GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Each year, thousands of pets are euthanized due to overcrowding. This is something the Humane Society of South Mississippi is looking to cut down on.
The HSSM has launched a Countdown to Zero initiative. By 2015, the shelter hopes to reach a 75 percent live release rate. This means every healthy animal is adopted, returned to owners or transferred to other facilities.
"If we are successful in doing this, we will be the first community in the deep south to achieve something like this," said HSSM representative Krystyna Szczechowski.
While shelters are trying to move away from the term "no-kill," the goal is to make sure that no adoptable animal is euthanized. Officials admit that there will always be some animals that are too sick to be saved and must be euthanized.
To reach its goal, the humane society will focus on four areas: adoption, pet ID's, a Second Chance Ward and its Trap, Neuter and Return program (TNR) for feral cats.
"We like to call them community cats. Those cats that nobody really owns, but they are in your neighborhood," explained Szczechowski. "We want to get them fixed, so that when you start out with five, you don't end up with 35 by the end of the year. Their kittens are the ones coming into our shelter and facing euthanasia day in and day out."
The TNR program is free to Harrison County residents, and there are an estimated 30,000 stray or feral cats roaming in the county.
Another issue that leads to overcrowding in shelters, and therefore euthanasia, is a lack of pet ID.
Tag 'Em South Mississippi is a push to make sure that every pet has an ID, so if they are lost, they can be returned and cut down on the number of animals the shelter has to take in.
"We know that these animals have an owner, and either their owner doesn't know to look here for a lost pet, or they haven't taken the initiative to get them microchiped and put a pet id on them," said Szczechowski.
In an overcrowded shelter, many of the euthanized animals are sick. However, many times the illness is no more than a contagious doggie cold.
The HSSM has a very limited space to isolate these sick animals in order to keep the illness from spreading while they recover.
To solve this problem, the humane society hopes to build a Second Chance Ward, which could hold 30 dogs and 40 cats.
The humane society also plans to continue its strong adoption program.
They plan to hold fundraisers and educational events on its Countdown to Zero initiative in the coming weeks.