Fox Files: Area Animal Shelter Euthanasia Rates

The Humane Society of MO Blames Others For Its Record.

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Thousands of animals are euthanized every year, sometimes by the shelters you may least expect.  You may find some of their answers, more surprising.  Investigative reporter Chris Hayes explains how the discussion has begun a mini firestorm about whether some animals deserve saving.

Our investigation is based on numbers compiled every year by Operation Spot, a group that’s trying to compel people to spay and neuter their pets, by revealing how many animals we put down.

In 2011, shelters put down nearly 20,000 dogs and cats, just in the St. Louis area.  According to the numbers, some shelters euthanized more than half of the animals brought in.

Kim Brown runs the no kill 5 Acres Shelter and says people need to know the truth.  She said, “Even if everyone went out today and adopted an animal, we still wouldn’t have homes for all of them.”

The City of St. Louis has cut way down on euthanasia after partnering with Stray Rescue.  Before making changes, City Health Director Pamela Rice Walker said she discovered her animal control people justified the euthanasia, by calling the animals “unadoptable.”

Walker said, “I had noticed that a dog would be missing that I had walked earlier that week and I would go to that manager and say what happened to that dog?  It wasn’t aggressive.  And she said, ‘well it turned a year old’.  I said ‘what do you mean it turned a year old?’  ‘Well we had an unwritten policy that when a pit bull turned a year old it turned unadoptable’.”

Walker believes people will adopt a one year old pit bull.  So Walker says she changed the definition of unadoptable to “really sick or injured or aggressive or a risk to the public and everything else is adoptable.”

St. Louis City went from euthanizing 2400 dogs and cats in 2009, to 219 last year, a drop in the euthanasia rate from 58% to 9%.

St. Louis City says the new practice places more responsibility on dog owners.  Many other shelters say it`s burdening them. Enter the Humane Society of Missouri.  Department of Agriculture statistics show it took in 16,747 dogs and cats in 2011 and that it put down 7,084 (42%).

No one from the Humane Society of Missouri would talk on camera about the euthanasia numbers. We received a statement but we’re unable to question some of the points made in it.  For example, the Humane Society of MO says it does not euthanize any adoptable animals, which seems to send the message they feel euthanasia is not a problem.

Our requests to interview President Kathy Warnick have been ignored.  She sent a written response, which says her spay/neuter programs have “prevented millions of unnecessary euthanasias.”

She said they never euthanize for for time and space – only “seriously ill and aggressive animals.”

Then in bold letters and underlined, the Humane Society of Missouri criticized St. Louis City for ignoring a “legal obligation… to take in unwanted and stray animals (and shifting) the burden of the stray animal problem.”

But the numbers show the Humane Society of Missouri taking in fewer dogs and cats in recent years — 7,345.  That’s fewer last year compared to before St. Louis City’s changes in 2009.

St. Louis County is also dropping and it has a new animal care and control center that euthanized 4,127 dogs and cats last year.  That’s 54.8% of what it brought in.  I asked Health Director Dr. Dolores Gunn, who was very candid.

“(Chris Hayes asked) A lot of people might think when you closed the North County Shelter and moved into your state of the art facility — that your euthanasia rates would drop drastically. (Dr. Gunn responded) and our euthanasia rates have decreased and they’ve decreased significantly, but are they down to zero?  No.  It’s because we are an open shelter.”

She said people need to realize that euthanasia numbers will be higher with open shelters, because they will never turn an animal away.

Dr. Gunn explained, “If we have an animal, a stray animal, that gets hit by a car and a concerned citizen brings it into the shelter at end of life, and wants it humanely euthanized, we will provide that service at no cost.”

The City of St. Louis disputes accusations it’s turning away animals to keep euthanasia numbers low.  You can look at the statistics yourself on our Web site.  You`ll find every shelter in the St. Louis area, including the number of dogs and cats they took in and how many they euthanized.  Again, it was compiled by the group Operation Spot.  The point of it wasn’t to criticize individual shelters, rather to get people talking about spaying and neutering.

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Statistical Data:

The following euthanasia numbers were compiled by Operation Spot.  OpSpot compiles them from Department of Agriculture statistics, in order to raise awareness about the importance of programs that spay and neuter. 

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2011 Dog & Cat Admission And Euthanasia Statistics

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2011 Dog & Cat Admission And Euthanasia Statistics

2011 Dog & Cat Admission And Euthanasia Statistics

2011 Dog & Cat Admission And Euthanasia Statistics

2011 Dog & Cat Admission And Euthanasia Statistics

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2012 Numbers from Stray Rescue tracking dogs

While no one from the Humane Society would agree to appear on camera for a formal interview, the VP of communications sent a lot of material, including this pie chart.  HSMO claims it gathered the numbers by polling people who walk in with animals. We have asked to review the polling sheets to confirm the numbers.

When pressed, a rep from HSMO said these are not percentages of intake, but percentages ‘strays.’  We’ve asked for total number of ‘strays’ for some context, but not received a response.
HSMO Chart

HSMO Chart

The St. Louis County Department of Health released this data.  They say that when there is a decrease in the amount of animals coming into the shelter better solutions can be found for the animals.  More can be returned to owners, transferred and put up for adoption.

In this table the numbers in black represent live animals taken in, the numbers in red represent euthanized animals, and numbers in blue represent animals that were returned to owners, adopted, or transferred to rescue.

The department of health says that the large percentage of cats being euthanized caused our overall percentage of animals euthanized to reach almost 55%.

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Do you want to adopt a pet?  Here are a few organizations that can help.

Metro East Humane Society

8495 State Route 143
Edwardsville, IL 62025
Phone: (618) 656-4405
Fax: (618) 659-1613
E-mail: info@mehs.org
Website:  mehs.org

Missouri APA

1705 South Hanley Road
314-645-4610
Website: apamo.org


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