ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - The St. Louis area euthanized 14,170 animals last year. The euthanasia rate is dropping and some shelters say they`re saving animals with new strategies.
Holly is the type of dog who might`ve been put down a few years ago.
Mary Holden with the City of Arnold described Holly as “a sweetie and we`ve had her since April 17th. No microchip. Nobody`s called on her and she is absolutely sweet, playful, friendly.” Holden added, “She had the collar on and she was at large. She’s somebody`s dog who hasn`t called.”
According to numbers compiled by the group Operation Spot or OpSPOT, Arnold, MO made a dramatic turnaround, from euthanizing 73% of its animals in 2011 to euthanizing 18% last year.
Why? Arnold says it began aggressively reaching out to rescue groups. Holden said she couldn’t say enough good things about rescue groups “marketing for us and also pulling dogs and getting them out and placed into permanent homes which has been fabulous.”
According to OpSPOT numbers, Cuba, MO euthanized only one animal last year - the lowest euthanasia percentage of .004%. Cuba credited rescue groups and the St. Louis APA.
Festus had the highest euthanasia percentage, putting down 67% of its animals. Festus reported few adoptions, saying it did not work with many rescue groups and it’s trying to improve.
Across the region, euthanasia numbers are dropping, even since our 2012 Fox Files report that caught the eye of County Executive challenger, Steve Stenger. He said, “Your previous story on the animal shelter and the euthanasia rates really piqued my interest.”
He says he was alarmed by the reported thousands of animals put down by the St. Louis County Health Department. He said, “50,000 cats and dogs over a ten year period. It`s just startling. It`s far too many.”
OpSPOT numbers reveal a St. Louis County euthanasia rate that bounces from 58% in 2011 to 55% in 2012 and back up to 58% last year. Stenger said, “and we`re talking about a new adoption center that it`s basically just a few years old. So there`s some mismanagement going on there and I think it`s apparent by the numbers and I think it`s a significant mismanagement.”
St. Louis County Health Director Dr. Dolores Gunn said it`s not mismanagement, rather she says County Animal Care and Control faces stricter rules. She told us, “Because we are a government agency and we`re an agency of last result, we do tend to get animals that are a lot sicker.” Reporter Chris Hayes followed up, “Saying that, seems to send me the message that you cannot do better.” Gunn replied, “There`s always room for improvement, but the area you really need to improve on is responsible pet ownership.”
She means to spay and neuter, because breeding animals that are not will far outnumber the groups trying to rescue. So OpSPOT works to break that chain, one animal at a time. It travels to low income neighborhoods in a mobile clinic called the Spay Neuter Waggin, with a dream that every animal is really wanted.
You can find many low cost spay neuter options and programs, including the Humane Society of Missouri's SNIP services program, which it partly credits with dropping its euthanasia rate over the last two years by 10%.