In Fiscal Year 2013, the year before the Oconee County Animal Control Department began its foster program, it euthanized 1.4 animals for every animal it was able to adopt out.
In Fiscal Year 2015, the first full year of operation of the adoption program, Animal Control reversed the ratio, adopting out 1.8 animals for every one it euthanized.
The number of adoptions went from 110 to 285 in this time period, an increase of 159 percent.
The number of animals transferred to another rescue agency dropped from 224 to 208, while the number of animal cases resolved (rescued or euthanized) was relatively stable with 794 cases in Fiscal Year 2013 and 762 in 2015.
These data from the Animal Control Department provide strong evidence of the effectiveness of the foster program at a time when the Oconee County Animal Control Advisory Board has raised questions about the future of the program.
I obtained the raw data on the number of animals adopted, transferred to another rescue agency, or euthanized from the Animal Control Department via an open records request.
The data are for dogs and cats only, but those animals make up almost all of the adoption cases dealt with by Animal Control, according to Catlyn Vickers, director of the Animal Control Department.
The data show a high volume of cases processed by the animal shelter in the last three years, and a high number of euthanized animals.
The percentage of animals put down has dropped from 57.9 percent in Fiscal Year 2013 to 50.5 percent in 2014 and 35.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2015, which ended on June 30 of this year.
The county’s foster program, which allows volunteers to take animals from the shelter to try to find them homes, started in March of 2014, meaning it was in place for only one third of Fiscal Year 2014.
FY 2013 Data Details
The data provided me by the county show that the shelter had 794 animals that I classified as resolved cases in FY 2013. I classified a case resolved if the animal was rescued or if it was euthanized.
Of these 794 cases, 110 were rescued by adoption by the shelter, and 223 were rescued by being transferred to a rescue group or agency that promised to find the animal a home. The total number of rescued animals was 334.
In FY 2013, the shelter euthanized 460 animals.
Of those, 166 had a medical problem, possibly because it had been hit by a car or had serious medical symptoms, such as bloody diarrhea, vomiting or respiratory problem.
Another 148 of the animals were feral, meaning, according to Vickers, they were wild animals that had not had human interaction. They are a public health risk, she said.
The final group of euthanized animals, 146, was classified as not adoptable. Vickers said these animals have temperament problems that, according to the staff, cannot be reversed.
FY 2015 Data Details
In FY 2015, the shelter had 762 resolved cases.
Of these 762 resolved cases, 285 were rescued by adoption by the shelter, and 208 were rescued by being transferred to a rescue group or agency that promised to find the animal a home. The total number of rescued animals was 493.
In FY 2015, the shelter euthanized 269 animals.
Of those, 93 had a medical problem.
Another 90 of the animals were feral.
And 86 were classified as not adoptable.
The majority of animals processed by the shelter as well as the majority of those euthanized in each of the three years for which I obtained data were cats.
A chart summarizing the data I received from the county is below.
|Foster Program Data|
(Click To Enlarge)
Animal Control Board
The Animal Control Board Advisory Board is dominated by breeders and trainers, and it has not been a strong supporter of the foster program.
At the most recent meeting of that Board, on July 8, all members present said they appreciated what the volunteers had done.
But Advisory Board member Janet Caplin said that the program should be split off from the Animal Control Department in the next two to three years. Only Board member Helen Fosgate opposed that idea.
On at least some level, animals made available to the public by adoption programs are in competition with the animals marketed by breeders.
Number Of Cages
The shelter, located at 1171 Branch Road south of Farmington in the far south of the county, has a limited number of cages that can be used to hold animals.
Crystal Berisko, adoption rescue coordinator, told me last week that the shelter has 37 cages for dogs, with 13 of those set aside to handle strays and 7 set aside to handle dogs in quarantine.
The facility has 33 cages for cats, with 21 set aside for adoptable animals and the remaining 12 set aside for strays and quarantined cats.
Vickers told me when we talked on Sept. 21 that there is no set period for holding an animal for adoption at the shelter, but the norm is about two months.
Vickers said the department now has more than 20 individuals participating in the foster program.
These “foster parents” take an animal that can no longer be held at the shelter because of space or which has not attracted any interest on the part of a possible future owner.
“They help showcase the animal,” Vickers said, through taking it to places where others will see the animal and by doing a lot of posting on social media.
“They are saving many lives,” she said.
In FY 2014, these volunteers fostered 23 animals. In FY 2015, they fostered 79.
The shelter’s designation of animals as adoptable and the use of its cages came into question recently.
Pam Hendrix told the Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Aug. 25 that she recently had gone to the animal shelter to make a donation.
When she got there she was shown two male cats that she was led to believe were going to be euthanized. “They were wonderful,” she said.
She took those cats, as well as a female cat and three kittens, home to foster them.
As long as there are empty cages or kennels at the shelter, Hendrix said, she didn’t think any animals should be put down.