The State of North Carolina has compiled animal euthanasia numbers from all public animal shelters in the state, and an analysis of those numbers shows that, among the 10 largest counties based on population, Guilford County falls in the middle of the pack in euthanasia rates for dogs, and does worse than average when it comes to the euthanization of cats.
The report on animal shelters across the state was recently compiled by the Animal Welfare Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It looks at the number of dogs, cats and other animals taken into shelters between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016, and lists the number of animals of each type euthanized during that period. (Mecklenburg County had not provided the state with statistics for 2016 in time for those to be included in the state’s report, so, for the purpose of this analysis, the Rhino Times used Mecklenburg’s 2015 numbers).
The numbers show that, of the state’s 10 most populous counties, Guilford County came in fifth in terms of the lowest euthanization rates for dogs and seventh for cats. That means Guilford County has an average performance saving dogs and is below average in saving cats.
It is important to note that the top 10 counties vary widely in terms of demographics, economic strength and other factors that affect a county’s stray animal population and the county’s ability to address that problem. For instance, Union County, which sits near Charlotte and has Monroe as the county seat, only has about 200,000 people, while the state’s largest counties – Mecklenburg and Wake counties – have about a million.
In 2016, the Guilford County Animal Shelter took in 5,450 dogs and euthanized 1,626, which comes to 30 percent.
As for cats, the Guilford County shelter took in 4,451 in 2016 and euthanized 2,535, meaning the cat euthanization rate at the shelter in 2016 was 57 percent.
Of the 10 counties, Buncombe County, where Asheville is the county seat, ranks best in both categories. In Buncombe County, 13 percent of dogs taken into the shelter were euthanized and for cats that number was 11 percent. Buncombe is also the only county of the 10 where cats fare better than dogs in terms of euthanasia.
Wake County, where Raleigh is the county seat, has an excellent reputation for its animal shelter operations and that shelter got good marks when it comes to finding alternatives to euthanasia in 2016 – whether that meant locating the pets’ owners, finding a new home for the animal or turning the dog or cat over to an animal rescue organization.
Based on calculations drawn from data provided by the state report, here is a break down, from best to worst, of the euthanasia percentages for the 10 most populous counties in the state.
Dogs (percentage euthanized of those taken in)
- Buncombe 13 percent
- Wake 17 percent
- Gaston 18 percent
- Cumberland 24 percent
- Guilford 30 percent
- Mecklenburg 31 percent
- New Hanover 33 percent
- Durham 36 percent
- Union 40 percent
- Forsyth 52 percent
In general, dogs fare much better than cats in North Carolina. Contributing factors are the large number of feral cats in the state, the difficulty of finding homes for cats and feline-specific diseases creating medical issues for those animals.
- Buncombe 11 percent
- Wake 25 percent
- Gaston 40 percent
- Mecklenburg 45 percent
- Cumberland 52 percent
- New Hanover 54 percent
- Guilford 57 percent
- Durham 66 percent
- Forsyth 76 percent
- Union 84 percent
In addition to offering statistics on the euthanasia of cats and dogs, the state’s compilation includes statistics on the wild animals, farm animals and large animals brought into the state’s shelters. (Since some animals – such as those brought into a shelter very late in December – may not get adopted out or euthanized until the following year, the number of animals of a certain type brought into the shelter in the 2016 report may not add up to the number of animals of that type handled that year.)
In calendar year 2016 in Guilford County, 112 bats were taken into the shelter and, of those, 104 were euthanized. No bats were returned to owners or adopted by a new owner in 2016, so the remaining bats may have been euthanized as well after the reporting date ended.
The Guilford County shelter took in 127 birds in 2016 and euthanized 40. Twenty of the birds were either adopted out to a new owner or returned to a previous owner. Those not accounted for presumably were allowed to just fly away.
There were 40 chickens taken into the Guilford County Animal Shelter last year, and 34 of those were adopted out to new owners while one was returned to its previous owner. (In other words, that chicken came home to roost). Four chickens were not so lucky. Two coyotes were brought to the Guilford County shelter and one coyote was euthanized last year. The report did not shed light on the fate of the other coyote. As for deer, 19 entered and 10 were put down.
In 2016, three donkeys were taken in to the shelter. One was given to a new owner, two were returned to previous owners and no donkeys were euthanized. Also, three goats were taken in and all three made it out alive. Five sheep were brought in; no sheep were euthanized.
Guinea pigs did very well in the Guilford County shelter, with 43 being taken in and only one put down – hopefully, the survivors ended up as pets of children rather than as part of a scientific experiment. Half of the six skunks brought to the shelter were put down. Turtles did not fare well, with four coming in and three being euthanized. Nine groundhogs were taken into the Guilford County shelter in 2016 and four of those were put down. Monkeys at the Guilford County shelter had a survival rate of 100 percent: One monkey was taken in that year and one – presumably the same one – was returned to its owner.
The state report also lists the “cost per animal handled,” based on the amount each county spends on animal shelters and the number of animals the shelter holds or treats each year. In Guilford County the cost per animal was $241. By Comparison, Mecklenburg County’s shelter had a cost of $503 (2015 numbers) per animal. Wake County, the second largest county in the state, had a cost of $282 per animal, while Forsyth County costs was $323.
Guilford County’s shelter operations underwent massive changes in mid-2015 after state inspectors found widespread cases of animal cruelty and neglect – findings that forced the county to take over shelter operations from the United Animal Coalition (UAC), the now dissolved nonprofit that ran Guilford County shelter for nearly two decades before the scandal.
Two weeks ago, former Guilford County Shelter Director Marsha Williams, who ran the shelter for years before those findings were revealed, pled guilty to charges of animal cruelty in Davidson County, where Williams also ran the shelter. Williams received a $100 fine, a suspended sentence and two years probation as the result of a plea bargain deal that knocked felony charges down to misdemeanors.
County officials and law enforcement officers have stated that the records were a mess when the UAC ran the shelter and therefore euthanization counts and other numbers provided before August 2015 are not necessarily reliable. However, for what it’s worth, in 2015, the euthanasia rate for dogs in Guilford County was 34 percent, compared to 30 in 2016, and the euthanasia rate for cats was 52 percent compared to 57 percent. Guilford County took over the shelter operation halfway through 2015 and, if the numbers for that year are accurate, then Guilford County showed a slight improvement for dogs last year over the prior year, but did worse in terms of cat euthanasia.
In recent meetings of the Guilford County Animal Services Advisory Board, Guilford County Deputy Manager Clarence Grier and Guilford County Animal Services Director Drew Brinkley have both stated adamantly that the Guilford County shelter does not euthanize animals for space – instead, they said, it only euthanizes animals with medical issues or those where temperament makes the animal dangerous or unadoptable.
Earlier this year, after an animal welfare advocate stated on WFMY News 2 that the county might have to euthanize animals for space if animal foster homes weren’t found, Grier released the following statement: “A news story about the Guilford County Animal Shelter was televised and provided information that does not reflect the operating procedures of the shelter. I would just like to clarify that it is not, nor has it ever been the policy of the Guilford County Animal Shelter, while Guilford County has operated the shelter, to euthanize any animal due to space concerns or the lack thereof. The news story yesterday alluded to this as being a possibility for the 117 dogs that have to be moved during the scheduled painting of the kennels. This was incorrect information and contrary to statements provided to WFMY.”
Grier went on to state that Guilford County is “actively promoting adoptions and foster placements” during those renovations and repairs, and the county “continues to make every effort to protect and care for the animals in our shelter.”
Brian Long, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, said his department is limited in what it can do to bring down euthanization rates statewide, but he added that some cities and counties are coming up with new strategies to reduce the number of animals being put down.
“The only tool the state has to help bring down euthanasia rates is the spay/neuter program,” Long wrote in an email. “It reimburses counties a percentage of the money they spend on spay/neuter procedures for pets (cats and dogs) owned by low-income residents.”
Long added, “Shelters and local governments also use a variety of tools to help lower their euthanasia rates. These include working with animal rescue and fostering groups, and programs that help prevent the surrendering of animals to the shelter in the first place.”