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With activists’ help, West Valley City shelter earns no-kill status

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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) A neutered male gray domestic cat, approximately four years old, available for adoption at the West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Shelter Thursday March 27, 2014. Less than two years after West Valley City and Best Friends Animal Society teamed up to reduce the euthanasia rate at the community shelter, the facility has achieved no-kill status. The West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Shelter now has a 90 percent save rate. One reason for the drop in the number of animals being put down is a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for stray cats.

West Valley City • Less than two years after West Valley City and Best Friends Animal Society teamed up to reduce the euthanasia rate at the community shelter, the facility has achieved no-kill status.

The West Valley City-Taylorsville Animal Shelter now has a 90 percent save rate, which is considered by national groups to be no-kill, according to Layne Morris, director of the city’s Community Preservation Department. He said public shelters are required to take in all animals, which generally includes about 10 percent so sick or injured they must be put down.

The city and Best Friends reached the goal by conducting a public education campaign that encourages adopting pets at the shelter, providing low-cost spay and neuter assistance, and implementing a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program for stray cats.

The TNR effort has been particularly effective, Morris said. Under the program, feral cats are trapped, sterilized and returned to their territories. Because these wild or stray cats cannot breed, their population dwindles.

“The number of cats coming into the shelter has plummeted,” Morris said.

He considers the shelter’s partnership with Best Friends to be the biggest factor in achieving no-kill status. “Best Friends has gotten us there,” Morris said. “We could not have done it without them.”

West Valley and Best Friends entered into a contract in June 2012 to reduce the euthanasia rate. Under the arrangement, Best Friends provides up to $350,000 for program activities.

The shelter will pay the organization $45,000 in each of the two years of the contract. West Valley City pays $30,000 a year and Taylorsville, which has a one-third interest in the shelter, pays the other $15,000.

In the year before the partnership began, the shelter took in about 5,000 animals and put down 1,550 cats and dogs, most of them felines. Many were sick, injured or not adoptable because they were vicious or feral, officials said.

In 2012 and 2013, Best Friends sterilized 614 shelter cats and vaccinated them against rabies before releasing them. The organization also spayed or neutered and vaccinated an additional 534 free-roaming cats trapped by residents, then returned them to their territories, bypassing the shelter completely.

There are now about 60 dogs and an equal number of cats at the shelter, Morris said.

As part of the no-kill effort, the shelter expanded its weekday hours and began opening on Saturdays to give people more opportunity to visit the facility at 4522 W. 3500 South and find a pet to adopt.

“Our partnership with West Valley Animal Services, along with similar work with a multitude of other animal welfare programs around the state, is showing wonderful progress,” Best Friends spokeswoman Temma Martin said. “It’s a team effort that includes the combined work of many organizations and hundreds of volunteers. The future looks bright for Utah’s companion animals as more animal shelters reach a 90 percent save rate.”

The push to reduce the number of euthanized animals began in fall 2011 when a cat named Andrea survived two attempts by shelter workers to gas her. (She was later adopted). Controversy over use of the gas chamber evolved into a discussion about the number of dogs and cats being killed and, in turn, led to the shelter and Best Friends agreeing to work together.

The shelter still uses carbon monoxide, as well as injections, to euthanize animals. Shelter officials say both methods are humane.

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC

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