This is an example of how an animal shelter can dramatically reduce its kill rate while remaining an open access shelter with the long term goal of being no-kill. PETA is against open access shelters because they say just creates misery amongst the animals and is unworkable because they are always too full and they turn people away. The East Baton Rouge Parish animal shelter is out to disprove that.
At one time, the shelter was run by the city-county and there was the usual failure in that there was an 80% euthanasia rate with about 8,000 adoptable animals killed at the shelter annually. Today, to November 2014, 2,500 animals have been euthanised at the shelter which is a euthanasia rate of about 35% (7,200 animal brought in).
The shelter is now run by an organization called Companion Animal Alliance (CAA). It is funded, in part by the taxpayer (grants), and partly by donations and other quite clever methods of raising money such as receiving part of a fee from veterinarians when they vaccinate for rabies. In addition they have been allowed to increase the pet registration fees to boost their budget. I presume that this means they register micro-chipped animals at the shelter but I’m not sure.
When CAA took over, as you can imagine, they were inundated with animals because the supply of unwanted animals (being open access) surpassed their ability to rehome and as a result there were poor conditions for animals, criticism and a heavy turnover of shelter managers.
One of the major reasons why there is a much lower euthanasia rate at this shelter currently is that they employ trap-neuter-release (TNR), which they are allowed to do by the council. There was a great deal of argument (against TNR were PETA and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries) about whether they should or should not employ trap-neuter-release but there were allowed to do it by the local authority. It allows the shelter to return cats to the streets after they have been spayed and neutered in lieu of killing them. It is often one or the other and we know that very many feral, stray and semi-feral cats are killed at shelters.
In addition, in order to promote adoptions, shelter staff have focused on putting much more effort into returning lost pets to their owners. Further the shelter is developing relationships with other animal rescue groups who can assist in finding homes.
In another innovative idea, CAA, in an effort to boost the adoption of adult cats, have implemented a name-your-price policy with respect to adult cat adoptions which allows people to adopt a cat for any amount that they can contribute.
The measure of the success of an animal shelter must surely be how many animals they rehome and how few animals are euthanised. The objective, and it is a steep objective if you believe what PETA states, is to remain open access and rehome all the animals save a few who will have to be euthanised for genuine reasons. It can be done but takes a lot of effort and a commitment.
This shelter is learning how to do it but initially they were overconfident and failed for a number of years.They admit now that it is a complex process and it seems to me you have to pull together a large number of strands in terms of funding and promoting adoptions while minimizing euthanasia rates. The shelter was taken over by CAA in 2011 so the turnaround has taken about three years.