Huntsville Animal Services celebrates 90% live release rate, launches holiday $5 adoption rate

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – With less than three weeks left in 2014, the staff at Huntsville Animal Services (HAS) is overwhelmed with unwanted dogs and cats.

It has already forced them to stop taking in owner-surrendered animals.

Yet, just last month, the staff celebrated their most successful month ever.

Dogs and cats fill the kennels at HAS.  There are so many this month, staff are refusing any owner-surrendered animals for now.  The director says there’s simply no room.

“What starts happening is viral levels start building up in the air and a lot of your animals start becoming quite ill, stop eating, I mean sick,” said Dr. Karen Sheppard.

It reminds her of what she considers the low point of the year for the shelter.

During this past summer, the shelter was full to capacity and sickness broke out.

The staff had to consider the worst option for the animals, but instead tried something different.

“We went to the public this year instead of doing what’s called a population reduction, which is basically a mass euthanasia,” said Sheppard.  “In 5 or 6 days, the shelter was empty and we didn’t euthanize one.”

It was the beginning of success like they’d never seen before.

With guidance from two consultants, staff members made changes to adoption rates, how they counseled clients and other things.

“The last three months we have saved over 80 percent of our animals that have come in,” said Sheppard.

Overall, the shelter’s statistics show a live release rate for 2014 at 72% for about 5,400 animals that came in.  That’s compared to a live release rate of 48% of 7,200 animals last year and only 24% live release rate of more than 10,000 animals that came in 2009.

Sheppard says saving nine out of every ten animals in November was their best month ever — and scary.

“We’re a little worried that now we can’t sustain that,” said Sheppard.  “We’ve gotta have help. We’ve got to have the public’s help.”

She admits in December, staff has already had to euthanize several dogs to make room for others.

And so the emotional pain and struggle to save lives continues.

Sheppard added the two consulting groups who examined the facility, staff, policies and practices made lists of suggested improvements.
However Sheppard insists she doesn’t have enough staff to carry them out.

City leaders are aware of the problem. Today begins special adoption effort, where you can take home a large dog or a cat for just five dollars.

It lasts through next Friday.