Animal rights groups oppose euthanasia changes at Norfolk animal shelter

NORFOLK, Va. - Local animals rights groups are up in arms after changes inside the City of Norfolk’s animal shelter.

Before staff can euthanize an animal, city leaders told us it now has to be approved by a city administrator. They said this will better help them care for the animals in their custody.

But PETA and other groups told us it’s making those pets suffer even more.

“It is unprofessional and it is completely uncalled for,” Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s cruelty investigation department's senior vice president, said.

These animal rights groups are calling on Norfolk city leaders to make changes after recently taking away power for staff inside the city’s animal care and adoption center.

Last month, a revised euthanasia policy went into effect.

“The animal shelter staff isn’t being trusted to make the decision they that they are hired and qualified to make,” Nachminovitch said.

City leaders say now behavioral- and space-related euthanasia requests have to be independently reviewed and approved by the director of general services.

The groups said waiting for that review to be completed is harmful.

“When you have ones that react by exhibiting aggressive behavior, that’s not just a public safety issue - it’s also an animal welfare issue because it is forcing those animals to be caged. Animals have to wait for the mercy of euthanasia,” Nachminovitch told News 3.

The groups said another issue is overcrowding.

City leaders said the review allows them to achieve positive outcomes for all healthy and treatable animals they receive.

“What we’re seeing is our city kowtowing to people who run a Facebook page,” said Nachminovitch.

This all comes on the heels of a nationally-recognized, no-kill leader speaking to city staff about improving Norfolk’s rate of dogs and cats killed in shelters.

We first reported this in August.

“For the entire City of Norfolk, not just the animal center here, they're the number one place in the state where animals are being euthanized that could be saved,” Makena Yarbrough from the Lynchburg Humane Society said.

PETA staff said they want “a seat at the table” to help the city to find a new, better option.

The city said shelter staff won’t have to go through the director to euthanize animals for health-related reasons – only for behavioral problems and space.