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Misinformation on proposed pet ordinance
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Editor, We would like to take issue with the opening paragraph of the proposed mandatory spay neuter ordinance proposed at the Liberty County Commission meeting on Feb. 2.
We quote:
“It is the purpose of this section to promote the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Liberty County by reducing the number of stray dogs and cats. Liberty Humane Shelter finds that Liberty County Animal Control and Fort Stewart Animal Control euthanize thousands of dogs and cats each year because they are unwanted or abandoned. According to the American Humane Association, an estimated 9.6 million animals are euthanized in the United States every year. Out of 1,000 shelters responding to a survey, 2.7 million of 5.3 million animals or 64% were euthanized. 56% of dogs and 71% of cats that enter shelters were euthanized. 15% of dogs and 2% of cats were reunited with their owners; 25% of dogs and 24% of cats were adopted. The majority of these are euthanized at animal shelters, typically after a standard period of time (ranging from several days to several weeks for unclaimed stray animals). It is the purpose of this section to eliminate the excessive numbers of unwanted animals and thereby stop the needless killing of these animals by restricting the irresponsible breeding practices of pet owners and breeders through legislation that is both reasonable and enforceable.”
The link for American Humane Association in the HTML version of the ordinance from Liberty Humane’s Web site does not go to the AHA site, but actually to a Wikipedia article on AHA which does not reference pet euthanasia statistics
Curiously, AHA does not list the “9.6 million euthanized” as a current number on their Web site, but rather a much, much lower figure in a Web page under their “Shelter Professionals — Protecting Animals” section on their Web site: “Getting to Zero” — AHA
“Every year, approximately 3.7 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters in the United States.”
That’s 5.9 millions fewer than the figures Liberty Humane claim that AHA said (61% less) which is a huge discrepancy. Most animal welfare organizations would believe that the 3.7 million figure is representative of today’s situation, even the Humane Society of the United States, who state on their Web site that 3-4 million are euthanized in United States shelters each year:
Here is the AHA Web page that Liberty Humane actually quoted from, and from looking at it,  it is clear Liberty Humane left out some very inconvenient (for them) statements that AHA specifically stated which modified the 9.6 figure. These include the current  number is 3.7 million as accepted by most organizations, and  that the most recent figures are from back in 1997, with nothing more recent, and, what’s more, the numbers given are extrapolated estimates since only a percentage (most likely well under a third) of animal shelters actually responded to the original survey (obviously, AHA is using them as “the best we have” but openly stating that the numbers are not meant to be representative of today, or even highly accurate for 1997.)
National euthanasia statistics are difficult to pinpoint because animal care and control agencies are not uniformly required to keep statistics on the number of animals taken in, adopted, euthanized or reclaimed. While many shelters know the value of keeping statistics, no national reporting structure exists to make compiling national statistics on these figures possible.
However, AHA is one of the founding members of the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. The mission of the council is to gather and analyze reliable data that further characterize the number, origin and disposition of pets (dogs and cats) in the United States; to promote responsible stewardship of these companion animals; and based on the data gathered, to recommend programs to reduce the number of surplus/unwanted pets in the United States.
Unfortunately, the most recent statistics published by the council are from 1997, and only 1,000 shelters replied to the survey at that time. Using the council’s numbers from 1997 and estimating the number of operating shelters in the United States to be 3,500 (the exact number of animal shelters operating in the United States does not exist), these estimates were made:
Of the 1,000 shelters that replied to the national council’s survey, 4.3 million animals were handled.
In 1997, roughly 64 percent of the total number of animals that entered shelters were euthanized — approximately 2.7 million animals in just these 1,000 shelters. These animals may have been euthanized due to overcrowding, but may also have been sick, aggressive, injured or suffering from something else.
Fifty-six percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized. More cats are euthanized than dogs because they are more likely to enter a shelter without any owner identification.
Only 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners.
Twenty-five percent of dogs and 24 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are adopted.
It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the nation’s shelters in 2008. This number represents a generally accepted statistic that is widely used by many animal welfare organizations, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
For more information on the studies by the national council, visit
More curiously than all of this, however, is that AHA was quoted at all. You see, AHA has recently come out with a position statement against these MSN-type laws, perhaps a bit of a soft statement, but they still make it very clear that MSN laws do not provide the intended results.
 “While American Humane supports mandatory spay/neuter of all shelter and rescue animals prior to adoption, we believe in general that expenses associated with mandatory spay/neuter legislation would be better spent on low- or no-cost spay/ neuter programs.”
We find it highly egregious and disingenuous that Liberty Humane chose to intentionally misquote AHA and attempt to mislead us further by not providing us with an accurate link to the AHA page where these numbers where obtained, and instead, sent us to Wikipedia, thinking we wouldn’t have the brains to check.

Howard and Lesley Merrill
Liberty County
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