Hot Animal Shelter 03

As the summer heat increases, the Weber County Animal Shelter is making sure it stays cool enough for the dogs and cats in the shelter on Tuesday, July 23, 2019.

FARMINGTON — Davis County has adopted a “socially conscious” animal shelter posture intended to inhibit instances of inhumane hoarding in the no-kill movement.

County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday endorsing Davis County Animal Care and Control’s adoption of the socially conscious animal sheltering philosophy.

It’s apparently a first in Utah.

Rhett Nicks, the agency’s director, said Wednesday the move is not an indictment of the no-kill stance, which calls upon all animal shelters to save at least 90% of arriving animals.

But managing kill rates by an arbitrary number can cause a shelter pressured to meet the goal to avoid “looking at each animal as an individual,” Nicks said.

“People sometimes hold onto animals when possibly the best outcome is euthanasia,” Nicks said.

He gave an example of an aggressive or dangerous animal that cannot be released because of its threat to public safety.

“It becomes an issue of keeping an animal in a small cage where it will suffer mentally and be fearful and dangerous,” he said.

“We do know that incentive occurs,” to retain such an animal in no-kill shelters, and those are “bad decisions,” he said.

“I know euthanasia is a bad word, and it’s a bit of a delicate subject for us, but we have decided to address it head on,” Nicks said.

The Davis shelter already exceeds the no-kill goal, Nicks said — 96% for dogs and 89% for cats.

When asked whether any local cases of excesses in no-kill housing of animals had driven the embrace of its new philosophy, Nicks said “not necessarily.”

“While most people mean well in their attempts to change public policy around how we care for homeless pets, sometimes good intentions lead to unintended suffering for the very pets that people are trying to protect,” the county said in a news release.

“The reality is we’re all trying to save animals,” Nicks said.

Davis County’s move embraces positions outlined by the Colorado-based Socially Conscious Animal Community organization. After numerous animals died at a no-kill shelter in Pueblo, Colorado, a veterinarians’ association endorsed the socially conscious philosophy and announced opposition to no-kill shelters.

Best Friends Animal Society of Utah is a major proponent of no-kill animal welfare.

Spokeswoman Temma Martin said Wednesday the whole point is to thwart euthanasia of animals that are otherwise adoptable.

Even with a 90% no-kill goal, that means 10% of shelter animals still are euthanized, she said.

“We are just asking that shelters do everything they can so that as many animals as possible can be saved,” she said.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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