Resident advocates for animal euthanasia services in town

For Dorthea Rooney, her appeal to the borough assembly was born out of a personal tragedy. She requested some form of animal control that could provide euthanasia for pets in cases of illness or injury.

Her sister's large, 13-year-old dog Lilly, who served as their mother's emotional support animal, had become unable to move her back legs. "She was basically paralyzed," she said.

The house where Rooney's sister and mother lived had 40 stairs, and with Lilly's size and 100-pound weight, it was impossible for them to get her outside. The sister reached out to veterinarian Judge Conniff of Skookum Vets, who lives in Juneau and comes to town once or twice a month, but learned he wouldn't be back for two weeks.

"My sister tried to keep the dog comfortable, but she was unable to get her outside to go to the bathroom," Rooney said. "And then her pain increased to the point where I knew something had to be done."

They reached out to the Sitka Veterinary Clinic, who Rooney described during her Nov. 14 address to the assembly meeting as "very responsive and caring." However, their prescribed overdose of Oxycodone had no effect, likely due to Lilly's size. "We tried other things they suggested, but only so much can be done by phone."

At that point, a common practice would have been to take the dog outside borough limits and kill her by gunshot, but that was not an option. "There's no way I could have carried a 100-pound dog, when she was still alert and terrified, in front of my mom and shoot her outside."

With that in mind, Rooney convinced her sister to allow her to put Lilly out of her pain another way: She suffocated the dog to death with a plastic bag over her head.

"It was... not fun," she said. "After I did all this, I talked to several people in town who had tried to shoot their dogs because they had no other options, and it went horribly wrong," she said. "I'm not against putting an animal out of pain by shooting them but it needs to be done by someone trained."

Rooney once had to put her own dog down because of cancer. "Euthanasia is not quick sometimes. It does take a while, but it's more humane than what I did to my sister's dog."

Two days after Lilly's death, Rooney addressed the borough assembly to advocate for the more humane way. She read a letter she composed about her family's story in the hopes of better relaying the urgency for someone certified to provide that service.

"When I read it, I was very emotional and I had a hard time getting through it, and I left," she said. "I decided to go back to City Hall the next day and talked to (Interim Borough Manager) Mason Villarma. He said he did hear about it, and he was in total agreement, and the city would be willing to get it done."

Rooney continued to do research on possible options until the Nov. 20 landslide put everything on hold for several months. She resumed contact with borough officials at the beginning of February. "It needs to happen, and I don't want the city to let it go," she said.

While some Wrangell police officers have offered that kind of animal control in the past, including former Chief Doug McCloskey, Rooney surmised that emergency medical technicians might be even more suitable, given their medical training.

Villarma said last week that one borough employee and one non-employee are interested in taking on the role.

In her report for the Tuesday, Feb. 27, assembly meeting, Borough Clerk Kim Lane said they are working through the process. "I spoke with the vet in town, and he said that he would work with the two individuals who are interested in taking on this task. The challenge is finding a certification course."

Villarma said the borough would cover the insurance for the service. Putting a program in place probably will take months, not weeks, he said.

Rooney is undaunted. "80% of the people in this town have a pet."


Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 06/15/2024 14:54