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  • Writer's pictureSusan Houser

Lynchburg, VA

Lynchburg is an independent city of about 76,000 people in Virginia, located southwest of Charlottesville and east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Lynchburg Humane Society (LHS), is a non-profit that has a contract with the city of Lynchburg for animal services. LHS requires an appointment for owner surrenders and charges a small fee, but states that it will make exceptions for people who need to surrender a pet immediately or cannot pay the fee.

The shelter reported a 90% live release rate for the year 2011. LHS did not do quite as well in 2012, when it had an 87% live release rate. For 2013, LHS was back over 90%, reporting a live release rate of 92% for the year, with an intake of 1537 animals. The city of Lynchburg animal control euthanized 25 animals, and the live release rate for the community as a whole in 2013 was 90%. Performance improved in 2014, with a combined live release rate for the shelter and the city animal control of 93%.

LHS has struggled with a relatively high number of shelter deaths. They attribute this in large part to their badly outdated shelter building, which has made it difficult to control infectious diseases. If animals who died in shelter care are counted in with euthanasias, the modified live release rate for 2013 was 83%. In 2014, the modified live release rate improved 6 points, to 89%.

LHS began fundraising for a new building, but director Makena Yarbrough did not want to wait for it to be built to try to reduce shelter deaths. Last spring she consulted with epidemiologists at Cornell to find out how shelter staff could keep infection under control as much as possible in the old building. She implemented their ideas, including getting as many kittens out of the shelter as fast as possible. Yarbrough started a Kitten Warrior neonatal foster program and made it an all-hands-on-deck event. These efforts were responsible for the 6-point  increase in the modified live release rate from 2013 to 2014, as kitten and cat deaths were 65% lower.

As of this past Monday the new shelter building was completed and they are moving animals in.  The grand opening is March 21, 2015. This new shelter should substantially help Lynchburg in its continuing effort to reduce the number of shelter deaths.

Many shelters have blogs, but the LHS blog is particularly worth following because it occasionally has posts that analyze its programs from a statistical or outcomes point of view. Three posts that are worth reading for their statistical analyses are linked here:

  1. Owners Are Helping Us Save Lives By Waiting

  2. TNR Opinion – It Is Time We Fix The Problem

  3. Can You Wait Please? It Means Life To Us!

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