Virginia Can Adopt Its Way Out of Killing

A cat available for adoption at Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center.   It reported a 97% live release rate for dogs, 92% for cats, and 100% for other animal companions, putting Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro on the map.

In 2016, Virginia shelters collectively had an 88% live release rate for dogs, 91% for rabbits and other animal companions, 94% for horses, and 68% for cats. This is above the national average of 78% for dogs and 55% for cats. But they could and should do even better.

Virginia agencies had an adoption rate of only 11 dogs and cats for every 1,000 people. That’s far below adoption potential. Colorado, for example, has an adoption rate of 19 dogs and cats for every 1,000 people. In fact, comparing Virginia to the best performing communities in the country, all Virginia agencies have the combined potential to adopt out 189,402 dogs and cats. That’s almost 100,000 more dogs and cats than what they did adopt so they are far, far below their potential. It is also more than total impounds. And of those animals who enter shelters, many do not need adoption. Some are community cats who are not social with people. They do not need adoption, they need to be sterilized and released to their habitats. Others will be reclaimed by their families. In fact, shelters generally only have to find homes for roughly 50-60% of total impounds. Clearly, Virginia agencies can not only do better, they can adopt their way out of killing.

Why didn’t they? They didn’t because of antiquated laws and practices that allow for convenience killing, such as those which allow animals relinquished by their families to be killed right away without ever being offered for adoption and those that allow killing animals even if rescue groups are able and willing to save them. In California, for example, it is illegal for a shelter to kill an animal whom a rescue group offers to save. Since the rescue rights law passed, over 46,000 additional animals are being saved, rather than killed, each year in California–an increase of over 300%. Yet similar Virginia rescue rights legislation failed to pass again this year because of opposition by regressive agencies. And, of course, impounding and killing, rather than sterilizing, community cats.

Other problems include foot dragging by the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) which is supposed to oversee shelters but refuses to enforce a state law which requires that private shelters be “operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes,” allowing those shelters to kill them instead. Also to blame is a State Veterinarian who says neglect, abuse, and even torture by animal control officers is not his problem, even though that is exactly what he is being paid by taxpayers to prevent.

Keeping in mind that a 90% live release rate does not mean a community or state is No Kill (there are, for example, communities across the country with placement rates of 99% of the animals and, as to animals with trauma and with behavior challenges, we can save them all), congratulations to the following counties which did have a rate of at least 90% for each species:

  • Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro reported a 97% live release rate for dogs, 92% for cats, and 100% for other animal companions.
  • Frederick and Winchester County reported a 91% live release rate for cats, 98% for dogs, and 92% for rabbits and other animals.
  • Colonial Heights reported a 99% live release rate for dogs and 94% for cats.
  • Essex County reported a 97% live release for cats and 99% for dogs.
  • Giles County reported a 96% live release rate for cats and 90% for dogs.
  • King George County reported a 95% live release rate for cats and 94% for dogs.
  • Louisa County reported a 96% live release rate for cats, 94% for dogs. It took in 10 other animals companions and saved them all.
  • New Kent County reported  a 90% live release rate for cats and 96% for dogs.
  • Northumberland County reported  a 90% live release rate for cats and 95% for dogs. It took in 11 other animals companions and saved them all.
  • Warren County reported  a 94% live release rate for dogs, 90% for cats, and 98% for other animals.

And to all those who are close, at 80% or better including, but not limited to, Fairfax County, -‹Fluvanna County, James City, Williamsburg, York County (District One), Lynchburg, -‹Powhatan, and Richmond.

At the other end of the spectrum are facilities like Danville and PETA. The Danville Pound, run by the Danville Humane Society, saw 2,318 of the 2,481 cats it took in lose their lives. That’s a death rate of 93% and amounts to little more than a slaughterhouse.

Similarly, PETA rounded up and took in 1,069 cats, of which 855 left the building in garbage bags (854 were poisoned by PETA, 1 died), a death rate of 80%. Since PETA refuses to work with No Kill shelters, another 184 were sent to shelters that kill healthy and/or treatable animals. If they were killed or they displaced other cats who were killed, that puts the overall death rate as high as 99% for cats. Five were reclaimed and only 27 (less than 3% of the cats) were adopted out. PETA also took in 891 dogs. They put 557 to death, a 63% rate of killing. They sent another 294 to shelters that kill. Like the cats, if they were killed or displaced others who were killed, that would put the overall death rate for dogs at 96%. Five were reclaimed and only 30 found homes.

As bad as these numbers are, given that PETA has a history of committing larceny, a history of getting animals under false pretenses, a history of lying to people who surrender their animals, and a history of underreporting killing, there is simply no reason to trust its reporting. In fact, while PETA says it sent some animals to the Suffolk shelter, officials responding to a FOIA request there responded that, “Suffolk Animal Care did not receive any animals from PETA in 2016.” As such, the PETA’s numbers represent the best possible scenario. It could be a lot worse.


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