COPPERAS COVE — The city animal shelter automatically euthanizes certain dogs based on breed regardless of temperament, age or mixture with another breed. Animal advocates hope new leadership on the Copperas Cove Animal Shelter Advisory Council will result in the lives of banned animals being spared.
Roger Falkenstein, who operates the animal rescue group More Paws to Love, was elected chairman of the advisory council Wednesday night, even though it was his first meeting since being appointed to the council in September. A handful of residents attended the meeting to protest the shelter’s general order that bans adoption of chow chows, pit bulls or Rottweilers and automatically kills those breeds, including puppies.
Falkenstein owns a pit bull and said he does not understand condemning the dogs based on breed alone. Instead, he recommended they be evaluated based on temperament or be allowed to be rescued.
“We have competent staff in the shelter who should assess animals to determine if they should be put down based on temperament, not on breed,” Falkenstein said. “It is a death sentence for these animals, young or old.”
He said his rescue group gets a lot of banned breeds, which he and other volunteers work to get adopted.
“If these are dangerous dogs, then why aren’t they dangerous everywhere?” Michaela Ramos of Kempner asked the council. “Lampasas, Fort Hood, Killeen, Harker Heights and Bell County all offer these animals for adoption.”
Copperas Cove is the only city or county animal shelter in the area that kills the dogs based on breed alone, which is determined by workers at the shelter.
The Lampasas Animal Shelter has three rules for any dog, regardless of breed, to decide if the animal is adoptable.
“We do not look at the breed of the animal as this is normally an educated guess anyway,” Kasey Dressell said. “The dog must be good with other animals. It must show no aggression with people, and it must be healthy.”
At the Harker Heights Pet Adoption Center, officials said they don’t discriminate simply by breed.
“We evaluate the animal’s disposition and personality and make individual judgment on that particular animal,” said Albert Musgrove, who serves on the Harker Heights Animal Advisory Committee.
In Bell County, dogs must pass several evaluations to be adoptable to the public.
“We adopt based on behavior and temperament — not breed. Animals are observed during feeding to look for food aggressiveness and are tested with other dogs to ensure friendliness toward other animals as well testing for ear, tail and feet sensitivity,” said Dustin Connell, the county’s Animal Control Facility manager.
On the Killeen Animal Control Shelter website Friday, 13 pit bulls were listed for adoption, and the Fort Hood Animal Stray Facility Facebook page also lists several pit bulls for adoption.
Falkenstein recommended the Cove shelter consider allowing animal rescue groups to pull the banned animals from the facility to prevent euthanasia.
“We can’t do background checks on individuals but we do them on rescues,” Animal Control Supervisor David Wellington said. “But there should be an age limit. On older dogs, we don’t know the history. But, puppies under a year would be OK (to go to rescues).”
But not everyone agrees.
Beau Brabbin, the Cove advisory council’s vice chairman, said dog fighting is a reason to kill the banned breeds even if they are puppies.
“Unfortunately, Copperas Cove sits on the intersection of three different counties and (dog fighters) are not stupid,” Brabbin said. “I’ve picked up the remains (of dogs) from bar ditches after they’ve thrown them out when they can no longer use them.”
“(People who fight dogs) are not usually going to go to the city shelter (to adopt an animal) where they have to show ID,” Ramos said. “They’ll just go on Craigslist.”
The council agreed to discuss, and possibly vote, on allowing banned breeds to be pulled from the shelter by rescue groups at the next advisory council meeting on April 9. The council meets three times annually in April, August and November.