Dave Ledford, a self-described “huge animal lover,” has worked at the Carroll County Humane Society for two years.
On Monday, he attempted to reassure about 50 community members attending a meeting at the county office building to discuss the use of euthanasia at the humane society that employees try to do the best thing for each animal they receive.
“Sometimes euthanizing an animal is the best thing for that animal,” Ledford said. “It’s part of our job. It’s not an easy part of our job, but sometimes that is the best thing for the animal. Sometimes the animal is suffering.”
The Board of Carroll County Commissioners hosted a more than two-hour “listening meeting” Monday to hear the concerns of citizens with Animal Advocates of Carroll County.
Animal Advocates, a group of about a dozen citizens, believes the county humane society is not doing enough to make pets received by the shelter available for adoption, which leads to more use of euthanasia.
More than 20 residents spoke at the meeting, sharing concerns with the number of animals euthanized at the shelter, the feasibility of creating a no-kill shelter, and the possibility of forming a citizen committee to increase communication between residents and the shelter.
County Commissioner Haven Shoemaker called for the meeting because he believes commissioners should hear the concerns from Animal Advocates, but he added that he is not “on one side or the other.”
Shoemaker was joined at the meeting by commissioners Doug Howard and Richard Rothschild.
More than 3,000 cats and dogs come through the doors of the Carroll County Humane Society in Westminster each year.
The Animal Advocates group believes that limited adoption hours are an issue that leads to more euthanasia, according to its founder, Laura Shenk.
“The hours are so bad,” Shenk said. “How can you expect to get animals adopted when you’re only open when people are at work?”
The Humane Society is open for adoptions from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Humane Society Executive Director Nicky Ratliff said the adoption hours are based on staffing, adding that her staff does a “tremendous amount” of marketing animals available for adoption through their website, a weekly television program, and newspaper advertisements.
Ratliff, who speaks openly about her disagreement with the accusations made by Animal Advocates, believes her staff is being unfairly criticized for just doing their job.
“This is my dream job,” she said of running the animal shelter, which she has done for 31 years. “It doesn’t make you feel great when people say you’re killing animals.”
Ratliff did not attend Monday’s meeting, but a handful of humane society employees spoke in support of the work done by the organization.
Ed Smith, an animal control officer at the humane society, said the agenda of Animal Advocates is to create a no-kill shelter, which “simply will not work” because it presents the issue of housing so many animals when they cannot be euthanized.
“We all strive for higher adoption rates,” he said.
Shenk said Animal Advocates of Carroll County, founded in 2009, was formed to organize volunteers for adoption events with the shelter, but they later became disturbed when they learned how many animals were being euthanized.
Their goal now is to increase the live release rate, which is the percentage of pets adopted or reunited with their owner, at the shelter, according to Shenk.