Young-Williams Animal Center euthanized more than 3,000 animals in 2016.
That number is actually a 68-percent drop from 2009, when more than 12,000 were put down.
Many of those animals already had health problems and were dying, but some could not find homes.
“Certainly we don’t want to have to euthanize any animal, we try to place as many animals as we can,” said Dr. Lisa Chassy, director of Public Spay Neuter Programs at Young Williams.
For years, the shelter has worked to combat that number in a variety of ways - one is on wheels.
"The spay shuttle is a pretty nifty thing,” Chassy said. “It’s a 35-foot RV, it was built as a shell then customized to what we needed.
Each day, Chassy and her team open the doors to the spay shuttle and welcome furry clients. Located at different stops throughout the week, it makes the surgeries easily accessible.
“One of the biggest reasons cited for people not having their getting pets spayed and neutered in a survey by Purina several years ago was 'I haven't gotten around to it yet,' and anything we can do to make this more convenient for people is certainly going to help them,” said Chassy.
The traveling mobile is just one of the ways that Young Williams is battling high numbers of stray and unwanted animals
"Every puppy or kitten that's born takes away a home from another one that's already here,” said Chassy.
While the numbers have declined dramatically, the fight isn’t over. It’s an issue that has grabbed the attention of state Sen. Dr. Richard Briggs, of Knoxville.
“It's always heartbreaking knowing that many of those animals are unwanted animals, they were not intended to be born, and many have to be euthanized,” Briggs said.
On Tuesday, Briggs introduced a bill into the state legislature that would establish a spay-neuter program focusing on reduced costs for low-income individuals.
“We want to put something that will be affordable for all the counties. We don't want people to prevent people from adopting pets that could become good ones,” said Briggs.
Funding will come from vaccination certificates and pet tags as well as the "Animal Friendly" license plates.
Both Chassy and Briggs look forward to a time when all animals have a home, but until then they will keep pushing for a change.
"I would like to come to work one day and find out here were no puppies or kittens left in the shelter, we would like to turn off the lights and go home,” Chassy said.”The more we adopt, the more we spay and neuter, the fewer there are out there.”
The bill will next go to a committee for review.
Chassy said it’s also important to get your pet spayed or neutered to help reduce health risks.
“Every heat cycle that a dog or cat has increases their chance of mammary cancer or breast cancer later down the road,” Chassy said.
“Another thing we frequently see in female dogs is uterine infections. Those can be life-threatening," she said. "Your dog can go from very sick to being dead in 24 hours. Just better to have that thing taken out. We don’t need more puppies and kittens, there’s no reason to wait.”
You can find the Spay Shuttle schedule on the Young-Williams website.