BECKLEY - More than three million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters across the United States every year, often just to make room for more animals. During the spring, more puppies and kittens are born, leading to more intakes in overcrowded facilities.
Joyce Stover, adoption counselor at the Humane Society of Raleigh County, said the animals did not ask to be unwanted. "It's up to us to try to get them out and get them adopted and get them to rescues to save their lives because they can't do it themselves," Stover explained. "So we as humans have to help them. We have to be their voice."
The Humane Society of Raleigh County and the Fayette County Animal Control Center are two local shelters that are consistently overcrowded, sometimes receiving as many as 20 animals in one day.
When not enough people adopt these animals and when there is not enough space in the shelters to house them, there are usually only two options: some of the animals will be sent to rescue organizations, or they will be euthanized.
Dr. Mindy Osborne, owner of Oak Hill Animal Hospital, said there is a simple solution to the issue of shelter overcrowding. "If you spay and neuter your animals, then you'll have less puppies and kittens being born," she said. "So that means less animals that will end up in our shelters and ultimately euthanized when we don't find them homes."
Euthanasia rates have decreased around 70 percent since last year alone at the Fayette County Animal Control Center, and not one animal has been euthanized at the Humane Society of Raleigh County so far this year.
Shelter employees attributed these dwindling rates with more people spaying and neutering their pets. "I think if you get them spayed from the get-go, you don't have that overpopulation," explained Co-Director Carrie Carr of the Fayette County Animal Control Center. "I think maybe it's where we keep pushing, pushing, pushing for that is why our euthanasia rate is down now."
Osborne said spaying and neutering is "a true health benefit for these animals." Positive side-effects include decreasing the risks of uterine infection and breast cancer in females and testicular cancer in males.