PLEASE NOTE: This post was published in MAY 2012 and the numbers referenced here are the 2011 NC statistics. The 2012 stats were only just released on May 21, 2013. I’m still crunching those numbers, but you can see my worksheet with percentages and dog & cat numbers totaled here. I am also working on a comparison with the 2011 numbers, and that file is here.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released their animal shelter report at the end of April. (Available in Excel format here.) The excel report is hard to read and requires a lot of math to obtain useful information like dog and cat totals, kill rates and adoption rates, so I spent some time turning it into a slightly more user-friendly version that shows totals (dog+cat and all animal) and kill rates. Considering that most people are more interested in the dog and cat totals than other numbers, I decided to separate them out to make it easier to parse and calculate a few other things like statewide totals and adoption rates. That sheet is here.
Before I go any further, I’d like to announce that the Killingest Kill “Shelter” in North Carolina is the Montgomery County Animal Control Facility. For $78.37 per animal, they killed 98 percent of the dogs and 100 percent of the cats that came in, for an overall kill rate of 99 percent. Of the 1199 dogs and cats that went into that pound, only 12 dogs got out alive. (They also killed 25 raccoons, 20 opossums and one coyote.) (NOTE: Several pounds commonly thought of as “high kill,” such as Beaufort, Co., Hyde Co., Martin Co. and Sampson Co., did not report, so Montgomery County may not actually be the very worst pound in NC. But given that they have worse outcomes than even PETA, an organization that STRIVES to kill every animal that comes in, it’s hard to imagine a worse pound anywhere.)
In comparison, for a similar per-animal cost (slightly less, actually: $73.30), Bladen County Animal Shelter SAVED 89 percent of the dogs and 36 percent of the cats that came in for a combined save rate of 66 percent. That doesn’t put them into “no kill” territory (although they are getting close with their dog outcomes), but it’s a great example of the fact that saving lives doesn’t have to cost more. To be fair, Bladen County’s success rate is almost entirely attributable to the advocacy group A Shelter Friend, which relentlessly networks the animals and raises money for medical care and transport assistance. But that’s often what it takes–saving animals is a community effort. With a feral cat TNR program, Bladen County could probably reach No Kill community status very quickly.
Curiously, the “savingest” animal shelter in NC (and it actually deserves to be called a shelter, unlike all the others) did not even turn in their statistics to the NCDA&CS this year. I had been anxiously awaiting the outcomes from Foothills Humane Society ever since reading about their progress in the No-Kill Communities blog. They did not report, however, so I emailed to ask about their numbers, and received them very quickly. (The new director was not aware of the reporting requirement, and apparently no one from the NCDA&CS contacted her about reporting.) They have achieved a total live release rate of almost 98 percent. It appears that NC finally has its first open-admission no-kill shelter!
The NCDA&CS numbers should be taken with a shaker of salt because there are huge holes in North Carolina’s reporting system. These statistics are self-reported by the shelters themselves and NCDA&CS does not verify their accuracy. The shelters could be completely making them up.
Although it’s technically mandatory for all shelters that receive any public funds to report, the only penalty for non-compliance is ineligibility to receive spay/neuter reimbursement funds. So publicly funded facilities that do not participate in the spay/neuter program can fail to report with no consequence. Twenty one facilities failed to report for 2011. (Many of the non-reporting facilities are holding facilities that may keep animals for a short period of time before they are transferred to a central facility and rarely or never kill animals.)
Another problem is that, unlike Virginia’s comprehensive statistical tracking, NC’s system is missing a lot of data breakdowns. In NC the only outcomes tracked are adoption, owner reclaim and killing. Where does a facility put the number of animals transferred to rescue groups (or, in the case of holding facilities, to another facility)? It’s not clear where these go; presumably they would count under adoptions, but are all facilities reporting this in the same way? What about animals that escape or die in custody? Also, there is no clarification of the numbers of animals on-hand at the beginning and end of each year, so one can only guess what it means when the in and out numbers don’t add up. Overall, the NC system leaves a lot to be desired in terms of enforcing accountability.
In contrast, the VA system breaks down intakes and outcomes to make it more apparent what actually happens to the animals, making facilities more accountable and transparent. Intake details are broken down to show exactly how the animals come in (On Hand January 1, Stray, Seized, Bite Cases, Surrendered by Owner, Received From Another Virginia Releasing Agency, Others) and outcomes are broken down to make it clear what the shelter is doing with them (Reclaimed by Owner, Adopted, Transferred to Another Virginia Releasing Agency, Transferred by Approved Out-Of-State Facility, Died in Facility, Euthanized, Miscellaneous [includes escaped, stolen and anything else not covered by the other categories], On Hand December 31). This way the numbers always add up, and no one has to guess what the facility is actually doing with the animals.
What’s more, the Virginia system includes all organizations involved in animal control or rescue, public and private. This type of accountability provides a safeguard against groups operating in secrecy with no oversight, such as the Johnston County SPCA here in NC.
Per these reports, public pounds in NC took in 348,089 dogs and cats in 2011. Of these, 226,199 or 64.98 percent, were killed. Dogs generally fared much better than cats in the state’s pounds. Of the 181,907 who entered pounds, 93,880, or 51.61 percent, were killed. Of 166,182 cats, 130,639 were killed, for a rate of 78.61 percent. As noted above, the absence of statistics from several potentially “high kill” pounds means the actual number of animals killed in NC is likely a bit higher than this.
Because there are discrepancies between the data tracking, a direct comparison of these totals to Virginia’s isn’t possible, but taking everything into account it’s astoundingly clear that Virginia does a much better job of protecting companion animals than NC does. (Keep in mind that Virginia numbers include ALL shelters and rescues, while NCs only include the publicly funded facilities that bother to report.) With a population only 16 percent lower than NC’s (in July 2011: VA = 8,096,604, NC = 9,656,401), Virginia pounds, shelters and rescues took in 177,484 dogs and cats, or 54% fewer than the NC shelters that report to NCDA&CS. Of these, 67,134, or almost 42%, were killed. (That number drops almost a whole percentage point when you subtract PETA’s numbers from the equation.)
Just to be generous, let’s add in the animals who died in custody (2,969) before we compare that to the NC shelter kill numbers. That makes total of 70,103 animals who died in Virginia shelters during 2011, or 61 percent less than the (known) NC death toll. For still another perspective, consider this: In Virginia, shelters killed one companion animal for every 115 people in the state last year, while NC shelters killed 1 companion animal for every 43 state residents. (Many of the NC animals are dying in gas chambers, which are outlawed in Virginia.)
Fortunately, shelters like the Foothills Humane Society are demonstrating that we can achieve the sort of success at saving lives that Virginia does. Virginia currently has seven confirmed No Kill communities (and a few in progess), but they started with just one.