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No-kill still long way off

Tuesday, July 1, will be a turning point in Rowan County’s treatment of unwanted animals. That’s when county officials have pledged to shut down the gas chamber that has been used to execute thousands upon thousands of dogs and cats through the years because the county had nowhere else to put them.
People concerned about the humane treatment of animals have advocated this step for decades. The current board of county commissioners is to be commended for finally making it happen. But they and others know that this is only a partial victory. Animals will still have to be put to death to make room for the constant influx of abandoned dogs and cats. The alternative euthanasia method, lethal injection, is not the ultimate answer.
That real solution is a two-parter: a no-kill county animal shelter and an educated population that spays and neuters pets so they won’t produce litters no one wants.
People cite different statistics when it comes to animal euthanasia, and the numbers boil down to this: We’ve made progress but still have a long way to go. Recently the Charlotte Observer reported that the percentage of animals put to death at county shelters in this eight-county region improved significantly from 2001 to 2013, from 80 percent to just half. The rate in Rowan was stuck at more than 80 percent for 11 years straight. But the number of animals winding up in Rowan’s shelter and gas chamber has gone down in recent years. For that you can credit groups like Faithful Friends, the Rowan County Humane Society, Fix Rowan and individuals. Through their volunteer efforts and advocacy, they have raised awareness, found homes for animals and brought about real action.
Faithful Friends opened a no-kill shelter in March 2012. Fix Rowan wants the county shelter to become a no-kill shelter too, but that can’t happen overnight. Adoptions are up, from 7 percent to nearly 28 percent in 2012. Even so, 1,452 cats and 571 dogs had to be destroyed in 2013. Where would they go?
Advocates say a community’s animal shelter reflects its values. The real values come across through what goes on inside. Rowan County is taking another positive step by including in its bundled loan proposal $150,000 for an addition to the shelter. Commissioners also added a veterinary technician.
American attitudes about animals have evolved. Increasingly, dogs and cats are valued members of the household who give us a chance to nurture and be nurtured. They provide warm comfort in a world of computers and gadgets that leave us cold. We no longer accept the idea of frightened, healthy animals being shoved into a gas chamber. That barbaric practice is finally coming to an end in Rowan County this week. The change is long overdue.

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