No-kill: Region's animal shelters, volunteers work to reduce euthanasia rates

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Daniella, a three legged Cur Black Mouth mix goes out for a walk with volunteer Dan Martin at the Naples Humane Society on Wednesday May 2, 2012. Daniella was rescued in Labelle after she had a severely broken leg and had to have it amputated. If she had gone to a regular kill shelter, she would have been put down immediately.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE

Scott McIntyre/Staff Daniella, a three legged Cur Black Mouth mix goes out for a walk with volunteer Dan Martin at the Naples Humane Society on Wednesday May 2, 2012. Daniella was rescued in Labelle after she had a severely broken leg and had to have it amputated. If she had gone to a regular kill shelter, she would have been put down immediately.

This is one of a series of Daily News and Scripps Howard News Service stories about animal rescue locally and across the country. Return to naplesnews.com throughout the weekend for more stories or pick up a copy of Sunday's Daily News.

No-kill: Dozens of animal rescue groups help Collier, Lee shelters find pets homes

Tips for deciding where to surrender a pet or to adopt one

— Daniela hasn't had an easy start to her life, but you would never know it now.

The 8-month-old black cur mix was brought to the Caloosa Humane Society in LaBelle in February with a severely broken leg, possibly the result of being hit by a car.

Enter the Humane Society Naples.

The organization took Daniela in, fronted the $3,000 for her surgery and has placed the dog — who seems to smile, especially when getting attention — up for adoption.

No-kill shelters like the Humane Society Naples work to save adoptable animals like Daniela. But officials admit their work wouldn't be possible without a network of local shelters, animal services, rescue groups and community members working together for a common goal — reducing euthanasia rates.

While the Caloosa shelter normally would have fixed Daniela's leg, a veterinarian only comes to see animals on Fridays. It was a Monday and Daniela was in a lot of pain.

"I called (Michael Simonik of Humane Society Naples) and asked him if he could fix her because they have a veterinarian on staff all week and I knew they had an X-ray and would be able to tell if the leg could be saved," said Alex DeStefano, Caloosa's executive director. "She was too happy and nice of a dog not to help her."

An X-ray determined Daniela's leg couldn't be saved. After amputation surgery, Daniela recuperated with the help of Tim and Jill Schaus, the owner of A Dog's Dream Day Care and A Cat's Dream Treehouse in East Naples.

"When Daniela came here, it took her about a week, a week and a half to walk, to go up and down the stairs. But she got the hang of it," Tim Schaus said. "We have the space and, if it is not being utilized, let's use it. ... These animals can't speak for themselves."

Ria Brown, information manager for Lee County Domestic Animal Services, said foster homes and pet placement partners expand the shelter's walls.

"We can house twice as many animals than we could within our facility," she said.

Simonik, executive director of Humane Society Naples, said success for animals in need depends on organizations like his being able to look for alternatives, such as rescue groups and sanctuaries to send animals on their journey to adoption.

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Daniella, a three legged Cur Black Mouth mix rests after a walk with volunteer Dan Martin at the Naples Humane Society on Wednesday May 2, 2012. Daniella was rescued in Labelle after she had a severely broken leg and had to have it amputated. If she had gone to a regular kill shelter, she would have been put down immediately.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE

Scott McIntyre/Staff Daniella, a three legged Cur Black Mouth mix rests after a walk with volunteer Dan Martin at the Naples Humane Society on Wednesday May 2, 2012. Daniella was rescued in Labelle after she had a severely broken leg and had to have it amputated. If she had gone to a regular kill shelter, she would have been put down immediately.

"We want these animals to have a good quality of life," he said. "Every step they take, they are going to a place to give them the best opportunity to get adopted."

A decade ago, Simonik said, animal organizations didn't think about transferring animals from one organization to another.

"We all find homes for animals. A lot of times, a change in the venue can help an animal get adopted," DeStefano said. "We send animals to Naples because they get more foot traffic than we do."

But that doesn't mean every pet has a happy ending.

Of 3,247 dogs that came into Collier DAS in fiscal 2011, 42 percent were euthanized by county staff, according to DAS data. In Collier County, the prognosis is even worse for cats. Of 2,616 cats that came to DAS in fiscal 2011, 80 percent were euthanized.

"No-kill" doesn't mean a shelter doesn't euthanize animals, Simonik said. Last year, 14 animals out of 2,200 were euthanized at Humane Society Naples.

"One of them was a day-old kitten with a tumor coming out of its head," he said. "My guideline is, 'Are the animals hopeless, suffering and in pain?' If it meets all three of those criteria, it is best for everyone to put the animal down."

And the Humane Society Naples can't take all animals. Currently, there are 50 dogs and 100 cats on the shelter's waiting list.

Simonik said because the phrase no-kill isn't defined by the national Humane Society, organizations can say they are no-kill when they really aren't.

Some organizations will euthanize animals before they go through the intake process because the shelter doesn't have space, he said, noting those shelters cannot really say they are a no-kill organization.Amanda Townsend, executive director of Collier County Domestic Animal Services, said DAS has seen fewer animals come into the shelter the past few years. In fiscal 2006, 8,498 animals came to the shelter. In fiscal 2011, that fell to 6,212.

"The community has done a better job of taking care of its pets," Townsend said.

Of 3,247 dogs that came into Collier DAS in fiscal 2011, 42 percent were euthanized by county staff, according to DAS data. In Collier County, the prognosis is even worse for cats. Of 2,616 cats that came to DAS in fiscal 2011, 80 percent were euthanized.

In Lee County, 46 percent of the 4,797 dogs were euthanized in 2011, according to DAS statistics. That was an increase of 11.9 percent over the previous year. Of the 4,146 cats that came into Lee DAS in 2011, about 62 percent were euthanized. It was an increase of 4.8 percent over the previous year.

"DAS is the end of the line for animal welfare," Townsend said.

To help lower euthanasia rates, Townsend said Collier DAS has adopted animals out to rescue groups. Animals that normally would be euthanized, such as kittens that aren't yet 8 weeks old, are sent to Humane Society Naples, which has foster homes and a volunteer network able to bottle feed the kittens.

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Sally Reisinger, a receptionist at the Humane Society of Naples bottle feeds a three week old kitten on Wednesday May 2, 2012. The kitten would be euthanized if it had gone to Domestic Animals Services. But the Humane Society has volunteers and resources to bottle feed kittens until they are old enough for adoptions.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE

Scott McIntyre/Staff Sally Reisinger, a receptionist at the Humane Society of Naples bottle feeds a three week old kitten on Wednesday May 2, 2012. The kitten would be euthanized if it had gone to Domestic Animals Services. But the Humane Society has volunteers and resources to bottle feed kittens until they are old enough for adoptions.

"We have a group of independent and highly organized nonprofits who form a wider safety net,'' she said. We can't do what we do without our community partners."

Lee DAS also is working to reduce euthanasia rates with programs like a trap-neuter-return program for feral cats; a free sterilization program for pit bulls; and a pet pantry where animal owners can be supplied with food, litter and other essentials to help them keep their animals.

But the growth of the no-kill movement hasn't been all positive, Simonik said.

If there is a downside, it's that more people want to "save animals" and hoard them.

"These are wonderful people with great intentions, but it turns into something terrible," he said. "You have to know your limits. We have 335 animals in our care with 36 staff and 50 foster families. There are people who have 330 animals and are trying to do it alone."

The Humane Society determines how about 15 to 20 percent of the people acquire their pets, Simonik said, noting that the organization would like to have more, but ultimately, the goal is to close the doors of the organization.

"Our goal is to shut down our business because there are no more homeless pets," Simonik said.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 14

blueblueblue writes:

It's a wonderful place, so is Friends of Gummi.
Everyone should have their pets spayed or neutered, the number of beautiful animals put to death each week is incredibly sad, and unecessary.
Condo associations who do not allow pets, especially where there are a lot of elderly people, should change their rules.
Pets add a lot of joy to people living alone.

SimonSays writes:

Thank you Naples Daily News for spotlighting the unsung heroes in animal rescue. But with the 100's of local volunteers who all give so much of their time and energy to animal rescue, I am disappointed you chose to center your story on the organization that already takes in the most money. You could have done a little more research and helped out more of the front-line rescuers. I agree that Friends of Gummi is the organization that goes above and beyond. Everyone needs a paw up...how about a follow-up story listing all of the animal rescue organizations.

SimonSays writes:

By the way...I want to give a shout out to Andrew from Collier County Domestic Animal Services. He could not have been less helpful today if he tried! If all of Collier County's DAS staff is as underwelming as he is, then I understand why their kill-rate is so high.

HAP writes:

So, why does everyone flock to this kill shelter? Give huge donations? Praise them? They are doing what DAS and the rest are doing. What a scam. Many other local organizations that take their discarded cats are never recognized. This is rare to take this dog, but they need good press, hence, this fluff piece. They typically pick only the presentable pets for adoption. Shame. I don't think they want to close this new million dollar facility, otherwise, why spend those dollars, when they could have spent it on helping more animals? Doesn't add up. And now they're in a mall?! An impulse purchase for a pet.
Who do they really care about?

beachykeen writes:

in response to SimonSays:

Thank you Naples Daily News for spotlighting the unsung heroes in animal rescue. But with the 100's of local volunteers who all give so much of their time and energy to animal rescue, I am disappointed you chose to center your story on the organization that already takes in the most money. You could have done a little more research and helped out more of the front-line rescuers. I agree that Friends of Gummi is the organization that goes above and beyond. Everyone needs a paw up...how about a follow-up story listing all of the animal rescue organizations.

I believe the article said that this is just the first of a series of pieces, so I am sure other groups will be covered later.

Frankly, if a non-profit organization "takes in the most money", then they are doing something right and deserve to be spotlighted. Being successful is actually a good thing--think of the animals being helped.

HAP writes:

'They are taking in the most money' because they claim to be a no kill, that's why. Hope the dollars are spread around now because the numbers they disclosed, of animals put down, (probably more) don't lie.

friendoffelines writes:

Thanks NDN for these articles.

The pet overpopulation problem in SWFL is HUGE, and organizations like The Humane Society Naples and others are doing all they can to stem the tide. But they all need more public help and participation to educate, rescue, sterilize, adopt and assist with the expense of conducting all these activities.

I look forward to reading more of these fine articles, for my own edification and to keep up public's interest and awareness, too.

mr_1_term_proposition writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Here4Now writes:

Good people - thanks for what you are doing.

wrightconnection writes:

in response to mr_1_term_proposition:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I just suggested the NDN remove your childish comment. What are you,twelve years old? Your comment was disgusting, childish, uncalled for,immature and not the least bit funny. If you don't have something worthwhile to contribute, keep your comments for your elementary school playground buddies. This kind of comment suggests cruelty to animals by you in your past. Seek help before it's too late.

milo writes:

in response to mr_1_term_proposition:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Do you work as a clown for children's parties?
You sound like John Wayne Gacy; only stupider.

KarenT writes:

How many animals does Naples Humane Society "rescue" from outside of collier county? Any more than 50 a year is too many

If HS turns locals away (50 dogs, 100 catson a list) but takes pets from outside of the county, how is that helping local situation?

Those pets turned away from Humane Society get dumped at the County's pet pound where they are killed. How is that helping the local pet problem?

?????

blueblueblue writes:

in response to mr_1_term_proposition:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Why don't YOUR give your body to the animal shelters as soon as possible? I know that there are many delicious ways HOG can be prepared, once it's thoroughly disinfected and checked for mad pig disease.

blueblueblue writes:

in response to HAP:

So, why does everyone flock to this kill shelter? Give huge donations? Praise them? They are doing what DAS and the rest are doing. What a scam. Many other local organizations that take their discarded cats are never recognized. This is rare to take this dog, but they need good press, hence, this fluff piece. They typically pick only the presentable pets for adoption. Shame. I don't think they want to close this new million dollar facility, otherwise, why spend those dollars, when they could have spent it on helping more animals? Doesn't add up. And now they're in a mall?! An impulse purchase for a pet.
Who do they really care about?

All you do is complain, complain, complain. Is there any possible way that you could nudge your negative little brain a bit further and perhaps offers some suggestions as to how to alleviate this problem? Do you even own any pets?
Yeah, I didn't think so.

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