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Huntsville Animal Services celebrates record live release rate, expansion

Published on January 21, 2021

Mayor Tommy Battle and Dr. Karen Sheppard at Huntsville Animal Services on January 21, 2021

HUNTSVILLE, AL – The City of Huntsville is pleased to announce that Animal Services posted a record 95% live release rate in 2020, despite unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19.

The number represents the Shelter’s success in placing homeless pets with families through adoptions, rescue groups and fosters and in reuniting lost animals with their owners. Overall intake was also down about 1,000 animals for the year.

“We are so grateful to our citizens, our staff and volunteers, local rescue groups, and many others in our community who helped us weather the storm in 2020,” said Huntsville Animal Services (HAS) Director Dr. Karen Sheppard. “Through creativity and collaboration, the Shelter found homes for most of our homeless pets. We can’t thank everyone enough for their support.”

Click HERE to watch the Facebook Live event.

When Dr. Sheppard joined HAS in 2002, the Shelter was receiving some 10,000 dogs and cats annually. Most cats were euthanized and the save rate for dogs was only 70%.

As affordable spay-and-neuter programs came online, the number of animals the shelter receives has dwindled while the save rate has risen. Now, the shelter handles half the animals it used to – only 5,000 cats and dogs a year.

Seeing the live release rate rise reinforces the Shelter’s longstanding commitment to promote responsible pet ownership and save as many animals as possible.

2020 was a hard year for so many of us, but Animal Services proved that devoted leadership, a strong network, and a little perseverance can take you far,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “I look forward to seeing how Dr. Sheppard and her team build on their success this year and beyond.”

HAS recently expanded its facilities on 4950 Triana Boulevard, providing double-sided kennels to promote a better quality of life for adoptable dogs. A new in-house surgery center is also available thanks to a $40,000 donation from the Petco Foundation.

As a partner with the Petco Foundation, HAS can spay and neuter shelter pets to get them to their newly adopted homes more quickly. Having a surgery center also helps to reduce stress for the animals by allowing their procedure to be done on-site rather than an outside facility.

In addition to doing more in-house surgeries, Dr. Sheppard hopes to continue promoting the Shelter’s Friendly Finder and Home to Home programs. Both initiatives aim to keep animals out of the Shelter and secure safe, loving homes for area pets.

“We will continue to work aggressively to bring help to people before the pets have to be inside the Shelter,” Dr. Sheppard said. “Helping people re-home their pets without them having to go through a very scary, very stressful Shelter situation and trying to keep stray pets from having to come in is our No. 1 goal.”