STOCKTON, CA - The new supervisor of Stockton's animal shelter is defending herself against critics who blame her for a dramatic spike in shelter killings in August.
An online petition had collected nearly 2,000 entries as of Wednesday demanding the removal of Pat Claerbout for ordering the euthanasia of hundreds of dogs and cats in her first month on the job.
Claerbout provided euthanasia records showing a total of 466 animals, mostly dogs, were put down in August.
Claerbout said many of the dogs had been in the shelter for at least two months when she arrived and the 107 kennels were dangerously overcrowded.
"It's inhumane to warehouse animals," Claerbout said.
The shelter had been without a supervisor for more than a year and Claerbout said she was forced to make a tough decision to reduce the population.
Claerbout said she and her staff attempted to find homes for the euthanized animals, but the Stockton shelter doesn't attract a large number of people seeking to adopt.
The animal services supervisor said she held no animosity for the animal lovers calling for her firing.
"The people who write these things, they're compassionate about animals too," Claerbout said. "But they don't see the reality that we do in the shelters day after day."
Claerbout was previously director of the Sacramento County Animal Shelter, but was laid off during a round of budget cuts.
The city of Stockton's animal services is overseen by the police department. Police spokesman Pete Smith said the department was aware of the online petition and the chief supported Claerbout's decision.
"It was a situation where, unfortunately, they were overpopulated out there," Smith said. "They simply had too many animals at that time."
Claerbout said she's been networking with animal rescue organizations to reduce the shelter's population. She said barring any dramatic rise in adoptions or improvements to the shelter, scores of animals will continue to be euthanized every month.
By George Warren, GWarren@news10.net