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Record number of animals euthanized in Utah

Posted at 7:31 AM, Jun 23, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Last year was a challenging on for animal shelters across the country. A surge in strays and surrenders led to crowded facilities and an increase in the number of animals that could not be saved.

Recently, the non-profit Best Friends Animal Society released stats compiled in 2022 which showed that nationally, the save rate dropped from 83.5% in 2021 to 81.4% in 2022.

In Utah, the number of animals that were not saved rose from 886 in 2021 to 1,700 a year later. 

“About 10 years ago the number was about 7,000,” said Patrick Theobald, community engagement manager for Best Friends Animal Society. “We are making a lot of progress and every time you make progress quick, sometimes you back slide a little.” 

There were some positives in the report.

In Utah, 77% of animal shelters are now considered “no-kill,” up from 67% in 2021. Animal Care of Davis County achieved “no-kill” status and was listed as one of the most improved shelters in the country. 

Shelters that achieve the benchmark set by Best Friends Animal Society find homes for at least 90 percent of the animals that come through their doors.

 “We celebrate every victory we can, and last year there were a lot of victories,” said Ashleigh Young, the director of Animal Care of Davis County. 

Young has worked in animal welfare for more than a decade and notices big changes. 

“When I first started out [in the animal welfare field], a large number of pets were being euthanized,” she said. “Every day I had to go through the kennels and write down who would be put to sleep that day. It was absolutely heartbreaking. The reason I am in this role is I didn't want to see that anymore.”

Now, Young’s shelter finds homes for every healthy animal it receives. The work can be difficult and challenging, but it is rewarding. 

“Being able to find resources and outcomes for these animals is so important to me and that's what keeps me going,” Young said.

West Valley City Animal Services also reports an improvement. Already considered “no-kill,” the shelter’s population is down compared to last fall.

When FOX13 News visited the shelter in September, dog kennels were split in half to accommodate the influx of strays. For months, the shelter had an average population of around 300. That number currently stands at 217.

“We are getting more adoptions now,” said Melanie Bennett, the director of West Valley City Animal Services.

Bennett cites the commitment of staff, volunteers, and the community with helping find families for the overwhelming numbers of homeless animals. 

“This staff is amazing,” she said. “They just jump in and help wherever needed.”

The post-pandemic era has been a challenge for animal shelters. Best Friends Animal Society has a goal of getting the entire country to “no-kill” by 2025, and the clock is ticking to reach that goal.

Shelters like Animal Care of Davis County and West Valley City show it is attainable.

"We are so excited as an organization and as a county,” Young said. “This has taken every citizen in Davis County rallying for our animals.”