DOBSON — Last year, nearly nine out of 10 animals taken into the Surry County Animal Shelter were killed, according to data provided by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (ACS), which oversees shelter operations in the state.
According to the data, during 2012, the county took in 1,651 dogs and 1,816 cats, a rabbit, bird and bat.
Of the 1,648 dogs taken into the shelter, 162 were adopted to a new owner and 114 were returned to their original owner. The remainder, 1,274, were put down.
Cats didn’t fare much better last year, the data indicates.
Of the 1,816 taken into the shelter, 56 were adopted and six were returned to their owner. The remaining 1,754 were killed.
A total of 2,979 of the 3,467 animals taken into the shelter, or 85.92 percent, were euthanized. That rate places Surry County as the fourth-highest kill shelter in the state.
During 2012, the county shelter reported operating expenses of $503,078. The cost per animal handled that year was $144.98, according to the ACS.
The high kill rate has some animal advocates shaking their heads.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Jane Taylor of Mayberry4Paws, which has been trying to work with the shelter to rescue more animals. “As hard as the animal welfare folks in our county have worked to cooperate, to fund spay and neuter programs, to make offers for rescue and adoption at the shelter, it is very disappointing that with all the offers we’ve made and as hard as we’ve worked to not see an impact.”
Taylor pointed out the number for October 2013, which she recently received as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.
“In October, there were three dogs adopted out of the shelter, and according to their data they took in 131,” she said. “They allowed us to pull 21 dogs and the remaining 80 were euthanized.”
She charged that officials aren’t willing to work with rescue groups.
“What we’d like to see happen is we want county officials to meet us halfway,” she said. “We want the Board of Commissioners to come up with a plan for improvement.”
But Maggie Simmons, a spokesman for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, which oversees shelter operations, said the issue is about more than the animal shelter.
“A lot of this boils down to being a county issue rather than just animal control,” she said. “In Surry County, there are unwanted dogs and cats everywhere, and a lot of the complaints we get are about aggressive or dangerous animals.”
Simmons urged residents to have their pets fixed to reduce the number of unwanted animals.
“If people have a pet, it’s important that they are spayed or neutered to reduce the population,” she said. “We need help with this. We want to foster or rescue as many animals as we can.”
Taylor didn’t seem convinced.
“Our neighboring county, Alleghany, has less than a three percent kill rate,” she said. “I don’t know what the difference is, but I think there should be some research conducted and information gathered.”
Simmons said the county is on track to lower the kill rate this year.
“We hope to see improvement in the 2013 numbers,” she said. “And as of right now we seem to be on the right track. Any decrease in the number of animals euthanized is a step in the right direction.”
She added that the shelter is willing to work with animal rescuers.
“We are very open to working with rescue groups, and really want these animals to be saved, adopted and become part of a loving family,” she said.
But animal advocate Paula Stanley said the numbers are simply unacceptable.
“I think you have to look at attitudes and leadership when asking why Surry County has such a high kill rate,” Stanley, who is a long-time animal advocate and rescuer, said. “We must find a way to work together, and as far as the rescue groups that I work with, we have always been ready and willing to work with the county to improve these numbers.
“We have never refused to pull a dog (out of the shelter) that we have been called to pull, but we just aren’t called,” she added. “It’s not about who gets the credit or the blame, but it’s about saving lives and that is what we are working for.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.