Ohio counties vary widely on dog kill rates
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The survival chances for a dog in an animal shelter in Ohio could depend on which county the animal is impounded in.
The Columbus Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/WUlwoh ) that the statewide average shows that 70 percent of dogs taken to shelters last year were reclaimed by their owners or adopted. But the rates of euthanizing dogs ranged from only 1 percent to Carroll County to 81 percent in Lawrence County.
The Dispatch analyzed figures obtained from 85 of Ohio's 88 counties about dogs that were impounded across the state last year.
Some dog wardens caution that it is difficult to compare shelters in rural, urban or suburban areas because they take in vastly different numbers of dogs and types of dogs. The Lawrence County warden said his southeast Ohio shelter receives a large number of unwanted or stay dogs, but he is trying to reduce the high euthanasia rate.
"It looks bad," said Bill Click. "That's awful .... We hate putting dogs to sleep down here. We hate it, we hate it, we hate it."
Fairfield County euthanized about 45 percent of its dogs, or 512 killed. About half of those were destroyed for lack of space, and the rest because of aggression or sickness, said dog warden Mike Miller.
Some counties get help from animal rescue groups and privately run Humane Society shelters that take unwanted dogs. Hamilton County in southwest Ohio has a dog kill rate of 30 percent, which is lower than other urban counties including Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lucas and Montgomery. Hamilton has a contract with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which tries to keep adoption fees low, give health treatments to dogs and provide foster care for extended periods, a spokesman said.
Joe Rock is director of the Columbus-area Franklin County Department of Animal Care and Control. His shelter euthanized 47 percent of the dogs impounded last year. He said urban shelters take in higher numbers of aggressive dogs used to guard property or fight, and also more that have been injured. Of the 5,225 dogs euthanized last year at the Franklin County shelter, 2,291 were pit bulls.
Animal experts say that nationally, the numbers of unwanted dogs and cats euthanized annually has declined sharply from a few decades ago, but they estimate there are 3 to 4 million killed each year. More owners are sterilizing pets, and more are adopted pets from pounds.
Experts praise wardens who work with communities, and the use of social media and other public appeals to publicize adoptable dogs.
"People are proud to have a rescue dog," said James Straley, director of the Humane Society Serving Clark County, which runs the county shelter under contract. "They are proud that they came in and saved a life as opposed to going to a pet store."
Animal welfare advocates want to see a nationwide system to track animals entering and leaving shelters each year, and learn more about treatment and outcomes for sick dogs.