Volunteers decry vet shortage at St. Louis County Animal Care and Control

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - The St. Louis County Council heard frustrated comments over the high rates of euthanasia cases at the county animal shelter. Volunteers said a shortage of veterinarians has left many animals just waiting to be adopted.

According to volunteers at St. Louis County Animal Care and Control, within the last month, two full-time veterinarians resigned leaving the shelter with limited veterinary services.

"In those couple weeks, we've now set a two-year record for the most animals euthanized in a single month," shelter volunteer Beth Wasserstrom told the council at Tuesday's council meeting.

Volunteers said the shelter euthanized some dogs because of behavior concerns. The volunteers are questioning which behaviors are considered concerning.

"We are talking about dogs who, on their behavior list, are listed as 'shy,'" said Donna Slemmer. "They have been killed for being shy."

The September statistics are not yet available but the St. Louis County Department of Public Health did provide Fox 2 with the statistics for the year through the month of August. There was an increase in euthanasia cases in August.

Earlier this year, the county completed a five-month audit of the shelter operations. Due to a change in reporting, Spring Schmidt, acting director for the Dept. of Public Health, said the reported number of euthanasia cases would appear to increase.

Schmidt issued this statement to Fox 2 on Tuesday:

"The St. Louis County Animal Care and Control Program is working towards implementing the audit with fidelity and several improvements have been made and will continue to move forward. Updated numbers were presented to the ACC Advisory Board last week, and the numbers for August were higher than previous months. While some increase was expected for the change in the reporting, the County ACC program can and will do better to improve our live release rate. ​The focus of the entire staff and leadership of the shelter is towards making these critical decisions with integrity and compassion."

For some at the council meeting, it seemed the immediate concern is the lack of veterinary services available at the shelter which they said delays the animals from being available for adoption. This adds to the ongoing overcrowding issue at the shelter which leads to more animals being euthanized.

"One of the things that the shelter has said that they plan to do is to adopt animals out unaltered," said Bonnie Boime, president of the St. Louis Animal Rights Team. "This is an absolute disaster in the making."

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said county leaders were committed to following the suggestions provided after the audit to raise the standards at the shelter and minimize the number of euthanasia cases.

"Most importantly, we want to make sure that we have enough veterinarians in place so that our animals can be spayed before they go out," Page said.

Schmidt said the shelter has a relief veterinarian, a part-time veterinarian to perform surgeries, and emergency veterinary specialty services. The county is currently advertising for a new Veterinary Medical Director.

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