By Will Coggin

Outlet: Lehigh Valley Live

Based on the commercials of shivering, misty-eyed animals, you’d think life couldn’t get worse for shelter animals. But a new and little-known fact shows it’s actually getting better: Euthanasia rates have hit an all-time low.

Animals entering shelters have never had better odds at a second chance.  After all, the time when euthanasia was a rarely questioned, common practice wasn’t long ago. As the president of the Northeast Animal Shelter put it, “In the past, it was acceptable to throw an animal away, the way you would an old television set.”
Fortunately, times are changing. In 1970, about 20 million cats and dogs were put down in shelters. But by 2015, that number had plummeted 740 percent.

That’s serious progress. However, 2.7 million cats and dogs are still put down each year. That’s why it’s important to recognize the factors that have driven this decrease so we can make sure it continues downward toward zero.

For starters, changes in the practices of pet owners and veterinarians have helped. During euthanasia’s zenith in the 1970s, spaying and neutering wasn’t standard practice for curtailing pet populations. Clinics didn’t offer it at a low cost and most pet owners didn’t worry about it.

But once the cost came down, more pet owners put their pet through the procedure. By preventing animal overpopulation through spaying and neutering, shelters found themselves with more resources to care for fewer animals.

Perhaps the more important change has been a cultural one: The move toward no-kill animal shelters. Today, over 51 million people live in communities saving more than 80 percent of cats and dogs in shelters.

Incredibly, this progress has been made despite a lack of support from well-heeled national animal groups.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claims no-kill shelters are impossible, while as we’ve seen the opposite is true. There’s a dark reason for this. PETA has a radical animal liberation philosophy that believes that “pet ownership is an absolutely abysmal situation,” in the words of its co-founder.

Simply put, PETA believes that many animals are better off dead than fed. The group advocates the mass euthanasia of outdoor animals under the logic — if you can call it that — that the animals might suffer a painful death in the future, so it’s better to just kill them now.

Similarly, PETA runs an animal shelter out of its headquarters in Virginia that kills the vast majority of cats of dogs it takes in. According to filings it must make with state authorities,in 2014, PETA euthanized 88 percent of the cats and dogs in its shelter.

Elsewhere, the Humane Society of the United States raises more than $100 million a year from concerned citizens who believe — understandably — that their money will largely go to help pets. But by and large, it doesn’t.

HSUS operates zero pet shelters, and it gives less than 1 percent of its budget to local shelters. Despite its name, the Humane Society of the U.S. isn’t affiliated with local humane societies that run pet shelters.

This impairs a local shelter’s fundraising because donors in their area think their donation to a national group ultimately trickles down to the shelter across town. It doesn’t. But it does divert donations from small, local shelters that provide hands-on care for animals who are waiting to find a forever home.

Progress for shelter cats and dogs is being made. And the best way to speed it up in your community is to give locally — to the groups who are on the front lines of making progress happen.