Bladen County, in southeastern North Carolina, approved a contract with Southeastern Biological Supply that allows the company to donate $4 to the Bladen County Animal Shelter in return for each dog carcass.
The proposal extended the county’s policy to cover dog carcasses — Southeastern Biological Supply was already contracted with Bladen County to exchange cat carcasses for donations.
“At first glance, this type of arrangement appears to be in stark contrast to everything we stand for in Bladen,” Cris Harrelson, director of Bladen County’s Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email.
In 2014-15 alone, the donations from the contract brought in $500, money used to help the shelter care for animals in the future, Harrelson said.
But not all North Carolina animal shelters are on board.
Bob Marotto, director of the Orange County Animal Shelter, said that his shelter hasn’t considered selling animal carcasses but that the county Animal Services Advisory Board recently discussed allowing research on live animals specifically to benefit the shelter.
The discussion began when the shelter was approached for a study on diarrhea in kittens, a condition that can be fatal, Marotto said.
“I think one of the things that became very apparent in our discussion is that there could be some research that’s very valuable for animal shelters,” he said.
According to the minutes of an advisory board meeting, research would need to be nonprofit, free of invasive procedures and done to improve shelter animals’ health.
Harrelson said that as long as the shelter has room, the county will continue to seek homes for the animals. But he said that sometimes, animals have to be humanely euthanized, and, in that case, the animals will be donated instead of buried.
“Sometimes, dogs are dangerously aggressive, or animals come to the shelter so diseased or injured that medical treatment can’t help them,” he said. “The contract with SE Biological provides an alternative to burial in which someone can benefit from them.”
Marotto said that beyond public relations concerns, the ethics of receiving donations for carcasses make such a contract unlikely in Orange County.
“There’s always the real concern of whether people are going to make decisions about euthanasia that are shaped by the fact that there’s a fee being paid for the cadaver or corpse,” he said.
He said that due to the community’s high expectations for how the shelters treat animals, the process of figuring out how to help without affecting the operation’s mission is a slow, deliberate one, but could be very valuable.
“The question is, ‘How do we do that so that we don’t ever give anyone reason to think we’re doing something other than what we should be doing?’ So we’re working through that,” Marotto said. “We don’t want kittens to die from diarrhea, for heaven’s sake.”