The effects of a no-kill ethic, by the numbers
The Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) has completed three quarters (nine months) since implementing its "no-kill ethic." This ethic embodies our commitment to the proposition that for every animal who comes through our doors, there is a kind and loving person or family, and it is our mission to bring them together.
Many ask what effect our "no-kill ethic" has had on the animals in our care. I often share stories in this column explaining how this ethic affects specific animals. Today, however, I want to share the broader story that our numbers tell.
There are three numbers that animal shelters use to explain their success - or failure - in reducing pet euthanasia (or killing).
1. The Live Release Rate (LRR): This number refers to the animals that get out of a shelter alive. It includes adoptions, transfers to rescue organizations and lost pets returned to their owners. Some animal shelter experts claim anything over an 85 percent LRR can be considered "no-kill."
Since July, YHS has maintained an 87 percent Live Release Rate (compared to 71 percent for the same three quarters a year earlier).
2. The Euthanasia Rate: This number is the inverse of the LLR and reports the actual number of animals euthanized.
Since July, YHS's euthanasia rate fell 66.7 percent (410 compared to 1,233 during the same three quarters a year earlier). This difference represents three additional lives saved each and every day.
Without question, the above numbers are cause for celebration. However, they don't explain how YHS compares to other communities. The next number does, which is why I suspect so many shelters avoid talking about it:
3. The Per Capita Rate: This number refers to the number of animals killed per 1,000 residents. For instance, if a community of 500,000 people kills 5,000 dogs and cats per year, you divide 5,000 animals by 500 (groups of 1,000 residents) to determine a kill rate of 10 animals per 1,000 residents. The per capita rate provides an objective "apples to apples" comparison to other communities.
Animal People magazine issues an annual National Shelter Killing Report based on this number. In the 2009 report, the national kill rate average was 13.5 animals per 1,000 U.S. residents.
In 2009, YHS euthanized 17.25 animals per 1,000 residents; sadly, a substantially higher rate than the national average.
However, in 2010 the YHS euthanasia rate fell to 9.1, well below the national average thanks to applying the "no-kill ethic" during the last six months.
Clearly, YHS has come a long way - from 17.25 to 9.1 - but just as clearly, we have a long way yet to go. To create a "no-kill community," we must all play our part as responsible pet owners.
Here are the top five ways you can help transform our community into a truly humane society:
1. License your dog and microchip your pets. YHS has one of the highest "return to owner" rates in the nation (68 percent). When your pet comes to YHS with a current license or microchip, he has a guaranteed ticket home.
2. Obey the leash law. Don't allow your pet to run at large, especially if not spayed or neutered.
3. Spay/neuter all your pets. Pets should be spayed or neutered before sexual maturity. Call the YHS Spay/Neuter Clinic (771-0547) to make an appointment today.
4. Become a YHS member by making a life-saving donation. Consider YHS in your planned giving strategies.
5. Join the YHS Volunteer Organization. Your involvement brings new energy and expertise to our organization and will make a big difference in the lives of the animals and people of Yavapai County.
Call 455-2666, ext. 21, if you have questions about how you can help. Together we can make Yavapai County the safest community in Arizona for our pets.
Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 445-2666, ext. 21.