Reducing shelter kill rates

Karen Hirsch is communications director for the LifeLine Animal Project.

I am an animal lover, and I work for an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to animals — the LifeLine Animal Project. Employees here do things like staying up all night to bottle-feed young kittens and venturing into dangerous neighborhoods to save strays, all because they are compelled to help animals.

Founded and led by Rebecca Guinn, LifeLine has been tirelessly helping animals since 2002. LifeLine has performed 65,000 low and no-cost spay and neuter surgeries; provided thousands of free and low-cost vaccines to pets, and rehabilitated thousands of animals at its no-kill shelter.

Recently, LifeLine took over the management of Fulton County Animal Services (FCAS) and DeKalb County Animal Services (DCAS) . For an organization whose goal is to end euthanasia of healthy animals in shelters, moving into county shelter management hasn’t been easy. And despite all that is done to save lives, it’s still a numbers game that most Atlantans don’t really grasp.

Here’s the reality: The per capita amount of public funds spent on shelter animals in DeKalb and Fulton counties is about two-thirds less than that of counties considered no-kill, where 90 percent of animals entering a shelter are adopted out. Therefore, LifeLine has to raise money and make up the difference.

Additionally, at FCAS and DCAS, there are enough spaces to house a maximum of 300 animals, but every day, 30 to 40 animals are brought in. That’s 210 animals per week. If the shelter can only hold 300 animals, and 840 are brought in each month — well, you do the math.

So we try to save as many lives as possible. We transfer hundreds of animals to foster homes; we transport animals to shelters in Northeastern states where they are easily adopted; we work with hundreds of rescue groups; and we promote adoptions through “Pet of the Week” stories in newspapers, monthly appearances on TV morning shows and through special rate promotions. We hold four to seven offsite adoptions weekly. We house some cats offsite in stores for more exposure. We counsel people who want to turn in their pets, offering resources to help them keep them. And we have trainers train shelter dogs weekly to make them more adoptable.

We do everything we can to save lives but, sadly for all of us, it’s still a numbers game.

Granted, we’re making progress. Since taking over management of FCAS in March, the kill rate has fallen — from 61 percent from April to September 2012, to 38 percent during the same period this year. And at DCAS, though the intake rate has increased, the kill rate has been reduced substantially in just the three months LifeLine has operated the shelter.

If the majority of Atlantans would do these things, we could put an end to euthanasia:

  • Adopt from shelters instead of buying animals.
  • Fix your pet and encourage everyone else to do the same.
  • Foster a shelter animal.
  • Support LifeLine by making a tax-deductible donation:

With your help, Atlanta can become a progressive, no-kill city.