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Sugar House Journal

Organizations Push for No-Kill Animal Shelter Status by 2019

Dec 08, 2015 13h43 ● By Bryan Scott

By Elizabeth Suggs

Sugar House - In a move that could change everything we know about what will happen to animals in shelters, Utah’s Best Friends Animal Society, along with the coalition of 54 Utah-based animal welfare organizations, is pushing for a no-kill Utah by 2019. 

A no-kill status means no euthanasia when animal shelters are overburdened with pets. Having not a single animal shelter in the state able to kill means, according to Temma Martin, part of Best Friends Animal Society, over 90 percent of animals that enter shelters will leave alive, with the other 10 percent only euthanized for severe medical or behavioral issues. 

“The vast majority of pets in shelters are perfectly wonderful animals who are there due to no fault of their own,” Martin said. “People give up pets because of life circumstances, and many people give up pets simply because they weren’t prepared to care for one.”

Another burden on animals being put in shelters, according to Martin, is when people fail to neuter or spay their pets and get unwanted puppies or kittens. 

According to Rescue Ranch, American taxpayers spend $1 billion annually to pick up, house and euthanize homeless animals.  If five percent of that amount was allocated to a spay and neuter program, 250 public, low-cost spay and neuter clinics could be created to sterilize more than four million animals a year. 

Creating a state that wipes out euthanasia could increase or develop programs that euthanize pets. According to Martin, the coalition to end killing animals in Utah will push other goals brought on by the coalition, such as increased targeted, low-income spay and neuter surgeries, increased number of adoptions, decreased shelter intake, provide more humane alternatives for community cats, raise public awareness and educate the public on shelter animals and strengthen already existing community efforts and resources. 

“No matter what someone is looking for to adopt, it can be found through a shelter or rescue group.” Martin said. “These animals are not damaged or broken, and more than a third are purebred.” 

A new study by the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) disputes the idea that more than five percent of animals are purebred in shelters -- this number drops to a total of three percent when misidentified pitbulls and chihuahuas are removed from the percentage. 

While purebred cats and dogs can be enticing to some owners, according to petMD, a potential animal owner is better off with a mixed or “mutt” because of the diversity in the gene pool. 

Purebreds are repeatedly mixed in the same gene pool, limiting the diversity. According to petMD, severe issues can occur from the lack of diversity. Such problems include a higher risk of cancer and tumors, eye and heart disease, joint and bone disorders, skin, immune system and neurological diseases and more. 

For Patti Strand, president of NAIA, this study shows “tremendous progress in eradicating dog overpopulation, and substantially reducing the number of shelter deaths which occurred in the past due to indiscriminate or accidental breeding.” 

With the recent release of this study, according to Sheila Goffe, of the American Club, there shouldn’t be fear of animal purchasers losing interest in non-purebred animals. In fact, this is likely to uncover the fallacy that this unveiling will hurt a dog in an animal shelter, because the animal will not be chosen.

Knowing the type of animal and lifestyle a purchaser may want doesn’t mean a pet must be purebred, according to Goffe.  

“There are a variety of sources from which you can get a great pet,” Goffe said. “Responsibility starts with carefully selecting the right pet for your lifestyle so that you can care for it appropriately and have a rewarding lifelong relationship.”

The NAIA, like Best Friends Animal Society, calls for a reduction or elimination of euthanasia. For the NAIA, the problem surrounding euthanasia is the fear of overpopulation. To correct this problem, the NAIA calls for new state and federal laws prohibiting imports on rescue dogs from overseas and expanded oversight and reporting requirements for U.S. shelters. 

For Utah’s Best Friend Animal Society, the solution to overpopulation in shelters not only has to do with spay and neuter surgeries, but by adopting from pet shelters or rescue groups rather than pet stores and breeders, as well as microchipping and licensing pets. 

Microchipping and licensing pets, according to Seaaca, a company committed to animal care and promoting local laws related to leashing, licensing and animal cruelty, is important because it reduces the number of pets that actually have homes from living in shelters. All too many animals slip out of collars with or without meaning to, but no animal can slip out of its microchip. This gives easy access to pet owners to change addresses or information online without the usual hassle of fixing and replacing tags.

With all this in mind, and the public’s interest in no-kill Utah, Martin believes the push for a death-free state for animals by 2019 will be successful. 

“With the progress to date, more has been made since the coalition was formed in Utah in 2000,” Martin said. “Increased public awareness of no-kill policies, and the resulting public pressure to endorse those policies, will be critical to building the momentum needed to get more cities and shelters to embrace NKUT (no-kill Utah).”