When the Charleston Animal Society moved into its state-of-the-art facility five years ago, an animal’s chance of leaving alive was just one in three.
Now, more than three out of every four animals are adopted or reunited with their owners, giving the shelter an “annual live release” rate of more than 75 percent.
“That is so much higher than anyone else in our region,” said Society Chief Executive Officer Joe Elmore. Most other open-admission shelters in South Carolina have rates of 10 percent to 30 percent, according to the Society.
On Tuesday, the society raised the bar even higher.
At its 139th annual meeting, Elmore announced the launch of No Kill Charleston 2015, an initiative to save every healthy and treatable animal in Charleston County.
“Where do we focus our community’s attention now that we’re saving over 75 percent of animals?” Elmore said. “It’s time for us to take our community to no kill.”
He said it was “the boldest animal-care initiative ever undertaken in the Southeast” and will make the shelter a model for others.
“We want to put ourselves out of business,” said Society President Elizabeth Bradham. “We want to end homelessness for animals.”
Some of shelter’s success since 2008 is due to the society’s participation in Mission: Orange, an ASPCA project with Pet Helpers, a no-kill shelter on James Island, and Humane Net, a coalition of more than 20 animal-care and control organizations in the Lowcountry.
The ASPCA invested nearly $1 million over five years to increase adoptions, increase spays/neuters, manage free-roaming cats and reduce the number of animals entering the shelter.
“This is an initiative, so we have to build it out,” Elmore said. “About 80 percent (of the plan) is to stay the course with what’s been working for us, but there are other things we have to address too. Our community has to have a conversation about affordable vet care, about breeding animals, about spaying/neutering animals, about importing in animals from other places.”
The initiative will take cooperation from the community, he said.
“An army of volunteers will be needed for foster homes, adoption ambassadors, socialization and off-site education and adoption events,” he said. “Money will be needed to pay for medications, specialized surgeries and treatment. Homes will be needed for adoptions and fostering. This will be a tremendous challenge for the community, but it can be done.”
Elmore said the goal is to not only reach no-kill status, but to sustain it.
“This is really focused on the community because it’s the community’s animals that are brought to us,” Elmore said. “Our community has over 11,000 unwanted animals each year. We are overpopulated. It’s going to take all of us together.”
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or facebook.com/brindge.
The No Kill Charleston 2015 plan
The initiative involves a 10-point plan:
1. Finding homes for homeless animals through adoptions and foster homes.
2. Fighting animal cruelty wherever it exists through assisting law enforcement and advocating for stronger laws.
3. Helping youth understand science through a nationally recognized veterinary science initiative.
4. Containing outbreaks of deadly diseases through a communitywide rabies vaccination strategy.
5. Reuniting loved ones with their families through an in-depth lost and found program.
6. Saving the lives of abused and abandoned animals through individually customized treatment.
7. Preventing births of unwanted animals through a high volume, high quality, affordable spay/neuter strategy.
8. Guiding children to grow into humanitarians through a comprehensive humane education initiative.
9. Fighting hunger when food is unaffordable through a nonjudgmental pet-focused food bank.
10. Reducing the number of free roaming cats through a trap-vaccinate-alter and return to habitat plan.
By the numbers
In 2012, there were:
9,167 animals accepted.
11,000 spay/neuter surgeries.
5,000 animals adopted.
1,750 animals returned to owner or spayed/neutered and returned to community as part of free-roaming cat initiative.