Practical > Companion Animals & Urban Wildlife > Companion Animals

Life or Death

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FORT WORTH - Keane Menefee pushes open the door and steps into a banal room with a gray floor and white walls.

Bearded and in a black uniform, he passes rows of blue cages. Some of the dogs inside howl and bark and paw excitedly. Others, gaunt and scarred, watch sullenly.

"This isn't the most fun part of my job," Menefee says, a clipboard tucked under his arm.

But this walk through the Fort Worth Animal Care and Control Center must be done once a day: Menefee is deciding who lives and who dies.

The grim chore is necessary mostly because irresponsible pet owners ignore their animals or abandon them in such poor health or temperament that there is little choice but to destroy them.

They're the forgotten souls, as Dave Fulbright, the city's animal cruelty investigator, calls them. "Pretty much just discarded," Fulbright says.

There are 275 to 325 animals in the center's cages. About 60 more daily.

Thirty percent will be adopted. The rest will be euthanized.

"Every single person who works here loves animals," Menefee says. "This is the hardest thing we do. We wish we didn't have to.

"But we can't keep them all."