Animal adoption specials bring down county euthanasia rates

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2018

According to Rowan County Animal Services director Bob Pendergrass, some big things are happening at the Rowan County Animal Shelter.

Or perhaps they’re not happening: Euthanasias are officially a rare occurrence at the shelter, he said. Since 2011, the shelter’s euthanasia rate has dropped over 70 percent, falling from 76.5 to 4.4 percent in 2017.

Pendergrass said this reduction means other milestones are also within reach. The shelter could this year celebrate an entire 365 days without euthanizing any adoptable dog or cat.

Pendergrass said the shelter has not euthanized an adoptable dog in more than three years. In the case of adoptable cats, this year could be the first without a euthanasia in the shelter’s history.

In hopes to achieve this feline victory, Pendergrass petitioned commissioners on Monday for an additional two reduced-rate adoption events.

The shelter was granted 12 annual adoption specials in 2017, which offer pet adoptions at discounts of 80 percent. The events were to be used at the director’s discretion, with the last taking place on Nov. 14 this year.

The specials are a vital part of the shelter’s continued reduction of euthanasias, said Pendergrass.

“Just in the last six events, we have adopted out 546 animals, with an average of 91 per event,” he said. “… Today, we had a good, average day for getting animals out of the shelter. On the dog side, we got 11 large dogs out — so¬† you can begin to see how that 91 animals really makes a difference to us.”

Pendergrass said the shelter staff has worked to tactfully use its 12 adoption specials, but an unusually long warm season meant they were still receiving high intakes of cats and kittens.

In the end, the commissioners went above Pendergrass’ request, granting the director a maximum of 20 adoption specials to be used throughout the year.

“I don’t want to add just two,” said Commissioner Craig Pierce. “… They’re doing such a terrific job keeping this euthanasia rate so low. If he needs to have that reaction quickly, I wouldn’t want to have to see him come here and go through the arduous process of getting us to vote to let them do something that’s best for those animals.”

The other commissioners unanimously agreed, praising the shelter staff for its great strides.

Pendergrass credited the shelter’s relationship with rescue organizations and volunteers and other county policy changes as helping bring the euthanasia rate down.

“We have made a tremendous improvement,” he said. “In the animal care industry and animal shelter industry, it is generally considered that anything below 10 percent is what people call a no-kill shelter.”

Ten percent is accepted because some animals come in too sick or too aggressive to be adopted, he said.

Pendergrass said the shelter staff didn’t particularly like the “no-kill” definition, as they have proven they can go beyond that 10 percent goal.