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Nationwide Initiative Seeks To End Euthanasia Of Shelter Animals By 2025

on April 8, 2017
Posted in Cats

A Utah non-profit is leading a nationwide mission to permanently eliminate the need to euthanize healthy shelter dogs and cats.

Based in the city of Kanab, the Best Friends Animal Society is known as the largest “no-kill” animal sanctuary in the US. It works with animal shelters across the country to end animal homelessness, reduce the amount of animals entering shelters, and prevent the killing of healthy and adoptable shelter animals. There are different definitions for the term “no-kill,” with some shelters earning this title despite having to euthanize up to 10% of their animals for reasons related to health and temperament.

Last month, Best Friends co-founder and CEO Gregory Castle revealed to NPR that animal-rescue organizations across the US are now banding together to achieve “no kill” status for the entire country by the year 2025.

The primary goal is to save 90% of dogs and cats in US animal shelters from euthanasia, a fairly realistic vision considering some dogs and cats who arrive at shelters are reportedly in such poor health that euthanasia is the most ethical choice. Castle estimates the nation’s current save rate for shelter dogs and cats to be about 69%.

When asked about the specific practices necessary for raising that figure, Castle first spoke of spay-neuter programs that curb pet overpopulation. Even feral cats must be spayed or neutered, he added, as well as vaccinated, bottle-fed and socialized so that they are able to be adopted.

Best Friends is also well-aware of how the reputation of certain breeds, namely “pit bull terrier-type dogs,” makes them less likely to be adopted and will therefore work to show potential owners what “great pets they can be.”

A new pet adoption center opening in Soho, New York City this week will serve as a model for these initiatives. Among its strategies for increasing the likelihood of adoption is a glass wall that allows bystanders to view its entire kitten nursery.

To shed more light on the feasibility of Best Friends’ goal, NPR consulted Risa Weinstock, president and CEO of Animal Care Centers of NYC, or ACC. The organization’s five facilities take in about 30,000 dogs and cats a year, regardless of the animal’s health or age.

Weinstock believes a 90% no-kill rate is within reach but noted that increasing adoptions won’t solve animal homeless on its own.

She explained:

“….the only way to effect real change is to address its root causes and what drives our intake of 35,000 animals annually. ACC has incorporated programs that not only advance adoptions, we have also added programs that help families and their pets stay together; target low-income areas where many strays are born; and provide surrender prevention community outreach like food pantries, behavior counseling, low cost medical referrals and vouchers, and vaccine clinics to keep the community healthier and safer.”

Maintaining a high placement rate is extremely difficult, Weinstock said, because factors like intake, facility constraints and financial resources can fluctuate dramatically for open admissions shelters at any time.

Later this month, Michigan’s Bissell Pet Foundation will look to repeat the success of another effective strategy for ending animal homelessness: free adoption. Empty The Shelters, an annual event that found homes for over 2,800 dogs and cats last year, charges only licensing fees for new owners. Bissell Pet Foundation will cover adoption fees, which average $150 for dogs and $60 for cats, at 65 shelters and rescue organizations.

According to a press release from Bissell, 90% of all adopters from previous Empty The Shelters events planned to adopt again and 54% of adopters were adopting for the first time. Several cities across the US have very high no-kill rates, such as New York City, where only about 4,000 shelter dogs and cats were euthanized in 2015. Other areas, like Michigan, have a long way to go, with approximately 40,000 pets euthanized a year.

Read also: Feral Cats Are Being Employed As Guards To Save Shelter Animals’ Lives

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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