Columbia animal shelter sees solutions to kill rate in Greenvill - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Columbia animal shelter sees solutions to kill rate in Greenville shelter

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Tough decisions are part of the job at the Columbia-Richland Animal Shelter. It's the nature of the business, especially in the temperate south.

"Animals can survive fairly well out there on their own for lengths of time, so we do have a bit of a population problem, but it's something we see across the entire Southeast," said Animal Services Superintendent Marli Drum.

Drum says the shelter is making progress. Four years ago, the shelter euthanized nearly 11,000 animals. Last year, that number fell to around 8,500, or around 70 percent of the animals that came in to the shelter. 

"We're starting to see our intake go down and our live release go up," said Drum. "It's very exciting, but 70 percent is still far too high, and we have to work on ways to get more animals out the door."

Drum says the progress is due to a combination of factors. They're partnering with more agencies like Pawmetto Lifeline, whose HEART program sends shelter animals to rescues across the country. And as more people spay and neuter their pets, fewer are being born in the wild.

Still, Drum could use some help with running new adoption programs and networking with other shelters.

"It takes a lot of manpower to do all of this, and we could sure use a few more hands around here to help get that done," said Drum.

In the continued search for solutions, Drum and other workers at the shelter recently took a trip to Greenville to monitor how they got their kill rate down significantly. 

In 2004, 69 percent of the animals that came to the Greenville shelter didn't come out. By 2011, Shelly Simmons and her staff got that number down to 38 percent.

"It's not anywhere where it needs to be, but we're on our way," said Simmons.

Drum made note of Greenville's community outreach. They've found success with innovative adoption programs like Foster to the Rescue, where a foster family will take an animal with the intention and responsibility of finding it a home.

Another program places kittens in Greenville businesses, giving shoppers an unexpected look at a potential new family member.

"We always have something new and interesting up our sleeve," said Simmons. "Some of them work and some of them don't, but finding that right combination is what will make us successful."

Greenville has big advantages. They've got nearly double the funding and staff as Columbia's shelter. Drum has asked for four new employees, but it will take the will of elected officials and the community, more importantly, to get real results.

"The few people I've spoken to in the community are really excited about this, and I think the more we reach out and the more we can get the word out there, I think the community behind this," said Drum. "Who doesn't want to save animals as much as we can? It's just a great cause."

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