0

New animal clinic addresses high euthanasia rates

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For last few years, according to Capt. Mark Thompson, of the Clayton County Police Department Animal Control Unit, Clayton has led the state in animal euthanasia, due to a high number of unwanted animals.

Thanks to recent grants from PetSmart Charities and the Barking Hound Village Foundation, a new animal clinic has been established to address the problem, by offering low-cost spay and neutering services in the south metro area.

The LifeLine Animal Project Spay and Neuter Clinic, which opened last month at 2533 Sullivan Road in College Park, represents LifeLine Animal Project's second clinic in the metro area. It offers spay and neuter surgery at prices ranging from $35 to $90, depending on the sex and size of the animal -- a fraction of what the service costs at most veterinary clinics.

While LifeLine Animal Project operates in DeKalb and Fulton counties from its Avondale Estates clinic, the College Park location was opened to combat the rate of euthanasia in Clayton County and the south metro area, said LifeLine Animal Project Executive Director Rebecca Guinn.

She said that, per capita, euthanasia rates in Clayton double the national average and are significantly higher than those in neighboring DeKalb and Fulton counties.

"We realized that the majority of the animals that were going into the Fulton [County] shelter, they were animals that were coming from south of [Interstate] 20," Guinn said. "When you look at the shelters in Clayton, the number of animals going into those shelters is disproportionately higher than others. [In 2009] 21.4 animals were euthanized per 1,000 residents in Clayton. Ten to 13 is the national average."

Guinn said that last year, five animals per 1,000 residents were euthanized in Fulton County and eight animals per 1,000 residents were euthanized in DeKalb County. She said Clayton's euthanasia rate was alarming, given Fulton's population is just over 1 million and Clayton's is around 275,000, according to 2009 U.S. Census records.

"Their [Clayton's] numbers are comparable to Fulton County, which has a much larger population," Guinn said. "Basically, there are too many [more] animals being born than the community is able to take care of. We believe spay and neuter is the first line of defense to do something about those numbers."

Michele Bryant-Hall, president and executive director of the Clayton County Humane Society, said the average cost of spay and neuter surgery at most veterinary clinics is $150 to $200. She said Clayton residents tend to have lower incomes than some surrounding counties and the cost of the surgery is often a deterrent.

"[Last year] Clayton County animal control saw 8,260 animals at it's facility ... Out of that number, 6,401 were destroyed," Bryant-Hall said. "It's not great odds here. All veterinary clinics in the area, they do spay and neuter. What they don't do is low-cost spay and neuter.

"With the problem we have here," she said, "it is mandatory that we have low-cost spay and neuter. If the citizens take advantage of it [the new clinic], it will have a decent impact on the number of unwanted litters in this county, who become strays, or are turned into animal control to be euthanized."

According to Guinn, PetSmart Charities provided the College Park clinic with a $60,000 grant to purchase most of its equipment, while the Barking Hound Village Foundation provided a $50,000 grant to cover the shelter's initial supplies. She said the clinic plans to avoid many overhead costs by only offering spay and neuter surgery and hopes to, eventually, perform 15,000 surgeries a year.

Capt. Mark Thompson said the county's animal control unit takes in 400 to 500 animals a month, most of whom become eligible for euthanasia after three, full business days. He said having a low-cost spay and neuter clinic nearby may encourage more pet owners to retain ownership of their animals.

For more information about the LifeLine Animal Project Spay and Neuter Clinic in College Park, call (678) 973-2881.