‘No-kill’ means new life for Sandy shelter animals
A row of cats at the shelter. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)
Gallery: ‘No-kill’ means new life for Sandy shelter animals [5 Images] Click any image to expand.
Cats and dogs around Sandy can be heard yowling for joy as the Sandy Animal Shelter completes its year-long transition to become a “no-kill” shelter. The shelter “smashed the ceiling” on the 90 percent minimum no unnecessary euthenasias in 2016, according to Director Ian Williams. Ninety-six percent of cats and 99 percent of dogs who came into the shelter were either returned to their owners, adopted out or taken in by other no-kill shelters around Salt Lake County.
The no-kill program means that cats and dogs who come into shelter are no longer euthanized if not claimed or adopted, unless under extenuating circumstances such as debilitating sickness or injury. This especially affects feral cats who could not be adopted to traditional families, forcing shelters to euthanize due to lack of space.
“It used to be that people would trap feral cats and because they couldn’t be adopted out and no one wanted to work with them, there was no choice but for them to be euthanized,” Williams said.
KC Colton, a member of the Sandy City Animal Services team, said, “A lot of people are happy with the no-kill (decision).”
Sandy Animal Shelter, with the help of Sandy residents and local businesses and government, have adopted a program called the Community Cat Program that employs the practice of trap-neuter-return, or TNR, which helps keep the feral cat community in check. They do this by capturing feral cats, spaying or neutering them and releasing them back to the same area they were originally found, the idea being that they had already found a sustainable area that was familiar to them. This process helps not only curb numbers, but ensure the health of the feral cat colony. Veterinarians around Sandy have helped the implementation of the TNR program by providing spays and neuters at a discounted rate, as well as vaccinations for the cats going out.
The TNR program has been met with some trepidation by some, according to Hillary Sterner, an animal control officer with Sandy for over 19 years, because many don’t understand the return process, believing that the feral cats should simply be taken away. This doesn’t solve the problem, said Williams, it merely creates a vacuum — as long as an area is sustainable to cat life, there will be cats. Take away one and another will simply move in, so it comes down to controlling the population and educating residents about how to coexist with that population.
An ordinance for the no-kill transition was handed down in mid-2015 by the Sandy City Council. It first got rid of the carbon monoxide chamber in favor of strictly lethal injection.
Since there is still a lot of rural areas in Sandy, animal services does deal with some livestock as well as roadkill issues, but the no-kill designation is specific to domesticated animals.
The Sandy community has been welcoming of this change as attitudes about the role of pets in people’s lives have evolved over the last 10–15 years, Williams said.
“It can be difficult to reach that 90 percent because, you have to realize that we took in over 1200 animals last year in 2016 and there are only 365 days in a year and we’re closed on Sundays,” Williams said. “Despite being no-kill, we don’t turn away anything that falls under our jurisdiction. We can’t predict how many animals we’re going to get or what condition we’re going to get them in, but I am comfortable believing that the 90 percent is achievable.”
With donations from city residents and businesses, existing funds and partnering help from other shelters like Community Animal Welfare Society (CAWS), Best Friends Animal Society and the Utah Humane Society, the Sandy Animal Shelter has been able to renovate and expand to care for more animals, adding cat play rooms, quarantine areas, kennels that help off-set Cottonwood Heights’ animal intake and creating a more colorful and inviting space to encourage visitors to help.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help of members of our city council and volunteers,” said Williams.
For information on adopting animals or how to get involved in the Community Cat Program, visit http://sandy.utah.gov/departments/animal-services or go to the building on 8715 South 700 West Sandy, Utah 84070.