Euthanasia ban may pile stress on shelters: groups

SUPPORT LACKING::Dog owners are failing to have their pets microchipped as required by law and about 60% of owners are choosing not to neuter their pets

By Wu Hsin-tien and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Feb 06, 2017 - Page 3

In response to a new policy prohibiting the euthanasia of stray animals at animal shelters, some animal protection groups said that the number of strays is likely to increase as shelters fill to capacity.

An amendment to the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) that bans animal shelters from putting down unclaimed stray animals took effect on Saturday.

The revisions, passed in January 2015, removed a clause that permitted euthanizing animals held in shelters or municipal or county authority designated kennels if they are unclaimed or not adopted 12 days after a public announcement is issued.

The revision also included a clause stipulating “zero euthanasia” of strays was to implemented in two years time. Only animals diagnosed with a contagious disease or considered to be too ill for treatment can be put down, according to the revisions.

Data from counties and municipalities shows that animal shelters in Taipei, Tainan, Taoyuan and Hsinchu as well as Yilan and Pingtung counties have exceeded theur capacities.

Data also indicate that only about 60 percent of dog owners have registered their pets with a NT$200 chip implant, as required by law.

About 60 percent of pet dogs are neutered, the data show.

Shelters should make the quality of care given to stray animals a priority, Animal Protection Division director Chiang Wen-chuan (江文全) said.

Shelters that are operating at capacity could announce that they are temporarily not accepting new animals, Chiang said, adding that such measures should not continue for more than two weeks at a time.

In Chiayi, Penghu and Yunlin counties animal shelters rely on private kennels to take for half of their stray dogs, he said, adding that these centers strive to save dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.

The new law means that the motivation for these kennels to rescue strays is gone, Chiang said, adding that the government can no longer rely on such facilities for the large-scale adoption of strays.

Chiang said that it is essential that only strays that pose an immediate threat to public health or safety are caught.

Chiang said that many counties and municipalities already have a policy in place requiring identification of a specific animal that poses a risk.

Some areas charge people between NT$1,000 and NT$10,000 to abandon their pets at shelters, he said.

However, Animal Protection Association secretary-general Huang Ching-jung (黃慶榮) said that the policy ending euthanasia should only be enacted after 90 percent of animals in shelters are neutered.

Inappropriate implementation of a no euthanasia policy could result in some people thinking it is acceptable to abandon their pets, he said, adding that as the number of stray animals increases, so too would the number of abused animals.

Retired National Pingtung University of Science and Technology animal sciences professor Hsia Liang-chou (夏良宙) suggested that dogs in shelters with distemper or enteritis should be euthanized to prevent the spread of diseases.

Registration chips should be implemented on a wide scale to keep track of animals, he added.

Additional reporting by CNA