But it's in a small, sterile room in back that most of the city's stray and unwanted animals are dealt with – needle stick after needle stick, 80 to 100 times a day.
The two shelter workers with euthanasia duty on Wednesday didn't want their names used. The man explained, "People hear of euthanasia and even though it means 'good death,' they react differently. I don't want anyone calling me 'dog killer.' "
The woman nodded in agreement. She was gently petting, almost cuddling, a cowering, malnourished street dog of medium size atop a stainless steel table.
It was obvious from the dog's swollen teats that she had delivered puppies in the last few weeks. No telling where.
The dog leaned against the woman, its sad brown eyes cast downward. "It's hard," she said, "but it has to be done."
It has to be done only because of the neglect of so many pet owners. They don't get their animals spayed or neutered. They let them run loose. They dump them when they become inconvenient.
"Nobody here wants to do this job," Paul had told me earlier. "But we're here because someone has been irresponsible, and we're having to take up the slack."
About 29,000 times a year, they have to take up the slack. And now it's the brown mama dog's turn.
The man injects her first in the rump with a tranquilizer. She's so docile it's not really necessary.
As the woman continues to caress her, the man slips a cloth muzzle over her snout and shaves hair from a spot on her foreleg to reveal a vein.
The man fills a syringe from a bottle of bright-blue liquid. The brand name on the bottle: "Fatal-Plus." It's sodium pentobarbital, and the city buys it by the case.
Working quickly and methodically, the man injects the blue juice into the mama dog's leg. Almost instantly, she goes limp in the woman's arms, eyes open but empty.
They check – no heartbeat – and slide the dog into a black plastic trash bag. Then the bag goes into a rolling trash cart at the end of the table.
The woman steps outside the door to a bank of holding cages and leads in a black-and-tan mutt with eager eyes and a wagging tail.
The procedure starts all over again ...
To make it easier on the shelter staff, this is duty they pull only about once a week. But all senior-level workers are expected to take their turn in the "euthanasia lab," as it's called.
Soon the black-and-tan dog has taken its place in the rolling trash cart.. When it's full, the cart will be rolled into an adjoining refrigerated room.
A second door in the cooler leads out onto the loading dock. Two or three times a day, a truck from the city's sanitation department arrives. And another load of dogs and cats leaves by the backdoor route.
They are carried to the landfill to be buried with the rest of the city's trash.
UNWORTHY END OF SENSITIVE CREATURES . . . . . . . . .