By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Vice President
In the five short years since the new Aiken County Animal Shelter opened its doors, the Shelter has steadily increased the number of animals saved from a meager 29% to a whooping 83% so far in 2017 (despite record high intake during the summer). This remarkable save rate is even more astonishing if you compare it with the save rates prior to 2009, when FOTAS was formed and began its partnership with the County: on average, intake often exceeded 6500 animals a year, only 5% of which were able to be saved.
5% to 83% in 9 years. Is it perfect? No. Is it progress? You bet. Huge progress.
The steady increase of the save rate and the concurrent reduction of the euthanasia rate is no accident. It is due to the ingenuity, hard work and dedication of FOTAS and Shelter staff, working together to make it happen. We transfer animals to sister agencies in the northeast. We work every day with the dogs on the adoption floor to make them more attractive adoption prospects. We exercise the dogs every day, including appropriate dogs in intake to make transition to the adoption floor easier. We give the cats and kittens lots of love, too.
|Aiken County Animal Shelter Statistics*|
|Total Animals Received||5107||4689||4785||4912||3405|
|Total Animals Adopted||829||1141||1136||1730||1075|
|Total Animals Transferred||681||1107||1568||1382||975|
Total Cats TNR/RTF
|Total Animals Returned to Owner||N/A||N/A||260||243||180|
|Total % of Animals Saved||29.57%||47.94%||56.51%||73.96%||83.38%|
|Total % of Animals Euthanized||71.02%||53.91%||39.83%||30.72%||19.79%|
* Since new Shelter opened in 2013 ** Through August 2017
We have a thriving foster program for dogs and cats. We neuter and return community cats to their colonies. We host outside adoption events and run monthly specials on adoptions. We aggressively market our animals in print and social media to reach a wide audience.
We treat and rehome heartworm positive, but otherwise healthy, dogs. We treat dogs with demodex mange and place them in foster homes to allow stress-free recovery. We provide emergency medical care and surgery for animals with life-threatening injuries and find them homes when they have recovered, a task made easier because FOTAS was able to provide a new anesthesia and digital x-ray machine for Dr. Levy. We are building a wellness/isolation pod so that animals with treatable contagious diseases like kennel cough can recover without infecting the larger population.
All of these things have made it possible to save 83% of our animals. However, it is a sad fact of life that until every pet owner spays and neuters their animals to reduce the population of unwanted animals, the need for euthanasia cannot be eliminated in a public shelter legally obligated to take all comers.
In addition, sometimes animals come with such severe physical and emotional damage, they cannot and should not be saved. With respect to owner-surrendered pets, most, say 90%, have excellent adoption prospects. Occasionally the very reason those animals were surrendered—aggressive, unmanageable behavior—creates an urgent and immediate safety issue for staff, volunteers, other animals, and ultimately the public. When that happens, the Shelter cannot and will not risk the safety of people and other animals. Ever.
Their lives are in our hands.