COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Columbus, Ga. Animal Care and Control Center (ACCC) celebrated a remarkable accomplishment when its 2013 annual animal euthanasia fell to 38 percent, down from nearly 80 percent in 2010, 64 percent in 2011, and 52 percent in 2012.
They reported a 22 percent euthanasia rate for January 2014, an all-time low. Prior January numbers include 75 percent in 2010, 43 percent in 2011, and 34 percent in 2012.
"There is no other word than 'remarkable' to describe this type of dramatic result in saving the lives of animals and adopting them into loving homes," said Public Works Director Pat Biegler, who oversees the Special Enforcement Division that runs ACCC. "We can cite two primary factors – the multi-step Save A Pet Plan and our recent spay and neuter grants, to include a $58,250 grant we received last year to start a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program."
The city's Save A Pet Plan was incrementally initiated in the spring of 2011, as the city shed itself of outdated rules that inhibited partnerships with rescue groups, increased its network of volunteers, and encouraged innovation such as internet promotion and off-site adoption efforts.
"Our Live Release rate has gone through the roof," says Special Enforcement Director Drale Short. "We have made the goals of the Save A Pet Plan priority, and we have seen the desired response."
ACCC's success also caught the attention of national foundations. Last year, the city was invited to apply for a $1 million Best Friends Community Cat grant through the Best Friends Animal Society. Columbus made the short list of potential recipients.
"Though Columbus did not receive the $1 million grant, we did receive $58,250 Pet Smart Charities® grant to spay or neuter 1,000 feral cats through our newly established TNR program," explains Short. "The TNR program works because no one who cares for a feral cat colony would bring the cats into ACCC if they believed the animal would be put down. With the TNR program, we are able to show the colony caretakers that if you allow us to spay or neuter and vaccinate the cats, we can return them to you healthier. That stops the propagation process and allows us to have cat population control."
ACCC has spayed or neutered and vaccinated 800 of the 1,000 feral cats so far.
"There is no doubt the TNR program, along with our other efforts, is causing the low euthanasia rate that we see," said Beigler. "If we are able to receive the $1 million Best Friends grant, the results will be amazing."