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Mia McKenzie

October, 2012
Interview With A Lethalist
Did you use to work at an Australian animal
What was your ob title?
Animal Attendant (Level 2)
What was the descri!tion o" your role?
I worked as an 'Animal Attendant' caring for
animals at the shelter. I have a Certificate IV in
Veterinary Nrsing and I worked as the after
hors 'Ambulance Driver' where I !icked !
sick and in"red animals# and I was a
#ets talk about your ob as a #ethalist$
%ow many hours were dedicated to the role o" a
I worked fll time# $t ethanasia was
schedled for a!!ro%imately 2 hors of every
At the shelter you worked at, how was euthanasia
&thanasia was !erformed $y in"ecting a lethal
dose of intravenos 'odim (ento$ar$ital. It
de!resses their $reathing which finally sto!s
the heart. I was also in charge of mi%ing ! the
drg from !owder to li)id form.
Did the shelter you worked at use a 'as chamber?

Was the action o" euthanasia the same "or "eral and
domestic animals?
*eral cats wold $e !laced into a crsh cage
and given an in"ecta$le sedation as they did not
stay still and did not eat de to stress. +hey had
to $e sedated to make them easier to handle.
What ha!!ened ne(t?
+he feral cats were then given a lethal dose of
intravenos 'odim (ento$ar$ital.
)n your o!inion, did some animals stru''le with the
end o" li"e !rocedures and need e(tra medication?
Yes# some did.
*or e%am!le# sometimes the animals veins
wold r!tre de to either the animal moving
or incorrect techni)e. I chose to $e the
,in"ector, rather than the ,holder, of the animal
$ecase some staff were not com!etent in
finding veins.
+o check whether an animal was dead# a large
needle was !laced directly into their heart#
rather than checking with a stethosco!e. +his
was done $ecase a high level of environmental
noise made it im!ossi$le to hear with a
stethosco!e. If the heart was fond to still $e
$eating# an e%tra dose of 'odim (ento$ar$ital
was in"ected directly into the heart.
)" an animal was "ri'htened or a''ressi*e, how did
you administer the medication?
Aggressive dogs wold $e given
Ace!roma-one ta$lets for sedation in their food
!rior to $eing ethanased. 'ome were then
$roght into the room on catching !oles $y
staff and ethanasia was !erformed.
*eral and aggressive cats were given in"ecta$le
Ace!roma-one and then ethanased.
Was it di""icult to trans!ort the a''ressi*e do'
"rom its holdin' bay to the euthanasia room?
'ometimes it wasn,t $ecase I s!ent time
making friends with the dogs la$elled
,aggressive, $y the ins!ectors# so I wold $e
a$le to walk them to the room on a lead and I
wold have a $etter handle on them when they
were ethanased.
Were you 'i*en the reasons why the animals were
listed "or euthanasia? )" so, what were they?
.aily lists were com!iled $y /ffice 'taff with
reasons for the ethanasia. +he reasons were
la$elled $y ins!ectors# vet workers or de to
shelter !olicy and generally the reasons were
not reassessed.
'ome ethanasia reason were0
. date de ot (a legal time in which a (ond
had to hold dogs# it was 1 days if not
. lack of s!ace
. owners re)est
. it had $itten !eo!le
. aggression (la$elled $y the ins!ector who
$roght in the dog)
. cat fl# ear mites
. feral and ty!e of $reed (all !it $ll ty!e dogs
were ethanased regardless of $ehavior).
%ow were the bodies o" the animals destroyed?
+he shelter that I worked at did not have an
incinerator on site. +he $odies were not
individally wra!!ed# $t !laced in a lined
general waste $in# left overnight and then
driven to the dm! site the ne%t morning. +hey
were dm!ed at the local ti! where general
hose waste is dis!osed.
'ometimes I wold see the animal $ody $ags
that I had dis!osed of on a !revios day
sticking ot of the r$$ish and sometimes I
cold see trcks driving over the $ags of
)n your o!inion, what ty!e o" animal was
euthanased the most?
It was cats.
+his was $ecase the shelter ran ot of room or
the cat had cat fl. If one cat snee-ed in the
2*or 'ale3 area# often the whole cattery wold
$e killed. I took one ,cat fl, cat home as I fell in
love with it. +his cat is a very ha!!y and
healthy cat to this day.
I also have three cats that were la$elled ,feral,
$y the ins!ector who $roght them to the
shelter. +hey were !laced on the kill list. I took
them home and they all live ha!!y lives with
me. In my o!inion# they were not feral cats.
I had also taken )ite a few kittens home to
raise ntil they were old enogh to !lace on the
ado!tion list.
If yo liked a !articlar animal# the staff wold
wait ntil yo had a day off and it wold $e
ethanased while yo were not there.
When you were not !er"ormin' euthanasia on
animals, what other obs did you do at the shelter?
+he other "o$s I !erformed at the shelter were
varied. 'ome dties inclded cleaning kennels#
checking animals for illness# administering
medications# !re!are food# groom and e%ercise
animals# !rovide enrichment# checked animals
for I. and inserted microchi!s.
Did the role o" euthanasia e""ect you !ersonally?
It had a hge im!act on me.
I chose to work at an animal shelter $ecase I
love animals. 4t in the end I felt I was $eing
told to ethanase animals for no valid reason.
+here were many animals that I ethanased that
cold have $een ado!ted.
+he way I felt also had an im!act on the
animals $ecase I felt less emotionally
availa$le to them and my work. 4ecase of this
I a!!roached my '!ervisor and re)ested that
they !rovide access to a conselling service for
staff that !erform ethanasia. 4t I was told no.
+he reason $eing that staff may a$se this
service and discss !ersonal isses that
occrred otside of work.
I remem$er a time I had to ethanase a dog at
the direction of the 'helter 5anager whilst the
owner was in the room. It was one of the most
difficlt cases I e%!erienced. +he dog was
yong# I didn6t know why I had to ethanase it
and I felt nder !ressre to do this in front of
the owner.
I was told on my interview that the role of
lethalist wold $e a !art of my "o$. It was not
something I had a!!lied for. If yo did not
,co!e, with the task yo were given# yo were
seen as $eing ,weak, or ,soft,# and needed to
toghen !.
I felt that my o$"ectives of hel!ing animals
were not $eing flfilled at the shelter# so I
+hank you "or your time and choosin' to talk with
+hank yo for letting me tell my story.
Australians bring home over 600,000 dogs and
cats every year, while Australian shelters kill over
250,000 every year. There are enough homes.
All animals that enter the shelter system deserve
compassion, and all salvable animals that enter
the shelter system deserve to live.
The majority o shelter operations are inanced
with donated money. !oney that has been
donated to help shelters save animals.
These actions do not relect how donors want
their money spent, and do not relect the
compassionate attitudes o the Australian public.
"emand #o $ill and demand smart sheltering.