Kanawha County Aims to Lower Euthanasia Rate at Animal Shelter

By: Michael Hyland Email
By: Michael Hyland Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association is attempting to tackle a problem that’s bothered many of its employees and some community members for years: trying to bring down the euthanasia rate.

About half the animals at the shelter end up being put down, but now animal lovers are hoping to copy the success another county's had at turning that around.

A group called Operation Underdog traveled from Raleigh County Wednesday to share with local groups how it instituted a program among a network of volunteers and rescue groups that’s led to a dramatic reduction in the county’s euthanasia rate.

"One of the main problems is the high intake shelters have," says Erica Stock, a co-founder of Operation Underdog.

Kanawha County’s shelter manager, Karla Ford, points out that’s true of Kanawha County.

"We have people bringing in just boatloads of puppies, kittens. Some days we get 70 to 100 dogs," Ford says.

According to statistics on the Humane Association’s website, the shelter took in 518 animals January. Among them, 255 were euthanized.

Until Operation Underdog took off, organizers say Raleigh County was euthanizing the majority of animals that came into its shelter. Now, it only euthanizes animals that are too dangerous, sick or wounded to be adopted.

The group posts photos of the shelter’s animals on Facebook and coordinates with rescue groups throughout the region. Volunteers take the pets to locations in Virginia and Pennsylvania where the rescue groups have helped to coordinate those animals being placed in permanent homes.

There are also several volunteers who foster animals until they can be placed in permanent homes.

Coordinators say it’s a challenge getting that network of volunteers together, as this kind of work can be very time intensive. But, they say it’s proven successful so far.

"We've been able to get hundreds and hundreds of animals out into rescues," Stock says. "It takes the whole community."

As the name implies, Operation Underdog works primarily with dogs. But, Kanawha County is hoping to boost cat adoptions because the need there is very significant, as well.

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