Euthanasia rate too high?

A cat that was part of a large seizure sits in a cage at the Galveston County’s shelter in 2007. A review of the Galveston County Animal Resource Center’s records show that the center’s euthanization rate was about 70 percent in 2012 and 63 percent since September 2010.

Kevin M. Cox

Seven out of every 10 animals taken into the Galveston County Animal Resource Center are euthanized, a review of shelter records shows.

On average, 632 animals are brought into the center each month. Less than 30 percent ever find new homes or are returned to their owners, animal shelter records show. County health district records show that through the first 11 months of 2012, about 70 percent of the animals that came into the shelter were euthanized.

By comparison, the county’s two other tax-funded shelters in League City and Friendswood — while not near the same volume of animals — have kill rates of about 20 percent, records show.

When former Animal Resource Center Director Kim Schoolcraft abruptly resigned from her job in November over differences in operations at the center, she accused her bosses at the Galveston County Health District of promoting a culture of putting down animals instead of a more aggressive adoption program. Interim animal shelter Director Ronnie Schultz counters that claim saying the shelter works aggressively to find new homes for unwanted animals.

A review of the animal resource center’s intake and euthanization rates since September 2010 shows that of the 17,286 dogs and cats brought into the animal resource center, only 37 percent find new homes or are claimed by their owners.

In Friendswood, the city-owned shelter doesn’t have near the same volume of animals as the county shelter, but still boasts of an adoption or return-to-owner rate of about 80 percent. That’s an improvement from 75 percent before the city’s new shelter was built, Police Chief Bob Wieners said.

In League City, which takes in about 1,300 animals each year, the adoption or return to owner rate is about 19 percent, according to the police department records. The Friendswood and League City shelters are managed by the police departments.

Schultz points to the county shelter’s higher intake volume, which is five times more than League City and seven times more than in Friendswood. Between September 2010 and November 2012, more than 16,000 animals were brought into the shelter. 

That volume shocked even Schultz, who, as the health district’s environmental services director, was Schoolcraft’s supervisor. Still, Schoolcraft and her supporters are critical of the animal shelter’s euthanization rate.

Schultz acknowledged the euthanization rate for the shelter is much more than he or other officials would like.

“We work very aggressively to adopt out these animals or find animal rescue organizations to take them in,” he said.

As it is, the county shelter holds onto a stray animal for a minimum of 72 hours. State law requires the mandatory hold period.

That 72 hours — most times — is extended, Schultz said. The resource center will keep animals much longer in an effort to adopt them out or find a rescue shelter to adopt the animal.

Even with the added efforts for adoption or to place animals with a rescue organization, the euthanization rates remain high. Something that Schultz said is a priority to improve at the shelter. 

A software program that went online in late 2010, should help the center keep better track, Shultz said.

While the euthanization rate is 64 percent since September 2010, the numbers are skewed by a less than average euthanization rate in 2011.

In 2011, the euthanization rate was 59 percent, compared to 70 percent in 2010 for the last four months of the year as well as the first 11 months of 2012.

The health district records did not include statistics before September 2010 or the December 2012 statistics.

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(6) comments

TikiOwl

How many cats were euthanized because of no space due to the Whiskerville seizures?

Marie Schneider

632 x 12 = 7584 animals per year. The public could help reduce that number by responsible pet ownership. Have your pet neutered or spayed.

Gary Miller

If the animals could chose?
Freedom?
A last nap?
Living in a cage?

Every day they wake up again in a cage. You think that is their choice?

Audrey Flowers

to TikiOwl, no cats were euthanized to make room for the Whiskerville cats. Spay and neuter is the answer. Anybody with any ideas how to educate the public?

TikiOwl

But the Whiskerville cats were there for 8-9 months pending litigation. With an extra 120+ cats, that couldn't have been good for any incoming animals. Seems like data for 2012 may be skewed. (And, you're right about educating the public - somehow...) No easy answers.

Stephen Maradeo

I don't see many people in League City or Friendswood selling puppies out of a shoebox either. Galveston, Texas City, La Marque and Dickinson have a lot of "pitbull breeders" that take no measurement to ensure a good pedigree. I believe that if people make money by selling animals it needs to be treated as a business. Pay business tax and enforce regulations. Get rid of the bootleg breeder (or at least fine them) and the population of dogs will decrease.

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