ROCKFORD — As recently as 2017, less than half of all animals that entered Winnebago County animal services left the shelter alive.
Each following year, the percentage of animals alive increased from 39% in 2017 to 50%, 66%, 70% and 84% in 2021, reports the Rockford Register Star.
The improvement in numbers is no accident. They coincide with the arrival in August 2018 of Brett Frazier, the administrator of the refuge.
“We euthanize when illness or injury makes euthanasia a humane choice and when public safety is a concern,” Frazier said during a tour of the shelter. “So that means we have all these other instances where we have to find a way to create what we call positive outcomes.”
The growing number of “positive results” is even more impressive when compared to the fact that the shelter has welcomed more animals each year for the past three years: 4,676 animals in 2021 compared to 3,717 in 2020 and 4 612 in 2019. At the same time, the number of euthanized animals has decreased: 926 in 2019, 690 in 2020 and 588 in 2021.
The number of positive results is increasing thanks to more adoptions and a concerted effort to return animals to their owners. There were nearly 2,600 adoptions last year, compared to 1,785 in 2020 and 2,110 in 2019.
In an effort to find animals — especially kittens and cats — a new forever home, Frazier touted the shelter’s partnership with PetSmart stores in Machesney Park and Janesville, Greenfield, Pewaukee, Wauwatosa and Brookfield, Wisconsin. Cats fostered at the shelter and presented through PetSmart Charities’ Adopt-A-Pet program accounted for 636 or 35% of the shelter’s feline adoptions in 2021.
Additionally, thanks in part to pet flea clinics and the reduction or waiving of pet retrieval fees, 804 pets were returned to their owners last year, compared to 566 in 2020 and 763 in 2019.
“So we’re not necessarily aiming to have a very low euthanasia rate,” Frazier said. “It’s more a byproduct of us doing things to have a high probability of a live outcome.”