New methods lower Kent animal shelter kill rate

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Animal Shelter has seen a drop in the number of cats and dogs euthanized.

Between 2017 and 2018, the shelter reports a nearly 30% increase in the number of lives saved, with a live release rate of 79%.

Public Health Program Supervisor Namiko Ota-Noveskey credits the change to a lot of hard work on behalf of the staff. 

“I think we’ve improved that by really changing the way we assess animals,” Ota-Noveskey said Tuesday.

That includes paying close attention to each pet’s personality, identifying which traits are dangerous and which are temporary.

“We just don’t jump to conclusions,” Ota-Noveskey said. “Like (deciding) when euthanasia becomes an option when behaviors they’re exhibiting is a natural response. Growling is a natural response, so we have to look at the context and see is that manageable or not manageable.”

She said it’s possible some animals may have been put down in the past due to misunderstood aggression.

“A majority of the aggression cases has to do with fear,” she said. “When you startle dogs or threaten them, they can come back growling showing teeth.”

When it comes to cats, the staff takes a more hands-off approach.

“We give them hiding space, we give them time to adjust … and we limit staff’s interactions with routines. … So really routine and predictability help a lot with cats,” Ota-Noveskey said.

The shelter takes great pride in the number of lives it has been able to save.

“In the end, we all smile when we see that dog or cat leave with new people, but in the meantime it’s a lot of work for the staff and a lot of care that goes into behind the scenes,” Ota-Noveskey said.

The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance reports shelter euthanasia rates have dropped across the state, designating Michigan a ‘no-kill’ state. The ‘no-kill’ status means the state has an average live release rate of 90%. 

News 8 works with the Kent County Animal Shelter to weekly introduce you to pets looking for homes. If you’re looking to adopt, you can visit the shelter’s website or call 616.632.7304.

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