Scribbling three letters—“P.T.S.”—is the first step in the process. Think of it as marking a big, red “X” on their I.D. card, clipped to the outside of their cage.

I walk from kennel to kennel, sometimes overrun with 12-15 dogs and identify whose time has legally expired. After a quick inspection I give a nod to my assistant to write the acronym that sentences them to death, PTS or “Put To Sleep.”

This is a daily ritual for me as the new County Veterinarian. Our shelter is over populated with hoards of unwanted dogs and cats…

My first week I remember holding Minnie, an overweight fluffy, white poodle that once knew the comforts of a family and home; then Jasper, an affectionate, green-eyed, tabby cat whose owner was forced to give him up because of a home foreclosure.

Then there are many, many more without names or histories at all—almost as if they never existed. Many more that have never known a consistent diet. Many more that have never had a warm place to sleep. And many more that have never felt the touch of a compassionate owner, never felt safe, and never been treated kindly.

Regardless of the story, the majority of them will live out their required five day holding period in a steel cage only to have PTS stamped on the outside.

When I left my posh position in Orange County to pursue this opportunity I had no flippin’ idea (a different f-word would be more suitable). Call me naïve or ignorant, but the unadvertised truth, the truth that isn’t discussed at the water cooler: There is a very ugly side to animal welfare in this country, the proverbial “dirt under the rug.”

For 11 years I had practiced the brand of small animal medicine you dream about in vet school. The kind where the sweet, old lady with the bottomless bank account brings in her pampered lap dog and readily complies with anything you recommend. It’s rewarding and comfortable. With few exceptions the owners are appreciative and respectful. You have an arsenal of diagnostics and treatments at your disposal…and the pay is fabulous.

At the expense of sounding dramatic, my new post is something of an apocalyptic movie—the opening scene with sunshine fades to a Terminator-like, black sky.

In short, I was not prepared for this.

The fabricated world I had been working in ended abruptly in the spring of 2008. My duties were not explained to me. Stanislaus County had been without a shelter vet for nearly three years. Additionally, they have one of the highest euthanasia rates in the entire country. And so when I arrived my learning curve was steep.

I set my own mandate and jumped in: Perform as many spays and neuters as possible, care for over 400 animals on site including the numerous HBC’s (hit-by-car), dog fights and sick cats and in my free time write County policies and procedures.

Our shelter is over 35 years old. The paint is worn and the concrete cracked. There are few windows and, like a prison, it’s enclosed in old barbed wire fence. It has the smell of rust, mildew and faint sewage, much like a dilapidated, public restroom. Additionally, California’s Central Valley, a rural farming area, where I now lived was no Disneyland. It was hit hard by the recession with high illiteracy and unemployment rates to boot. The public had a perception that I was a lowly pound vet and many castigated me as a death dealer rather than a healer. By sharp contrast, I could smell the ocean and hear the sea gulls from my old hospital.

But in the very beginning the facility, the environment and the mass numbers of pets destroyed everyday hadn’t really affected me yet. Not like I was expecting anyway. Maybe like being thrown into a war, you go into survival mode. I allowed myself no time to become distraught or feel. I stayed objective and focused. The only indication of any emotional distress was a disturbing dream that woke me one night:

I walked down a long, seemingly endless, corridor of kennels. In front of each cage I would pause just long enough to give my technician the order to write PTS on their card. Every cage or kennel housed a healthy pet—nothing injured or sick. Instead, the cats and dogs I saw were energetic and fluffy; every one was wagging or purring, coming up to greet me, just begging to be held. The building stretched the length of a football field until I came to the last kennel, exhausted but stone faced. Sitting before me was my own dog, Belle, a Doberman I had owned 10 years—my baby. My assistant stepped up with her red pen and in slow motion wrote P. I yelled at her to stop but she continued. T. I grabbed her arm but mine moved through hers like I was a ghost. S.

There was a second, brief moment that also gave me pause. This was not a dream: I rose from my desk and began to walk towards her kennel. She was a gentle, white, Pit Bull mix with bright, blue eyes. She had been under my care, in the hospital, 10 now days for the treatment of bite wounds.

Every time I’d come within three feet of her she’d become so overly excited she couldn’t contain herself. She would lick the bars on the cage and wiggle her rear wildly, like a fish flopping on the shore. No matter my mood, it would always make me laugh. She thought I was coming to feed her or pet her. Not today. I walked to her cage and wrote those familiar three letters. As I walked away, careful not to look back, a lump formed in my throat.

But the dream was soon forgotten, as dreams are. The moment with the hospital dog was lost. And I continued on. I continued on until one day hit a little closer to home and my attitude changed forever.

She could fit in the palm of my hand and weighed less than a wallet or set of keys. Her eyes were so crusted with thick discharge I couldn’t peel them open and she had clearly been starved for days. She was suffering. I immediately gave the order to euthanize her but at that very moment, to our surprise, she blindly crawled to her food dish and began to eat. My tech looked at me for reassurance. “Yes,” I repeated. “Let her go.”

This morning alone, I had already seen 15 kittens in similar condition. All of them were euthanized.

She reached for the syringe and prepared to inject her…when I got a sudden impulse to call my girlfriend.

“Hey, we have a sick little kitten here that we’re about to put down. She looks like a Siamese mix and she’s cute. Any interest in taking her home and treating her?” I paused. “You need to be quick. She’s about to go.”

My tone was casual and not urgent at all despite the urgency of the moment.

“Yes! Yes!” she replied.

I poked my head back in the door. “Brandi, don’t do that one.” Brandi was seconds away from ending her life.

I brought her home that evening and put her on a regiment of antibiotics and TLC. She was a hardy cat. Most kittens completely lose their appetite in the face of such a severe upper respiratory infection. Not this one.

When the infection had finally calmed enough for her eyes to open, they were swollen and blazing red. She had deep ulcers on her cornea and I thought her vision would never be normal.

Throughout the process I cautioned my girlfriend and young son not to get attached. Even if she did make it through the illness she had to go back to the shelter. Meanwhile, someone else was slowly getting sucked in.

Truth be told, I am not a cat person. Just like any other pet owner, vets have their favorites, too. My favorites are dogs, big dogs. But every day this cat survived, every day she defied the odds, a newfound respect began to blossom.

After weeks of therapy and living in my garage she was finally big enough and healthy enough to be returned to the shelter.

My girlfriend looked at me as I began to gather all of her treatment supplies. “I think we should keep her,” she said.

I tried to play the tough guy part. “No. We already have Princess. We don’t need another. Are you going to take care of her?”

“Yes. I’ll take care of her.”

Inside I was smiling. “Fine, we’ll keep her.”

Today she is my cat, big and beautiful. She cries for me in my absence and loves to perch on my shoulders first thing in the morning as I get ready for work. My girlfriend comments that she has never seen a cat show such devotion and often jokes she’s jealous of my “other woman.” We share a special bond and she is a true testament to survival. But, as I’ve come to realize over time, not really unique.

What she taught me is every pet that passes through the shelter is special. Every cat and every dog have the ability to heal with an endless capacity to love. The faces that were once random and empty now seem they could every bit be…my little Sushi.

My mission is now set and the fire has been lit. Rather than a robot armed with a degree, I’ve become a voice for those that cannot speak. She has charged me with the responsibility of giving every life a personal touch, whether it ends as a PTS or not.

Who would’ve imagined 8 ounces of ears and matted fur could’ve influenced such a colossal change.

The shelter isn’t pretty and the smell still gets me some mornings. On occasion I have to tuck away my feelings and some days wear me out more than others. But the little secret is…the one I seldom disclose…

…I love it!

…and once while Sushi lay draped around my neck, soon after I had claimed her as my own, I whispered a promise to her, “Every animal I can save, I will.”


  1. I am blinking back tears and yes, there is a lump in my throat…but as difficult as your story was to read, it is so important that you got your experience put into words, so it brings humanity and compassion into a world that I cannot imagine going into each day and staying hopeful…

  2. Cheryl says on  04/26/2012 at 11:16 am

    You are blessed Dr. Stewart, but more blessed are the animals and the people who encounter you every day…this is a hard story to read, but please never stop keeping the plight of these doomed animals right smack in the face of the public.

  3. WisePati says on  04/26/2012 at 11:19 am

    I am sad that the sweet white pit mix was not spared. Was there no networking done? After all that care only to kill her? I would have nightmares.

    • SSB Pack says on  04/26/2012 at 2:19 pm

      You know WisePati, I too will think far more of the sweet little white pittie mix he didn’t save. Sadly and honestly, this will be the part of this story I will remember and reflect on and probably tear up about each time I think of her.

      I am having such a hard time thinking of this little girl who made him smile and yet, it still wasn’t enough to save her life. Was it even possible for her to do more to touch his heart? And yet, this is what we claim is necessary to be worthy of our human companionship. We tell them, “all you have to do is be sociable, decode our every mood change, interpret every situation and remain loyal to earn our protection.” Amazingly they perform these requests seamlessly. Yet, I wonder, just how much more must they do, how much more can they do, to prove to us they deserve to be loved. How much more must they do to prove to us that they are worthy of our companionship and the protection and love of a forever home.

      In my heart I will think of this little girl and how she expressed her very pleasure at the sight of him in her joyful little wiggle just how worthy she really was…….she is the one I will remember…….

      • KeyzzJenn says on  04/26/2012 at 4:20 pm

        The sad part is, that while this pit mix stood out, there are many, many more like her. This man is working with what he has. People in the are and surrounding areas can start up rescues, this shelter cannot hold on to these animals forever. I do wish the story had touched on the importance of those of us who are pet owners need to spay and nueter our pets. Before you think of breeding your pet because you like the personailty, look, or want your children to get to experience the babies being born please look at the websites of rescues, walk through shelters and see the many, many pets out there already needing a home.

  4. Anonymous says on  04/26/2012 at 11:36 am

    This is the saddest article to read… all seems so harsh and cruel…..the PTS of dogs and cats……you need to revert to different standard there…..

  5. Just Horrible!!! I can not imagine :(

  6. ;'(

  7. Krystal says on  04/26/2012 at 4:06 pm


  8. Jerry says on  04/26/2012 at 4:07 pm

    My LOVE for animals… far exceeds my love for most all humans.. is that wrong?

  9. man, I am so saddened by the thought of a doggie needing love! it’s just love, thats all they want!

  10. Jeana says on  04/26/2012 at 4:09 pm

    Wow, this is very moving!!! Thank you for sharing :)

  11. Heartbreaking

  12. This is so very sad though:-( vim sorry baby RIP

  13. Julie says on  04/26/2012 at 4:11 pm

    amazing story

  14. I can’t stop crying, I hate kill shelters, I hate them so much… if they are healthy and have opportunities don’t kill them…aggression and illness is one thing, but killing a lovable companion instead of finding a rescue or someone to take them… it just breaks my heart… the story has a happy ending for one cat… that is it..I could never work that job…. never

    • Crystal says on  04/26/2012 at 9:31 pm

      Having worked in a kill shelter I’ve seen the other side of the fence, the one that is not so green as ppl say.

      The problem is not the shelters, but the irresponsible ppl that needlessly breed their dogs/cats. The shelter I worked at had a city contract to pick up stray animals (which is a good thing, as so many of them get hit by cars or spend years outside trying to fend for themselves). On top of that, there are all the owner surrenders, because they can’t/won’t take care of their pet anymore (90% are about 1 yr old, after they are not a cute puppy/kitten anymore and that cute little puppy turns out to be 100lbs).

      The main problem is, we would get well over 1000 animals in every year, but only 100-200 would get adopted….so that leaves us with a surplus of 800 animals!!! Well, we have room for 60 cats, and 31 dogs….91 animals, so where do we put the other 700!!!!!! Until the population starts to realize the truth kill shelters will continue to exist, but most ppl turn their backs and don’t care….fortunately some do and it’s our job to educate the rest….PLEASE SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR PETS

      • Havoc's mom says on  06/14/2012 at 4:03 pm

        Nicely said. If only people would hear and heed the slaughter would be OVER!!!

    • Kristi says on  04/27/2012 at 9:53 am

      Jessica, your hatred is misguided. There are not enough rescues, not enough adopters. The people who work there are compassionate souls who love animals. They don’t want to kill them, but they truly have no choice, they have to keep taking animals as they are a municipal shelter and that is their legal obligation. If 20 dogs come in each day and five are adopted and three go to rescue each day ,where do the rest go? You can’t just overfill the kennels, that just leads to disease, suffering, and death. Every single person who has a momma cat who had just one litter, the breeders, the intact male dogs who get out of the yard and impregnate females along the way, that is the problem. Spay and neuter is the solution, lots of it.

  15. Suzan says on  04/26/2012 at 4:14 pm

    @Jerry, Not at all.

  16. Jessica says on  04/26/2012 at 4:15 pm

    It’s true. We try so hard all the time to save every single life yet, our back are against the wall. We do what we have to do but it does tears our heart every time.

  17. Dayla says on  04/26/2012 at 4:15 pm

    Oh man.

  18. Sandra says on  04/26/2012 at 4:16 pm

    So incredibly sad…horrific job. Please neuter/spay, microchip and ADOPT from a shelter!

  19. Nicole says on  04/26/2012 at 4:16 pm

    I feel the same @Jerry

  20. Awful World :'(

  21. Linda says on  04/26/2012 at 4:18 pm

    Breaks my heart, so much, but to be real, what breaks my heart more, was driving through south san antonio (probably any poor area is the same, but this area i used to know well), where strays ran free everywhere you look, and all looked as if they were neglected and suffering. I was trying to mentor a kid from that area, and she described how gang members (and others) would torture puppies, pets, either as an initiation or revenge or .. what! Its an area responsible for most of the many thousands of pets put down a year, there, and so, while it will literally break your heart to see so many fine dogs (i was in the dog section of the pound once– cried for 2 days and still remember, years later) put down, every day, I think, its better to alleviate their suffering, if one compares it to being “out there” without proper care. Thank God for the Vets who do their best, and all the volunteers to also do their best, to find, fix, spay, neuter, train, foster, etc.

    • Anonymous says on  05/14/2012 at 8:27 pm

      Ah Linda u are so right-SO MY QUESTION why is this not advertised-this is truly an embarrassment to man kind. How is it that we allow this to continue to occur? Because we let it. WE ALL need to make change and speak up. Gangs are cowards, made up of bullies-to abuse torture and kill those that are not able to speak, who are smaller is not humane. There are times I think to myself when I see so many messages on my rescue page -i have to close this page down-but i keep sharing, tagging sponsoring assisting all i can.
      AND there are times when i think an animal would be better of PTS. However, I go back to my comment we need to make change-we need to speak up-we need to realize that the animal that is being abandoned, mistreated left on the street is intelligent has feelings, cries and will love you unconditionally….For every animal out there there is a lesson to be learned….
      I pray we learn it before it is too late.

  22. so sad.

  23. Yes pets only love, kindness, food, water, shelter and in return they give us much more, to all those so called people stopped making money by breeding dogs again and again!!!!! Be responsible fix your dogs, cats, lets educate pets owners to fix them and lets help shelters and kind people like this Dr. with our time and our spare change

  24. I do not envy you –

  25. Wanda says on  04/26/2012 at 4:21 pm

    I can’t read this…I am already crying. What gives us the right to “expire” a life…a life so innocent and so not at fault for anything…a life so full of loyalty and only the purest of love???????? We must find the answer and we must figure out how to beome a NO KILL NATION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD BLESS EACH AND EVERYONE THAT IS LABELED THE” PTS” ….GOD REST YOUR SOULS -for we as humans have failed you (“”) <3 (“”) R.I.P.

  26. Anonymous says on  04/26/2012 at 4:21 pm

    There HAS to be a better way. Surely there are no kill shelters in the area that would take them. Try harder. Killing animals after a 5 day waiting period is just not acceptable. So one kitten was saved. What about the multitudes that he’s still killing every day? Do more!

    • Kristi says on  04/27/2012 at 9:57 am

      He is doing everything he can. The no kill shelters are all full, often with a waiting list. There are not enough rescues, not enough adopters. The people who work there are compassionate souls who love animals. They don’t want to kill them, but they truly have no choice, they have to keep taking animals as they are a municipal shelter and that is their legal obligation. If 20 dogs come in each day and five are adopted and three go to rescue each day ,where do the rest go? You can’t just overfill the kennels, that just leads to disease, suffering, and death. Every single person who has a momma cat who had just one litter, the breeders, the intact male dogs who get out of the yard and impregnate females along the way, that is the problem. Spay and neuter is the solution, lots of it.

    • Anonymous says on  04/27/2012 at 9:58 am

      He is devoting his career to doing something. What are YOU doing?

    • Anonymous says on  05/07/2012 at 11:33 pm

      Do more!?
      At one of the “no kill” shelters in the area, we take overflow from Stanislaus when we can. I work in a state-of-the-art facility where we have the staff and resources to spay/neuter over 9,000 animals a year (going for 10,000 this year, we’ll make it!). That breaks down to an average of 27 surgeries a day, with one surgeon and 5 or 7 nurses. Last Sunday 57 surgeries were done. The doctor was exhausted, the nurses were dead on their feet. Nobody got a lunch break. Nobody left on time. This happens a lot. And that’s just Spay/Neuter. Nevermind the rest of the shelter, housing between 200-300 cats and dogs, with one doctor and another 5 or so nurses every day to tend to their various illnesses, diseases, injuries, behavior problems and then everything routine for the healthy ones like vaccines and de-worming and flea treatment.
      When I finish work and go home at night, I often do not have the energy to get out of my scrubs. Sometimes I cry, more often I am too tired to cry. I have to take care of my own spayed/rescued dog and neutered/rescued cats, eat, and get to bed so I can do it all over again at 7am.
      In 2010 we took nearly 1000 out-of-county dogs and 600-some cats from shelters like Stanislaus. But still there are more, we cannot take them all.
      All “no-kill” means is that the animals in the shelter I work in have no time limit. We do PTS. If a cat or dog is returned 3 times for aggression with biting that breaks skin, they are PTS, unless a rescue has the space and good timing for that animal. If a puppy tests positive for parvo, it may be PTS. It costs thousands of dollars to treat and may or may not save the pup, and we do work within a budget.
      And this…this is posh.
      This is as good as it gets.
      Get a clue before you say something like “Do more!” If you love animals, and care so much that you are outraged by this situation, help us out. Get educated. Spread the word. Volunteer at shelters in Stanislaus, or Merced, or anywhere else the conditions are dire.
      We are doing all we can. It’s just that there are more animals and irresponsible pet owners/abandoners/breeders than there are of those of us who have the heart and stomach for the job left to us.
      This guy is doing all he can, trust me.

  27. Michele says on  04/26/2012 at 4:22 pm

    I couldn’t do it!!!

  28. Michelle Obama’s vacation in Spain cost a half million taxpayer dollars. We could have done a lot with that.

  29. Scott says on  04/26/2012 at 4:26 pm


  30. Abhikshit says on  04/26/2012 at 4:28 pm

    Im a dog person too.. But the Cat story touched my heart!! At the end its the love of all living creatures that matter.. But the PTS is so so sad to learn about,, :( :(

  31. If people were responsible for their pets, none of this would happen.

  32. :( so sad I had tears in my eyes reading that

  33. Jennifer says on  04/26/2012 at 4:33 pm

    these poor poor babies, I would love 2 have a farm of about 30 acres where I could keep them all, feed, love & care 4 them with qualified staff 2 watch over them 4 any illness

  34. Diane says on  04/26/2012 at 4:34 pm

    Spay and neuter! Enough breeding!

  35. This is so tough. I have been there when I worked at an SPCA. Before the vet arrived I used to walk the kennels and pick the number animals I had been instructed to “clean out” . This was always called a clean out when the kennels and puppy pens were full as it was done on a Friday in anticipation of the weekend influx, or just b4 a long weekend when we knew we would run out of space. My walk round was distressing. Do I pick all the plain looking black dogs that nobody wants ? Or the funny looking staffy X ? Or the old dogs as people only want young dogs? Or the dogs that have been here longest ? How do you pick puppies ? I can remember my last Christmas Eve when I held over 70 animals for the vet to give the final injection to. Cats, dogs, puppies and kittens. Those images will stay with me forever. And when all were done it was me who had to bag up the bodies and put them in the freezer. And I was the lucky one who operated the cremation unit. :-(

    • Crystal says on  04/26/2012 at 9:39 pm

      amen….been there done that, sitting down day after day putting down animals that no one wants….every time I hear someone babbling about ‘breeding’ their pets I tell them go sit in that room at the shelter for 1 day, then tell me if you still have the heart to bring more animals into this world….90% of ALL litters born, will eventually see the bars of a shelter…..PLEASE SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR PETS

  36. So sad, so not fair, I wish I could change the world….x

  37. This would be the hardest job on earth, but you know you are doing the right thing.

  38. Helen that is so sad it breaks my heart to read stories like this. It’s a awful world we live in :( x

  39. Pamela says on  04/26/2012 at 4:41 pm

    Hat’s off to Kwane Stewart DVM, I had a hard time getting through this one but so glad Sushi was a fighter and Dr Kwane Stewart a keeper of God’s small animals, it has always been said most men can’t resist those pretty blue eyes..All kidding aside. what we need is more responsible people when it comes to animals. there are too many unwanted… keep up the good work Dr Kwane… Modesto’s fur population is lucky to have you there…..

  40. Yvonne says on  04/26/2012 at 4:41 pm

    Love love love.

  41. It is so sad to see an innocent life disappear before our eyes and the saddest part is that our best friend the dog is the one who suffers due to our lack of common sense.

  42. Then don’t do it!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Anne says on  04/26/2012 at 4:44 pm

    if you cannot afford the pet, do not get it, If you have no time, do not get it. If you have no love, do not get it ! This senseless massacre of innocent animals must end. People, spay and neuter. Adopt, what ever you can do. it is not the fault of the animals, it is ours.

  44. Yvonne says on  04/26/2012 at 4:44 pm

    Our local shelter kills surrendered animals and only keeps animals that were picked up for five days before they kill them. It Dickens me. A local group tries to get them all before they are killed and find foster families … But some times there are none left to foster due to large amounts already fostering and limits in the city to how many one can keep … Sad …

  45. Yvonne says on  04/26/2012 at 4:46 pm

    Cathy its a reality. Sick reality … Change it!!! Don’t just talk the talk.

  46. poor babies

  47. Thanks, doc. You have a tough job that most of us could not bear to do. For those of you who are critical of the doc and PTS, shut up and get to the nearest shelter! Volunteers are needed and advocates of humane treatment are welcome.

  48. Christine says on  04/26/2012 at 4:50 pm

    totally unacceptable

  49. Kelly says on  04/26/2012 at 4:50 pm

    The saddest part of this story is that most will blame the vet and his staff for the choices they are faced with everyday. The real truth is that we are to blame. Anyone who takes and animal in and when they get to troublesome or obnoxious they are abandoned, treated poorly or taken to the shelter to be someone elses problem. Being a pet owner is a big responsibility but not treated as such by most. “For some we are a throw away society now. This includes pets, children and other people.

  50. Cindi says on  04/26/2012 at 4:51 pm

    If the PTS sickens you as it does me, there are many no-kill shelters out there. Support them. If all of the money and support are going to no-kill shelters, and none of it to kill shelters, what would happen then?

    • Anonymous says on  04/27/2012 at 10:03 am

      County shelters aren’t the problem, they are just an easy scapegoat for you to point at. Irresponsible breeders and pet owners are the problem.. They legally have to take all the strays off the streets, no matter where you donate your money, they are a government agency. Don’t you think they try to find rescue when they can? There aren’t enough rescues, not enough adopters.

  51. Dara says on  04/26/2012 at 4:51 pm

    I’m crying, but I know they are in the arms of a loving God

  52. Renee says on  04/26/2012 at 4:53 pm

    My heart and soul goes out to the millions of dogs and cats put down every year. RIP sweet ones.

  53. Christine says on  04/26/2012 at 4:54 pm

    if you wouldnt expect this to happen in a childrens home.. dont damn well do it in an animals home. its barbaric and completely uncivilized.

  54. Sue says on  04/26/2012 at 4:59 pm

    its at times like this i hate the world we live in!! hopefully they have all gone to a better place.

  55. I would not want her job. I worked at a stray shelter and it was disheartening to know when they weren’t in their kennel the next morning, what has happened. We spent a lot of time in tears.

  56. Natasha says on  04/26/2012 at 5:02 pm

    Unfortunately it is a reality. My vet does the same thing for our pound. The local group tries to rescue as many as they can. The ones that are picked up usually have no collar, not registered or microchipped. Until us humans are responsible for the voiceless amongst us this will continue. I have seen my vet break down, I asked how she is coping with the pound. I told her put the responsibility on the previous owners they are the ones at fault not you. Responsibility is so lacking in our society.

  57. @ Cindi Borax….there really is no such thing as no kill shelters….a lot of those shelters will take their animals to private vets to them put them down so they can say they are a no kill shelter. Also a lot of no kill shelters will “interview” the animals to placed in their care…so if there are any behavioral issues those animals will not be able to be accepted into that shelter. We need shelters, but we also need the community to become more involved. Sometimes you really need to take a look at no kill shelters and wonder why an animal has been in that kennel for years and is that truly a wonderful life for that animal?

  58. Don’t Litter.

  59. Lucie says on  04/26/2012 at 5:17 pm

    mais c’est horible…. je vais tout de suite caliner ma belle Labrador croisée…. Megane….

  60. Dagmar says on  04/26/2012 at 5:18 pm

    I’m so happy about that here in Germany it isn’t allowed to kill / euthanize a pet because nobody want to give him a chance.

    If I could, I would have a big farm where all of this babies would have a home forever.

    And it wouldn’t make a difference if they were young or old, black and big or white and small.

  61. Jill says on  04/26/2012 at 5:22 pm

    I just wish people would understand that there are soooooo many happy, healthy and vibrant animals in our shelters. I thank the Dr for sharing the story. As hard as it was to read, it smacks reality in our faces! We are all responsible for doing our part when we can. Bless the souls of the innocent pets this world loses everyday because suddenly they just weren’t as important to their family anymore……sad doesn’t describe it.

  62. Mia says on  04/26/2012 at 5:25 pm

    3-4 million dogs are put down each year. It’s a travesty and a tragedy.

  63. Lynn B. says on  04/26/2012 at 5:39 pm

    “I too will think far more of the sweet little white pittie mix he didn’t save. Sadly and honestly, this will be the part of this story I will remember and reflect on and probably tear up about each time I think of her.” by SSB Pack……

    I couldn’t agree more. The whole time I read this article I kept going back to her thinking that maybe I read it wrong and she was saved. That just makes my heart ache :(

  64. Susan says on  04/26/2012 at 5:43 pm

    This is sooooo not necessary to be in writing!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says on  04/26/2012 at 8:11 pm

      We would NOT know these horrible truths if not in writing Susan. Remember: And the truth shall set us free.

    • Havoc's mom says on  06/15/2012 at 1:04 am

      I must let the air know, along with anyone who thinks that “this is soooooooooooooo not necessary to be in writing”. Please, please know that it IS necessary to be written AND spoken AND preached from mountain tops and street corners. Wake up!!! This is the responsibility of every man, woman and child who has ever had an animal and allowed it to create offspring that (for WHATEVER reason) wound up homeless.
      Please God ,help us take care of all your creatures as you expect us to.
      Havoc’s mom

  65. Here is a positive pts this means place to stay this is the most positive one there is. All we need are caring and giving people that really want a dog or cat to do this positive pts. Give them a place to stay forever.

  66. Cindi says on  04/26/2012 at 5:44 pm

    @ Jo Ann Gorham-Trent….There certainly are true no-kill shelters in existence, at least in Ontario. There may be some shady ones that misuse the name (as well as the animals), but don’t doubt that the genuine article exists.
    That said, I am in no way trying to say that the sole responsibility lies with the shelter in question. The public absolutely SHOULD be stepping up and taking responsibility. We are all responsible for this sort of situation.

  67. They are killed.
    They aren’t put to sleep or any of the other euphemisms given to it.
    They are KILLED, and it has to stop.

  68. JodinJim says on  04/26/2012 at 5:55 pm

    i cant read it …it would just breakmy heart

  69. Donna says on  04/26/2012 at 5:59 pm

    I pray for the day when we are a no-kill nation so that perfectly wonderful animals do not have to be “PTS”!

  70. This just makes me sick to the core of my being that this happens.

  71. Praying for all these amazing and beautiful angels.

  72. i cried alot

  73. I couldn’t read it – I’d be hysterical.

  74. I don’t understand..why PTS kill your own dog?

  75. Lori says on  04/26/2012 at 6:38 pm

    I could never work in a place like that NO THANKS. Killing insentant animals

  76. Why spend 10 days nursing a beautiful white blue eyed pit bull mix, and then turn around and kill her? A healthy loving sweet animal. And I know the facts folks, you don’t all have to get on my case, but it makes no sense to me. I think that it’s just become easier to kill them than to try to save them.

    • SSB Pack says on  04/27/2012 at 1:43 pm

      You are right Marilyn, we have to do better.

      We can’t keep saying “it is so sad but there is nothing we can do.”

      There is something we can do. We can support No Kill Shelters with our money and our time. We can offer to foster animals while they wait for permanent homes. We can donate food to rescue groups struggling to cover their costs. We can pressure our local representatives managing municipal shelters to stay open later and on the weekends allowing more time for adoptions. We can write and email our local representatives and demand our tax dollars finance more outreach into the communities to help with behavior problems such as barking or house training following adoptions to prevent animal returns to the shelters. We can encourage our own veterinarians to donate their services annually to help finance low cost spay, neuter and vaccination clinics in our communities. We can organize fund raisers to support rescue groups.

      We CAN make a difference we just have to stop talking about it and DO IT!

  77. I used to visit the Humane Society several times a week and walk from kennel to kennel talking and petting dogs. Love them all.

  78. Eleanor says on  04/26/2012 at 6:47 pm

    I can’t read this. It breaks my heart to know what is done.

  79. Humans suck

  80. I can’t read this article. If I do I’ll spend the rest of the day crying off and on and be depressed for days.

  81. Marc says on  04/26/2012 at 7:41 pm

    One thing I did was volunteer at a local shelter. I can’t save them all but I sure as hell can show those dogs and cats some love before they go.

  82. people need to stop “buying dogs/cats” from pet stores based on emotion, and instead, adopt instead.

  83. Ashley says on  04/26/2012 at 8:10 pm

    Sorry to rant but it’s stories like this that are the reason I hate PETA so much. I understand why the smaller, crappily funded government run shelters have to do things like this but can you imagine if you found out you were doing it for a 40 million dollar a year tax excempt organization? They could help so many animals as well as smaller shelters but instead they kill 90% of the animals or more they adopt from shelters bc they ‘can’t afford to care for them’ and then spend their money on billboards talking about how Kim Kardashian wore a fur. Seems it’s always the wrong ppl who get an opportunity to do something amazing.

  84. 001mum says on  04/26/2012 at 11:28 pm

    Doc, when the lump in your throat stays for days,and it’s there when you wake up each morning. What will you do?
    Every job has it’s “dark depths” but this is a really rough task. I would suggest a full out campaign in the community to educate people regarding the benefits of neuter/spay clinics. Let the word spread.
    The problem is, when people can’t pay their mortage,meet their car payments, clothe their kids and have decent nutritious meals, their pets become lost souls. (mind you- really who the heck NEEDS such big vehicles, expensive clothes,4,000 sq foot homes,exotic vacations,or massive TV’s -feed and care for your pet FIRST)
    *** set priorities***
    We are, sadly,of a society that respects neither humans or companion animals. We have become insensitive and unemotional.
    We dispose.
    We can do better. The world CAN be changed, Everything, everywhere can be changed for the better. Lethargy is contagious but instead
    let excitment,creativity and responsibility be contagious as well!

  85. Chicago says on  04/27/2012 at 11:38 am

    I too will think of that poor little white pit with the wagging tail that couldn’t be saved. I don’t know how Dr Stewart manages to continue working there from a psychological viewpoint but I am so grateful he is! Compassionate people are who we want working with the throw-aways. My daughter, an animal science major, has been working in shelters since getting her B.S. There’s no money in this field but the love of animals plus personal satisfaction & compassion have to come into play here. Unlike Dr Stewart, she doesn’t share the sad stories with me ever and I know in the almost 5 yrs she’s been in the field, there had to have been many. I am very proud of my daughter and the many others like her. And Dr Stewart, a big thank you!

  86. Anonymous says on  04/28/2012 at 1:04 pm

    Perhaps the $167,000.00 dollar salary with benefits Dr. Stewart negotiated for himself (doubling the offered rate) helps him go to work everyday.

    • Anonymous says on  05/08/2012 at 10:09 pm

      And I suppose you’re happier to live with the fact that Michael Vick is making millions for playing a game, and also in connection with the massive publicity that accompanied his criminal campaign to maim and kill dogs? And you have the gaul to criticize, not over substance or idea, but over salary, a model citizen of Dr Stewart’s accomplishments? Are you kidding?? Seems to me he is only modestly compensated for a job that few others could tolerate, much less pursue. In my opinion, his services and passion for the work he does for that community is worth ten times what they’re paying him.

  87. Anonymous says on  04/28/2012 at 6:42 pm

    You are destined for sainthood. To leave a posh position and come to
    Modesto for a pittance, some $200,000.00 annually when all of the
    perks are included. The highest paid county veterinarian in the State
    of California is small reward for your 5 eight hour days as week, and only
    six or seven weeks a year taken off. A six million dollar facility to work
    in should lessen the pain a little.

    • Lindsey says on  04/29/2012 at 12:50 am

      @ the two “anonymous” posts above funny that of the near 100 comments left in regard to this sad but sadly true reality, you two turn it around and base it on money and benefits?!? Strange, to me seems like maybe a personal attack. Maybe you should stop hiding behind your “anonymous” alias and speak up. Im not sure what you do for a living, my guess is it has nothing to do with compassion for animals. Sad, in all actuality it seems to be you that is obviously consumed by money and how much of it Dr. Stewart may be making. Given the education required, the experience, and the dedication to do a job like this everyday, I really don’t feel a price can be put on his position. Personally, I think it’s worth more. (There are guys that swing a bat for a living and make 10x that for gods sake!) Too bad you can’t focus your efforts and energies on something positive… Like maybe animals?

      • Anonymous says on  05/02/2012 at 8:21 pm

        Perhaps there are still angry tax payers in Stanislaus County.

      • Megan p. says on  05/03/2012 at 1:11 am

        Lindsey: I am a part time volunteer at a local rescue based out of Modesto. I have some sad insights on the “anonymous” people above- my thoughts are you are correct in your assumptions that it is a personal attack on Dr. Stewart. I believe that these are some local veterinarians that did not see eye to eye with Dr. Stewarts efforts in reducing the amount of euthanasias done day in and out at our shelter. dr. S was in favor of our county building a spay and neuter clinic. Sadly, these local veterinarians were against it, because they thought it would affect their income. Sad, very sad. You would think they would be all about reducing pet overpopulation. Guess they prove me to be wrong. I wish I could contact all of their clients and let them know who their vets really are.

  88. cp says on  05/02/2012 at 9:16 am

    thank you dr stewart for the time and effort you put into a problem that most people seem to ignore. keep up the good work. I look forward to hearing more on the progress and possibly a solution to an over populated pet country.

  89. PR says on  05/11/2012 at 9:59 am

    Dr. Stewart. You have the heart of an angel! The animal shelter world will never be an easy one, hopefully someday, probably not soon. You are correct though – the unadvertise truth (love it!) is hiden a lot. It NEEDS to be spoken. That may be one ticket to the end of all this – tell it the way it is, like you did in this. I applaud what you are doing, as tough as it is. Thank goodness you are not that robot arm.

  90. Anonymous says on  06/10/2012 at 11:31 am

    HERE IN ALASKA, THERE ARE DOZENS OF PEOPLE WHO BREED NON PUREBRED DOGS (and purebred ones as well) at home. These are mostly pit bulls, and no wonder that the shelters are full of pit bulls! I talked to one of these breeders and he told me that if he sells one puppy out of a litter of 8, it is worthwhile. WORTHWHILE!? To whom? What about the 7 that he can’t sell? And landlords here will not rent to anyone with a pit bull or bully-type dog. There goes “that one” to the pound.

  91. Piper says on  11/26/2013 at 12:41 pm

    While surfing the internet a couple of years back I ran across a plea for help from a volunteer at the Stanislaus shelter. There was a picture of this sad white pittie, hairless from mange and looking completely resigned to his fate. I immediately jumped into action, calling the shelter to tell them I was driving over an hour to come get him that very day.

    When I arrived, they had me sit for nearly an hour in their tiny cramped waiting room before they took me back to see Wilbur. When I did, they led me down a hallway crowded with cages of feral cats and a few doors that led to rows of kennels for non-ferals. Then, we entered the next hallway and all of the doors adjoining it led to rows of dog kennels, maybe 60 of them (kennels, not doors). I thought Wilbur would surely be behind one of those doors but he wasn’t. They continued out of the building and up to a huge warehouse; barking dogs were heard inside but I had no idea what I was walking into. “This is our overflow area” the volunteer told me. I was stunned. Maybe 200 dogs were kenneled in this warehouse. It was absolutely packed. Not a single cage was empty and every dog was barking. It was insanity. Wilbur was in the far corner so I had to walk past many many others to see him and I purposely looked away from them so I wouldn’t be overcome with emotion.

    There was some confusion about me adopting/fostering Wilbur and in order to straighten it out, they again had me sit for nearly another hour in their cramped waiting room. Over my two hours in that place, I watched 12 people – some were families with children even – come to surrender their animals to the county. This was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. And people said the stupidest, cruelest and saddest things I’ve ever heard.

    One family (with a son) brought in a healthy full-sized rottweiler and told the staff what a great dog she was and how she got along with kids and animals wonderfully and they even handed over some toys and a blanket saying that they were her favorites. They pleaded for the staff to rehome her because the wife was 8 months pregnant and the staff said they’d do their best. When they left, the staff passed her off to another one and said “to the right.” She was led out of the waiting room and taken into the hallway to the right. I wondered what was that direction because the kennels were to the left and a few other animals had gone into that hallway to the left. I dreaded what that sweet dog was headed for.

    About 15 minutes later, the family returned and said they hadn’t left yet and they couldn’t bring themselves to leave their dog. Their son was crying and it looked like maybe the wife had been too. The staff member just looked at them solemnly and said “I’m sorry. It’s too late. She’s already been euthanized.”

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