The national nonprofit organization Best Friends Animal Society offered assistance to members of the Lee County Commission in its mission to eliminate animal euthanasia in the state of Alabama.
“We help promote lifesaving programming,” said Lisa Barrett, Alabama state director for the society. “Best Friends will come to your shelters and humane societies, stay up to a year and a half and help implement new programs. We are a national organization in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Our goal is to have a no-kill nation by 2025.”
Barrett held a presentation for the county commission, animal control and concerned residents last week at the Bennie Adkins Meeting Center.
“I started in November of last year,” Barrett said. “Alabama was ranked third in the United States for the highest killing state. I have collected enough data from 80 organizations, and that has brought us down to rank sixth through the 2017 numbers. The 2018 numbers will be the middle of July. When those numbers come in, I’m hoping we will be bumped down to 10th.”
Supported by donations, adoption centers and large conglomerates such as the Coca-Cola and Walt Disney companies, the animal society establishes partnerships and funds services for spay and neuter, adoption, transportation and marketing programs.
“Out of the 68 Alabama counties, there are 14 that have no shelters at all,” Barrett said. “Six shelters in Alabama account for 44 percent of the euthanasias within the state. We average about 119,000 euthanasias a year. We are at the save rate of about 58 percent as of 2017.
"To be what the animal organization considers a no-kill shelter, you have to have a live-release rate of 90 percent or better for three to six consecutive months.”
Community cat program
After visiting the Lee County Humane Society and speaking with Friends of Lee County Animal Control, Barrett determined the county had a large population of cats, and the nonprofit’s trap, neuter and return program could be beneficial, she said.
“Our main goal is to help get TNR, which is trap, neuter and return community cat program in counties,” Barrett said. “That’s about the only way we are going to get cats where they are not getting euthanized at an alarming rate.”
The TNR cat community program captures feral and non-feral cats from 8 weeks to 9 years old to be spayed and neutered, injected with a rabies vaccination and returned to the capture site.
“What you are doing there is eliminating kittens from being born,” Barrett said. “You’re also preventing rabies from being spread because they are vaccinated. You’re also letting these cats that deserve to live to be returned back to communities where they have been living.”
Large dog programs
Barrett recommended the next priority of the county to be the utilization of the society's large dog programs by focusing primarily on adoptions.
“The thing with large dogs is there are not many rescues with large dogs,” Barrett said. “With transports and rescues, you allow rescues to take animals. There’s no fee involved because you’ve already done vaccines. Once they pull what’s left, you have room for more adoptions, which means more money for large dogs.”
The shelters can use the extra funds from smaller dogs and cats to fund the stay of a larger dog as the shelter searches for an adoptee, she added.
Best Friends Animal Society provides additional services such as training for volunteers and fosters, locating shelters to transport animals, affordable spay and neuter programs, raising awareness in advertisements, acquiring donors for more funding and encouraging state legislation to consider animal control initiatives.
Barrett said she seeks the collaboration of county commissioners to create a trust in residents by sharing euthanasia statistics and encouraging community involvement.
“Being a pet lover, I’m all about the pets, so I can see (the Lee County Commission) getting together and talking about the possibilities,” District 5 Commissioner Richard LaGrand said. “I enjoyed the presentation, and I thought it was very informative. Several things stuck out to me, like the cat program. I can see some things happening with it.”
Commissioners Sheila Eckman of District 1 and Robert Ham of District 4 attended Barrett’s presentation as well. Ham said the county commission will discuss the animal society’s offer as a whole before facilitating a partnership.