Ohio and Lucas County have made strides in recent years to reduce the number of dogs needlessly killed at county shelters. But much remains to be done.
The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that about 70 percent of the roughly 100,000 dogs that entered Ohio shelters last year made it out alive, either claimed by their owners or adopted into new families. But that means some 30,000 animals were killed.
Kill rates varied greatly across the state, from 1 percent in Carroll County to 81 percent in Lawrence County. Among Ohio’s urban counties, Lucas County’s rate was 57 percent, a close second to Montgomery County’s 58 percent.
According to the Lucas County Dog Warden’s Web site, the kill rate in the first six months of this year was less than 47 percent. That’s progress.
Changes to Ohio’s dangerous-dog law that went into effect in May make it easier to adopt pit bull-type dogs. That should bring down the kill rate statewide, and especially in urban counties where a larger percentage of the dogs that end up in pounds are pit bulls.
Lack of space is a cause of high kill rates in some Ohio counties. One solution is more cooperation with local humane society chapters and rescue groups. Hamilton County achieved a kill rate of 30 percent in part because it has a contract with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that keeps adoption costs down and provides health treatment and extended foster care for dogs.
Matt Granito, president of the Ohio County Dog Wardens Association, told the Dispatch that a county’s kill rate largely reflects the attitude of its dog warden. Better, more uniform standards of care could save the lives of hundreds of dogs.
Last year, 37 dogs in Brown County were killed needlessly because they had mange, a treatable condition. The uproar over the deaths pushed county officials to stop using a barbaric gas chamber to kill dogs, and to put the Humane Society in charge of the shelter.
Rehabilitation also remains a problem area. Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle has hired a full-time dog trainer, who should help. But Ms. Lyle has said that because the pound is nearly always at or near capacity, dogs have to be moved too quickly to rehabilitate them all.
Just adding cages doesn’t fix the problem, she said, because dogs kept in cages for too long “go crazy.” But best practices at dog pounds in America and Europe suggest that roomier cages, dog runs, and exercise areas do help.
More people are sterilizing their pets. That means fewer strays. And more people are adopting dogs from shelters rather than buying them from breeders or pet stores. Cracking down on puppy mills — a topic on which Ohio lawmakers have dragged their feet for years — will reduce those numbers further.
A national system to track dogs in and out of shelters would make it easier to identify programs that are successful in reducing deaths. It also would help to learn more about treatment and outcomes. There need to be national standards and requirements for shelter care.
Internet sites such as petfinders.com are helping match adoptable dogs with new owners. But counties need to develop creative ways to find homes for more adoptable dogs.
Photographs in newspapers such as The Blade, Internet adoption pages, and adopt-a-pet events should be just the beginning. Reducing adoption and license fees also would help.
County by county, Ohio is becoming more dog friendly. But with 3 million to 4 million dogs killed nationally each year — tens of thousands of them in Ohio pounds — there is ample room for further progress.