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

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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]