This is a response to “Ex-staffer alleges Lewiston shelter is killing more dogs than it has in its past” (May 11).

Determining whether a dog is adoptable due to behavior is a gray area. Temperament tests are unreliable, so this gives little guidance to make difficult decisions. We don’t know if we accurately distinguish dogs that are adoptable from dogs that are not.

Oftentimes, the history of the dog is integral. So is the ability of shelter staff to assess who is safe for adoption and who is not. Shelter staff can make a good assessment based on tests, day-to-day care and the dog’s reactions. However, these are all subject to the ability of the staff, and they may unintentionally manage a dog’s behavior without recognizing it.

Many adopters cannot handle behavioral problems without guidance from an experienced professional. Those who can are exceptional. Euthanizing dogs for behaviors that could be handled by a stable owner but aren’t controlled in shelters is unenjoyable, but this is reality for most shelters.

It’s more difficult for a shelter with a reputation of having dangerous dogs to find homes for the dogs, and it puts every dog with a great temperament that enters the shelter at risk of not finding an adopter at all. Further, in the Southern states, many healthy dogs with good temperaments are euthanized because there is no space for them, an issue not occurring here.

Lastly, this issue was addressed in the wrong forum (social media), especially for an average community with little background knowledge of dog behavior or shelter work. This public outcry could lead the community to resent their shelter, driving them away from adopting the animals found in their care. I don’t believe that was the intent of those involved, but it is an unintended consequence.

Aron Nichols


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