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September 06, 2013

A Blueprint for Ending Euthanasia of Healthy Companion Animals

At The HSUS, we are working to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats. Only about five million of the eight million dogs and cats who enter shelters today make it out alive. Though these are better ratios than in years prior, there’s still so much life-saving work ahead of us. Any business or enterprise with this kind of failure rate needs to conduct self-examination, challenge orthodoxies, and find new ways to improve outcomes.

That’s why I’m so pleased to share and promote the results of path-breaking work done during the last 18 months by key stakeholders in California. Despite being the most progressive state with respect to animal welfare policy – including a state law that no adoptable or treatable animal shall be euthanized – California shelters still take in nearly a million dogs and cats a year, with 40 percent or 400,000 dying (150,000 dogs and 250,000 cats).

Kitten
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Emotionally and morally troubled by these results, and spurred by annual state budget confrontations over funding for state-mandated shelter holding periods, The HSUS worked alongside other leaders constituting a cross-section of animal welfare community organizations in California, including leaders of municipal shelters, rescue groups, private foundations, and local and national nonprofit organizations.

The group was established to solicit input from a wide range of opinions within the professional animal care field. They worked together to review 15 years’ worth of data, policies and practices from agencies around the state. The results, which include 23 best practices and legislative recommendations aimed at improving outcomes for homeless animals in California, were released today in a draft white paper, introductory video, and listening tour launch, all housed at www.cashelteringreport.org.

Highlights from the draft recommendations include:


  • Intake Reduction - People often turn animals in to shelters without a realistic understanding of the animal's likelihood of survival or before making any effort to find an alternate home for their pet.
  • Standards and Practices - How shelters care for and move animals through their facility influences how those animals find homes. Maintaining records to help owners reclaim pets, moving animals as quickly as possible toward placement, and working collaboratively with rescue groups are some of the answers.
  • Cats – Outcomes for dogs are improving, but not for cats. There must be an overhaul in the way shelters approach management of cat populations. The latest issue of Animal Sheltering magazine touches on some of the solutions.
  • Budget – Shelters need adequate resources to get the job done. We can get there by ensuring better compliance with state dog licensing laws and also propose changes to government contracting formulas that currently reimburse some shelters based on the number of animals handled rather than on what happens to the animals (e.g., the number leaving the shelter alive and other outcome-based measures). 

If you live in California, please join our state director at one of the listening tour sessions coming up this month and next. The paper is a draft and they want to hear from you. What’d they miss? What’d they get wrong? What’d they get right? What else could be done at this moment where the focus is on making major change?

Whether you’re a resident of California or not, this document is a roadmap to get us past euthanasia of healthy dogs and cats. That’s a core goal of the humane movement, and it’s about time we get there.

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