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Editorial: Community working to improve animal adoption

May. 11, 2013 @ 11:45 PM

Americans love their animals.

About 62 percent of U.S. households have a pet, according to industry estimates. That's more than the households with children -- about 46 percent, according to the Census.

But even with all that love, there are millions of stray and unwanted animals, and handling that population is a complex problem.

Most Americans would like to see all of those animals adopted into a good home, but with the overpopulation of dogs and cats in the United States today, that is a daunting task.

The American Humane Association reports that about 8 million animals are taken to shelters across the country each year. Despite the efforts of those facilities and a growing number of non-profit adoption and rescue organizations to find homes for those animals, about 3.7 million are euthanized.

A few years ago, the Cabell-Wayne Animal Control Shelter was dealing with even higher rates of euthanization. Fortunately, over the past year improvements at the shelter have brought the rates in line with those national statistics, and the shelter now provides a cleaner and more humane situation for those "homeless" pets.

The Cabell County Commission has spent more than $150,000 and more in man hours to retool the local facility. That includes new kennels with stainless steel features, new flooring, heating and air upgrades, landscaping and other infrastructure improvements. Animals now have a better outdoor "social area" space and improved adoption and grooming areas are coming online.

The shelter board also has put a new focus on training, and staff members are better prepared to handle animals and detect and respond to disease or other problems.

Yet even with that progress, the shelter's capacity is limited. A recent review by the Humane Society of the United States, requested by the board, recommended that the shelter house no more than 130 dogs and 20 cats at a time.

The shelter also has a primary responsibility for animal control, and staffers must respond to a range of nuisance complaints. So a portion of the animals brought into the shelter are sick, dangerous or wild.

That means volunteer efforts play a critical role in expanding the opportunities for adoption. Rescue groups and non-profit shelters such as Little Victories can help find homes for many animals, and forging strong relationships with these groups is essential for public shelters.

But to really address the problem, the public needs to get involved. Pet owners who are not in the breeding business need to have their animals spayed or neutered. A recent PetSmart Charities survey shows that one out of three new pet owners fails to do that, leading to the tens of thousands of unplanned litters that fuel the overpopulation crisis.

It is encouraging to see local animal control and adoption efforts getting more attention, and with more public awareness, we hope our community can continue to reduce the number of animals being put down for the lack of a good home.

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