An immediate, gentle killing of physically healthy animals is preferable to allowing them to suffer 10 days in a cage, the county animal warden told the County Council last night.
Brenda Purvis was arguing in favor of a bill that would allow the animal control shelter to immediately "euthanize" healthy pets abandoned by their owners.
The center now has to keep animals 10 days before disposing of them, the longest such holding period in the state.
The council passed an almost identical bill on March 6, but County Executive Charles I. Ecker vetoed it March 15.
When Ms. Purvis and others testified in favor of the earlier bill, their rationale for ending the 10-day holding period was that it would make pets available for adoption sooner. Healthy pets were being euthanized because available space was being taken up by animals that would never be adopted, she said.
Last night, Ms. Purvis argued that a physically healthy animal is not necessarily an adoptable animal and that some pets become so stressed under shelter conditions that it is kinder to get rid of them at once.
The 10-day holding requirement for healthy pets that was imposed by the council in the earlier bill is "an impossible restriction," she said.
Some pets are so attached to their owners that when they are left at the animal shelter, they are unable to cope, Ms. Purvis said. They become afraid, cower in the backs of their cages, and refuse to eat or drink, Ms. Purvis said.
"They will never be adopted," she said, because when people come to the shelter, their attention is drawn to healthy, playful animals.
"Other animals become so depressed they look like they're dying when there is nothing wrong with them.
The shelter will keep as many healthy animals as it can as long as it can, she said, but to do that, it needs more space.
Most of the animals at the shelter are not strays but pets surrendered by their owners -- six out of every 10 cats and nearly half of the dogs, she said.
She told how a happy, friendly, pregnant dog left at the shelter two weeks ago became uncontrollably aggressive after her puppies were born in a frantic attempt to protect them.
The dog and her puppies were destroyed, Ms. Purvis said.
Decisions to destroy an animal "are never made frivolously or carelessly, but with a great deal of thought," she said.
The council will hold a work session on the pet bill April 24 and vote on it May 1.
The council also heard testimony on 23 other bills last night, including legislation that would rescind a 3-year-old law that requires sellers to provide homebuyers with a copy of the county's 1990 General Plan map.
Instead of getting a map, buyers would be required to sign a document saying that they had been told of the availability at the county office building of plans for road and land use changes.
Real estate sales people said that that providing General Plan maps has not served the purpose the county intended because the maps are out of date.
The new bill would better meet the needs of homebuyers, they said.