Hundreds of healthy dogs and cats being put down every month, thousands of strays dying every year, and that's just at one Bradley County Shelter. That is leaidng to mounting frustrations for those trying to find animals new homes. Newschannel 9 has uncovered disturbing numbers when it comes to the death rate at local shelters.
More than five thousand five hundred animals are put down every year in Bradley County. It's a problem that animal control says can't be avoided. Animal Control Director Gene Smith says there's simply not enough room for the dogs and cats like these that are brought in. But animal rescuers say there has to be another way to keep healthy and adoptable animals alive.
Walking through the Cleveland Animal Shelter, it's hard to stomach the fact that more than 75 percent of the animals brought in will be put down.
Beth Foster works for the Dixie Per Undergraound Railroad. She says, "We would say they're killed, euthanasia usually means an act of mercy for sick or injured animal, but these are healthy animals, adoptable animals."
Rescue missions say they're frustrated with the situation. Foster and Betti Gravelle work for a nearby non-profit clinic and help find homes for abandoned pets, hoping they won't be euthanized before that time. Foster says, "Puppies wagging their tails, looking at them in the eyes as they have to be put down, it's a heart breaking situation."
Gravelle adds, "We are killing almost 7000 animals a year and hauling them off to the dump and it is not acceptable."
The shelter is owned and operated by the city of Cleveland, with additional funding from Bradley County. The records show that in March, 346 animals were euthanized, 292 in April, and in May, nearly 450.
Director Gene Smith doesn't deny the fact that healthy dogs and cats get the fatal injection every day. He says it's simple a matter of overcrowding. He says a stray has 3 days to be adopted, then on the fourth day, the animal can be put down. "Pretty much always full, but there will be some times when a cage is empty because there are times when they have put down an animal that morning, but at the end of the day you will walk through and see full cages."
But we did find some empty cages this afternoon. Gravelle questions why some are put down simply in anticipation of what could be brought in that day. "When I go in there and see an empty kennel I know an animal died that could be there and could have had one more day, just one more day, could have been adopted."
An average of 76 percent are euthanized at the Bradley County shelter. We wanted to compare that number to Chattanooga's shelter. The records for McKamey show that in a three month period, an average of 63 percent of the animals are euthanized.
Those documents, however do break down how many of those pets were adoptable versus those who were sick.
Cleveland Animal Control Division Petfinder Page