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St. Louis County Shelter Obscures Euthanasia Rate With a Checkbox


The St. Louis County Pet Adoption Center was once celebrated for lowering its euthanasia rate, but a recent audit found that the rate was only lowered after the shelter implemented the practice of labeling the “owner requested euthanasia” checkbox as simply “ORE” on animal surrender forms. 


“This box was encouraged to be checked as a default,” said Danny Wicentowski, who covered this story as a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. “And in many cases, according to the audit and those that I've spoken to, the people who were bringing their animals in were either not told what that acronym actually meant, or were even pressured to check it as a matter of course.”


Figures of authority during the time this procedure was implemented are now gone. Former County Executive Steve Stenger is no longer in office, and the Animal Care and Control’s former leader, Beth Vesco-Mock, was fired in March 2018.


Animal Care and Control now reports to the County Department of Public Health. The county's acting co-director of that department, Spring Schmidt, said previous leadership wanted to make it look like the shelter was euthanizing fewer animals than it actually was.


“There is a distinction that is made in many shelters, in a lot of shelters, between an owner’s request for euthanasia and the shelter’s decision,” Schmidt said. “Certainly there is a community expectation, as well as that leadership’s expectation, that that number be low.”


Schmidt added that the county is looking for a consultant to help implement some of the audit’s recommendations.


St. Louis Public Radio reporter Nicholas Telep spoke with Schmidt on Tuesday, and on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Jeremy D. Goodwin talked with Wicentowski.


Listen to the conversation:


St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.


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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
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