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Euthanizations are at record low in Michigan shelters

The rapid change took less than a decade
Posted at 5:25 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 17:25:12-05

WXMI — Great news for Michigan shelter animals: adoptions are up, and euthanizing is down.

According to new data reports from every shelter in the state compiled by the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance, Michigan shelters had a live release rate of 91% in 2019, 1 percentage point higher than 2018.

The live release rate, according to the Humane Society of the United States, is calculated by dividing total live outcomes (adoptions, outgoing transfers, and return to owner/guardian) by total outcomes (total live outcomes plus euthanasia not including owner/guardian requested euthanasia or died/lost in shelter/care).

“The change in what has happened in sheltering in a decade is phenomenal,” said Deborah Schutt, chair of the MPFA. “In 2009, we were euthanizing 120,000 animals a year in this state, and 2019 it was 11,694. So we’ve made huge progress that way.”

No one had compiled the state’s live release rate until 2009 when Schutt and the MPFA started taking the individual reports that shelters were required to submit to the state and then aggregating the number.

In 2009, the numbers weren’t good. Some counties, including Kent County at that time, had a live release rate of around 50%, meaning nearly half their animals weren’t leaving the shelter. But making the numbers known seemed to help.

“It was a game-changer,” said Schutt. “There was a great deal of public feedback that said, look at where we’re falling; we don’t like it.”

Since then, thanks to shelters being aware of that statistic, the number swiftly climbed to where it is now in less than a decade, Schutt says. She would like to see it as close to 100% as possible but knows there will always be pets that can’t be saved. “There will always be animals in shelters that are too sick or have very severe behavior issues that would be euthanized,” she said. “It’s done because the animal would have no quality of life to stay alive.”

All in all, Schutt is pleased with the massive and rapid jump in the number of animals saved and says because adoptions skyrocketed during the pandemic she expects it to do the same when the 2020 numbers are released this summer.

“There are no Democrats and there are no Republicans when it comes to companion animals,” said Schutt. “We all love them.”

See your county's live release rate for 2019