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St. Paul approves guidelines to reduce euthanasia in animal shelters

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The St. Paul City Council hopes a new ordinance to take effect next year will reduce unnecessary killing of stray animals.

On Wednesday, the council unanimously passed the Companion Animal Protection Act, which outlines options to be considered before animal shelter staff can euthanize an animal.

Kathy Lantry, president of the St. Paul City Council and the main sponsor of this act, told the Pioneer Press last month that the act outlines best practices for handling the animals, many of which are already observed by St. Paul's Animal Control division. Lantry believes, though, that it was necessary to pass the ordinance to make the practices standard throughout St. Paul.

The act reinforces a Minnesota statute that requires shelters to hold healthy, tame stray animals for a five-day period. It will also require the agency to post notice of the stray animal online, including details and a photo, in effort to reconnect an animal with its owner, the Pioneer Press reports.

After the five-day holding period has expired, savable animals will be protected under the act, even if the shelter does not have room. It requires shelters to try to get animals placed with organizations and foster homes that take in strays. Only if a veterinarian determines the shelter can't care for the animal, and there is no foster home or other organization that can take the animal, is euthanasia an option, the paper says.

Animals that aren't considered savable include those who are sick and dying, or may pose a danger to humans.

Standards for the euthanasia procedure have also been set to include using tranquilizers or sedatives beforehand if necessary. The guidelines also specify the types of injections that are to be used.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has said euthanasia should only be an option if it is in the best interest of the animal.

Other help for companion animals in Minnesota

Minneapolis requires that all pets (including dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets) be licensed through the city, saying 99 percent of licensed animals that arrive at the Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC) shelter go home alive. Licensing makes medical records immediately available to workers, and if any lost licensed pets are reclaimed, they will be given a free ride home, according to the MACC website.

"We wanted to decrease the euthanasia rate," Jeanette Wiedemeier Bower, Program Development Coordinator at MACC, told the Daily Planet of MACC's goal.

MACC says it takes in about 4,000 animals every year and the Daily Planet reports they send about 1,600 animals back out their doors, whether to a rescue group or an adopted home.

MN SNAP (Spay Neuter Assistance Program), a Minnesota nonprofit, provides mobile spaying and neutering services throughout the state, according to a news release. In an effort to combat animal overpopulation that can result in euthanizing an estimated 80,000-90,000 animals in Minnesota each year, the organization offers subsidized, affordable procedures.

The nonprofit holds clinics across Minnesota where dogs, cats and rabbits can be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped at a subsidized cost. By March 2014, four years after the organization's first subsidized surgery, MN SNAP has done more than 43,000 procedures.

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