Alachua County Reduces Homeless Pet Population

ARTICLE | Apr 1, 2007

Alachua County, FL (pop. 225,000) is a growing and diverse community located in North Central Florida. The county covers 969 square miles and is home to an estimated 52,000 dogs and 96,000 cats.

Alachua County Animal Services is responsible for protecting the health and safety of the citizens and animals within the county. In calendar years 1999 - 2000, Alachua County’s John M. Snyder Animal Shelter received approximately 11,000 companion animals each year. Sadly, approximately 72% of all companion animals entering the shelter were euthanized, with only 22% of un-reclaimed animals adopted by new owners.

Spurred by a desire to end the euthanasia of so many companion animals, a coalition of concerned individuals, professional veterinarians, animal welfare organizations, and the Director of Alachua County Animal Services drafted a comprehensive plan to become a "no kill" community. In September of 2001, the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution to achieve the "no kill" objective and directed the Director of Animal Services to implement the comprehensive plan to ensure the success of the No More Homeless Pets in Alachua County Project. The coalition of community organizations, with the support of Alachua County Animal Services, applied to the Maddie’s Foundation for a grant to help achieve the objectives. The Maddie’s Fund awarded a $2,800,000 grant to the project.

The grant award provided funding to the non-governmental, community based animal welfare organizations working in concert with the Alachua County Animal Services Division to systematically guarantee homes for all healthy and treatable, unwanted or abandoned animals brought to the shelter. The ten-year project outlined specific milestones and objectives to be achieved and incremented the number of animals to be guaranteed homes through adoption each year.

The program completed Project Year Four in June 2006, and it has achieved a number of impressive milestones in reducing intake and the overall number of animals euthanized at the shelter each year. Significant obstacles that threatened the project through the years have been addressed and resolved by the community-government coalition. An overview of the program’s impressive Year Four results are summarized below.

  • Total euthanasia at the county shelter has been reduced by half compared to baseline year 2000, and deaths of healthy pets reduced by 98%.
  • Pet adoptions have increased 164%.
  • Participating organizations have increased their capacity to transfer animals out of the county shelter, as evidenced by a 337% increase in intakes at these organizations.

Quantitative performance measures include monthly, quarterly and annual tracking of animal intakes, adoptions, transfers and euthanasia, broken out by species and health status, compared to baseline year statistics. Qualitative performance measures include reporting and analysis of agency capacity on a quarterly and annual basis.

While still a work in process, No More Homeless Pets in Alachua County provides an excellent model of a successful public/private community partnership to move forward in achieving a positive image for the animal shelter and recognizing the value of animal life and the contributions that animals make to the community. The project has stretched the boundaries of normal government animal control to move toward a more proactive approach to animal welfare, and to capitalize on the huge resource of private pet rescue groups that exist in every community. The project is based on the philosophy of community collaboration. By working to engage the entire community – government, businesses, residents, and nonprofit agencies – in an atmosphere of mutual respect for the varied experience, each group can bring unique skills and resources to the table.

"As Alachua County moves closer to guaranteeing a home to every healthy or treatable pet, the county is increasing community awareness regarding the importance of spaying/neutering and not letting pets run loose," said Ray Sim, Director of Alachua County Animal Services. As people learn how to value and care for their pets, there is less demand for public services to deal with strays, aggressive animals, and other related concerns. Improving the human/animal bond on a county-wide level is enhancing the community’s overall health.

For more information, contact Ray Sim, Director of Alachua County Animal Services, at 352.264.6890 or rsim@alachuacounty.us

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