Lori Baxter, former director at the Robeson County pound, started a new job last Friday as Interim Director of the Sampson County pound. The county hired Baxter as part of an “image makeover” for their pound, known according to at least one observer, as “the killing place.” Exactly how killing of a killing place is a mystery, however, because former director Kim Williams never bothered to report the Sampson pound’s outcome statistics to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as mandated by law.
Baxter is said by some, including herself, to have “turned around” the horrid Robeson County pound. Some might argue that point, however. Baxter did succeed somewhat in reforming the Robeson pound’s image among kill shelter apologists, despite a high kill rate while kennels sat empty and repeated distemper outbreaks due to failure to vaccinate animals upon arrival.
Baxter has started the Sampson image rehab program by creating a Facebook page for the pound and then boldly announcing that she is going to literally bury the Sampson pound’s gas chamber. [Update: the Facebook note that link went to has since been deleted since this entry was posted. But never fear, I was thinking ahead and made a screenshot.]
Make no mistake, the gas chamber is a barbaric instrument and has no place in any facility, period. It is a throwback to a less civilized time when it was introduced by humane societies as an improvement over far more brutal ways of killing animals. As Nathan Winograd notes in Irreconcilable Differences
They introduced the gas chamber to replace slower and more painful ways of killing. (It should be noted that by current standards, there is no real debate about the gas chamber being inhumane. But in the 19th century, activists viewed this as a better alternative than drowning, shooting, and at least in Philadelphia, beating the dogs to death in the public squares.)
Getting rid of gas chambers in NC is without a doubt something that needs to be done without delay.
But hold your horses, it’s still going to wait. Baxter is holding on to her gas chamber until she is sure she has access to some other way to kill pets. “It takes time to get a more humane form of euthanasia into place.” Heaven forbid she should be forced not to kill animals until the Fatal Plus arrives.
Another of Baxter’s first actions as director was to “adjust” the shelter’s open hours to afternoons only, limiting visitation and adoption hours to 1-4 pm Monday through Friday, “a move made toward better customer service and to bring the local shelter in line with those from surrounding counties.” Thanks to Google’s cache feature, we can see that the Sampson pound used to advertise open hours of 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday, which means that Baxter has reduced by 62% the opportunity for people in the community to choose shelter adoption when they want to add a pet to the family.
A screenshot of a page cached on may 4, 2012 shows that the Sampson County pound advertised open hours of 9 am to 5 pm Monday Through Friday. new Interim Director Lori Baxter has “improved” customer service by providing fewer hours for the public to view or adopt pets.
Quite simply, Lori Baxter has cooked up a recipe for reduced adoptions and increased killing. She calls the gas chamber the “ONLY resource to make needed space,” which she seems to feel is her job at the shelter. Not protecting animals or saving their lives. Making space. And her preferred method of doing that seems to be killing. (To be fair, she is also begging rescues to take the animals out of her pound, but that is only one tiny step of the only program proven to produce lifesaving success.)
Regardless of what method is used to exterminate the pets, it’s indefensible. To quote Nathan Winograd again:
Even if we were simply to surrender reality and conclude that killing savable animals cannot be ended, killing animals would still not be ethical, merciful, or defensible. Animal lovers would still be morally bound to reject it. Any “practical” or utilitarian consideration about killing cannot hold sway over an animal’s right to live. Just as other social movements reject the “practical” when it violates the rights of individuals for which they advocate, we, too, should reject the idea that killing animals is acceptable because of the claim that there are “too many” for the “too few homes which are available.” Simply put killing healthy or treatable animals is immoral.
UPDATE: Immediately after posting this, I saw that YesBiscuit had published an amazingly appropriate post called “Ending the Killing of Shelter Pets TODAY.” It’s perhaps the perfect thing to read next. Or at least ponder this excerpt:
It is astounding to me that many advocates are willing to accept the misery and chaos of desperately working to save animals from kill rooms at shelters every day yet reject the idea that shelters could simply stop the killing. I understand that change can be daunting but really, how bad could it possibly be? The bar has already been set for many rescuers at misery and chaos, anything above that should be a welcome change.