KENAB, Utah — Nearly 18,000 dogs and cats died in pet shelters across Mississippi in 2021, representing 27.3% of all animals taken to shelters statewide .
A recent study by a pet welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society shows that Mississippi’s overall savings rate of 72.7% was worse than all but seven other US states in 2021.
A rescue rate of 90% is required to qualify as a “no-kill” shelter, with the remaining 10% allowing animals with medical or behavioral issues warranting euthanasia. The purpose of the study is to examine the number of healthy animals that are euthanized simply for lack of space.
In 2020, more than 51,000 dogs and cats were cared for by Mississippi shelters, including 47,142 rescued for an 80.6% rescue rate. Experts say the big difference in numbers is due to fewer pets entering shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the decline in rescue is largely due to the historic decrease in the number of pets entering shelters in 2020,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “As shelters have begun to reopen in 2021 in increasing numbers, the number of pets entering their facilities has also increased.”
Mississippi’s numbers were in line with national trends, according to the report, as the US animal shelter crisis grows with far more animals entering shelters than exiting through adoption.
In 2021, the number of dogs and cats killed in U.S. shelters rose from 347,000 to 355,000. Reasons for the rising numbers include staffing shortages that have limited hours, fewer in-person volunteers, reducing adoption events and supporting pet care.
The study also looked at data from individual shelters and showed that 35% of shelters in Mississippi met the 90% criteria to be considered “kill-free,” up from 26.56% the previous year.
Data from the Jackson County Animal Shelter was not included in the report, but the shelter’s director, Joe Barlow, said his facility was at or near the non-elimination level, despite a series of challenges.
“Our average live stream rate, overall, is between 89% and 92%,” Barlow said. “We’ve been in that range for a while now. That said, this year could really shake up our schedule, based on the momentum we’ve seen. »
Echoing the Best Friends report, Barlow said the post-lockdown numbers are dismal compared to what the shelter has seen in 2020.
“What we are seeing is the complete opposite of what we saw at the height of (the lockdown),” he said, “ie people were adopting, animals were going home and our numbers were fantastic.
“What we are seeing now, however, is more animals coming in, more strays on the streets. I guess people are going back to work and not containing their animals properly. Adoptions have plummeted this year.
Barlow said the majority of Jackson County euthanasias result from vicious animals, court orders, or sick or injured animals beyond medical attention. However, if current trends continue, this could change.
“What we’ve seen so far this year doesn’t bode well for our euthanasia numbers, but we’re still hanging on to that 89% mark,” Barlow said.
Best Friends Animal Society CEO Julie Castle agreed with Barlow’s assessment.
“Unfortunately, the decline in rescue is largely due to the historic decrease in the number of pets entering shelters in 2020,” Castle said. “As shelters have begun to reopen in 2021 in increasing numbers, the number of pets entering their facilities has also increased.”
Barlow said a big part of the problem in Jackson County comes down to liability.
“We definitely need to start having more responsible ownership,” he said. “Today alone I had about 15 puppies coming through the door. We have intact owner-hosted males and females, despite the fact that there are a number of neutering and neutering services at low cost available in Jackson County.
Barlow acknowledged that these spaying/neutering options may not be readily available in more rural areas of the state.
Castle added that solving the national pet shelter problem will take a team effort.
“The responsibility for saving the lives of pets should not rest solely with shelters and those concerned with animal welfare,” Castle said, “but with entire communities, including members of the community, government leaders, shelters and other animal welfare groups”.
“Through collaboration and community involvement, this model provides better support for pet owners, efficiency in shelters, and more life-saving outcomes for animals. When a community meets the critical needs of its shelter, we see dramatic results.