Editorial: Rowan must continue trend at animal shelter

Published 11:34 pm Saturday, January 12, 2019

Local governments looking to create a world-class, public animal shelter need to look no further than Rowan County for tips.

The Rowan County Animal Shelter, despite some difficult moments in its recent past, has run a master class in how to reduce the number of cats and dogs euthanized and, in turn, save the lives of our furry friends. That’s evident in the fact that it didn’t euthanize a single adoptable cat or dog in 2018. As reporter Andie Foley wrote in Wednesday’s Salisbury Post (“In 2018 shelter didn’t euthanize any of its adoptable cats or dogs”) it’s the third-straight year that all adoptable dogs have been matched with a home and the first that the same is true for cats.

But, as Rowan County commissioners and staff would surely say, the presence of volunteers is a major factor in the encouraging trend.

Animal Services Director Bob Pendergrass said it best.

“Many folks outside of the paid staff also work tirelessly to save these animals lives,” he said. “That means bringing them into new homes fast enough so that we don’t overfill the space that we have available at the shelter.”

Rowan County has also been fortunate to receive donations from outside groups and individuals that have led the shelter to expand its footprint and improve its facilities.

But, as Pendergrass also noted, Rowan County should not assume that the trend will continue. Importantly, county government must continue making it easy for rescue groups to save animals. Without their help, the shelter would be full on a more frequent basis and the euthanasia rate would rise. Perhaps it wouldn’t increase to the rates seen eight years ago — when 5,240 of the 6,863 animals brought into the shelter were euthanized —  but the hard work of rescue groups and county staff could certainly slip away.

Last year, only 203 of the 5,527 animals brought into the shelter were euthanized. Those 203 animals were either severely ill, severely injured or had behavioral issues that made them unfit for adoption. In 2017, there were only 238 total animals euthanized.

Meanwhile, in Stanly County in 2017 animal control euthanized 710 of  729 cats and 354 of 592 dogs.

In Davidson County in 2017, 2,031 of 3,316 cats and 509 of 2,526 dogs were euthanized.

As Rowan has for several years, our animal shelter is setting the example for facilities across North Carolina and our elected and appointed officials in county government must work to keep it that way.