To paraphrase one of my law school professors, it is easy to get wrapped around the axle when authoring an article about statistics. Thankfully, I had Ms. Linda Patelski, the director of our Lowndes County Animal Shelter, whom the Burton Fletcher Foundation for Animals recently awarded The Difference Maker Award, to help me untangle things.

First-Quarter Shelter Intakes: During the first quarter of 2024, our Shelter had 255 canines (dogs and puppies) and 212 felines (cats and kittens), totaling 467 animals that entered our Shelter as strays or at large. “Other Intakes” came from elsewhere, consisting of 93 canines and 11 felines, totaling 104 animals.

According to the definition provided by state law, “Other intakes: Impounds for cruelty cases & protective custody. Also, pets born while in care and other types of admission are not captured above.” This seems like a big catch-all, proverbially referred to as the kitchen sink, and animal shelters are not required to provide more data than the number stated. In total, there were 701 intakes during the first quarter of 2024.

I am confident that there is nothing nefarious about this number; it is just that my inquiring mind would like to know how many citations for animal abuse were issued in 2023 or 2024, how many convictions were obtained, and the like. I hope to learn this information with Ms. Patelski’s assistance in the future.

Owners Requesting Euthanasia of Their Animals: Owners relinquished 41 dogs and 24 cats, totaling 65 animals, and there were another 54 dogs and 11 cats, totaling 65 animals, with their owners requesting euthanasia.

I was unable to obtain any statistics for why owners were turning their animals in for euthanasia; however, that would be interesting information to know. I have read a few articles recently written by veterinarians asking owners to be present with their animals when they are euthanatized, as the animals are looking for them for comfort during those end-of-life moments.

I was unable to obtain an answer from Lowndes County as to whether owners who are turning their animals in for euthanasia can be present during the final moments of that animal’s life, which is recommended by veterinarians who regularly euthanize animals. If this is not allowed, I encourage our dedicated Lowndes County Board of Commissioners to pass an ordinance or for our outstanding county manager, Ms. Paige Dukes, to instruct our shelter to permit this and to require a signoff by the person turning in an animal stating whether they do or do not want to be present when the animal they turn in is euthanized.

Adoptions Through Our Shelter: Our shelter team had 108 adoptions during the first quarter, including 31 dogs, 34 puppies, 33 cats, and ten kittens. Hooray for them!

Our shelter had 458 adoptions in all of 2023. I am pleased that our community is going to our shelter and working with our fine shelter team to adopt animals at risk of euthanasia.

Our shelter euthanized 995 animals in 2023, and until we have more adoptions and greater control over spaying and neutering, there will continue to be pressure to euthanize animals. When the shelter is overflowing with animals, what else can they do? Our shelter euthanized 184 animals during the first quarter of 2024, compared to 207 animals euthanized during the first quarter of 2023. I appreciate a reduction of 23 animals, just as I am sure our shelter staff do.

Sadly, but understandably, our shelter euthanized nine feral kittens during the first quarter of 2014, compared to three during the first quarter of 2023. The second quarter of 2023 had the highest number of feral kittens euthanized, with fourteen feral kittens euthanized that quarter. This was expected as the second quarter is the height of kitten births in south Georgia, dropping to four during the third quarter and two during the fourth quarter.

I would like to see our farmers and ranchers step up and agree to adopt feral cats and kittens that are certain to be euthanized in our shelter unless there is a guaranteed home for them somewhere. I think feral cats and kittens should be released for adoption without charging the adopters fees for this particular category in our county.

I see this as an opportunity for our farmers who have barns to adopt these kittens and, hopefully, their feral mothers and place them in their barns, where these animals will be valued and not be considered a nuisance. I hope our Farm Bureau and agriculture organizations will consider the adoption of feral cats as a public service mission.

In the first quarter of 2023, there were 726 intakes; in 2024, there were 701 intakes, which is a good sign that our community is spaying and neutering animals and acting more responsibly. Looking back, in 2020, live outcomes were 67%; in 2021, 63%; in 2022, 64%; and in 2023, 72%. In other words, Lowndes County euthanized 28% of the animals that crossed the threshold last year. This is far better than the year 2000, when Lowndes County euthanized 91% of all animals crossing the threshold of its shelter. We have come a long way, and to be honest, we are still working our way upward.

As the numbers indicate, 72% of live outcomes are higher than in the preceding three years, so hooray for Lowndes County, but we need to do better. Many counties in Georgia are doing better, and so should we. Live outcomes are the number of animals euthanized divided by the number of animal intakes during the same period.

Our shelter had four canines and three felines die in their care during the first quarter of 2024. Additionally, our shelter euthanized 99 canines, consisting of dogs and puppies, plus another 54 canines euthanized at the request of their owners, totaling 153 dogs and puppies euthanized during the quarter. Likewise, 85 felines were euthanized by our shelter, plus 21 felines euthanized at the request of their owners, totaling 106 cats and kittens euthanized during the quarter.

Shelter Adoptions: I want to focus on the news that our community adopted 65 canines and 43 felines, totaling 108 animals, through our shelter during the quarter of 2024. This is down 32 adoptions from the 140 adoptions in 2023. That is not as good as the news in 2023 during the same time. While our community certainly supports our shelter, and our shelter supports our community, weather conditions may have contributed to decreased adoptions during the first quarter of 2024.

Transfers to Animal Rescues: During the first quarter of 2024, our Shelter transferred 182 canines and 90 felines, totaling 272 animals, to animal rescue organizations. Our two workhorse rescues for the first quarter were the Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County and United Saving Animals Rescue, commonly called USA Rescue, both of whom received our The Difference Maker Award earlier this year because of their outstanding work in 2023 by pulling and rescuing animals during 2023.

Animal Rescues Pulled An Amazing 219 Animals During The First Quarter: The Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes took first place, pulling 44 cats, 45 kittens, 61 dogs, and 69 puppies, totaling 219 animals, or 80.5% of the animals rescued by nonprofit organizations during the first quarter of 2024.

In second place was United Saving Animals Rescue, as they pulled one cat, 35 dogs, and 12 puppies, totaling 48 animals, or 17.6% of the animals rescued by nonprofits during the first quarter.

In third place was Husky Education And Rescue Team out of Millersville, Maryland, having rescued three dogs and two puppies, or 1.8% of the animals rescued during the first quarter.

Just because an animal rescue is not pulling animals from our shelter does not mean it is not an effective animal rescue, as it may be pulling from other shelters during that period. Other rescues may be focusing on the transportation of animals, legislation, or a myriad of other functions necessary to animal rescue, just as my foundation is an animal rescue focusing on advocacy, education, and cheerleading, something in short supply and an area where I could use assistance from the public. Every animal rescue has its niche, and the three organizations identified above all performed well on our community’s behalf during the first quarter.

I am not interested in criticizing the good people in our animal shelter, as many variables negatively affect our shelter’s statistics beyond their control. I want to lift them because they have a difficult job to do, and I would not relish the life-or-death decisions they are forced to make daily.

Lowndes County’s statistical information will be posted on the Burton Fletcher Foundation website at You can review it and do your analysis. We either have or will soon have the statistical data for Lowndes County from 2000 through March 2024 on our website. Please support the Lowndes County Animal Shelter and our numerous animal rescue organizations by volunteering, fostering, adopting, donating, and the like. We cannot save all the animals, but the animals we do save are most grateful.

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