One year ago in April, The ASCPA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) launched ASPCA Mission: Orange in Charleston County, one of six communities nationwide chosen for this campaign, which aims to provide positive outcomes for at-risk pets (i.e.: homeless animals in shelters).
ASPCA's three-year commitment to Charleston County involves collaborating with all animal welfare organizations in the community to implement proven, effective strategies for increasing live outcomes and reducing intake in shelters. I'd like to take this anniversary to recognize our outstanding partner organizations — Charleston Animal Society, Pet Helpers and Humane Net — as well as to update you on our progress to date.
In spite of an increase of nearly 850 more animals entering shelters over the previous 12-month period — typical of a community opening a new shelter, and in Charleston's case, two new shelters — the overall live release of dogs and cats rose by 25 percent over the past year, compared to the same previous 12-month period, with adoptions playing a key role. These statistics reflect the period between April 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, the first year of the ASPCA Mission: Orange campaign.
Live release rate, which includes cats and dogs that are adopted, returned to their owner, or transferred to other agencies and rescue groups for adoption, totaled 986. Adoptions alone were up 21 percent (3,720 animals, compared to 3,070 during the same period ending March 31, 2008), and returns to owner and transfers to other organizations also helped lead to a 5.8 percentage point increase in the overall live release rate, which rose from 37.7 to 43.5 percent.
As both Charleston Animal Society and Pet Helpers opened new and expanded spay/neuter clinics — with two full-time public spay/neuter veterinarian positions funded for one year by the ASPCA — which established a strong infrastructure to provide high-quality, high-volume affordable surgeries, an increase in creative surgery strategies in Charleston County and the surrounding region helped boost the numbers of spay/neuter surgeries by 12 percent, for a total of 3,643 cats and dogs.
Some of the most successful outreach efforts over the past year have been the spay/neuter programs targeting rural and underserved communities, such as the combined effort by Charleston Animal Society and Animal Lovers of Edisto Island's (ALOE) effort on March 27 to transport 65 animals to the Charleston Animal Society Clinic for sterilization.
Other examples included Fall and Winter "Tomcat Blitzes" organized by Pet Helpers, where nearly 200 cats were sterilized on a single day at each blitz.
Local veterinarians from private practices, such as Dr. Tom Hentges, Dr. Jim Southard, Dr. Ben Fuller, Dr. Kim Fordney, Dr. Grayson Carter, and Dr. Mikell Adair, as well as the Edisto Equine Clinic facilities, pitched in and played a critical role in these massive spay/neuter efforts.
Rescue organizations, true angels of the animal welfare world, continue to step up to the plate, working through Humane Net, to assist with the burden of caring for the county's unwanted and abandoned pets.
The Deep South is challenged more than other regions in the country with animal overpopulation. If this crisis can be effectively managed in Charleston County, so that unnecessary euthanasia can be eliminated, then Charleston will be a model for the rest of the nation.
The ASPCA is investing in excess of $600,000, along with human resources and mentoring services valued at over $400,000, in Charleston County during our three-year initiative. Our efforts are measurable and sustainable, with the common goal to move toward a community-wide 75 percent live release rate by 2013. We are very excited about the progress so far.
The leadership, collaboration and enthusiasm from Charleston — its community leaders, residents and animal welfare organization staff and volunteers — have contributed to the success of ASPCA Mission: Orange to date, and we look forward to continued and sustainable success over the next two years and beyond.
ED SAYRESPresident and CEOASPCA8th Avenue7th FloorNew York, N.Y.
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