RUTHERFORDTON — In 2021, Rutherford County Animal Control Services euthanized an average of 12 animals each month. Usually these are dangerous animals, too aggressive that they cannot be adopted, or seriously injured or sick animals.
On June 30, a total of 11 dogs were euthanized. While some criticized the action, others, including local nonprofit animal rescue organizations, defended the animal shelter’s staff and praised the shelter for being transparent.
The shelter, officials said, was already full when an additional 17 dogs and seven cats were brought in.
“There was no room, and by law we couldn’t turn them away,” shelter supervisor Kathy Hamilton said in a social media post. “This was a tough day for the shelter, but a tougher day for the county.”
Hamilton urged county residents to spay or neuter their pets, keep rabies vaccinations up to date and support the county’s animal shelter and local animal rescue groups.
“Our goal is not to have to cull,” said James Kilgo, head of Animal Control Services. “We are grateful for our partners, the animal rescue groups, who help reduce the number of animals euthanized.”
Karen Parker, executive director of Heart of the Foothills Animal Rescue, says she understands the dilemma animal shelter staff find themselves in.
“Our county shelter works very hard to stay in a ‘no kill’ state. Some months go quite well for them and the animals in their care,” Parker said Tuesday. “But let’s be realistic. They are continually being attacked with unwanted animals. They have limited space just like all the other shelters and rescue groups.”
One key difference, Parker said, is that the county animal shelter must take in animals even when there is no space. A rescue can stop taking animals when they are full.
“The shelter sometimes has to sacrifice,” Parker continued. “I’m sure they’re doing everything they can to not have to sacrifice.”
Parker is aware that years ago, the shelter’s reputation was less than stellar and it often faced criticism from animal rescue groups.
“I know they have staff at the shelter who care,” Parker said. “And that makes a big difference. It’s very different from the way it used to be. They are doing the best they can.”
Lynn Faltraco is executive director of the nonprofit Community Pet Center (CPC). That organization’s focus is providing pet food to low-income pet owners, facilitating low-cost spay/neuter clinics, and education about responsible pet ownership.
“We have to encourage everyone who has a pet to have it spayed or spayed,” Faltraco said. “This is how we reduce the number of animals that are slaughtered. There are simply too many unwanted dogs and cats in Rutherford County.”
Faltraco and his team of volunteers work to make it as easy as possible to properly care for dogs and cats. CPC recently held two free rabies and microchip clinics at CPC headquarters in Forest City.
“We try to educate the public and push them in the right direction,” Faltraco said.
For example, pet owners must show that their animals have been vaccinated against rabies before they are allowed to receive free pet food.
Since 2003, CPC has partnered with Animal Allies, a nonprofit organization located in Spartanburg, South Carolina. CPC regularly registers and transports animals from Rutherford County to Spartanburg for spay/neuter procedures.
Pet owners drop off pets at the CPC on Piney Ridge Road, Forest City at 6:30 am and pick them up at 4:45 pm the same day. The cost is $75 and includes various other services.
“We have more and more doing this,” Faltraco said. “Since we began our relationship with Animal Allies, more than 14,000 have been modified.”
Faltraco says that these days, there really is no excuse for owners not to have their pets spayed or neutered.
“There are low-cost options. There are nonprofit groups that are willing to help,” Faltraco said. “It’s about being a responsible pet owner.”
CPC is resuming its comprehensive pet ownership education initiative when the new school year begins next month. Since during the entire covid pandemic, they have only had one school visit.
“We are excited to be back in schools,” he said. “Several have already scheduled our visit.”
Faltraco believes that reaching children and young people is key to building a culture of responsible pet ownership.
“When we reach students, it’s easier to reach parents,” Faltraco said.
No one, Faltraco says, likes to hear about shelter overcrowding and animal euthanasia. But there are times when it is necessary, he admits.
“I think in general the culture of responsible pet ownership is a bit better,” he added. “But we still have big challenges.”