Alabama is No. 6 for pet euthanizations. Here’s how we can do better
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Winter Steele
TUSCALOOSA – It’s no secret that there are more available pets than people who want them, but did you know just how many in Alabama are having their lives cut short? More than 15,000 over the last year.
The only states reporting more euthanizations are California, Texas, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia. There’s not one single reason, but the biggest by far is a lack of spaying and neutering.
Organizations like Best Friends Animal Society are working on changing those statistics by teaming up with local shelters around the country and encouraging responsible pet ownership.
In Tuscaloosa, Metro Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of West Alabama are partnered with BFAS. While HSWA has always been a no-kill shelter, TMAS has gone from euthanizing more than 50% of its intakes to less than 10%. Nowadays, animals are only euthanized if they are too injured to rehabilitate, are too aggressive for reformative efforts or other significant reasons.
That said, if you follow TMAS on social media you’ll see the constant posts: Come foster or adopt to make room, or else difficult decisions must be made. It’s especially bad in the summer, as puppies and kittens flood into shelters as a whole.
Those puppies and kittens would be a lot less of a problem if more pets were spayed or neutered, but that’s a tall order when the cost is high.
“Restrictive veterinary practice laws have created veterinary resource deserts, with only five low-cost spay/neuter clinics in (Alabama),” said Best Friends Animal Society Senior Strategist-East Region Lisa Barrett in a statement. “Access to affordable veterinary care including spay and neuter is critical to solve Alabama’s pet overpopulation problem.”
The nationwide no-kill shelter effort doesn’t eliminate euthanizations, because in some cases it’s the most humane option. Instead, a 90% save rate is the nationally recognized benchmark for “no-kill.”
Local groups are working alongside shelters to reduce the number of animals around Tuscaloosa, including the Tuscaloosa Spay and Neuter Incentive Program, more commonly known as TSNIP. TSNIP offers community education on feral cats alongside a trap-neuter-release program, meaning cats who aren’t adoptable can live out the rest of their lives safely and without adding to the unwanted animals population.
“The problem that results in overcrowding comes from those who randomly feed cats or overfeed them,” said TSNIP Project Coordinator Britni Hood. “In our situation, people continue to feed cats that go on to reproduce which leads to more cats in shelters.”
That’s why reintroducing altered cats back to their environment is key, Hood said.
“The best way for the community to help is to maintain the colonies they see,” she said. “If you notice feeders or bowls put out, reach out to see if they need help because they might need assistance. Spend time studying the cats. If their left ear is tipped it means that the cat has been altered and is stray or feral.”
TSNIP also works with area shelters by fostering cats before they’re old enough for adoption, freeing up space in local shelters.
If there are cats in your neighborhood that don’t have a permanent home, check for that tipped ear. If you don’t see one, you can contact TSNIP and request their assistance with getting the cat or colony cared for.
One recent major Tuscaloosa-area success is Metro’s most recent trip to Pennsylvania, where organizers loaded 44 dogs into its transportation vehicle and came back with zero. Metro is also offering low-cost adoptions throughout July, with adoption fees set at $10.
Looking for help with animals?
Any veterinarian’s office offers spay/neuter services for a fee. Adopting from a local animal shelter like TMAS or the Humane Society of West Alabama means your pet is already spayed or neutered, saving some major cash. If you need help getting a pet spayed or neutered, here are some places that can help:
- Alabama Spay/Neuter Clinic in Irondale. The clinic offers its Hip to Snip express for owners who can’t take the trip to Irondale.
If you find an animal you believe is abandoned or lost, Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter allows intakes when space is available. Other area rescue organizations accept intakes on a case-by-case basis.
If Metro is full and you cannot keep the animal yourself, call your local animal control office and request a pickup.
There are many public Facebook groups dedicated to helping people return lost pets to their owners, finding animals new homes or sharing important pet-related information. You can join these groups by searching for your area + lost and found pets. Some Tuscaloosa-area groups include:
- Tuscaloosa Missing Pets
- Tuscaloosa Animal Help
- Hale County Lost, Missing or Found Pets
- Northport Missing and Found Pets and Animals
Several local rescues, such as HSWA or Metro, may offer emergency vet assistance for pet owners on a case-by-case basis, and many veterinarians are partnered with CareCredit.
If your pet needs emergency care, get help as soon as possible, but be honest with your care provider about how much you can pay. Veterinarians will do their best to work within your budget and will detail costs up front if requested.
TMAS regularly hosts pet food drives. Keep up with when they are via the organization’s social media, or contact any local shelter and see if they offer assistance. Shelters prefer keeping pets with loving owners if at all possible, and that means many are more than happy to help out with food if you’re facing a financial emergency.