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HANFORD — Kings County Animal Services is celebrating some good news: Its euthanasia rate has plummeted over the past six years.

Animal Services Director Teri Rockhold said the Kings County animal shelter released 68 percent of the 6,011 animals it took in during 2012. That means only 32 percent of the animals that came through the shelter had to be euthanized.

“Obviously the goal is not to have to euthanize anything to make space in the shelter,” she said.

Rockhold said municipal shelters in the Central Valley are notorious for their high kill rates. As recently as six years ago, about 80 to 85 percent of animals in the Kings County shelter were being put down. She said the most recent figures give Kings County one of the lowest euthanasia rates of any municipal animal shelter in the Valley.

Several factors have contributed to the good news, including support from the HOPE Animal Foundation, local veterinarians and Hanford’s mandatory spay and neuter ordinance that has been in place since January 2012.

One of the biggest factors in the agency’s success has been its partnerships with organizations that pull animals from the shelter and find them homes, Rockhold said. Large numbers of animals are transferred to the Lemoore-based Stonecliffe Animal Rescue and the Walnut Creek-based Animal Rescue Foundation for adoption out of town.

“That’s absolutely what’s done it,” Rockhold said. “If we just waited for the community to get on board and just waited for the spay-and-neuter thing to take hold, we would still be killing animals.”

Over the weekend, Stonecliffe adopted out about 48 dogs at one of its bimonthly adoption events in the Bay Area. The organization’s president and operator Terri Stonehocker was at the county shelter on Monday ready to take more animals.

Stonehocker said she pulled seven dogs and will likely come back for more later this week.

“I think it’s amazing,” Stonehocker said of the shelter’s lower euthanasia rate. “I knew [Rockhold’s] number was dropping but I didn’t know how well she had done.”

  Stonecliffe found homes for 662 dogs last year, many of which came from the Kings County animal shelter.

Rockhold said educating the public is key to preventing animals from coming in the door. She said Hanford’s spay and neuter ordinance has helped open the door to educate pet owners about controlling the animal population.

“We try to tell people if you’re going to acquire more animals, you should get them from a shelter,” Rockhold said. “If they go around the corner and acquire an animal from someone who unintentionally bred their Chihuahua, then the problem continues.”

Rockhold said she plans to continue reducing the euthanasia rate by fully staffing at the shelter, applying for grant funds and going out into the community for off-site adoption events. She also hopes to expand the foster program to allow more animals to be kept outside the shelter.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.

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