By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Five years ago, a pet dropped off at the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society faced a likely death sentence with the shelter’s 75 percent euthanasia rate.
This year, however, marks the first time in recent history that rate dipped below 60 percent. It’s a huge coup for TLHS, whose director and board members in 2007 launched a massive turnaround to reduce euthanasia.
“It makes me happy to come into work every day when I see that I can make a difference for these animals,” said shelter Director Debbie Hood. “My goal has always been to get down to zero euthanasia for healthy, adoptable animals, and I hope to drop another 20 percent this year.”
The shelter took in 7,755 cats and dogs in 2011, not including the roughly 150 pets already at the facility when the year began. Of that total population, 215 were reclaimed by their owners, and 2,989 found new homes through adoptions and rescue organizations. An additional 4,614 were put down, making the euthanasia rate 59.5 percent.
Though the statistics remain grim, it’s a marked improvement from previous years.
Among the contributing factors are the shelter’s cleaner appearance and new stainless steel pet cages, its collaboration with Mississippi State University’s veterinary program and numerous outside rescue organizations, its public education efforts, and its low-cost spay and neuter clinic where it can sterilize thousands of pets per year.
It also could break ground soon on a new facility that will afford it more space to house pets and in a friendlier atmosphere geared to boost adoptions.
Long plagued by cramped and outdated conditions at its current facility, TLHS in August received a nearly 2-acre site for a new animal shelter. The land, located near the corner of Cliff Gookin Boulevard and Thomas Street, was donated by Big Oaks Farm. Shelter officials are working with architects to design the new digs.
“It takes the whole community to reduce euthanasia and increase adoptions,” Hood said. “We’re constantly working toward that goal.”