And the numbers are in for 2008

Published 8:45 pm Friday, March 6, 2009

At the beginning of every year, each Virginia shelter, pound and rescue agency is required to file a report with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that details the number of animals that have been in their care over the course of the year. The numbers for 2008 are in.

Since the mission of the Suffolk Humane Society is to end euthanasia as a means to control animal overpopulation in Suffolk, we focus on the animals cared for in our city’s municipal shelter, Suffolk Animal Control. Consequently, our efforts to accomplish that task are measured best through the report filed by Suffolk Animal Control.

Since Suffolk Humane is a young organization, 2008 marked our first full “measurable” year in actively promoting the adoptable animals at Suffolk Animal Control, through weekly pictures in the paper, on PetFinder and numerous other outlets and through many adoption events.

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I am pleased to say that our efforts are paying off. Suffolk Animal Control had a 24 percent increase in adoptions in 2008. What is more amazing about this increase is that Suffolk Animal Control also had a 15 percent increase in the number of animals that came in to the shelter in 2008.

I applaud the efforts of Suffolk Humane’s members and volunteers, as well as the cooperation and involvement of Suffolk Animal Control, for their outstanding work in raising awareness of the wonderful animals at SAC that need homes.

The overall euthanasia rate, based on intake numbers, decreased 7 percent from 2007 to 2008. In light of the 15 percent increase in intakes in 2008, these numbers are promising. We are headed in the right direction.

From Suffolk Humane’s perspective, there are a few statistics in the numbers filed with VDACS that deserve consideration, but the most obvious is the increase in animal intake – specifically, the 22 percent increase in strays and the 14 percent increase in animals turned over by their owners.

These increases may reflect the difficult economic times now, when family pets are left to survive on their own and end up captured by Animal Control Officers and taken to the shelter. They could be a result of families that can no longer afford their pets and surrender them to Suffolk Animal Control, or the result of roaming unsterilized animals. Or they could simply be the result of an increase in residents to the city. Most likely, the increase is a combination of all those reasons.

So how do we lower the number of strays and surrendered animals?

The Humane Society will continue to sponsor four “spay days” per month in Suffolk, where residents can have their pets sterilized at a discounted rate, thanks to the Virginia Beach SPCA and its mobile surgical unit, the Neuter Scooter.

We will continue to promote responsible pet ownership, specifically by reminding folks that pets cannot be released and left to survive on their own – and that abandonment of domestic animals is against the law.

We are also developing a feral cats trap-neuter-release program, which will reduce stray cat intake numbers.

Without a shelter or significant monetary resources, SHS is unable to financially assist families in need. We can, however, hope that families will only surrender their pets as a last resort. And we all can try to lend a hand to neighbors or friends who may need help with pet food or cat litter to get them over a financial hump that might allow them to keep their pets.

It’s up to each of us to improve the quality of life in our city. Simple steps — spaying or neutering your pets; applying with Suffolk Animal Control to be a foster family for an adoptable animal; considering your pet as your family, as they do you, when making changes in your lifestyle — can make all the difference in the world. A better quality of life for our animal companions is a better quality of life for Suffolk’s citizens.

If you would like to help, please add your voice and encourage others to join the more than 300 members we now represent. For membership information, visit or call 374-1476. To see the full results of the survey, visit