Spay, neutering at pet shelter targets lower euthanasia rate

Cats play in the fountain at the Horry County Animal Care Center in Conway, where pets are available for adoption.
Cats play in the fountain at the Horry County Animal Care Center in Conway, where pets are available for adoption. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized yearly at the Horry County Animal Care Center, a high number that elected officials are hoping can be reduced with a low-cost spay and neutering program for family pets.

Animal activists applaud the proposal, but say the high-kill shelter is in need of other reforms, like foster programs and a volunteer corps to find homes for the abandoned pets.

Karen McGranahan, founder of Bikini Beach Cat Rescue, says information she obtained from the shelter through the Freedom of Information Act shows that more than 32,000 animals were euthanized in a five year period ending in 2015.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus concedes that his proposal to budget the money needed for a monthly spay and neuter clinic at the shelter resulted from the outcry of local activists.

“It brings attention, and we listened,” Lazarus said. “There’s a lot of groups out there that want a lot of things, and financially, you can only do so much. There’s other things we maybe can do, but the financial burden on the county might be too tremendous on us.”

Of 11,800 animals that passed through the shelter, Lazarus said 53 percent were euthanized.

Lazarus defended the shelter’s work and says there are extenuating reasons for the number of animals put down.

Some of the animals are too aggressive for adoption, or are deemed feral, and some are brought in by individuals whose pet or stray was struck by a car and not expected to live, Lazarus said.

Offering the monthly clinics with financial aid for those who can’t afford a veterinarian would reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs that are abandoned and end up in the shelter, Lazarus said.

“Spay and neuter has to be a primary goal, a linchpin, he’s right that it takes community support and education, but in order to reduce intake, they can do prevention with community members to be foster families,” McGranahan said.

McGranahan said the shelter needs to institute more progressive programs and allow volunteers to work there, as well as adopt a no-kill policy that restricts euthanasia to dangerous and terminally ill animals.

“There are ways to pay for these programs and the county council has a budget large enough to fund a program to help our community residents. They just need the will to do it. We do not want any more excuses,” McGranahan said.

The county council agreed during the budget retreat Thursday to come up with additional funds for the spay and neuter program, but did not set an amount.

“Will it ever be a no-kill shelter? No, I don’t think so,” Lazarus said. “Some may call themselves a no-kill shelter, but there’s no such thing.”

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson