Posted by: Joy Drawdy
Many years ago, I found this old Gainesville Sun article and have kept it with me since. It’s sad and gruesome but I find it to be an enlightening look into our past as a community; a way to truly understand where we’re at – by seeing where we’ve been. Written over 40 years ago, the article describes a day at our local animal shelter in 1970. Read by anyone familiar with our community’s current passion for animal welfare, I think the article speaks for itself: we’ve come a long way baby!
Animals Abandon All Hope
When Entering Animal Shelter
The Dogs We Get in Here are the Ones
Nobody Wants or Will Take Care Of
By Stacey Bridges
Sun Staff Writer Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Dante's Inferno _____________________________________________________
Propped over the entrance gate was a plastic human skull staring down at the visitors. The skull’s ‘other” eye had been pecked out by birds. Inside, the 39 pens seemed strangely quiet. Just the day before their occupants were boisterously barking and frantically meowing in hopes someone would notice them. But during the morning, the 12 cats and about 15 dogs who had lived out their last weeks there were silently exterminated. Only two mother mutts were allowed to stay and nurse their newborn puppies. Their young would stay in hopes of finding human parents once they were old enough, but the mothers would soon die also if they were not adopted.
These are the daily activities at the Gainesville Animal Shelter which is run by the city at 25 SE 13th Road. There, C.E. Broskey and his wife are foster parents to these stray, unwanted animals. But none of the “tenants” stay very long. Cats are kept for about three or four days, mixed-breed dogs about a week and pure-breds for about 10 days before they are gassed. The burly animal keeper, who is also the city dog catcher, said the shelter usually has about 30 or 40 cats and dogs at all times. However, he was quick to point out that if one animal becomes diseased or comes in that way, all of the animals must be exterminated. “You just can’t believe how fast other dogs can pick up a disease like distemper or pneumonitis (respiratory ailment) can be gotten by cats.” he added. The shelter has no veterinary service. If an animal becomes ill he is immediately taken to the gas chamber.
Such was the case with the animals that had been there the day before. Broskey explained – several of the animals were diseased and the entire kennel had to be purged. Smiling behind his dark glasses, Broskey said he had been kennel keeper for eight years. Before that he was a mechanic. He shares his office with another shelter warden.
The Broskey’s love of animals brought them to the new employment where they live right next to the shelter. “I just got tired of being covered with grease all the time and since I liked dogs anyway, I decided to take the job,” he commented. His three young children, Edwin, Judy and Carl Edward Jr. also play an active part in taking care of the animals. But occasionally that causes trouble. “Judy is always feeding and petting the dogs, particularly the puppies,” he described. “Sometimes she gets attached to them, and when it comes time to put them to sleep, it gets really rough around here.”
But Broskey said gassing the animals doesn’t really bother him.
“The dogs we get in here are ones nobody wants or will take care of” he expressed. “So I’d rather see them put to sleep than find them splattered on the road or with their backs broken from being hit by a car.” He said this was the reason the city leash law hadn’t made much difference in the amount of business the shelter has been doing. “The people who want their dogs keep them locked up and take care of them,” he explained. “The other dogs just run loose. That was the case all along.”
Broskey said tiny puppies are the easiest to get adopted because everyone wants them. Baby kittens go the second fastest. He said on some days, particularly during the Christmas season, the shelter can get up to 150 visitors who want to get pets for presents. Other days, only two or three people come by. Broskey said the summer season was the worst for cats. “With students leaving to go home from school, we sometimes get four or five cats a day, “. he said. Most of these are pregnant and have eight or ten kittens. This happens everyday. The head warden estimated his animal food bill per month is about $40.00. He gets the food wholesale. The city finances the operation, which costs $21,777. Of this, $14,867 is for salaries for the two wardens and a clerk-typist. Broskey’s wife does the paperwork. Those who wish to buy a dog must pay a three dollar adoption fee. Cats cost only one dollar.
Those doomed animals who aren’t bought must face the shelter’s large six-foot square steel gas chamber. Broskey explained the chamber is hooked up to an engine which generates 100 percent carbon monoxide. The fumes are funneled through a water tank to cool them off before they enter the chamber. He described the process as taking less than three minutes. Turning the chamber on to demonstrate, he closed it up to show exactly what happens. The motor rattled noisily, but there were no animals in the chamber to hear. When Broskey opened the door after several minutes, a tiny wisp of smoke curled up from the empty chamber. A pungent smell, like gasoline, eeked forth. The gassed a animals are buried behind the municipal airport, Broskey said.
Less than a mile away from the city shelter, a county has 12 cages behind the jail for stray animals picked up outside the city limits. These dogs are free for the asking, explained county jailer R.A. Hinson. Trustees at the jail take care of the dogs, along with the sheriffs official dogs. Those dogs that are not adopted at the county pound are given to the university medical center for research experiments, Hinson said. The county does not exterminate the dogs, he said, but the medical center occasionally does. A local vet’s office said there used to be a Humane Society here a long time ago but couldn’t remember if the group ever ran an animal shelter. So the only hope for man’s best friend and his stray companions in Gainesville is finding willing parents to keep them from lonely, silent deaths.