Huntsville Mayor, Animal Control Director React to ‘No Kill’ Possibilities

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – On Monday, July 29th, some 200 people turned out to a workshop organized by No Kill Huntsville to learn how Huntsville could move toward a 90 percent ‘save rate’ of animals at local shelters.

Now, the director of animal control in Huntsville and Madison County, as well as city leaders, are offering their thoughts about the suggestions to come from the workshop and what’s possible for the Rocket City.

On a given afternoon, the faces of puppies frolicking in the grass outside Huntsville Animal Services tug on heartstrings of people who want them to find love or anything other than euthanasia.

“It’s part of the movement as we as a nation… we’re going to stop killing domestic animals,” said Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard.  She is a veterinarian who runs animal control for Huntsville and Madison County.

She said the idea of saving 90 percent of all stray, lost or unwanted animals can work in Huntsville, but only with community support and patience.

“The number one resource I need is you: Everyone to be able to take part and if that’s that you foster an animal for two weeks of every year, or you do it repeatedly, or you write a check.”

Sheppard highlighted more ways people can help her and her staff to help the situation.

“We need so many foster homes for puppies.  We need so many volunteers to help us walk dogs, teach dogs to sit, scoop poop, bathe dogs,” she said.  And she added the shelter needs drivers to help get some animals to other cities for adoption.

She explained 60 percent of the dogs and 30 percent of the cats that come into her shelter make it out to homes or other shelters.  It’s improvement from five years ago, but she says it’s not good enough.

“As we move forward, we’re going to be looking at re-releasing all our cats back to where they came from, spaying and neutering and putting them back out there, which is very labor intensive and very rewarding,” said Sheppard.

That’s one of 11 approaches outlined during the workshop.  It’s a tactic Huntsville implemented succesfully for two years, under a grant.  But the money ran out.

“We haven’t been able to add anything to it and that’s what’s been holding us back,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.

He said he felt Huntsville has been moving in the same direction as those who advocate the No Kill approach.

Nonetheless, local animal advocates have new energy and emphasize they need support from the community to make changes.

Some changes may require current city ordinances to be tweaked.

Officials in Austin, Texas, which is known as the largest “No Kill community” in the country, are in contact with Huntsville city officials to offer assistance and advice in making changes.

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