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Animal welfare group tracks, rates Michigan animal shelters

More than 100,000 cats and dogs are euthanized at Michigan animal shelters annually.
More than 100,000 cats and dogs are euthanized at Michigan animal shelters annually.

A non-profit group that promotes a no-kill animal shelter philosophy says there are big winners and big losers among the state’s facilities.

The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance tracks the performance of the state’s animal shelters.

Chairwoman Deborah Schutt says The Humane Society of Huron Valley is the best large shelter in Michigan. In 2010, it reported a nearly 81 percent save rate of the animals it took in.

Schutt says the Huron Valley group was getting lots of pit bulls from Ypsilanti Township, and came up with an idea help curb overpopulation of the difficult-to-place dogs.

"What if we were to enact an ordinance that pit bulls needed to be spayed and neutered, and then we'll provide the solution -- which is, we'll do it for free," Schutt explains.

The Humane Society of Livingston County in Howell reported a 92 percent save rate.

Schutt says the Detroit-area Michigan Humane Society has the biggest budget, but reported only a 30 percent save rate- -- killing more than 17,000  animals at its three facilities in 2010.

"They have plenty of money to institute the save programs," Schutt says. "I think it goes back to the unmitigated desire to save lives. You have to embrace the community, include the community, be transparent, ask for help, and you need good leadership."

Schutt also notes that the City of Detroit has a 100 percent kill policy for so-called bully breeds, including pit bulls.

In an email to Michigan Radio, Nancy Gunnigle of the Michigan Humane Society calls  the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance statistics misleading.

Gunnigle points to national standards called the Asilomar Accords, which she says categorizes animals arriving at shelters into adoptable, treatable or unhealthy/untreatable.

However, the Asilomar Web site does not include an "adoptable" category, but does define "healthy," "treatable" and "unhealthy/untreatable."

"MHS' 2010 overall save rate of potentially adoptable -- that is, adoptable and treatable -- animals was 75.6%," Gunnigle says in her email.

She  says The Michigan Humane Society reports  a collective save rate for its Oakland County, Wayne County and City of Detroit facilities.

Schutt also criticizes the performance of the Kent County Animal Shelter, which has an 18 percent save rate, and the Humane Society of West Michigan, which reported a 35 percent save rate.

"Many of us in Southeast Michigan have heard how  progressive the west side of the state is, how they're ahead of us on the curve in certain things," Schutt says. "Certainly not in this instance, they aren't."

There are 197 animal shelters registered with the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Each is required to report how many cats, dogs and ferrets it has taken in, and how many were adopted, transferred or euthanized.

More than 100,000 animals were put to sleep at Michigan shelters in 2010.

The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance ranked about 160 shelters throughout the state.