Small blue marks on a white card determine who gets to stay, and every day new tenants fill recently vacated kennels.
The Kurth Memorial Animal Shelter is now at a 54% euthanasia rate, according to Paula Taylor, interim director of the animal shelter. Since the first of the year, they’ve had more than 2,000 animals cross through their doors and only 380 were adopted in the last six to seven months, she said.
“We get in probably 4,800 a year,” she said. “And during the summer, that rate is just outrageous. Because of this summer we’re probably going to be getting more this year. If you look at our total just now, it’s over 2,000. We still have a little while to go.”
The shelter takes in animals from all over Angelina County and any animal brought in from the county has to be given quarter. They are not allowed to turn any away, no matter how sick or mean, Taylor said.
She said between a quarter and a third of the animals that the shelter has housed in the last six months have been drop-offs from families who don’t want to care for the animal or can’t care for the animal anymore. She said they get a lot of geriatric animals that people just drop off because they don’t know how to handle the animal’s illnesses.
“If you came up here and spent a week in our shoes, you’d understand why we have to do what we have to do,” she said. “It’s sad that it has to be for space, and not just sickness and disease or injury. It would be easier if it was.”
Every June they expect an influx of kittens and name it “Kitten Season,” when anyone can get a kitten for half the price of a regular adoption. They push out as many healthy ones as they can, but the shelter still has many that are sick or injured and they have to decide who they are going to care for, she said.
“That’s where your rate goes up again,” she said. “You have to make a choice whether to put them down or not put them down. If I save these, I won’t save these. It’s a hard thing. You don’t know unless you’ve actually had to mark those cards and say, ‘Hey, save this one and don’t save this other one.’”
Despite the high numbers, Kurth has managed to improve upon its euthanasia rates in the last decade or so. When Taylor first started, the rate was often over 80% because of a lack of space and large influx of animals.
In 2018 they had a rate of 44%, Taylor said.
“It’s not where it should be or where we would like it to be, but it’s 10 times better than what it was,” she said.
In that time, volunteers have increased, their social media influence has grown and they’ve been able to make people more interested in adoption, she said. This has largely impacted their ability to get animals out of the shelter and into forever homes.
The shelter has a few that they hold on to as long as possible because of the potential for them to be adopted. But as time passes, so do their chances, and the shelter has to house and care for new tenants.
They have goals to become a no-kill shelter, but becoming that requires more rescues, more people willing to foster, more donations and fewer drop-offs.
Taylor said instead of people being angry or frustrated because the shelter has to put down animals, she challenges them to come in and ask to meet their oldest tenants or to offer to foster animals.
She said if they could have a foster network of even just 100 people they could drastically improve the euthanasia rate. Currently, they only have a handful who have even offered.