Behind the Yavapai Humane Society's Pet Adoption Center in Prescott, Arizona was a large incinerator. Abandoned for several years, the incinerator had become emblematic of a bygone era when homeless pets in this community were euthanized and discarded like so much garbage. The removal of this nightmarish relic is symbolic of a new day for pets in Yavapai County.
According to data provided by Animal People, the leading independent newspaper providing investigative coverage of animal protection, central and western Yavapai County is now tied with New York City as the second-safest community in the nation for pets.
This ranking is determined by the number of shelter animals killed per 1,000 residents. In the 12 months ending in February, the YHS kill rate fell to an all-time low tied with NYC at 1.0.
Whidbey Island, WA is ranked the safest community at .8 pets killed per 1,000 humans.
In contrast, Mohave County weighs in at 33. The most dangerous community in the U.S. for shelter animals is Amarillo, Texas, at 54.5 pets killed for every 1,000 residents.
In 2009, the Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) kill rate was 10.5, but this rate started declining in July 2010 when the YHS Board of Directors and management team embraced a "no-kill" ethic. YHS defines this ethic as applying the same criteria to homeless animals that a compassionate veterinarian or loving pet owner would apply to a pet when deciding if or when that pet should be euthanized, meaning only irremediably suffering and dangerously aggressive animals would ever be euthanized.
Today, YHS is a national model for eliminating killing as a method of pet overpopulation control.
Reinforcing the symbolic gesture of dismantling the incinerator, YHS is also building an infirmary to care for homeless sick pets. The facility is scheduled to open in May.
Sadly, all this good news comes in the face of YHS's most significant challenge to maintaining its hard earned "no-kill" status.
There is a worldwide doxycycline shortage - with no end in sight. Doxycycline is the most cost effective medication for treating upper respiratory disease in shelter animals. Although these illnesses are easily treated outside a shelter, they are often a death sentence for pets in most animal shelters.
During this crisis, YHS is closely adhering to UC-Davis' School of Veterinary Medicine's recommendations for shelter animals. Still, it is anticipated that a 300 percent increase in medical costs will be incurred just to provide the same level of care YHS provided last year. For example, to treat a 50-pound dog with a doxycyline alternative will cost $3.50 per day compared to 20 cents per day for doxycycline in 2012. This translates into $2,500 more a month just to ensure our community's homeless pets get the care they need.
If this medicine is not provided, the number of animals euthanized could increase for the first time in three years. You can help alleviate this crisis by sending a donation to the YHS STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program.