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Shelter director quits after dog euthanized

A director at the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter resigned last week, claiming the board unnecessarily euthanized one of its animals.

A director at the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter resigned last week, claiming the board unnecessarily euthanized one of its animals.

Hunter, a mid-sized pitbull-Lab cross, should have been adopted out rather than killed, said former board member Rachel Westfall.

The dog, which she referred to as “calm and docile,” turned up at the shelter because he was biting without warning.

That’s when shelter staff discovered the dog had a lump under its tongue and was bleeding from its mouth.

The lump was examined by a vet who suggested it could be a cancerous tumour which may have caused the aggressive biting behaviour.

The Humane Society had two options at that point, said Westfall. They could either try to treat the dog or they could euthanize him.

In late July, the five member board voted to euthanize him.

In doing so, the shelter went against its own policies, said Westfall

Normally the shelter administrator decides whether an animal should be euthanized and the board votes whether to do it or not.

But the administrator never wanted Hunter euthanized, said Westfall, explaining she wanted one of the shelter staff to adopt the dog.

The decision to euthanize came from the board president, Gerry Steers, said Westfall.

Steers doesn’t see it Westfall’s way.

The board made the decision to euthanize Hunter because he would have suffered if he were kept alive, said Steers.

Cutting out the lump under the dog’s tongue would have been “extremely painful,” even with pain medication, she said.

“You can’t ask a dog how much pain they can bear.

“We’re a humane society. Isn’t it cruel to keep this dog alive because of our own personal desire to save an animal?”

There were other reasons the dog needed to be put down, she added.

There would have been a liability issue if the shelter handed the dog over to one of the staff members to be adopted.

“The one (staff person) who wanted to take the dog was also attacked by it,” said Steers.

“It bit her on her ribs, two legs and arms without warning.”

Steers doesn’t think news of the dog’s euthanization will tarnish the shelter’s no-kill image.

“No-kill means you don’t kill a healthy, adoptable animal,” said Steers.

The shelter does everything it can to keep healthy animals alive, she said, explaining last month they shipped a set of puppies down to Victoria because the shelter were overflowing with dogs.

Westfall agrees that overly aggressive dogs should be euthanized.

She was in favour of the board’s recent decision to euthanize another dog, Gina, because it had serious behavioural issues, she said.

But she didn’t think Hunter’s situation was as severe.

Westfall may rejoin the board at the shelter’s annual general meeting next week, she said.

“I’m certainly willing to be on the board again if it’s going to be a board that will follow our policies, respect the staff and will operate as a humane society - not as a business or a pet store.”

Contact Vivian Belik at