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KHS ‘making progress’

The final numbers of fiscal year 2015 show fewer animals wound up at the Kauai Humane Society, a higher percentage of dogs and cats left alive and total euthanasias declined.

The figures indicate KHS programs are working, said Executive Director Penny Cistaro.

“We are making progress,” Cistaro said Wednesday. “We’re making great strides here.”

A key number, the live release rate, was 45 percent, a 6 percent increase from last year. According to the report, 1,118 dogs, 72 percent, and 531 cats, 25 percent, were released from the shelter in the last fiscal year.

Another key number, euthanasias, were down 22 percent. All told, 438 dogs were euthanized (down 26 percent from 588) while 1,607 cats were euthanized, (down 21 percent from 2,207) in the last fiscal year.

“We are making headway on the problem,” Cistaro said. “It’s not going to be an overnight success.”

She credits several areas for the improvements.

More dogs — 362 in FY 2015, compared to 221 in FY 2014 — were transferred out for adoption on the Mainland. Sixty cats were sent to the Mainland via the program with Alaska Airlines that ships the animals free of charge.

Through the KHS field trip program, 96 dogs were adopted, up from 82 the year before.

Other programs that have helped keep animals in homes or find homes for them include the Behavioral Helpline started in 2014; Critter Camp offered hands-on experience for 110 kids to learn about animals; dog training classes, which helped 69 families; and Gomez’ Galley, which has helped more than 400 families and 800 animals since it was started in October 2013 by providing pet food.

“We are doing so much more now in our community than we have ever done,” Cistaro said.

“We’re not dealing with the same numbers we’ve been dealing with, which gives us the ability to focus more on what we have.”

The total number of dogs and cats taken in at the shelter, 3,698 for FY 2015, fell 16 percent from 4,380 the previous year, which Cistaro said shows KHS program are effective. It was only three years ago that the shelter took in 5,717 animals.

The number of dogs surrendered by owners, 440 in the last fiscal year, was double that, 902 in FY 2013.

The intake of stray dogs fell to 1,119, down 15 percent from 1,322 in FY 2014. Last fiscal year, KHS found new homes for 451 dogs and 342 cats.

With fewer dogs and cats coming in, and more going out, it means KHS has more shelter space to house animals. In the last 14 months, it euthanized one dog and seven cats for space reasons.

KHS euthanizes animals for several reasons, including temperament, behavioral and medical. It put down 87 dogs and 39 cats at the request of their owners.

Cistaro said feral, unsocialized cats and unweaned kittens comprise 80 percent of cats that are euthanized.

“Our greatest euthanasia category is feral, unsocialized,” she said. “We’re not able to return as many cats as we are dogs. We don’t have the same luck returning cats because they’re ferals.”

Key going forward is to continue to raise awareness and increase the number of pets being spayed or neutered, and help resolve the island’s feral cat problem.

KHS spayed and neutered 110 more animals in FY2015 (2,911), including 24 percent in the number of cats that were fixed, 710. KHS recently restarted its mobile spay and neuter unit.

It came to light earlier this year that KHS had been underreporting the percentage of cats and dogs it euthanized for the last five fiscal years. KHS Board of Directors President Emily Larocque said it due to a math error that has since been corrected.

To be sure these latest numbers were accurate, KHS statistics were shared with and checked by the Humane Society of the United States.

Inga Gibson, director of the Humane Society of the United States in Honolulu, wrote she was pleased to see that “KHS is using the highest industry standard for collecting shelter data via the Shelter Animals Count matrix.”

“We are also pleased to hear that KHS is not euthanizing animals simply for lack of space, and that your innovative Mainland Transfer and Field Trip programs continue to significantly increase your adoption rates,” she said.

Cistaro, who came on board two and a half years ago to lead KHS, fell under fire earlier this year when a lengthy report citing complaints of some employees about her performance was presented to the board.

A petition signed by about 10 employees calling for her removal as executive director was also presented to the board, which has stood behind her. Two employees were later fired.

Wednesday, Cistaro said she believes KHS is headed in the right direction. The nonprofit is solvent financially, contributions are strong and its programs are working.

“We’re keeping animals in their home because we are able to help people,” she said. “That’s what all of this is targeting.”

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