Dog euthanizations on the rise

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. - KEPR is looking into the number of dogs put down by Benton County Animal Control. That number has steadily grown since the shelter opened three years ago.

You wouldn't recognize Carly if you met her four months ago. She was nothing more than skin and bones. That was until Kelly Merrick found her.

"We did not plan to add to our family, but when you see an animal that's been so severely neglected and has been traumatized, you just have to step up," she said.

And Kelly is hoping more people do the same. The Benton County Animal Shelter has seen an unusual number of dogs being brought in, and many are needing to be euthanized.

"I don't like to do it, and I know no animal control facility likes to do it, so it's just kind of one of those necessary evils," said Benton County Animal Control Officer Mandy McDermott.

Since the start of the year, 23 dogs have been put down, while 27 were adopted out. This amounts to about a quarter of the dogs brought in needing to be put down. Compare that to about 8 percent when the shelter first opened. In 2012 adoption rates were over 40 percent; now, they are under 30 percent.

"It goes back to the community coming together to help these animals," said Kelly.

Staff tell me healthy animals are not put down.

"If there's any possible way we can save a dog's life, we will do it; we don't euthanize just because," said McDermott.

Benton County says it is looking to transfer more dogs to out-of-town adoption groups, saying if it wasn't for them, the shelter would be at capacity. Staff hope owners are more responsible in taking care of animals so there aren't as many unwanted pets.

"We need to come together as a community, and that means you and I and anyone who cares about animals, and work collectively to try and solve this problem," said Kelly.

Benton County animal control officers say that if a stray dog is found, you have three business days to drop it off or call to have it picked up free of charge, but you can't surrender your own dog.