continued "I still think of certain animals that I knew in Los Angeles, like, Maybe I should have adopted that one... You always have certain animals that you think of and certain situations. But I try to focus on things like, What can I do to make sure that doesn't happen again? or How can I change that? That's where I try to focus my energies, and that's what I try to do with the staff. A specific animal may come up over and over again in their thoughts and the things that they do, but we try to focus on a project to make sure that some bad things never happen again. Once [the staff] feels that they are a part of the solution, I think it relieves a lot of their stress."
Animal-rights groups don't present much of a problem for the shelter when it comes to euthanasia. "I think they realize that we are not the problem. Opinion has been misdirected that animals are euthanized because the shelter's staff wants to do that, and that is not the case. The reason for the animal-overpopulation problem is people in the community who are irresponsible with their pets. We're taking care of them here, and when we reach a finite population, it's because we have a finite amount of space.
"If no one wants to take those pets, adopt them, rescue them...then we have to make some decisions. I know that [animal-rights] groups know what methods of humane euthanasia we use. Most importantly, my staff monitors themselves because they care about animals, and they want everyone to treat them the right way.
"I think that animals know we are trying to do the best job we can for them," says Mangiamele. "When you get a large number of dogs in one area, there are some territorial issues. Some of the cats are stressed -- especially feral kitties that come in here and don't want to be around people. We try to keep it as calm as possible. When you have stress, you have the possibility of more disease transmission. Knowing that, we try to keep our isolation areas and sick and injured areas quiet. But if we act calm and treat them appropriately, it makes a difference.
"There are sensitive issues in this world, and two of them are children and animals. They can be similar in their intensity and in the way people respond to them. Animals are special, especially domesticated animals, because their survivability depends on us -- to care for them, to feed them, and to sustain their lives. Because of that, we feel a tremendous obligation to provide the best we can for them, so it's painful to see animals that are not cared for properly -- especially for someone like me who's a veterinarian and has a background with animal care and disease control -- knowing we can solve these problems and we have the resources to do it. You can help solve one of those problems by having your pet altered so it's not reproducing and contributing to the animal population.
"We bond to animals. You can talk to some of our animal-care attendants -- they really fall in love with a lot of these animals. It's a lot like people. You bond with certain people and everything just clicks, and that happens with these folks. They become part of our family, especially domesticated animals like dogs or cats that bring their special personalities to a family. It can be a tool for children to learn about responsibility. They can also be a lesson of what we don't want to do when we see animal cruelty and animal neglect. As humans we get a lot out of the positive relationships we have with animals. A lot of documentation shows that folks recovering from heart conditions and surgery, if during the recovery period, they have a pet -- a dog, for example -- they recover faster. Elderly people who have pets are usually a bit more social, because they're out walking their pets -- people come up to them and talk to them about their pets -- when, otherwise, no one would come in contact with them.
"Pets play an important role in families," Mangiamele concludes. "They can be extremely comforting in stressful situations -- a divorce, a death in the family. I have two dogs. One is 15 and the other is 11. They spend a lot of time with me, and we've been through a lot. They know a lot about you, and they respond to you. We're fortunate to have pets in our lives."