Euthanasia Rates in Animal Shelters Are Plummeting—Here's Why

yokeetod/iStock via Getty Images
yokeetod/iStock via Getty Images

Euthanasia in overpopulated animal shelters is a consequence that few people care to think about. Donations, no-kill policies, and volunteers can provide assistance, but providing positive outcomes for dogs and cats has long remained a problem.

According to a recent investigation by The New York Times's Alicia Parlapiano, there’s now reason to believe euthanasia is not nearly as pervasive a practice as it was even 10 years ago.

The Times examined data from shelters in 20 major American cities and discovered that rates of euthanasia—the practice of terminating the life of animals, often by lethal injection—has dropped by an average of 75 percent in recent years. In Houston, for example, 57 percent of animals brought into shelters in 2012 were put down. In 2018, that number dropped to just 15 percent. In Philadelphia, the rate decreased from 36 percent to 13 percent in the same timeframe. Phoenix went from 46 percent to just 4 percent. Other cities, including Los Angeles and New York, demonstrated similar declines.

What’s behind the change? Shifting societal norms. Petitions to spay and neuter pets to cut down on unwanted offspring became pervasive, from Bob Barker’s sign-off on The Price is Right to public information campaigns. The second influencer is an uptick in adoption rates. Where people once gravitated to pet shops for a pedigreed puppy, bonding with a rescue animal has increasingly been perceived as the more humane and responsible option. With the help of volunteers, more shelters have also arranged to shuttle their overpopulated residents to states where there might be more of a demand for rescues.

These numbers could continue to improve. In Austin, 98 percent of animals exiting shelter facilities were “live release,” or adopted out. While pursuing such compassion comes at a price—some facilities can become overcrowded, leading to kennel ailments like cough or illness—it seems safe to say that animals are looking at a brighter future than ever before, thanks to the efforts of their human caretakers.

[h/t The New York Times]

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Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com

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Do Dogs Get Headaches?

Even without raging benders, dogs might still get headaches.
Even without raging benders, dogs might still get headaches.
damedeeso/iStock via Getty Images

Like babies, dogs can be hard to read in the medical ailment department. Are they listless because they’re tired, or because they’re sick? What’s behind their whining? And can they suffer that most human of debilitating conditions, the headache?

Gizmodo polled several veterinarians and animal behavior specialists to find out, and the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Although a dog can’t express discomfort in a specific way, particularly if it doesn’t involve limping, animal experts know that canines that have diagnosed brain tumors or encephalitis can also be observed to have a high heart rate, a sign of physical pain. According to Tim Bentley, an associate professor of veterinary neurology and neurosurgery at Purdue Veterinary Medicine, administering painkillers will bring a dog’s heart rate down. If signs of physical distress also decrease, a headache was likely involved.

Unfortunately, not all dogs may offer overt signals they’re feeling some brain pain. According to Adam Boyko, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs instinctively try to mask pain to avoid showing weakness.

Ultimately, dogs have many of the same central neural pathways as humans, which can likely go awry in some of the same ways. But the kind of persistent headaches owing to head colds or hangovers are probably rare in dogs. And while it goes without saying, they definitely don't need any of your Advil.

[h/t Gizmodo]