SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - For close to 12,000 dogs and cats that will arrive at local animal shelters in the region this year, more than half will die.
New statistics for the local shelters show euthanasia rates are not dropping despite increased efforts to have more pets spayed and neutered.
Walk into any Tri-Cities area animal shelter and you'll see the sad eyes staring back at you through the fence.
These dogs and cats are all eager to find a forever home. "Dogs have a better chance than cats, people come in here looking for dogs. You can find cats walking down the street," says Stephanie Surber, manager of the SBK Animal Shelter in Blountville.
Small or large, dog or cat, most of us tend to be drawn to one type of animal or another. That's why shelter officials say some animals have a better chance of making it out of these kennels alive. "Larger breeds and older dogs, their chances are a lot lower," explained Surber.
But many of the dogs and cats you see will never become a family pet; instead, they will become a statistic. News 5 WCYB looked at the number of dogs and cats euthanized in local animal shelters in 2012 and found out they have not changed dramatically in the past several years. "We are not going in the right direction fast enough," says Linda Fritsch from the Animal Defense League.
From 2011 to 2012, the euthanasia numbers for both dogs and cats dropped just two percent in the 10 counties of southwest Virginia plus Sullivan County, Tennessee.
Across the region, 47 percent of dogs and 78 percent of cats that end up in a shelter are euthanized. Some individual counties have local numbers of nearly 100 percent of all cats in their shelter being euthanized.
"There will never be enough good homes," says Fritsch. "Spaying and neutering cats and dogs is the only solution to the excess overpopulation."
Fritsch says the most frustrating part for her organization is the fact that the statistics have not moved considerably in the past decade despite increases in the public education about spaying and neutering.
She says until major change happens adoptable animals will be euthanized. "What's being euthanized for the most part are highly adoptable," she said. "They would make great pets. There are just too many of them."
News 5 WCYB also learned 78 percent of all cats that ended up at local shelter in the past 12 years were euthanized; that's a total of more than 77,000 cats. Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 cats have been adopted or placed with rescue organizations.
As for dogs in the past dozen years, 106,000 were euthanized, or 63 percent, and just over 170,000 dogs found homes.