Oklahoma saved 73,051 shelter dogs and cats; increased save rate to 80.4% in 2021 | Local News

Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization, released newly collected data which gives a national overview of the number of dogs and cats that enter and exit shelters in a given year. The data for Oklahoma shows that while more animals entered animal shelters across the state in 2021, fewer cats and dogs were euthanized.

“Oklahomans should feel encouraged by the latest numbers showing improvement in the state’s shelter animal lifesaving efforts,” said Kelly Burley, director of Common Bonds, an Oklahoma coalition of more than three dozen animal welfare organizations seeking to increase the statewide shelter release rate to 90 percent by 2025. “We will continue asking communities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with animal shelters, celebrating the animal lifesaving efforts of municipalities while encouraging practices that pet owners can pursue to help drive down animal intake numbers.”

In 2021, 90,817 dogs and cats entered Oklahoma shelters and 73,051 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate* of 80.4%. In the same year, 26.7% of the state shelters measured above the 90% benchmark. Those that were below it needed to save 9,094 more healthy or treatable animals to make Oklahoma no-kill (a state is considered to be no-kill when every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within the state has a save rate of 90% or higher).

“Oklahoma shelters have been making consistently steady progress in increasing the number of shelter animals with live outcomes in their communities,” said Brent Toellner, Senior Director of Lifesaving Programs at Best Friends Animal Society. “Statewide work with groups like Common Bonds has helped shelters and rescue groups connect with each other and with their communities. As these groups continue to support each other and build upon the support from leaders and members of their communities, Oklahoma will be able to save even more of the animals entering shelters across the state.”

By comparison, in 2020, 89,353 dogs and cats entered Oklahoma shelters and 69,545 were saved, giving the state an aggregate save rate of 77.8%. Those that were below it needed to save an estimated 11,560 more healthy or treatable animals

The data showed that nationally for the first time in five years, US shelter systems are seeing a setback in lifesaving. In 2021, the number of dogs and cats killed in US shelters increased from 347,000 to 355,000 and was especially stark when compared to the dramatic lifesaving efforts seen throughout the previous year. The reasons were partly due to staffing shortages that limited hours, decreased in-person volunteers, reduced adoption events and pet care support. As overall lifesaving stalls, Best Friends’ data shows the animal shelter crisis in America growing with increasing intakes and waning adoptions.

“The responsibility of saving pets’ lives should not rest on shelters and those in animal welfare, but on entire communities including community members, government leaders, shelters and other animal welfare groups,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “Through collaboration and community involvement, this model provides better support for pet owners, efficiency in shelters, and more lifesaving outcomes for pets. When a community supports its shelter’s critical needs, we see dramatic results.”

Individuals can help save lives by choosing to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, spay or neuter their pets, foster, volunteer, donate, and support and advocate for community cats through trap-neuter-vaccinate-return (TNVR) and shelter-run TNVR programming.

For the past six years, Best Friends has spearheaded a one-of-a-kind extensive data collection process that involved coordinated outreach to every shelter in America followed by additional research, data analysis, and technology development. The dataset is the most comprehensive on US sheltered animals, and is based on data collected directly from shelters, state and local coalitions, government websites, and FOIA requests. From this, 94% of the animal intake in US shelters is known, 6% is estimated.


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