Worth Watching – Dane County, WI

[NOTE: The Worth Watching category lists communities whose animal shelter systems are doing substantially better than average, but have not reported a sustained (for one year or more) 90%+ live release rate. These communities are not counted in the running total in the blog's subtitle. For more about the Worth Watching category, see the Worth Watching page link in the blog's header.]

Dane County, in the southern part of Wisconsin, has 488,000 residents. The city of Madison, the state capital, is located in Dane County. Dane County contains over 60 cities, towns, and villages.

Animal sheltering is provided for the county by the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS), a private 501(c)(3) organization, which takes in strays for the county and accepts owner surrenders. The shelter asks people to make an appointment for surrenders, and charges a small fee.

In 2007-2008, Maddie’s Fund developed a strategic plan and a spay/neuter project to decrease euthanasia of shelter animals in Dane County. The plan included formation of a coalition which included DCHS, Dane County Friends of Ferals, Shelter from the Storm, and Heartland Farm Sanctuary.

DCHS reported a live release rate of 86% for 2012 (see page 27 in the link). Total intake for the year was 4704 cats and dogs. Intake increased sharply to 5211 dogs and cats in 2013 (6004 animals overall), and the live release rate was 85%.

Dane County, WI, was originally listed as Worth Watching by this blog on September 14, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Adopting Our Way Out of Killing

Merritt Clifton recently started an online animal news service called Animals 24-7. An article he posted on that website called Why We Cannot Adopt Our Way Out of Shelter Killing has attracted some interest. In this blog post I will set out Merritt’s arguments, as I understand them, and discuss why I think that statistics do not support those arguments.

Merritt begins by arguing that adoptions from shelters can never be more than 50% of pet acquisitions because shelters don’t produce pets, they just rehome them. Leaving aside the merits of this argument, it is addressing the wrong question. The real question we need to answer is not what is the maximum possible market share for shelter adoptions, but whether shelter adoptions can make up enough of market share to accommodate the animals in shelters today who need homes.

The American Pet Products Association national pet owners survey estimates that in 2012 there were 83 million owned dogs and 96 million owned cats in the United States, or a total of 179 million owned cats and dogs. About 85% of people state that if their pet dies they will acquire a new pet, and in addition there are new pet owners joining the market as new households are formed. Even if we assume that people replace a pet only once every 15 years (and the average replacement is probably far more frequent that that), and if we assume that demand is stagnant, that would mean that there is a market for 12 million cats and dogs each year. In reality, the market is not stagnant and replacement is probably about every 6-7 years on average, so demand for dogs and cats is probably on the order of 30 million or so per year. Regardless, since only about 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters each year (and some of those are reclaimed), there are more than enough homes available to adopt our way out of killing.

Merritt does not address these numbers directly. Instead, he makes a series of observations that he appears to believe add up to the impossibility of adopting our way out of killing.  For example, under the heading “Total Adoptions Are Down,” he argues that adoptions have fallen in the United States nationally and in New York, San Francisco, and the Seattle metro area. As for the US as a whole, shelter reform advocates do not argue that old-fashioned, traditional shelters have increased their adoptions – instead, shelter reform advocates argue that they could increase their adoptions if they had good marketing and outreach programs and sufficient community engagement. As for Seattle (LRR 90%+), New York (LRR 80%+) and San Francisco (LRR around 85%), those communities are already close to saving all healthy and treatable animals, so criticizing them for not showing increases in their adoption numbers would not appear to be justified.

Merritt predicts that Seattle, New York, and San Francisco will have further decreases in adoption numbers in the future if they are unable to import as many animals for people to adopt as they have in the past. But this appears to cut rather strongly against his argument. If adoption numbers drop because there is not enough supply to meet the demand, then voila, we have adopted our way out of killing.

The argument that Merritt appears to rely on most strongly is his claim that adoptions nationwide will never exceed more than 10 pets per 1000 people for a sustained period of time. There are approximately 318 million people in the United States currently. An adoption rate of 10 pets per 1000 people per year would mean that we could adopt out 3,180,000 shelter pets each year. It’s estimated that about 6 million of the animals who come into shelters each year and are not reclaimed are adoptable. So, we would need to have an adoption rate of about 19 pets per thousand people in order to find homes for all the adoptable animals.

Adopting out 19 or more animals per 1000 people is not only possible, it is being done in many communities all over the United States. I have a spreadsheet with population data on all the communities listed in the right sidebar. Of the 100 public shelters listed for those communities in 2012, I have adoption data on 89 of them. Of those shelters, 33 reported adoption figures that met or exceeded 19 per 1000 people. And 54 of them reported adoptions exceeding 10 per thousand people. This is an impressive record when you consider that it is only in the last few years that some progressive shelters have started to take full advantage of modern marketing techniques.

You might be wondering why, since the shelters I list in the right sidebar are all saving 90% or more of intake, they don’t all have adoption rates of at least 19 per 1000 people. The answer is that there are other methods besides adoption for assuring live outcomes. The estimate that 6 million shelter animals (translating into 19 animals per 1000 people) need adoptive homes each year is based in part on current rates of redemption. If a particular shelter has higher than average rates of return-to-owner or return-to-colony, the number of adoptive homes needed goes down by a corresponding amount. The fact that many shelters can achieve a 90% or better live release rate without an adoption rate of 19 per 1000 people demonstrates by definition that the 19 per 1000 people rate probably overstates the number of adoptions needed. But the fact that many 90%+ shelters have adoption rates of 19 or more per 1000 people proves that such rates are possible if needed.

Merritt acknowledges that there are shelters with consistent adoption rates that exceed 10 per 1000 people, but he discounts those shelters for various reasons. For example, he argues that Washoe County (including Reno), which consistently has an adoption rate per thousand people of over 20, is pulling adopters from all over Nevada, and this distorts its numbers. He does not give us his reasons for thinking that Washoe County is finding adopters outside of its jurisdiction and, looking at the map, his claim seems highly unlikely. The only substantial population center close enough to Washoe County to be a reasonable driving distance for potential adopters appears to be  Carson City. I have been told in the course of my researches for the blog that Carson City is doing quite well at saving homeless animals, which it could not do if it were losing adopters to Washoe County.

Another place with a high rate of adoptions that Merritt critiques is the state of Colorado. The state of Colorado had an adoption rate of 16 per 1000 people in 2012, based on reports made by public shelters in the state. Merritt dismisses Colorado by arguing that it imported many of the animals it adopted out, and without the transfers its adoption rate would not have been so high. This argument fails for the obvious reason that, if we are looking at adoption rates, the relevant data is not where the animals come from but where they go. If they go into adoptive homes in large enough numbers to produce a high live release rate, then that is evidence that we can adopt our way out of killing. The fact that Colorado can find homes for animals transported in simply means that Colorado (which had an 85% live release rate statewide in 2012) is not only able to adopt its way out of killing, it can help its neighbors do so too.

A more serious argument is that in the case of cats, who are not bred for profit in large numbers the way dogs are, there is no significant commercial market share for shelters to capture. Thus, this argument goes, when shelters increase their adoption numbers for cats they are taking homes that otherwise would have adopted a neighborhood cat, or a kitten from a friend or relative’s “oops” litter. This argument has two flaws. First, if a shelter can adopt animals at the rate of 19 per thousand people or more, then it can find homes for all the animals coming in to the shelter, including the neighborhood cats and the “oops” litters. Indeed, it’s better for those animals to go through the shelter rather than directly into homes, because in a good shelter they will be vaccinated and spayed or neutered. Second, the modern thinking about cats is that in many cases shelter-neuter-return is the appropriate course, and in the future we may see intake of cats in shelters greatly decreased. This is already happening in many communities.

Merritt argues that efforts by shelters to do more marketing are futile because shelters have already made a “tremendous investment in rehoming” without increasing market share. While it is true that many shelters are making more of an effort at adoptions than they used to, and are participating in events such as Home 4 the Holidays, most shelters that have live release rates under 80% are not making a “tremendous investment in rehoming.” A comprehensive marketing program means more than having a Pet of the Week and taking kittens to the pet store on Saturdays.

To sum up, in order for Merritt to prove his claim that we cannot adopt our way out of killing he must show either that (1) there are not sufficient homes available for the number of shelter animals who need adoptive homes each year, or (2) even if there are enough homes available, shelters cannot capture those homes. Merritt’s article does not demonstrate that that the requisite number of homes is lacking and does not show that shelters are incapable of marketing their animals to those homes. In fact, the evidence goes the other way, as I have shown.

Why am I taking so much time and space to respond to the claim that we cannot adopt our way out of killing? Claims such as Merritt is making can have consequences in the real world. For example, someone who believes that we cannot adopt our way out of killing is likely to believe that the only way to stop shelter animals from being killed is to stop them from being born in the first place. I think that spay-neuter initiatives are extremely important, especially the newer efforts that target particular neighborhoods with people going door-to-door. But spay-neuter efforts are just one method for saving lives, and adoption is another method that does work and should not be dismissed.

Rappahannock County, VA

Rappahannock County, Virginia, borders the Shenandoah mountains west of Washington, DC. It is a rural county with 7400 residents.

The county provides animal control and owns the animal shelter building, but contracts out operations to the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League (RAWL), a private non-profit. RAWL describes the arrangement as follows: “Within the delegation of responsibilities, Rappahannock County employs the animal control warden, provides and maintains an accessible kennel and office on county property, and pays RAWL a fee to operate the facility. From that point, RAWL assumes the balance of the responsibilities: staffing, management, daily care, supplies, veterinary trips, innoculations, arranging the reclaim of lost animals and coordinating adoptions.”

RAWL primarily takes in dogs. In addition to the dogs impounded by animal control, it accepts owner surrendered dogs subject to a waiting list. If the owner is a resident of Rappahannock County and cannot wait, RAWL will take in the dog immediately.

Rappahannock’s animal control, which is part of the sheriff’s department, does not pick up cats unless they are sick or injured. They treat the sick and injured cats and try to re-home them. A private rescue, RappCats, accepts owner surrendered cats subject to a waiting list when they are full. I spoke to a representative of RappCats, who told me that they have a small shelter for cats. They work with people to help keep cats in their homes or colonies.

In 2012, RAWL took in 253 dogs and had a live release rate of 96%. RappCats did not report its statistics to the state of Virginia in 2012. In 2013 both RAWL and RappCats reported to the state. The combined statistics, with intake of 371 cats and dogs, showed a live release rate of 96% for 2013. No animals were reported as having died in shelter care.

Duluth, MN

Duluth, Minnesota, is a city of 86,000 people located at the western tip of Lake Superior. The city of Superior, Wisconsin (population 27,000), is just across the bay from Duluth. The metro area of the two cities is referred to as the Twin Ports.

Duluth has a city animal control department and a shelter where strays are held for several days. If an animal is not reclaimed during the hold period, it goes to the Animal Allies Humane Society. An Animal Allies shelter official told me in a telephone conversation that Animal Allies contracts with Duluth and three additional jurisdictions in Minnesota for animal sheltering — Hermantown (population 9000), Proctor (population 3000), and the southern sector of St. Louis County. Animal Allies also signed a contract starting January 1, 2012 for animal sheltering for the city of Superior. Animal Allies has shelter facilities in Duluth and Superior.

Animal Allies accepts owner surrenders by appointment. The shelter official told me that they try to schedule appointments as they have room for intake, but they make exceptions and will take in an animal immediately if an owner cannot wait for a spot to open up.

Animal Allies launched the Campaign for Zero in 2010 for the city of Duluth. They describe the campaign this way: “This campaign aimed to eliminate the euthanasia of healthy cats and dogs entering both shelters in the Duluth community.  January 1, 2011 marked its successful completion and since then, saving the lives of every healthy pet, in addition to scores of treatable animals, continues to be achieved by progressive spay/neuter, adoption, and humane education initiatives. When Animal Allies began operating the City of Superior owned shelter on January 1, 2012, the Campaign for Zero expanded with the organization.” 

Animal Allies has statistics posted on their website for 2009 through 2011 for the Duluth community (Animal Allies and Duluth Animal Control),  and for the Twin Ports area (including Superior) for 2012 and 2013. The live release rate was 88% in 2009 and 93% in 2010, the first year of the Campaign for Zero. For 2011, the coalition reported a 95% live release rate. The 2012 Twin Ports live release rate was 97%. In 2013, the Twin Ports live release rate was again 97%, with a total intake of 3334. The live release rate for 2013 was 95% if owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included.

Duluth, MN, was originally listed by this blog on April 17, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Berkeley, CA

Berkeley is a city of 113,000 people just across the bay from San Francisco. Berkeley Animal Care Services (BACS) handles animal control and sheltering for Berkeley. BACS also handles animal sheltering for the nearby cities of Piedmont (population 11,000), Emeryville (population 10,000), and Albany (population 19,000). (Emeryville contracts with Piedmont for animal control, and both cities contract with BACS for animal sheltering. Albany contracts with BACS for both animal control and sheltering.) BACS moved into a new shelter building in early 2013. The history of BACS and the decade-long effort to build the new shelter is described here.

I called BACS to ask about their owner surrender policy and was told that residents of the four jurisdictions served by BACS may surrender an animal at any time with a small fee ($20 for a cat, $20 for a licensed dog, and $30 for an unlicensed dog).

In 2012, BACS had a 91% live release rate with an intake of 1863 animals (scroll down in the link for the report). The shelter reported zero animals in the “died/lost in shelter care” category during the year and 3 owner-requested euthanasias were performed, so the live release rate is unchanged if those categories are counted as euthanasias. In 2013, BACS took in 1641 dogs and cats and had a 90% live release rate. The shelter reported 1 owner-requested euthanasia and 1 animal in the died/lost category, and the live release rate is unchanged if those deaths are included with euthanasias.

BACS transfers a high percentage of its animals (796 in 2012 and 668 in 2013) to community organizations. Two private organizations –  the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS), and Home At Last Animal Rescue (HAL) — are part of a coalition to support BACS. The group is known as the Berkeley Alliance for Homeless Animals Coalition (BAHAC).

Berkeley, California, was originally listed by this blog on April 18, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Utah Communities

Best Friends Animal Society, which is located in Kanab, Utah, has a program to improve save rates at Utah shelters. In 2012, I listed 12 Utah communities in the right sidebar based on statistics sent to me by Best Friends. They recently sent me statistics for 2013, which confirmed that all 12 shelters again had live release rates above 90% and added 2 more 90%+ communities. In addition to those 14 communities this post contains an updated listing for Ivins, which was listed separately in 2012 based on statistics sent to me by the shelter director.

I contacted the stray-intake shelters in each community to get information on their specific policies. Some of the shelters have a substantial rate of transfers, and I verified with each shelter that transfers are made only to organizations that have a live release rate of 90% or more. Most of these communities have small populations, which shows that even tiny jurisdictions can have successful shelters.

  • The Ivins Animal Shelter and Adoption Center (IASAC) serves as the municipal shelter for the small town of Ivins, Utah (population about 7,000 people). The shelter was established in 2005 and became a non-profit organization in 2007. IASAC accepts owner surrenders from city residents and does not have an appointment requirement or fee. In 2006, the city council passed an ordinance stating a policy that no savable animals should be killed. That ordinance was renewed in 2010. The shelter’s live release rate in 2011 was 97%. In 2012 and 2013, the shelter reported a 99% live release rate. IASAC did not report any owner-requested euthanasias, and had two animals who died in shelter care in 2013.
  • Kanab and Kane County. Kanab is the county seat for Kane County, which is located on Utah’s southern border. Kanab has a population of 3600, and the county’s population is 6200.  Kanab Animal Control, which also serves Kane County, accepts owner surrenders with a $75 fee. The shelter had a live release rate of 100% in 2012 and 2013. The shelter does not perform owner-requested euthanasia unless it is an emergency, and reported no deaths in shelter care in 2012 or 2013. Most of the shelter’s transfers go to Best Friends.
  • Ephraim. The city of Ephraim has 6100 residents and is located in central Utah. Ephraim Animal Control reported a live release rate of 96% in 2012 and 94% in 2013. Owner surrenders are routed directly to rescues by an informal arrangement, with most of them going to Wag-n-Train rescue. The city reported that no animals died in shelter care in 2012 or 2013.
  • Iron County. Iron County is located in southwest Utah and has 43,500 residents. The Iron County Animal Shelter (which is under the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s department) serves the unincorporated part of Iron County, including the townships of Kanarraville, Paragonah, Beryl, Modina, and Newcastle. The shelter accepts owner surrenders from its jurisdiction with a $100 fee. The shelter reported a 99% live release rate in 2012 and 100% in 2013. The shelter does not perform owner-requested euthanasia, and reported no deaths in shelter care in either 2012 or 2013. In the last two years all of the shelter’s transfers have gone to Best Friends except for one animal that went to a sanctuary.
  • Enoch. The city of Enoch is located in southwest Utah in Iron County, and has 5800 residents. The Enoch Animal Shelter serves the city. It accepts owner surrenders with a $100 fee, although the fee is waived for highly adoptable animals. The shelter reported a live release rate of 96% in 2012 and 99% in 2013. The shelter does not do owner-requested euthanasia. If deaths in shelter care are counted in with euthanasias, the live release rate was 95% for 2012 and 98% for 2013.
  • Parowan. The city of Parowan is located in southwest Utah in Iron County, and has 2800 residents. The Parowan Animal Shelter is managed by a committee set up by the mayor called the Parowan Animal Assistance League. The shelter accepts owner-surrendered dogs from its jurisdiction, but does not impound cats. The live release rate was 98% in 2012 and 100% in 2013. They refer owner requests for euthanasia to a local veterinarian, and had no deaths in shelter care in 2012 or 2013.
  • South Ogden and Riverdale. South Ogden and Riverdale are cities in northern Utah. South Ogden has a population of 14,400 people and Riverdale has 7700 people. South Ogden Animal Services serves both cities. The shelter accepts owner surrenders on a space available basis. They reported a live release rate of 97% in 2012 and 99% in 2013. The live release rates do not change if animals who died in shelter care are counted as euthanasias.
  • Heber City, Midway, and Wasatch County. Heber City is the county seat for Wasatch County, which is located in north central Utah. Midway is a city in Wasatch County. Heber City has a population of 11,400, Midway’s population is 3800, and the county’s population is 25,300. The Heber Valley Animal Control Shelter, which serves the two cities and the county, accepts owner surrenders from its jurisdiction. The shelter is operated by Paws For Life, which has a transport program. The shelter’s live release rate was 100% in both 2012 and 2013. It refers owner requests for euthanasia to a veterinarian. If animals who died in shelter care are counted with euthanasias, the live release rate was 98% in 2012 and 100% in 2013.
  • Hurricane. The city of Hurricane is located near the southern border of Utah and has a population of 13,700 people. The Hurricane Animal Shelter accepts owner surrenders with a small fee. The shelter reported a live release rate of 94% in 2012 and 97% in 2013. They treat owner requests for euthanasia as owner surrenders, and include them in their euthanasia total. Their live release rates for 2012 and 2013 are unchanged if animals who died in shelter care are included with euthanasias.
  • Morgan County. Morgan County is in northern Utah not far from Salt Lake City, and it has 9500 people. Morgan County Animal Control serves the county, and accepts owner surrenders from its residents without conditions. The shelter reported a 92% live release rate in 2013. It does not do owner-requested euthanasia, and reported no deaths in shelter care in 2013.
  • Grantsville. Grantsville is a city of 9100 people in northern Utah west of Salt Lake City. Grantsville Animal Control is a unit within the police department. It accepts owner surrenders from city residents without conditions. The city reported a 97% live release rate in 2013. It does not do owner-requested euthanasia. If animals who died in shelter care are included in euthanasias, the live release rate for 2013 was 96%.

Utah communities were originally listed by this blog on September 25, 2013, based on their 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Tompkins County, NY

Tompkins County is located in the south central part of New York state just below the Finger Lakes. The population of the county is about 102,000, plus approximately 20,000 non-resident students who attend college in Ithaca, the county seat.

The Tompkins County SPCA (TCSPCA) has contracted with the county and with several cities and towns within the county for animal control and sheltering services. The towns include Caroline (population 3300), Danby (3300), Enfield (3500), the city of Ithaca (30,000), the town of Ithaca (20,000), Lansing (11,000), Newfield (5200), and Ulysses (4900). TCSPCA’s animal control does not pick up stray cats unless they are injured or in distress.

The shelter accepts owner surrenders from the county but asks owners to make an appointment and may require a wait of “several days.” If it is an emergency situation, the shelter will accept the animal immediately.

TCSPCA has had a series of notable directors. The well-known author and activist Nathan Winograd started as director of TCSPCA in mid-2001. He was followed by Abigail Smith, who headed up the shelter until accepting a job as director of the Austin Animal Center in 2011. Smith was replaced at TCSPCA by Jim Bouderau, who took over as shelter director in May of 2011.

The shelter has reported a live release rate of 90% or more since the calendar year 2002 report, with one exception. In the transition year of 2011 TCSPCA was just below 90%, with a live release rate for the year of 89.3%. In 2012 the live release rate was back up to 92%, with an intake of 1853 dogs and cats. In 2013 the live release rate was again 92%, with an intake of 1822 dogs and cats. If owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included with euthanasias, the live release rate was 91% in 2012 and 90% in 2013.

The shelter adopted out 1430 animals in 2013, which is an excellent rate of 14 adoptions per 1000 people. They have taken in 60 dogs from California since last August because they had more demand for dogs than supply.

Tompkins County, NY, was originally listed by this blog on May 10, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Alameda, CA

The city of Alameda (not to be confused with Alameda County) has 74,000 residents and is located on Alameda Island and Bay Farm Island in San Francisco Bay. Estimated median household income for Alameda is $67,000, which is somewhat above the California median household income of $57,000.

In January 2012, the city of Alameda contracted with a private non-profit called the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS) to manage the city shelter. The city retained management of animal control. The city was able to cut its budget costs for animal sheltering by more than two-thirds in its deal with FAAS.

FAAS described its owner surrender policy in a November 2013 newsletter, noting that “we are an ‘open-door’ facility . . . . This means we accept all Alameda’s abandoned pets regardless of age, temperament, health, breed or any other factor. . . . Kennel space is always at a premium (especially in the summer), but we don’t turn away Alameda animals . . . .” The shelter charges a small fee for owner surrenders.

Two FAAS officials reported In a recent newspaper article that about 70% of the animals the shelter takes in can be put up for adoption as soon as the holding period is over. Another 20% of animals require medical or behavior rehabilitation before being put up for adoption. About 4% go to rescues who can provide sanctuary or other specialized care. The remaining 6% are euthanized for behavior or medical reasons. The 6% includes dogs that FAAS considers too dangerous to be rehabilitated, which are about 2% of total intake.

In 2012 FAAS intake was 820 dogs and cats, which is 11 pets per 1000 population. The live release rate for 2012 was 94%. If owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included with euthanasias, the live release rate for 2012 was 91%. In 2013, the shelter’s intake increased to 901 dogs and cats, but the live release rate remained 94%, or 91% if owner-requested euthanasia and animals who died or were lost in shelter care are included with euthanasias.

In 2010, before the FAAS takeover, the city shelter had a 79% live release rate with an intake of 753 dogs and cats (scroll down in the link to City of Alameda Animal Shelter). One improvement with FAAS has been in adoptions, which rose from 313 in 2010 to 437 in 2012 and 460 in 2013. The shelter has also increased its reliance on its rescue partners, with 192 transfers in 2013 compared to 32 in 2012. In a 2013 Annual Report FAAS describes plans for a new shelter in the future and mentions its new programs, including a food pantry, an expanded rescue group network, a fund for medical care, more volunteer opportunities, and kennel enrichment.

Alameda, California, was originally listed by this blog on December 15, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.

Worth Watching – San Antonio, TX

[NOTE: The Worth Watching category lists communities whose animal shelter systems are doing substantially better than average, but have not reported a sustained (for one year or more) 90%+ live release rate. These communities are not counted in the running total in the blog's subtitle. For more about the Worth Watching category, see the Worth Watching page link in the blog's header.]

San Antonio is a fast-growing city in south-central Texas with a population of 1.3 million people.  It is the county seat of Bexar County. Greater San Antonio has a population of over 2.2 million people.

In 2006, San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) had a live release rate of only 10%. At that time, the shelter put forth a strategic plan to achieve live release of all adoptable animals by 2012. The shelter failed to reach the goal, however, and in September of 2011 it put forth a new strategic plan in which it acknowledged that its live release rate was only 31%.

The 2011 strategic plan identified three elements as “critical” to achieving a high live release rate: (1) a strong licensing program, (2) spay/neuter partnerships, and (3) high-volume rescue partnerships. The report noted that San Antonio “has existing strong spay/neuter partnerships, and has simplified the licensing program within the past year.” As to the third element, the report stated that the city “is challenging the animal welfare community to take on an additional 6,000 animals annually from ACS shelters.”

There have been many changes since the 2011 plan was released. Early in 2012, the city announced that Austin Pets Alive!, which had been helping ACS, was ready to partner with the city of San Antonio through a new organization, San Antonio Pets Alive!. The San Antonio Humane Society took in over 2000 pets from ACS in 2012, as well as accepting animals directly from the public. Late in 2012, ACS welcomed a new director, Kathy Davis. The city announced an agreement with another non-profit, the Animal Defense League of Texas, which manages a 2.2 million dollar shelter built by the city. In September of 2013, the city announced that it would no longer supply animal control to or accept owner surrenders from the unincorporated area of Bexar County.

For the fiscal year ending in September 2012, ACS reported a 59% live release rate, with an adjusted intake of 37,053 dogs and cats. For the fiscal year ending in September 2013, ACS reported a 76% live release rate with an adjusted intake of 32,387. The number of dogs and cats euthanized declined from 13,559 in FY 2012 to 6797 in FY 2013.

San Antonio, Texas, was originally listed by this blog on July 8, 2013, based on its FY 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with FY 2013 statistics.

Polk County, NC

Polk County, located in the North Carolina foothills southeast of Asheville, has a human population of 21,000. The Foothills Humane Society (FHS) is a non-profit animal shelter that handles stray intake and animal sheltering for all of Polk County. The shelter also serves towns in northern Greenville and Spartanburg counties over the border in South Carolina, which adds about 4,000 to the human population served by the shelter. The shelter describes itself as “open admission.”

FHS reports very high save rates. On a website page that is no longer available, the shelter reported that its save rates were 98.7% in 2010, 97.8% in 2011, and 98.9% in 2012 (the 2011 statistics are available here, and 11-month statistics for 2012 here). They reported taking in 1705 cats and dogs in 2012, including feral cats. The shelter e-mailed me their full statistics for 2012 upon request, which verify the 98.9% figure for that year. The shelter reported no owner-requested euthanasia, and had a 97% live release rate if the “died or lost in shelter care” category is included in euthanasias. For 2013, the shelter reported that it “maintained a 98% placement (live release) rate.” Intake was 1202 animals, or 1609 if feral cats are included.

One of the big reasons for the success of FHS is the Po’ Kitties program, which was started in 2007. Po’ Kitties performs TNR on feral cats in the shelter’s service area, and is the default solution for feral cats. It appears to have reduced euthanasia of feral cats to near zero. FHS reports that Po’ Kitties served 540 cats in 2012 and 407 in 2013.

FHS has implemented many improvements and programs in recent years. In an annual report that is no longer available online, FHS reported that it renovated its shelter in 2012, adding a catio and an intake center. It offered low-cost spay-neuter services, including free spay-neuter for pit bulls. The shelter supplied donated cat and dog food to recipients of the Meals on Wheels program and to owners who could not afford pet food. Another key to the shelter’s success was its foster program. The shelter reported that in 2011, 262 animals went into foster. FHS also had an active transfer program, transferring 350 animals to rescue in 2011 and 393 in 2012.

In 2013, the shelter reports that it increased its return-to-owner rate by 32%, purchased a transport van with an ASPCA grant, and partnered with 30 rescue groups. It continued its shelter improvements, one of which was the addition of an on-site emergency shelter for horses. The shelter had over 100 volunteers who logged 5700 hours in 2013, and 52 active foster homes.

Polk County, North Carolina, was originally listed by this blog on May 1, 2013, based on its 2012 statistics. This post is a revision and update with 2013 statistics.