Estimated 2.7M animals euthanized in U.S. each year; what you can do to help

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – An estimated 2.7 million animals are euthanized at shelters in the United States each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. What are the numbers in the Midstate, and what can you do to reduce them?

Honey once lived as a bait dog and still has the physical scars of her old life. Now she enjoys the good life playing fetch with her human, Jen Crider.

Honey, a former bait dog, at her forever home.
Honey, a former bait dog, at her forever home.

“You would think an animal that has been through something as traumatic as what she has been through that they wouldn’t be so trusting of human beings, that they wouldn’t be so lovable, but it’s like she knew she was being saved,” Crider said.

Not all dogs are as lucky as Honey.

No state or federal agency keeps records on the exact number of animals euthanized at shelters. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture keeps records on “other dogs.”

“Other would include animals that have either been euthanized because they were ill or had died due to injuries at the shelter, and those are both sad things,”said Bonnie McCann, communications director of the state Department of Agriculture.

An estimated 2.7 million animals are euthanized in the U.S. annually.
An estimated 2.7 million animals are euthanized in the U.S. annually.

Other dogs can also include dogs surrendered to the shelter but not there at the time of inspection.

According to Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Kennel Inspections for 2015, the Lancaster County SPCA had the highest number of other dogs with 694. The SPCA did not return our messages for comment.

The Humane Society of Harrisburg Area had the second-highest number at 294. Executive Director Amy Kaunas told us they never euthanize for space. Dogs there are euthanized either for behavioral reasons, such as biting or aggressiveness, or for disease and illness where a dog is not responding to treatment or wouldn’t have a good quality of life, Kaunas said.

The York County SPCA had the third highest number at 168 other dogs. Executive Director Melissa Smith did not want to comment for this report.

The Humane Society of Lebanon County had 146 other dogs, the Adams County SPCA had 35 other dogs, and the Perry County Animal Rescue had eight other dogs.

The Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter had the lowest number of other dogs at zero.

Two dogs wait to get adopted at Perry County Animal Rescue.
Two dogs wait to get adopted at Perry County Animal Rescue.

Paula Current, the director of the Perry County Animal Rescue, said they mainly euthanize for sickness.

“We’ve had only one dog that we had to put to sleep because of aggression,” Current said. “When they start to get ill and go downhill, we know it’s time so we help them go.”

“When a shelter is having to euthanize animals, oftentimes it is very easy to put the blame on the shelter, but we also have to realize that this is a truly a community problem,” said Kristen Tullo, Pennsylvania director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Tullo said shelters can do four things to help reduce euthanasia. Those include placing animals with the right owner, having professional staff, building facilities where people are comfortable, and working with the community.

“The biggest success is working with local rescues and shelters across the state and creating that network,” Tullo said.

Cats on the adoption floor at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.
Cats on the adoption floor at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

Those at Midstate shelters said you can do three things to help dogs and cats find their forever homes.

“The first thing would be get their animals spayed or neutered, microchipped, get the microchipped registered,” Current said.

Trap, neuter, and release for feral animals is the second way you can help.

“You create colonies of cats, and it’s kind of like “West Side Story.” It keeps out other cats, which will then, if those colonies are spayed and neutered, will eventually reduce the population,” said Jennifer Vanderau, communications director for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

The third way to prevent animals from being euthanized is to adopt. Shelter organizers said don’t shop at a breeder so you can give animals a second chance in life.

Honey enjoys playing fetch with her human.
Honey enjoys playing fetch with her human.

“Every animal that is adopted from a shelter or a rescue 100 percent saves not only that animal’s life but saved another life of the animal coming in to get that cage,” Vanderau said.

From life as a bait dog to the good life, Honey is an example of why animal advocates say adopt, don’t shop.

“They just all want love,” Crider said. “I guarantee you by going to a rescue or going to a shelter to adopt, you’re going to be loved forever from your animal, you’re going to love your animal forever, and you will not be disappointed.”

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