A Knoxville veterinarian tells 10News that reducing animal euthanasia is a community issue that can be accomplished with owners spaying and neutering their pets. This comes in the wake of controversy over killing practices at the Adrian Baird Animal Center in Campbell County.
On Friday afternoon, Dr. Lisa M. Chassy tried to feed a small kitten at Young Williams Animal Center its first bite of cat food. The tiny fur ball wasn't quite ready to wean off of it's mother's milk. Dr. Chassy said the kitten's chances of ending up in a forever home are good because the center's cat population is not over-capacity. However, she warned that other felines won't be so lucky.
"In a month and a half when this kitten is old enough to be adopted, we're going to have 100 to 300 kittens waiting to be adopted, and we don't have 100-300 people coming down to adopt them," Dr. Chassy explained.
That means staff at Young Williams will likely face some tough choices this spring when the cat population typically spikes.
"For those that think it's an easy thing to decide to put an animal to sleep, that's the farthest thing from the truth," said Chassy.
Young Williams reports it took in more than 14,000 dogs and cats in 2012. Dr. Chassy said 50 percent of those were adopted, rescued or transferred to other centers out of state for adoption in to loving homes. The other half were euthanized.
"We use an injection of sodium penobarbitol, which is an anesthetic that causes death. We also use a sedative based on certain factors with animals," said Dr Chassy.
The drug is typically given through an "IV" injection, which goes immediately into the blood stream. Animals who undergo this procedure at Young Williams, Dr. Chassy said, typically have expensive health issues, are already near death, or have aggressive behavior. Basically, they are not suitable for adoption.
"Dogs and cats wandering in the community can bite kids and cause car accidents," said Dr. Chassy.
The center has $2M budget made up of local government funds and private donations. Blount County's Animal Center operates on a $350,000 budget of public money; it only took in 600 animals in 2012 and has a 94% adoption rate.
Compare those to the Campbell County center's budget, which is $160,000 dollars. Yet, it took in nearly 4,000 dogs and cats.
"A lot of smaller communities don't have the funding or the backing," said Dr. Chassy.
Low funding, and little to no community support, according to Dr. Arthur, makes it difficult to run an animal center that can work to keep the pulic safe, and as many animals as possible alive. She believes there's only one way to deal with low funding, and reduce animal euthanasia.
"The biggest single step that any citizen in East Tennessee can do is to have your pet spayed and neutered because that's where the problem starts," said Dr. Chassy.
That means working together as a community, and for pet owner's to take responsibility for their own animals.
Young Williams will help anyone in East Tennessee find a local center that offers spaying and neutering services, similar to their low-cost and free programs.