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Editorial: Spay-the-stray program helps cut euthanizations

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The Johnson County Animal Shelter has not euthanized a dog due to overcrowding for about four years. It also has reduced the number of cats it has been forced to put down.

This downward trend is due principally to the work of the shelter staff, and for that they are to be commended.

After a new program was started to limit the stray cat population last year, the county already is seeing an impact.

About nine months ago, the shelter started a program that focuses on spaying and neutering stray cats. Since then, the county has euthanized just more than 183 cats. The county euthanized 254 cats during that same period the previous year.

The county started a program in August working with IndyFeral, a nonprofit group that works to reduce the number of stray and feral cats by trapping them, vaccinating them, and spaying or neutering them, before releasing them again.

The number of cats euthanized in the county over the past three years has decreased by 80 percent. The county euthanized 332 cats last year, compared with more than 1,000 in 2011. The number of dogs euthanized in that same time span has declined 28 percent. The shelter euthanized 86 dogs last year, compared with 97 dogs in 2012 and 120 dogs in 2011.

The program is a better way to limit the population of stray cats. For example, even if a stray cat is euthanized, it may have already given birth to multiple other stray cats. By getting more stray cats spayed or neutered, their population will decrease, Animal Control Director Michael Delp said.

“We’re really starting to see the dividends pay off from that program,” he said. “From my experience you can’t make a dent with euthanization, but you can make a dent by spaying or neutering them.”

Animal control kennel manager Bethany Fulps and officer manager Cari Klotzsche work to place dogs in rescue organizations across the state. Fulps will evaluate the dogs for what kind of environment would fit the animal best, while Klotzsche will take that information and write a profile, which is put online and emailed to rescue groups.

Both also call rescue organizations trying to place dogs into a home. Once an organization agrees to take a dog, volunteers drive the animal there. The state has hundreds of rescue organizations and almost as many other shelters and humane societies looking to find homes for animals.

About 90 percent of euthanizations are requested by pet owners. The shelter requires paperwork from a veterinarian that proves the dog is terminally ill, but some people will try to euthanize a pet because they simply don’t want the animal anymore. Fewer euthanizations also saves the county money, since it costs about $30 for each animal to be put to death, Delp said.

Local residents can help continue this downward trend in euthanizations by having their pets sterilized, so no more unwanted animals are born.

In the meantime, the animal shelter staff must continue its battle. It appears their efforts are making a difference.

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