Study finds Florida tops charts in unnecessary animal shelter deaths

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:24 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - More than 300,000 four-legged pets entered Florida shelters in 2021, and more than 20,000 didn’t make it out alive.

According to an annual study by Best Friends Animal Society, those numbers rank Florida as the fourth worst state in unnecessary shelter deaths.

“Those are animals that are lives lost typically due to time and space challenges for a facility or due to lack of medical or behavioral resources. We typically condone shelter euthanasia for animals that are unsafe or unfit for the community or are considered suffering,” said Tiffany Deaton, Senior Strategist for Best Friends Animal Society.

However, 62 percent of Florida’s animal shelters are “no-kill”. A shelter is considered “no-kill” when there’s a 90 percent save rate.

“A no-kill shelter is an organization that saves all animals that are treatable, healthy, and behavioral sound and can go back into the community,” said Deaton.

Tiffany with Best Friends Animal Society explains how Florida can have so many unnecessary deaths when more than half of the shelters are “no-kill”. She explains that some parts of the state are left behind.

“We have a lot of resource gaps and resource deserts around the state where the resources aren’t being collaboratively shared the way that they could be,” Deaton explained.

The study shows nearby counties like Jackson, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa received “no-kill” status because they have the necessary resources. However, Bay County isn’t so lucky.

“The Panhandle is another area where there is not a ton of spay and neuter access so we see that there are challenges. You know, if you’re out in the middle of one county but your closest spay or neuter clinic is two hours away, and you work a nine to five job Monday thru Friday, how do you work with that to get your animal fixed to prevent unnecessary litters?” said Deaton.

Where resources are abundant, many shelters will offer low-cost, or even free, spay and neuter.

“Spay and neuter is very pinnacle to the success for a community because that prevents animals from entering into shelters in the first place,” said Deaton.

The nationwide veterinarian shortage is also impacting the Panhandle.

“We go to Operation Spay Bay because they’re close and reasonable since we do not have a vet on staff,” said Cortney Turner, Lynn Haven Animal Shelter.

Turner explains there’s another big problem locally, too many people are giving up their pets.

“People get really excited to get an animal but they don’t know what it takes to have an animal. They don’t completely educate themselves on what a dog might need. If it’s a high-energy like a heeler they need a job. They’re going to be nipping at your children’s heels if they’re not busy doing something else because as a heeler is to coral. People don’t know what they’re getting into,” said Turner.

Knowing what you’re getting into helps keep animals out of shelters.

“You know libraries are such good help if you’re looking at a certain breed go to the library look up breeds, look up what it takes to have a puppy, how much time you have to take them out constantly to go to the bathroom,” said Turner.

Experts say a combined effort of education and resources can make a big difference for our furry friends.

“I think we just need to buckle down and work hard together to figure out how to spread that love and spread the wealth and really rise together to see what we can do to build up these communities that don’t have the resources others do,” said Deaton.

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