Published: Nov 10, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Nov 10, 2012 04:41 PM
Pet adoptions save legions of lives each year in North Carolina, yet each year more than a quarter million animals are euthanized.
Shelters simply dont have room for the dogs and cats constantly pouring in.
The nonprofit group AnimalKind hopes to end the killing of animals for space in North Carolina through The $20 Fix program, which allows low-income pet owners to spay or neuter their dogs and cats and vaccinate them against rabies for $20 or less.
This year Durham began fully participating in a state-reimbursement program so AnimalKind can help every county resident who meets the income requirements. Before that, the group had only been able to serve as many residents as its fundraising allowed.
We can serve anyone now, no holds barred, said Beth Livingstone, AnimalKinds executive director.
This summer Durham Animal Services signed a one-year contract with AnimalKind, which runs the program. Wake, Orange, Person and Caswell counties also partner with AnimalKind.
Spaying and neutering pets is the key to reaching the goal of not killing animals because shelters have no space for them, Livingstone said.
I think everybody has started to wake up to it, she said.How it works
Durham County pays the sterilization surgery fee to AnimalKind, which pays one of the four veterinary practices that provide the operations at a reduced cost.
The county in turn asks the state for reimbursement. The amount the county gets back depends on several factors, including how much money is available. AnimalKind covers its administrative costs through private donations and profits from its ReTails Thrift Shop in Raleigh.
Livingstone estimates that for every $1 that Durham County invests in the program it will save more than $3 in tax expenditures because it will spend less on collecting, sheltering, adopting out and euthanizing animals.
Its fiscally responsible, and I think thats the real selling point, Livingstone said.Model of success
AnimalKind has looked to New Hampshires success in curbing euthanasia as a model. Through a low-cost spay and neuter program, the state has reduced the number of euthanized animals by 75 percent since 1994.
Attorney Peter Marsh, a director of Solutions to Overpopulation of Pets, spearheaded the legislation to get the program started in 1994. Data show that low-income pet owners are less likely to spay or neuter pets, he said, and a common misperception is that they just dont care.
When we started a lot of legislators said, Its not going to work because the reason theyre poor is because theyre irresponsible, Marsh said.
But money is the big barrier.
Everywhere theres a program its hard to keep up with the number of people who want to spay or neuter, he said. The challenge is getting enough money to accommodate everyone who wants to do it.
New Hampshire reduced its rate of shelter deaths from 10 animals per 1,000 residents per year to less than two per 1,000, which is considered a no-kill number. It indicates that most animals are being euthanized for medical reasons rather than a lack of space.
People think that its impossible to reach no-kill, but weve done it for a decade, and were not going back, Marsh said.
Durham County euthanizes about 15 animals per 1,000 residents, Livingstone said. AnimalKinds first goal is to reduce that to five.
Its a great goal, and I think we can do even better than that in Durham, she said.