Our Opinion: New shelter can make Wilson a no-kill county
Dave DiFilippo cartoon
When Wilson County opens its new animal shelter this month, public and private stakeholders can celebrate a promise to pet owners fulfilled. But the gleaming, modern building’s legacy in our community remains unwritten.
Wilson’s animal shelter must be — to borrow a refrain from rescue group owner Max Fitz-Gerald — an adoption center, not a killing center.
The 8,626-square-foot, $1.2 million facility on N.C. 42 East should more than double the current shelter’s capacity for stray pets. The extra space can help Wilson County work toward a goal of ending the medically unnecessary euthanasia of adoptable dogs and cats. A larger building alone, however, is no silver bullet. Becoming a no-kill community will take effort, education and teamwork.
Wilson County took in 991 dogs and 1,007 cats last year and euthanized 91 and 568, respectively, according to figures reported to the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. That’s an improvement from 2019, when 100 more dogs and 42 more cats were killed. But it’s a far cry from benchmarks set elsewhere in the Tar Heel State.
Twenty public animal shelters among North Carolina’s 100 counties have earned the Best Friends Animal Society’s no-kill designation for maintaining save rates at or above 90%, with allowances made for humanely euthanizing severely ill, injured and aggressive animals. Nearby Lenoir County, where a nonprofit SPCA chapter operates the jointly owned city-county shelter under contract with local governments, is on that no-kill list.
If Kinston and Lenoir County can end unnecessary euthanasia, Wilson and Wilson County can, too.
What would it take? For starters, a commitment from county officials to raise awareness and actively promote animal adoption. And to maintain the no-kill designation once it’s achieved, free or low-cost spay and neuter clinics are needed to curb pet overpopulation.
The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office started its no-cost spay and neuter program for low-income residents in 2013, and at least 400 people have successfully applied and had their pets altered. That resource is likely underutilized. Wilson is among the cohort of Tier 1 economically distressed counties that receive priority access to state funds for spay and neuter services.
We can support and supplement this program. Fitz-Gerald wants to see free or nearly free spay and neuter clinics where anyone can participate, no questions asked and no proof of income required. This ought to be a city-county partnership. While state law delegates animal control duties to county governments, most strays that wind up at the shelter come from Wilson’s city limits.
Nonprofits — including the Wilson County Humane Society, The Maggie Society, For the Love of Dogs, Purrfect Hearts Cat Rescue and Able Cat Rescue — have saved countless four-legged lives in Wilson County. These rescue groups deserve our sincere gratitude and financial support.
County taxpayers prevailed upon commissioners to fully fund the new animal shelter in their 2019-20 budget instead of kicking the can down the road. With the same kind of sustained public advocacy, the day when Wilson County no longer has to euthanize healthy, adoptable dogs and cats to make room for more is within our sights.
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