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Animals’ deaths broadcast on local television

ALLAN STEIN

For video producer David Ward, the sad part was filming a healthy dog being led out of its cage at the Nevada County Animal Shelter.

After 72 hours of lock-up, the dog’s tail wags happily, its barking is nonstop. The animal thinks it’s going out for a walk.

But it is a one-way stroll into oblivion.

“A human being knows when they’re going down death row,” said Ward, who filmed and edited a video on animal euthanasia at the shelter in October.

The segment, titled “Killing Shelter Animals: The Shame and Failure of a Community,” airs Thursday and Dec. 20 at 9:30 p.m. on Foothills Community Access Television, Channel 11.

The video will also be given to community access channels in Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines for broadcast later this month.

Ward said he teamed up with FCAT board member Pam Gorman, animal shelter volunteer coordinator Teresa Bryerton, and Nevada County agricultural commissioner and animal shelter director Paul Bloch to produce the 30-minute program.

“Anything that is going to get some attention for these little people is wonderful,” Bryerton said. “They need more than 15 minutes of fame.”

Bryerton said the video was inspired by a similar television program on animal shelter killings in North Carolina that shows the actual dying of animals.

Death at our county animal shelter comes by one of two methods: lethal injection with sodium phenobarbitol, or carbon monoxide poisoning in a steel chamber.

The video is deliberately being aired in the evening so children will be less likely to see it, Bryerton said. The video will open with a warning of the graphic material being presented.

On Friday, a camera crew from Channel 3 in Sacramento, which learned of the local video, went to the county shelter to film a segment on animal euthanasia.

Bryerton said the shelter kills 2,000 of its 3,000 stray or unwanted cats and dogs a year. Six hundred are adopted, while 400 are reclaimed by their owners.

By law, the animals are kept 72 hours from the day they are brought to the shelter before being euthanized. However, owners can request their animals be destroyed at any time.

Bloch said he is hopeful more animals will be adopted when the shelter is open seven days a week starting in January. Hours now are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays. New Sunday hours will be 1 to 3 p.m.

The shelter, at 14647 McCourtney Road in Grass Valley, opened in 1992. Its current staff includes six animal control officers, a kennel officer, a secretary, an animal license technician, and more than 25 volunteers, said Russ Rossiter, supervising animal control officer.

The shelter’s operating budget of $305,000 this year includes an extra $55,000, that was used to hire two more employees. The city of Grass Valley runs an animal shelter on Freeman Lane.

Bryerton said killing of unwanted pets is the result of failure to have animals spayed or neutered. The video taps into that fatal reality.

Friday afternoon, Ward and Gorman interviewed customers on video at the Kmart shopping plaza in Grass Valley. Most said they didn’t know what street the animal shelter was on and didn’t want to see animals killed on television.

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