The Dirty Little Secret in Your Community; All Too Often, Shelters Euthanize More Animals Than They Save. in New York City, We're Changing That

By Boks, Ed | Newsweek, June 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Dirty Little Secret in Your Community; All Too Often, Shelters Euthanize More Animals Than They Save. in New York City, We're Changing That


Boks, Ed, Newsweek


Byline: Ed Boks (Boks lives in New York City.)

When I was a 10-year-old kid in Harper Woods, Mich., I rescued a lost dog from a busy street. The dog had a tag so I was able to call the owner, who asked me to meet her at the neighborhood veterinary hospital with Sadie, her beloved pet. I was stunned when she pulled a $5 bill from her purse to give to me as a reward. I remember thinking, "Wow, you can make a living doing this?"

That happy rendezvous introduced me to the staff of the hospital. Their compassion for animals quickly made them my new heroes. At school, I even started writing the letters "DVM" after my name. I went by the hospital almost daily asking for a job. After several years of being told I was too young, my luck changed. Irene, the kind lady behind the counter, asked me to wait a moment. Her eyes were dancing and I knew something was up. She went to speak with Dr. Tuck, who peeked around the corner. He looked me over, looked at Irene and said, "OK." My heart leapt. Irene asked if I could start the next day.

Those were the best years of my life. I worked my way through high school and college as a veterinary technician. But there was a bitter aspect to the job. The hospital also served as a local dog pound. The police brought us the lost and homeless dogs and cats they found on the streets. We were able to return many lost pets, but not all of them. I would not understand until much later the impact that caring for healthy, happy animals prior to putting them to death would have on me.

I never did become a veterinarian. In 1976 I moved to Phoenix, Ariz., and eventually became a pastor at a small church, looking to rescue lost souls instead of lost dogs. When the time came that I needed to take on an extra job, I returned to the career path of my youth.

I took a job with Maricopa County's animal-control department. The suffering I'd seen in Harper Woods was amplified 10,000-fold in Arizona. In Harper Woods we rescued fewer than 50 homeless pets a year. In Maricopa County we rescued 62,000 dogs and cats every year, and more than 70 percent of them were euthanized.

I had discovered every community's dirty little secret--that hundreds, if not thousands, of healthy pets are killed simply because there are not enough homes for them. Most people would never support such a practice if they knew it was occurring. In fact, nearly 70 million Americans own pets. But because our shelters are typically tucked away near sanitation facilities and power plants, the public remains comfortably unaware. …

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