Akita Rescue Society of America


Blue Room

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The Blue Room...

The day was one of those beautiful days - blue skies, warm weather; the earth was covered with new growth from the rains, and birds were preparing for their spring ritual of nest building. It was a good day to be alive as I walked Tootsie in the park.  We stopped under the shade of a tree, enjoying each other's company. Tootsie rolled onto her back to invite a belly rub, then plastered her tongue along my chin to show me how happy she was with her new life. I plucked some lingering tufts of fur from her coat, which I left on the grass knowing some of the blackbirds would find it to use for their nests.  Akita fur is perfect nesting material, soft, warm and clean.

We left the park and drove a short way to the animal shelter to visit the new mare and the baby cow at the shelter corral.  I left Tootsie in the van and walked the few feet to the corral with my bag of carrots.  Some of the shelter employees were already there feeding apples to the horse to keep her occupied while the visiting farrier worked on her foot.  I turned to look as a car drove in through the gate and was shocked to see a large male Akita in the back of a pickup truck.  The pickup was heading toward one of the outbuildings in the rear.  The Akita appeared young and was very pretty.  His front paws were perched on a tack box in the truck, and his face showed his enjoyment of the ride. The Akita did not know the ride was nearly over and with it, his life. His owner was driving to the back of the shelter to the "blue room," where the Akita would be killed by lethal injection within a matter of minutes.

With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I continued to feed the livestock animals. I heard the truck returning and looked up to see it was empty.  I knew what was happening to the Akita at that moment.  His mouth was wrapped firmly with a cloth muzzle; one employee leaned on his body to keep him down, while his arm was stretched out to accommodate the needle, which pumped a deadly fluid into his vein.  When his heart stopped beating, his large body would be tossed into a barrel filled with other dead dogs.  As the barrel filled to capacity, it would be moved into a large freezer to await removal by the rendering company. The Akita would be just one of many killed on this lovely spring day.  

It's called the "blue room," because this year it is painted blue.  Each year the color changes to break up the monotony of constantly killing animals. Sometimes there are outdoor scenes lining the walls, sometimes the music from the radio is rock, at other times it may be Spanish.  The room is totally concrete--easier to hose out. There is a large drain in the middle of the floor that accepts the urine and feces from terrified animals that know they are about to die.  At day's end, it is cleaned in preparation for the killing, which will begin again tomorrow.  It costs $5 to have your dog killed at the animal shelter.

The personnel are rotated in and out of the blue room - no one can kill for longer than a few weeks and remain sane. Years ago, before the current shelter director instituted the rotation policy, those who euthanized would last a year or more and then retire from the department on workmen's compensation.  I have no idea what their lives were like after they left.  I hope they understood that the guilt of killing healthy animals was not theirs—it belonged equally to the people who bred them and those who abandoned them.  One young woman, who worked at the shelter because she loved animals, lasted nearly two years before she killed herself.  Rotation has helped.

Maybe you are wondering why that Akita died in the blue room when I volunteer with ARSA and was close enough to have plucked him from the truck before he was killed. It's simple; we had no more room for another Akita.  We now allow great numbers of Akitas to die in shelters--Akitas of all ages.  For each Akita killed in animal shelters, there are at least two litters of puppies born.  It is inevitable that Akitas will die in ever increasing numbers—-rescue is greatly outnumbered, there are at least 50 breeders for every one of us, and funding is always limited.  What happens in "Blue Rooms" across this country?  See for yourself by clicking here. 

Tootsie and I left the shelter and stopped off to get frozen yogurt before heading home. Somehow, the sun didn't seem as bright; the day was no longer beautiful. I felt so sorry for that Akita. Trustingly, he rode that truck as he must have ridden it many times before, but today his life ended in the blue room.  

© 1993 Barbara Bouyet