All of my family, friends, and co-workers said not to do it. Do not go into that room. That it was just not worth it because “you would never get the images out of your mind.”
Many people say “euthanized’’ or “put to sleep,’’ two phrases that make it seem a pleasant experience. There is no reason to mince words. They are killed.
Each day, 60 to 70 cats and dogs are taken into Miami-Dade Animal Service’s A Ward because there is no more room at the shelter to hold them and no one has adopted them. The county shelter is “open admit,’’ which means it must accept every animal brought in. Some are lucky enough to be adopted or pulled by rescue groups, a handful reclaimed by owners who lost them.
The remainder spend their final moments in A Ward, receiving perhaps the only love and gentleness they’ve ever experienced. They are the product of Miami-Dade’s huge overpopulation problem, the result of not enough spaying and neutering procedures.
I went into that room, too, determined to see for myself what happens there.
The dogs rarely get a single walk during their five-plus day “stay’’ before they are taken into that room. The kennel staff are far too busy cleaning cages and feeding about 300 dogs and cats every day.
When they are finally taken out of their cages, they think they are in heaven. They think they are going for a walk. To go play. To go run in a park.
That short walk from their cage to A Ward will be their last.
I watched for three hours as 15 dogs were taken into that room, one by one. As the dogs jumped on us, kissing our hands and faces, a tech was entering information into the computer. Accurate records are kept about each death.
When the first dog came in, I was shocked at how normal and healthy he looked. Just a regular dog with his tail wagging as fast as can be. He was so happy. I knew what was coming and I felt sick to my stomach.
The dog was picked up and put on a table. He loved being the center of attention.
One of the techs gently turned the dog’s head away from what was coming. Another walked slowly over with the syringe. With the dog looking the other way, the tech gently rubbed a liquid on the front leg and then injected the deadly fluid.
The dog’s eyes quickly become glazed, his body slowly becomes limp.
The worst was watching the tail. Each wag became slower and slower, until it finally stopped. In 30 seconds, a dog that could have been the most perfect companion went from full of life to a corpse that would be taken to the dump.
It was painless for the animal, torture for me.
Even the techs who perform the task sometimes cry.
I could hardly breathe after seeing that. That was my first one. One death. Just one.
I watched this process 14 more times that day. Some of the dogs were so beautiful that I pleaded to the tech, “Can you please save this one?”
The tech looked at me with the saddest eyes. “There is no room,’’ he said. “If you want to save this one, take him back to his cage and bring another one.’’
Instead, I watched him die.
I watched them all die. One at a time.
I was in that room almost six months ago — or 10,000 deaths ago. For anyone unsure of how to vote on the Pets’ Trust referendum Nov. 6, go spend five minutes in Ward A. You’ll never get over it.
Michael Rosenberg is founder and president of the Pets’ Trust Vote 240, a grassroots effort to create a dedicated source of funding that would help end the animal overpopulation problem and the killing of healthy and adoptable animals .