Hard Choices – Euthanasia is Our Last Resort

By Starla Raiborn

The Humane Society of Charles County is a private, non-profit open admission shelter.  Some people assume that our name means that we are county operated and funded with tax dollars – we are not.  Others assume that the Humane Society of the United States supports us financially – they do not.  We alone must raise nearly $650,000 to care for more than 3,200 homeless animals in our community each year.

As an open admission shelter, we take in EVERY animal that comes to us, regardless of health or temperament.  We also take in every stray animal in the Tri-County area who requires emergency veterinary care.  This means that nearly every homeless animal in the Tri-County area hit by a car, found starving and abused on the side of the road, or suffering from illness or injury makes its way to us.

Our staff and volunteers love these animals as if they were our own.  In nearly every case, we are desperate to save them.  We face the same kinds of questions that families do when they have a sick or dying pet.  Can we save her?  What will his quality of life be like? Is she suffering needlessly? Are my other pets at risk?  How much will it cost?  What are our options if we can’t afford it?

Some days, we are able to pull off a miracle… a kind donor gives us $500 to pay for a life-saving surgery or a veterinarian offers to reduce their fee so that we can squeeze in just one more heartworm treatment.  Other days, the cost to treat one precious animal for a life-threatening illness is out of reach or there is nowhere to safely place a highly contagious animal without putting all of our other animals at risk.  Those are the hard days.  The decision to euthanize is never easy and those are the days we all go home in tears.

However, it is our policy that euthanasia is used ONLY as a last resort to prevent pain and suffering.  We do not euthanize for space or behavioral reasons.  Even with limited resources, we are able find homes for more than 1,900 animals each year and many others find homes through our transfer partners.  We are actively working towards the day when we can save them all, but we cannot do it alone.  You, the members of our community, make this work possible through your donations, volunteer support, and especially your kindness and understanding on the hard days.