Q. I have been hearing disturbing things about Caring Hands Humane Society putting down animals for unjust reasons. What needs to be done?

A. I’ve had some interaction with Caring Hands in the past year — mainly because my husband and I adopted our wonderful schnauzer T-Bone from there last fall.

And I do think I should mention the humane society is a private, non-profit organization. It isn’t run (or supported) by the government or the city, although it does have a contract with the city of Newton to house animals brought in by animal control.

The organization is run by a board of directors.

Anyway, someone asked me this a while back, and I consulted with Jack Brand, director of marketing for CHHS, who outlined the reasons why animals do, sometimes, have to be euthanized.

He articulated it pretty well, so here’s what he had to say:

“This is a great question because it touches on our No. 1 goal, which is to become a no-kill shelter. I hope readers will come to understand that we are absolutely committed to that goal.

“The kind of euthanasia we are talking about here happens when we have to balance our responsibility to many people and animals against our desire to help each and every animal who comes to CHHS. Usually, this type of euthanasia fits into one of four categories: Lack of space, medical reasons, behavioral reasons and feral cats,” Brand said.

“1. We’re out of space: When we don’t have enough space to take in any more animals, we have to make the hard choice of which ones have the best chance of finding a home — thereby freeing the space to save another animal. Unfortunately, this means we have to euthanize some animals that seem least likely to find a home quickly. Equally unfortunately, this means we have to make a judgment call. While our track record is good, we are only human. And every one of the pets we have to put down was loved by someone.

“2. The animal is or becomes sick: We have limited space to isolate sick animals, and some diseases are so contagious that afflicted animals must be euthanized to protect all the other animals here.

“3. There is a behavioral reason, such as body handling issues, food aggression or aggression to people. At a guess, I would say this is probably the biggest source of complaint. The safety of the families who adopt from us is vitally important. This is why we have a behavioral assessment system. This system helps us detect animals who may be aggressive in certain situations. If the issue is treatable and we have resources to work with the animal, we will. We are able to transfer some breeds to rescue groups who will work on helping the animal’s behavior.

“The bottom line is we will not release an animal that we feel is likely to be dangerous. Unfortunately, if the animal cannot be transferred or treated, this means the animal is euthanized. The contention comes in because often the previous owner has not seen this behavior. The animals here are in a new situation and often very scared. They are dealing with new people. They sometimes show aggressive behavior that they have not demonstrated in their previous homes.

“The problem is that when they go to their next home, that too will be a new situation with new people. If the dog is aggressive here at CHHS it might be aggressive in a new home, at least at first. We absolutely will not knowingly take a chance with the safety of adoptive families.

“Those who surrendered a beloved animal, which was always gentle in their home, often have a very hard time believing the animal was “aggressive” — even when shown a video of the assessment. This is understandable — we are after all talking about the death of a beloved pet. Such a decision is very hard to accept for previous owners. The decision to euthanize is never one we make lightly.

“4. The cat/kitten is feral. We do not release feral cats. Programs where feral cats are released are called TNR — which stands for trap, neuter and release. They work just like the name, except a rabies vaccine can be given at the same time. These are beneficial to the community, but require a lot of time and energy to run. To my knowledge there is currently no such program in operation in Newton or Harvey County. We would love to speak with any interested volunteers.

“In closing, I would like to say that this is the type of criticism we very rarely hear. Partly this is because we have a very good save rate. The other reason is that people usually don’t share criticism with organizations, where they might with individual people.

“At Caring Hands Humane Society, we believe that our success is a direct result of our relationship with the community. Communication is critical with any relationship. If someone disagrees with a call we make, I would be happy to talk with them. I really want to hear where the point of view of the people we serve – especially if they have suggestions for improvement.”

I would encourage you to contact them – their Web site is www.caringhandshs.org, and their phone number is 283-0839. Or you could go visit them at 1400 S.E. Third St. in Newton – although you may just end up taking one of the cute critters home!

Now have your pets spayed and neutered, and have a good day! Toodles!