A private animal shelter in DeKalb County says it is turning away a record number of animals every day.
Because of the economy, pet owners are losing their jobs and homes, and moving to apartments that do not allow pets. Others, simply can not afford to keep their pets, said Tara Mitchell, director of operations for Paws Atlanta.
And an increasing number of animals are being euthanized in DeKalb County. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of euthanized cats and dogs has risen from 3,800 to nearly 5,500, according to county records.
The county “has no choice but to euthanize,” Mitchell said. “We can’t store a million animals in one building.”
In response to those numbers, the county has formed the DeKalb Animal Services Task Force to implement strategies that will improve quality of life for animals and reduce the numbers of euthanized healthy or treatable animals.
According Susan Neugent, chairwoman of the task force, 17,000 animals were taken in between 2009-10. Of those, 1,200 were adopted and 2,200 were rescued by private shelters. The county euthanized 10,000 animals during that time and spends approximately $1.75 million annually on euthanizations.
During an eight-month period, animal task force members will review existing practices in DeKalb and other communities to determine ways to protect animals in the county.
The task force will consider promoting good choices by pet owners; restructuring DeKalb Animal Services; enhancing and developing new collaborations between agencies, non-profit organizations and concerned residents; improving enforcement tools and practices; and enhancing facilities used to institutionally house or manage pets in DeKalb County.
Mitchell said the answer to the pet overpopulation is to enforce laws for spaying and neutering.
“It’s the only way we’re going to make a dent in the problem,” Mitchell said.
Janet Hart, president of A Welcome Home Animal Rescue, said the animal overpopulation is a fact of life.
“There aren’t enough homes for animals,” Hart said. “People are too irresponsible to take care of them.”
“I hate euthanasia, but I hate worse keeping animals in cages for years,” Hart said. “It’s better than keeping animals in cages for years and it’s better than letting stray animals fend for themselves on the streets.”
Residents can help the task force by participating in a brief online survey at www.dekalbcountyga.gov/astf.