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation at work, describe what happens in there: One staff member is in charge of restraining the animal, and another administers the injection.

After being injected, the animals take their last breath within seconds.

In 2015, 366 cats and dogs with treatable behavioral and medical conditions ended up in this freezer. Another 540 cats and dogs, categorized with manageable diseases – meaning they were unlikely to get healthy without significantly more time and care – were put down by the shelter. In total, 2,725 animals were lethally injected, frozen then cremated last year – 49 percent of the shelter’s cat and dog intake.

Those numbers were in line with numbers from 2014, when 589 treatable and 535 manageable pets were euthanized, out of the 2,716 total that were put down. The number of animals killed by the shelter in 2014 made up 50 percent of the shelter’s admissions.

Since 2008, there have been more animals euthanized at the SPCA than adopted, except in 2011, when 1,944 animals were given new homes and 1,905 were put to rest.

In both 2013 and 2014, more than half the animals taken into the SPCA were put down. (Owner-requested euthanasia is not taken into account in these figures.)

“We save many of these animals but as of yet, we cannot save all of them,” outgoing SPCA Executive Director Gary Tiscornia says. “These are the decisions we have to make.”

Dog Daze

Gary Tiscornia is leaving the SPCA for Monterey County July 8. He says he is happy to leave a “superb” management team to help the incoming executive director, Scott Delucchi, with the transition.

Despite a shining public image fueled by vibrant newsletters and fundraising events, extensive outreach and educational programs with thousands of participants – and an acclaimed 16-year career of its retiring director – the SPCA’s euthanasia rate has significantly increased over the years, particularly when compared to other similar shelters in the Bay Area and Central Coast. (See table, p. 26.)

Euthanasia rates increased along with the intake of animals into the shelter. For comparison, in 2008 there were 4,651 animals in the shelter and last year there were 5,498. Every year, numbers steadily increased, and Tiscornia alludes to the policies of Monterey County’s and Salinas’ animal shelters as possible culprits, in addition to an influx of feral cats, which are almost always euthanized at the SPCA due to behavioral issues.

Some other shelters boast online that their success at adopting more animals – and euthanizing less – is due in part to aggressive partnerships with animal rescue organizations. But locally, animal welfare groups hint at a strained relationship with the SPCA.

It is widely believed by people in the animal welfare system – including the SPCA’s incoming executive director, Scott Delucchi, who starts July 11 – that a heavy reliance on rescue groups can save all but the sickest and wildest animals.

Last year, at the SPCA, 46 percent of the animals euthanized were considered treatable, with manageable diseases, or were feral cats based on staff’s standards. The rest were categorized as unhealthy and untreatable. None were considered healthy.

Tiscornia says it’s important to look at external factors influencing his organization’s numbers, not just the policies within his nonprofit. Here he is referring to a sterilization program run out of the Salinas animal services shelter that releases feral cats back into the wild after being spayed and neutered.

This, he says, has influenced the nonprofit’s high euthanasia record, as it received more feral cats.

But in 2014, the number of feral cats made up only 5 percent of the SPCA’s total animal intake and were 10 percent of the animals euthanized. And last year, feral cats were 6 percent of the intake and 12 percent of the animals killed.

• • •

Perched on the top of a hill off Highway 68, the SPCA’s adoption center stands surrounded by barns with chickens and pigs and a few corrals that confine half a dozen horses on the 200-acre property.

Inside the adoption center, visitors encounter a closed-off area holding cats, rabbits and other small pets. The space is serene.

The cats and rabbits are for the most part asleep. But in the corner, a small cat named Bolt darts out of its private room and into the secured hallways where a visitor tries to pet him. This is the most action visitors see on their brief stop.

Dog Daze

Outside the lobby, a handful of big dogs bark at visitors behind their fenced kennels. Next to them is another adoption room, where Kaigun was housed.

These are the places where the animals who are ready to be adopted are lodged. They’ve come into the shelter’s care after being abandoned by their owners, evacuated due to natural disasters, or in some cases, been victims of crimes. The SPCA helps prosecute hoarding and animal neglect cases, among other animal-related misdeeds.

When people think of the SPCA, an adoption center often comes to mind. And it’s true. One of its priorities is to bolster adoption efforts, and it has done so by remodeling its now-manicured adoption center.

But beautifying the adoption center has not been enough. In 2014, nearly 1,000 more animals were put down than adopted. Last year, the number of animals euthanized was just 20 fewer than those who found a loving home.

Tiscornia, who retires after 16 years at the end of June, explains those ratios this way: “At the end of the day, the pet’s adoptability determines its fate,” he says.

In other words, an animal’s looks, health requirements and cuddliness improve its odds, based on the community’s standards.

But the animal’s fate also depends, at least in part, upon the SPCA’s standard of what makes an animal adoptable – and the efforts it exhausts before lethal injection.

Tiscornia says that in seven years, no healthy animal has been put down at the SPCA.

“We have only euthanized sick and behaviorally damaged pets,” he says.

For the public, that is hard to know: This data was provided to the Weekly upon request, but isn’t available on the nonprofit’s website. Based on this data, since 2012, on average about 20 percent of the animals euthanized at the SPCA were suffering from treatable medical and behavioral conditions, with good chances to recover from issues like breathing problems or hissing when touched, if given the proper medical attention or training.

“We will make our very best effort to get animals adopted, but we reserve the right to euthanize it if the animal is highly stressed or has a medical issue,” Tiscornia adds.

• • •

In mid-May, the SPCA rescued a dog and her puppies – all suffering from mange, a treatable skin disease caused by parasitic mites nibbling at the skin and leading to severe itching, hair loss, scabs and lesions.

This disease can be easily contracted by humans, so the mom and her puppies are not ready for the adoption floor.

Tiscornia describes this recent rescue, via email with a photo of the despondent puppy attached, as a situation when the SPCA sometimes opts to put down a sick – but treatable – canine.

“If this were a 9-year-old dog with the possibility of recurring mange, the public would not adopt him,” Tiscornia says. “These are the decisions we need to make.”

Tiscornia blames in part the community’s expectations for pet adoption, and the desire for animals to be healthy, young and trained. SPCA employees contend that many animals don’t get the time, space and tender loving care they need to reach the adoption floor.

Still, the nonprofit continues to pride itself in its open-door policy: taking all animals in need – wild, neglected or sick as they may be – into their care.

“We never turn down an animal,” Dawn Fenton, the SPCA’s education and outreach manager, says. “We make it work.”

Inside the shelter there are 277 spaces to house dogs and cats, whether they are on the adoption floor or in the process of being treated and moved there.

This number does not include wildlife, livestock or so-called “pocket pets” like rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and pigeons. Fenton says there are hundreds of animals in the SPCA’s care on any given day.

In 2014, the SPCA cared for 2,482 wild animals, most of which were injured or displaced by human activity. For context, the San Diego Zoo houses 3,700 rare and endangered animals. Animals in the SPCA’s care include horses, chickens, pigeons, snakes, rabbits, rats and even bald eagles, as it is one of few shelters in the state to take in wildlife.

According to current SPCA employees, sometimes animals who are dropped at the shelter come in hungry and scared and act out as a result, and are not given enough time to relax, and deemed unadoptable and eligible for euthanasia.

Tiscornia disputes this, and says all animals are given a cooling-off period of one or two days.

If an animal acts out, they could be candidates for the Take the Lead program, where some 200 youth group members train the animals.

The SPCA has two other foster programs beside Take the Lead: a Salinas Valley State Prison inmate training program launched in May; and its Foster Friends program, with 38 foster families.

If the animal is not taken into a program, it gets 24 to 72 hours to settle before being reassessed, Tiscornia says. Employees say sometimes this isn’t enough, and that more substantial foster programs are needed to buy animals more time.

The behavioral assessment of a pet is mandatory, because it could be a liability for the SPCA to put a violent pet up for adoption, Tiscornia adds.

“We don’t want the animal to suffer holding on to the promise of a new home,” Tiscornia adds.

Once the animal is trained, treated and deemed adoptable, it moves on to the adoption room. If it’s a small dog, it will be housed in the heated room with Bach and Beethoven playing in the background.

• • •

When Salomon, a 10-year-old poodle, was brought to the SPCA a couple of years ago, he was evaluated as snappy and yappy. He was slated for lethal injection, says his owner, Beverly Decker of Carmel.

The Pacific Grove nonprofit Peace of Mind Dog Rescue learned about the senior poodle’s case from the SPCA, and requested to have Salomon transferred to their shelter, a Victorian house with a backyard for dogs to roam free. Once there, he received veterinary care and was placed in one of its 100 foster homes. A few weeks later, Decker, a former SPCA volunteer, decided to take Salomon home permanently.

“I think the SPCA thought he was behaviorally distraught and that’s why he couldn’t be adopted there,” Decker says. “[Salomon] is a very sensitive dog and can get feisty, but can be very sweet.”

In this case, a partner foster program was able to give Salomon – a dog the SPCA categorized as behaviorally damaged, and therefore unadoptable – an extension to the shelter’s cooling-off period.

When there are strong relationships with an array of rescue groups, the chances for animals finding a home – even in difficult cases – improve. Tiscornia says the SPCA holds and adopts animals that have “a good chance of being adopted” and rely on rescue agencies only for the animals that can be better cared for because of medical or behavioral issues, mainly breed-specific concerns like hip dysplasia for German shepherds or breathing problems for pugs.

“One of the key reasons for euthanasia is behavior,” Tiscornia says. “Issues like jumping on people, obnoxious behavior.”

Peace of Mind Dog Rescue’s executive director and co-founder, Carie Broeker, says she wishes the SPCA sent more senior dogs to their care.

At her shelter, funds go to treat senior dogs’ medical issues – usually about $1,000 per dog – and another group, Animal Friends Rescue Project, cares for at-risk shelter animals and has hundreds of volunteers running foster programs.

In 2015, the SPCA transferred 356 animals to local rescue groups, and 72 pets to out-of-county rescue organizations.

Tiscornia says the SPCA vets animal rescue organizations carefully, and is cautious when transferring animals due to past experiences with hoarding cases.

“Some other shelters transfer out immediately after the holding period ends to contain costs, sometimes to locations out of state that may or may not have been vetted,” he says.

In the past, San Diego rescue organizations have shown interest in dogs at the SPCA, but Tiscornia says the trip isn’t always worth it for the pets.

“Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to put the dog through the transfer,” Tiscornia says. “It is just about what is best for the animal.”

In 2014, the Salinas shelter and the county shelter transferred a total of 1,395 more animals to local and out-of-county rescues than the SPCA.

Broeker says the Salinas and county shelters are very active in notifying Peace of Mind about potential canine candidates for her program; the SPCA – not so much.

The incentive for the SPCA to do so would be a case like Salomon’s. Current employees say the most common reason for a treatable dog to be put down is because they are “under-socialized.” Peace of Mind covers medical expenses for senior dogs, who can come in blind, suffering from cancer, or missing a leg. Despite these conditions, dogs are usually adopted within two or six months.

The rescue group also has about 500 volunteers and 100 foster homes in action. The SPCA, which has about 400 of its own dedicated volunteers, currently has 45 animals in the care of a foster family.

“The SPCA reaches out to us, but just not on a regular basis as the other shelters do,” Broeker says.

In 2014, when the SPCA euthanized 2,716 animals, PMDR received three senior dogs from the nonprofit, compared to 16 from the Salinas shelter and 13 from the county.

In six years, Broeker says, her rescue group has only euthanized one dog for behavioral issues after the dog bit a person.

“We do the evaluation of the animal first [at the shelter], then we do foster care and then adoption,” Broeker says.

Joan Bruno-Campagno, a senior animal care technician at the county shelter, says the mutual aid relationship between her facility and the SPCA is basically non-existent.

“We work more with other SPCAs that are out of the county,” she says. “They help us out tremendously, and without their help, our euthanasia rate would be much higher.”

Last year, the county put down 40 percent of the animals that came into their care. The year before, it was 38 percent. For the county shelter, which has 78 kennels, the criteria for euthanasia often relies on space, so they count on other shelters and rescue groups to save animals.

“If 10 animals come in and [we] don’t have space, what do I do with them?” Bruno-Campagno says. “I will go to the end of the world to find a rescue for an adoptable, friendly animal, but if all else fails we have to euthanize it.”

That is their reality and they are forthcoming about their kill rates.

“I don’t contact [the SPCA], and they don’t contact me,” she says, “we don’t have a rescue relationship with them.”

• • •

Before the Beethoven music, frequently filtered air and cat condominiums were built, there were rusty, crowded cages and barely enough reserves to keep the SPCA financially alive for 11 more months.

When Tiscornia came in, he deployed his managerial experience to turn things around – quickly.

Today, the organization is in great financial standing with a $6.5 million budget, 72 employees and 400 volunteers.

Last year, Weekly readers donated $94,169 to the nonprofit as part of the annual MC Gives! fundraising campaign to subsidize the cost of spay and neuter surgeries for families who can’t afford it.

“In addition to preventing unwanted litters, spaying and neutering can help improve a pet’s long-term health, which is a benefit that should be available to all animals,” the SPCA wrote as their plea for donations in the fundraising campaign.

The money they raised was a fraction of the $9.5 million in donations, gifts and contributions it received in 2015, according to the SPCA’s latest form 990, filed by nonprofits with the IRS in lieu of tax returns. From that money, $5.2 million went to animal care, outreach and education programs, more than $500,000 to fundraising costs, and administrative expenses of $454,023.

As the budget improved year after year and the euthanasia rate ticked up, so did Tiscornia’s annual salary, which is currently $292,342 – a 37-percent increase since 2007.

Dog Daze

Scott Delucchi, pictured with his canine sidekick, Murray, will be at the helm of the SPCA starting July 11. He says pet owners should exhaust all options before relinquishing an animal to a shelter.

Tiscornia, 70, is set to retire July 8 and will leave the nonprofit in the hands of Scott Delucchi, who has worked at the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo for about 17 years. The euthanasia rate there dropped significantly during his tenure.

Delucchi says he is coming with an open mind and is excited for the new opportunity. When asked what he hopes to do locally that has worked for him in San Mateo, he says it will remain to be seen. He says factors that helped the Peninsula Humane Society may not be successful here.

The single biggest reason for his success in San Mateo, he says, was decreasing the intake of animals into the shelter. In 12 years, the intake of dogs and cats declined by more than 4,000 a year. He did so by low-cost spay and neuter options, which the SPCA already offers. (Last year, the SPCA performed 3,479 such operations.)

Delucchi’s shelter also has a program called Hope, which helps about 200 animals every month – 2,400 a year – with extra medical care and training. An equivalent program could help hundreds of the more than 800 treatable and rehabilitatable animals the SPCA had to euthanize in 2015.

Another key issue is transparency with donors and people who leave their animals at a shelter.

“We try to be real transparent with people who bring in animals to us,” Delucchi says. “We don’t want to give the impression that we will save all of them. So we tell people that a shelter should be your last resort. You should exhaust all options before you bring them here.”

While Delucchi has improved the animal rescue standing at his shelter, and aspires to continue the legacy Tiscornia has built over the years, he says there are a lot of moving parts in Monterey County that present it unique challenges which he has yet to fully explore.

While the SPCA depends on the community to adopt, donate and support, the community depends a lot on the SPCA for its bountiful services.

“If we closed, could you imagine what would happen?” SPCA spokesperson Beth Brookhouser says.

At the end of the day, a pet’s chance for a happy ending relies heavily on the public’s re-examination of what makes the animal adoptable or not.

And the ways the SPCA and other shelters translate those standards.

Recommended for you

(11) comments

Melanie Sobel

Regarding the article, "A close look at the SPCA for Monterey County's euthanasia rates," I take issue with comparing "similar shelters in the Bay Area and Central Coast."

Comparing different shelters' euthanasia rates is more than just comparing a set of numbers. Numbers only have meaning if they are understood within a meaningful context. Each shelter is a separate and distinct entity with its own statistics and definitions of those statistics. Therefore, it is never an "apples-to-apples" comparison.

Additionally, each community has its own socio-economic levels, economic health, unemployment level, housing availability, cultural attitudes towards animals, etc. that present different challenges for both human and animal populations.

And each shelter has its own policies that can dramatically affect euthanasia rates. Some of these are questionable, such as: placing barriers on animal intake such as "waiting lists" or just not accepting owned unwanted animals; tossing neutered unsocial cats back onto the streets without a caretaker, transferring animals to questionable rescue groups, or adopting out behaviorally unsound animals. All of these policies lower euthanasia rates. But are they in the best interest of the animals and the community?

I'm disappointed this article mainly concentrates on adoption and transfer rates. This is not a solution to the problem, it's a Band-aid. The solution is preventing animals from entering the system in the first place. The SPCA needs the community's help to stem the tide with responsible pet ownership and support of their proactive programs, such as spay/neuter and education. They can't do it alone.

Melanie Sobel
General Manager
Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter

Teresa Wagner

As a long time member and supporter of the SPCA, and as someone who has consulted in the animal welfare field and knows it well, I was stunned to read your inflammatory, misleading and incomplete article. It gives the impression that the SPCA does nothing but build nice surroundings for animals and then euthanizes them for no good reason. The euthanasia rate is heartbeaking, but a great number of facts were missing from the article to explain the reasons for these numbers, quite logical reasons about why they differ from other agencies you mentioned, reasons I hope the SPCA will provide in their own follow-up letter.

I’d like to provide a few myself:

Comparing Peace of Mind Dog Rescue (PMDR) euthanasia numbers to the SPCA numbers without also including comparative number of animal intake and NUMBER OF ANIMALS TURNED AWAY makes no sense and certainly provides no foundation for condemning the SPCA. 

I could not find PMDR intake numbers on their web site, but a 2016 article in the Herald stated that they have taken in 900 animals since 2009—that’s approximately 123 animals per year, a mere fraction of the 5,398 that the SPCA took in. Your article states that PMDR euthanized one dog in 6 years after the dog bit a person. If PMDR took in the number of homeless, fractious dogs that the SPCA takes in, their euthanasia rate would surely rise exponentially. If you are trying to make a local rescue group a hero and the SPCA the big bad monster, at least include ALL the statistics to tell the whole story so intelligent people can come to their own conclusions about this problem with all facts at hand.

I also could not find PMDR turn away statistics on their web site, but it is clear that they do not take in every animal presented to them because the SPCA receives animals from people who were turned away from this group and others every week. The SPCA turns no animals away. If PMDR, or any rescue group, would also open their doors to every single animal that any community member wants to surrender to them, then--and only then--would comparative euthanasia rates make any sense.

Why don’t you publish another chart that shows statistics for animal intake, animals turned away, animals adopted and animals euthanized for the SPCA, Monterey County shelter, AFRP and PMDR? And for the chart you’ve already published, it would be good if readers knew that Santa Cruz has a mandatory sterilization ordinance and that San Jos Animal Care Center limits their admissions.

Any rescue group that does not open their doors to every single animal that comes their way, but instead turns them away when their foster homes or shelters are full, and/or rejects the ones known to bite, fight, or are considered hard to adopt, has no right to criticize the SPCA because they have not walked in their shoes, not even remotely.

Shelter euthanasia is a problem that belongs to every pet owner in our community, not just the SPCA or any rescue group. The root cause of shelter euthanasia is irresponsible pet owners. Tragically, animal shelters are the dumping grounds for irresponsible pet owners. And the so called “no kill” rescue groups make it even easier for irresponsible pet owners to abandon their animals to them because they can do so guilt-free:

“Oh great, THIS group won’t kill my animal so when it becomes slightly or terribly inconvenient to keep my animals or if I was just too scared or too thoughtless to make plans for my animals’ care when I no longer can care for them, I can just give them to these good people who don’t kill animals. Problem solved!” 

This works unless, of course, the “no-kill” group is full or considers your animal too hard to adopt, in which case you are then sent to the SPCA. 

I personally know the founders of one of the local rescue groups and several employees at the SPCA, all of whom are incredibly loving, passionate and deeply dedicated to serving animals. It’s a shame that instead of writing an article to pull together these agency’s varying services for the eyes of the community’s pet lovers, this article vilifies one agency while glorifying others as if they are the only ones working hard to rescue, care for and adopt out animals. Sadly, this article does absolutely nothing to help reduce euthanasia rates. It just creates useless finger pointing and erroneous ideas to the public instead of laying out the facts of the problem and potential solutions. Every agency and person who helps rescue animals--regardless of their organization affiliation--is doing a noble thing. But none of them can solve the overpopulation and euthanasia problem alone. The only thing that will substantially change the euthanasia rates at any shelter, anywhere, is changed behavior on the part of pet owners.

As pet owners, if we want our community’s animal euthanasia rate reduced we need to be a part of the solution, not the problem:


If you breed animals you are contributing to overpopulation and are part of the problem.
 Every home you sell an animal to is a home taken away from a homeless shelter animal.
Consider a moratorium on your breeding until the euthanasia rate is zero. If you love animals enough to breed them, why not expand your love beyond one breed and adopt the ones who are in need of a loving home to reduce the euthanasia rate? Of all the animals surrendered by owners to the SPCA, as well as strays, a whopping 20-25% are pure breds.
If you buy from a breeder or pet store you are contributing to overpopulation and are part of the problem. Instead, adopt. Save a life. Be part of reducing instead of adding to the euthanasia rate. Since there are so many pure breds right at the SPCA, adopt there.

If you are part of a breed rescue group or other rescue group who “rescue” animals at the SPCA, and you only want the pretty, healthy, highly adoptable animals that the SPCA can very easily adopt out themselves, you are not helping to solve the problem.  
The math is simple: The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered 1.4 million intentionally bred 
 dogs in 2015. The Cat Fancy organization registered 73,000 intentionally bred cats. That’s 
almost 1.5 million animals INTENTIONALLY bred in a country where 2.7 million animals are 
euthanized in shelters every year (source: ASPCA). If this breeding stopped, and those who
 buy from breeders instead adopted from shelters, that alone could reduce the euthanasia 
rate by almost 1.2 million animals. 
If you love animals ask yourself this: What do I care about more—pedigree or 
 saving a life? Loving an animal or having a fancy papers for an animal? It seems to me that if 
 we say we love animals we should value saving an animal’s life far, far more than owning a 
 pedigree. And if we love cats and dogs surely we can find one to love at the SPCA or local 
 rescue group. Do we want to be part of the problem of the euthanasia problem or part of the 

SPAY AND NEUTER all your companion animals. Save many lives by eliminating the chance
 of accidental litters. The SPCA has discounts fees all year. This month it is only $20 to spay a

When we choose wisely, we increase the chances of a lifetime of compatibility and prevent the heartbreak and trauma animals experience when abandoned. 
Is a puppy really the best choice for you or your family? Be careful about impulse adoptions such as bunnies at Easter, or a breed that was just featured in a movie. It may not work out in the long run if not very carefully planned and thought through. Do I have the time needed to exercise this particular animal? If I’m 75, what happens to the kitten I adopt if she outlives me? Have I made plans? 
The SPCA has created a very helpful list of questions to consider to help us decide how to choose the right pet for us:

Prevent heartbreak and/or euthanasia for your animals by committing to them for LIFE.
All animals, and certainly those who bring us so much love as companions and family members, deserve to be treated by us as we would want to be treated ourselves.

If you are single and begin dating or get married, choose a significant other who ACCEPTS your animal companions as part of the family, FOREVER. If you have a human child, would you give it away because the new love in your life doesn’t like children? 

If you move, and especially if you rent, it can be very challenging to find a rental that accepts pets. If you don’t think your animal is worth this challenge, you should not have animals. Would you give up your human child because it’s challenging to find a rental that accepts children? I’ve moved 13 times in my life. It was *never* easy to do so with multiple animals. But they are family members who did not deserve to be abandoned at a shelter because moving with them was challenging. We are our animals’ guardians, their caretakers, their families. To give them up when we move creates a lasting trauma for most animals. Imagine that when you were a small child your parents moved. They decided it was just too stressful to bring you along so they left you by the side of the road hoping some nice person would come along and take care of you. . . or they dumped you at an orphanage and went on their way. Human children and domesticated animals have two things in common: they are dependent on us for their survival and if we abandon them they will be traumatized. Even if an animal we abandon at a shelter or rescue group survives (is not euthanized), he or she will still be traumatized.

If your animal develops behavioral problems, GET HELP rather than throwing them away at a shelter. When your human children develop behavioral problems, would you dump them at an orphanage and then ask for a well behaved one to take home? When we adopt animals, we are expecting them to adapt to OUR lives, OUR homes, OUR lifestyle, OUR human culture. Sometimes they will need help to understand the boundaries and rules of living with a human. That’s where trainers and behaviorists can help us. Don’t expect an animal to be perfectly behaved without any assistance from you. HELP your animals learn to behave in the ways that work for your home and family. Don’t simply dump them like a car you decide you don’t want.

Many resources are available to help us keep our animals in times of stress, crisis and change, or to make plans for a new, loving, appropriate home for them. Animals are not disposable toys, status symbols or utilitarian objects to be traded in for the next model, to be set aside as no longer important when a new boyfriend, spouse, partner, baby, or the next new animal arrives. They are more than pieces of furniture to be left behind or casually given away when it's inconvenient to find a new home where they are allowed. Animals are living, breathing, feeling souls who share the earth with us and enrich our lives. They experience the same grief, confusion, sorrow, and trauma that humans do when they are abandoned, given away, sold, or traded in for a newer, younger, perhaps more perfectly conformed or higher performing model.

For every single animal euthanized in a shelter, there is a person OUTSIDE of that shelter responsible for it. The responsibility to keep shelters from euthanizing animals lies with each of us as pet owners. If we adopt through rescue; choose a good match; spay and neuter; and keep our animals for their lifetimes the shelters would be near empty, not over full, and high euthanasia rates would become a tragedy of the past.

To the staff and volunteers of the SPCA: Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your tireless hours of devoted work and endless love to the abandoned animals of this community that no one else takes in. I don’t support the SPCA just because I love animals. There are plenty of organizations that help animals. I support the SPCA because I believe in YOU.

(Edited by staff.)

Lisa King

This is the letter that the paper would not print as a rebuttal
At the heart of the SPCA is a simple principle. Never turn any animal away.
The Weekly compared us to San Jose Animal Care Center, who shelters strays but only accepts healthy, friendly pets from owners. They refer the rest to Humane Society of Silicon Valley, a “managed admission” shelter that requires appointments to relinquish a pet. They only accept “outgoing, friendly, healthy dogs,” and now refuse cats not adopted there. Those waiting for an opening that may never come, cats, and unhealthy, unsocialized pets have nowhere to go. What happens to them? If we followed their policy we would have turned away 2,601 animals in 2015.
The interview with Monterey County Animal Services (MCAS) claimed, “ mutual aid ... is basically non­existent.” Last year alone, the SPCA sheltered and cared for 823 animals from MCAS’s service area a nd 1,378 from Salinas Animal Services. Those agencies refuse owner­surrendered pets from their jurisdictions (and their taxpayers), referring pet owners instead to the SPCA. They refuse even healthy, friendly unowned cats, instead, sterilizing them and re­abandoning them back on the streets. O ur statistics would look better if we too turned them away, but what would happen to them if we did?
The article claimed we don’t work with rescue groups. The Weekly reported Peace of Mind only took three pets from us in 2014. While true, it failed to mention the other two we asked them to help and were turned away. In the last three years, half the animals we asked rescue groups to help us with were refused by the same groups that now criticize us. What would happen if your SPCA turned away half of the animals that need our care?
Multiple times every week the SPCA receives animals turned away by rescue groups and shelters.
It was reported we don’t transport pets because of the stress. While it is true transporting is stressful, I told the reporter that we didn’t send this greyhound to San Diego because we could easily adopt him here. He was adopted into a wonderful home the day after the transfer request.
Unfortunately, in the Weekly article, readers were left with the false impression that this dog was euthanized.
It was also said that we euthanize dogs that jump up on people. In fact, they’re not euthanized, they enter our Take The Lead or Ruff Start programs. In the coming year many more pets with behavioral challenges will benefit from a certified training professional and skilled volunteers dedicated exclusively to correcting behavior considered objectionable by adopters.
Each of the pets in the photos accompanying the Weekly article came to us with medical or behavioral problems. Each was treated successfully and adopted. While readers were left with the impression that, as two readers wrote, we “d on't even try to adopt out before euthanizing” and “... donations could be better utilized to rehabilitate animals that are not 'perfect for
a d o p t i o n ’ , ” l a s t y e a r 9 6 1 p e t s o u t o f t h e 1 , 9 5 9 a d o p t e d s u f f e r e d f r o m m e d i c a l o r b e h a v i o r a l issues when rescued by the SPCA. We commit hundreds of thousands of dollars from our wonderful donors each year to making them healthy and seeing them adopted into new homes.
If you profess to be a protector of animals, turning them away to an unknown fate is unacceptable. SPCA donors and supporters rightly expect us to be there for EVERY animal. We are. Our dedicated veterinary, behavioral, and animal care teams are there for the hundreds of sick, broken, or rejected animals that other agencies ignore. They shed tears and their hearts break for every animal that is euthanized. They rightfully rail at a society that allows over­breeding, bringing so many unwanted animals into our world. It is unconscionable for shelters and rescue groups that pick and choose the animals they accept to criticize our staff and volunteers.
So, what is the answer? The quickest way to reduce this loss of precious life is treating the breeding of dogs and cats as a regulated privilege not a right. For the last 26 years we have actively advocated for sterilization ordinances in Monterey County. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The SPCA staff and volunteers who put their hearts and souls into helping animals that others will not deserve credit for their amazing accomplishments, not criticism for society’s failings. If you truly care about all animals in our community, join the SPCA’s amazing staff and volunteers in their fight for a better world for animals and people.
Gary W. Tiscornia
Executive Director/CEO
The SPCA for Monterey County

Elizabeth Bowditch

Several years ago, I was in the Monterey County SPCA's intake room where I overheard the response to a caller inquiring about the procedure for surrendering a dog. She was told she would need to pay $50.00 and consent to euthanize should her pet prove to have behavior issues that made rehoming impossible. She described a specific behavior and the SPCA intake officer was noncommittal and vague about what constitutes a behavior issue. This story puts that exchange in context. While the SPCA is not responsible for creating a situation in which there are more animals put up for adoption than homes, they need to be more forthcoming about their actual placement rate. For an animal to lose its home and end up in a facility with lots of other animals could elicit nervous coping reactions that might well doom it under current SPCA operating guidelines.

Steven Weippert

Another extremely well written article by the Weekly. When people don't like the facts they call it a hatchet job, but don't support their argument with facts. Just slurs. I have worked with rescue groups. The Salinas and County shelters have contacted us upon receipt of injured animal and said they could not care for them. Within the hours we had the animal rescued and at the vet. Had broken leg. We picked up next day, got into foster home for recovery and he now lives in Carmel Valley in a loving home. SPCA NEVER contacts us about animals. In fact one of the SPCA volunteers notified us about an animal that was going to be euthanized. We immediately adopted the animal and it took simple antibiotics to save the animal. He is still living a loving life 5 years later doing great! There is NO doubt the board and director have been less than cooperative with local rescues. I speak of first hand experience. They almost resent rescues. Hope with new director that changes and he reaches out and utilizes their many resources. Extremely well written article. Ana and the Weekly only stated facts If they inspire a change for the better at the SPCA, then they have once again done their job as a responsible member of the community. Great job Ana.

Lisa King

So it seems that you are so concerned that the public is needing to be informed but you do not fact check. I can not wait for the rebuttal on this for the actual facts. Since you are so upset about the kill rate are you going to adopt the ones that can not be adopted or give money for their care? How about the paper put their money where their mouth is and give solution instead of a hatchet job. I am disgusted with an opinion piece that is so skewed it treats its readers as if they are to dumb to make their own opinion from accurate facts and equal representation. Is this because you are too afraid that they may not agree?

Lisa King

So it seems that you are so concerned that the public is needing to be informed but you do not fact check. I can not wait for the rebuttal on this for the actual facts. Since you are so upset about the kill rate are you going to adopt the ones that can not be adopted or give money for their care? How about the paper put their money where their mouth is and give solution instead of a hatchet job. I am disgusted with an opinion piece that is so skewed it treats its readers as if they are to dumb to make their own opinion from accurate facts and equal representation. Is this because you are too afraid that they may not agree?

Peter Garin

So... unless my math is wrong, based on a 5 day week, and not allowing for a two-week vacation, just divide his salary by 52 weeks... This guy feels he adds $1,124.40 of "worth" each day he is associated with the organization.

I'm perplexed how someone who could justify this.

Lisa King

So it seems that you are so concerned that the public is needing to be informed but you do not fact check. I can not wait for the rebuttal on this for the actual facts. Since you are so upset about the kill rate are you going to adopt the ones that can not be adopted or give money for their care? How about the paper put their money where their mouth is and give solution instead of a hatchet job. I am disgusted with an opinion piece that is so skewed it treats its readers as if they are to dumb to make their own opinion from accurate facts and equal representation. Is this because you are too afraid that they may not agree?

Lisa King

So it seems that you are so concerned that the public is needing to be informed but you do not fact check. I can not wait for the rebuttal on this for the actual facts. Since you are so upset about the kill rate are you going to adopt the ones that can not be adopted or give money for their care? How about the paper put their money where their mouth is and give solution instead of a hatchet job. I am disgusted with an opinion piece that is so skewed it treats its readers as if they are to dumb to make their own opinion from accurate facts and equal representation. Is this because you are too afraid that they may not agree?

Andrea Smith

Agreed! ...and as this Director's excessive salary increased so did the euthanization rate. So what metric was used to justify this increase in salary and what does it say about the organization? When questioned on the 49% kill rate he seemed to rationalize and make excuses of why they couldn't work with rescue organizations both locally and across the State. I'm curious as to where the organization's Board of Director's is on all of this...and when was the last time there was an audit.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.