By Ron Fonger, Flint Journal
Far fewer dogs and cats are being euthanized at the county Animal Control shelter -- mostly because of a sharp drop in the number of animals going into the Pasadena Avenue facility.
The number of cats and kittens taken into the county shelter dropped 23.4 percent in 2010 and the number of incoming dogs dropped 15.6 percent. For the second straight year, the shelter also euthanized a slightly lower percentage of both felines and canines than the year before, according to a new state Department of Agriculture report.
More than 86 percent of cats and kittens (3,737 of 4,314) taken into the shelter were euthanized last year, the report said, and more than 61 percent of dogs and puppies (2,325 of 3,758) met the same fate.
Representatives of shelters and groups that promote animal adoption said a number of factors are playing into the big drop in traffic, which also occurred at the Humane Society of Genesee County.
Among the reasons: Layoffs that have decreased the number of animal control officers in the county, stronger efforts by rescue groups, and fewer available cages as agencies struggle to find enough people willing to adopt.
Stepheni Lazar, the county's chief animal control officer, said efforts to chip away at what's still a relatively high euthanasia rate will not stop regardless of how many animals come into the shelter.
"If the world was a perfect place we wouldn't be needed at all," said Lazar, who believes greater awareness of pet rescue groups is diverting some owners who may have taken animals to the county shelter in the past.
Lazar said the shelter is using the slowdown in traffic to its advantage by keeping adoptable dogs and cats longer and allowing volunteers to working with animals that in the past may have been more quickly euthanized.
"As long as we have space, we do try to keep them. We do try to contact other agencies," before animals are euthanized, Lazar said.
The Humane Society of Genesee County also took in fewer animals in 2010 than the year before, according to the state reports.
The Humane Society took in 1,186 canines last year, 14.7 percent fewer than 2009. The nonprofit took in 1,109 felines, a 17.2 percent reduction.
Executive Director David Tucker said so many people are struggling financially, that fewer are adopting, leaving fewer openings for animals at the Humane Society.
"Getting animals adopted out gets tougher and tougher," Tucker said. "Fewer people can afford to keep them."
The vast majority of animals euthanized by the Humane Society -- 506 of 771 in 2010 -- came at the request of owners, he said. At the county shelter, pit bulls account for a large number of lethal injections because the shelter doesn't put the breed up for adoption.
The lower number of animals taken into shelters here mirrors what has happened in the rest of the state, the Agriculture Department reports show.
Statewide in 2010, 163 shelters reported taking in 91,33 dogs and puppies, a 2.9 percent decrease compared to 2009 when 106,968 cats and kittens were housed, a 10.6 percent reduction.
Becki Williams, founder of the Friends of the Genesee County Animal Shelter, said the reduction of animals coming into shelters could also be a result of greater spay and neutering awareness.
Williams said she has noticed fewer animals in the shelter, which actually increased the number of cats and kittens adopted last year.
"I've been surprised there haven't been a big amount of puppies," she said.
Edith Campbell, who works in community relations with Pets Are Worth Saving, said the problem of unwanted animals hasn't dissipated despite fewer animals going into shelters.
"We are just overflowing (with unwanted animals) ... so many it's pathetic," she said of her group, which keeps some animals in its kennel in the Swartz Creek area.
Campbell credited the Friends group with promoting adoption of shelter dogs and said the drop in traffic there is at least partly due to fewer animal control officers working fewer hours.
"It's not their fault," she said of the shelter. "There just isn't anybody to do it."