HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A recent release from the City of Huntsville describes an “urgent plea” for the public to help with overcrowding inside Huntsville Animal Shelter. A local pet advocacy organization wonders if more can be done to prevent healthy animals from being put down as a last resort.

“We formed in January of 2012 at a time when the City of Huntsville was destroying a lot of healthy and treatable animals at the tax-funded shelter, and we came together to speak with one voice to encourage the city to function differently, to end that practice,” No-Kill Huntsville spokesperson Aubrie Kavanaugh told News 19.

Kavanaugh said the group’s advocacy has aided in Huntsville Animal Shelter having one of the lowest 2020 euthanasia rates in Alabama at just over 5%, qualifying for “No-Kill” status according to bestfriends.org.

“The reason we continue to apply scrutiny is because we feel every life has value, and we feel that it’s become a public expectation that healthy and treatable animals will be saved,” Kavanaugh said. “We can talk about it in a big-picture kind of way until it’s your dog.”

Huntsville Animal Services Director Karen Sheppard admits sometimes a dog in custody that appears dangerous can’t be rehabilitated in HAS care, even if it had a previous owner.

“A lot of people are really sad about that, and we understand it,” Sheppard said. “But right now that’s where we’re at in being a municipal shelter and being a tax-based operation. With the bandwidth and the resources we have, we try really hard to find homes for all our animals that can have a good quality of life and be safe.”

The shelter was granted its most employees to date in the 2022 city budget. Sheppard said that helps but can’t always prevent saving homeless pets.

“The saving rate that we have here – it’s not because of us. I mean, we work hard. But it’s because the community comes and helps us,” Sheppard said. “Volunteers will walk dogs, take photographs, (and) fosters come and foster pets. But in general it’s all about adopters coming and adopting pets from us.”

No-Kill Huntsville holds the same position, and both Sheppard and Kavanaugh advocate key ways to prevent shelter crowding.

Spaying and neutering is so important,” Sheppard said. “Every day we see people who adore their pet, and for that reason whether the dog is an AKC champion or just a regular dog, a lot of people want (their dog) to reproduce, and we discourage it because of just the excessive number of pets in our community.”

“We see a lot of times with animals entering Huntsville Animal Services, somebody died or had to go into assisted living, and nobody can take them,” Kavanaugh said. “So have a plan for your animals kind of like you would have for your children. Be prepared.”