• Susan Houser

Worth Watching – St. Paul, MN

[NOTE: The Worth Watching category lists communities whose animal shelter systems are doing substantially better than average, but have not reported a sustained (for one year or more) 90%+ live release rate. These communities are not counted in the running total of 90%+ communities. For more about the Worth Watching category, see the Worth Watching page link in the blog’s header.]


St. Paul, Minnesota (population 295,000) lies alongside the city of Minneapolis (population 400,000), and the two are known as the Twin Cities. The Twin Cities metro area has 3.8 million people.


St. Paul has a municipal department that operates the city’s Animal Control Center (ACC). Molly Lunaris took over as director of the ACC in the fall of 2013. I spoke to her yesterday about the ACC, and she sent me statistics from 2013 and 2014. She told me that the ACC accepts owner surrenders as well as strays, and the only requirement is that a person surrendering an animal must be a St. Paul resident.


In 2013 the ACC’s live release rate for the year was 61%. So far in 2014 it has improved substantially, with an 81% live release rate through September. The shelter offers owner-requested euthanasia, and with owner-requested euthanasia and deaths in shelter care counted as part of euthanasias, the live release rate is 74% so far in 2014. The ACC does very few adoptions, and returns most of its animals to their owners or transfers them to approved 501(c)(3) rescues. Their intake is quite small relative to the city’s population (1541 dogs and cats in 2013, which is 5 per 1000 people).


St. Paul is one of those situations where the city shelter’s performance is perhaps better than it looks on paper, for a couple of reasons. First, they may be receiving a higher proportion of the city’s hard-to-place animals, because they have a large non-profit in the city that also does intake. The private Animal Humane Society, which describes itself as “open admission,” has several locations including one in St. Paul. According to their website they take in owner surrenders and some strays. Often in a situation like this with a large private shelter doing intake, the city shelter winds up with a higher percentage of problem cases (such as seizures and hoarding cases) simply because they are the organization that gets the animal control calls.


The second reason that the ACC’s performance may be better than it looks on paper is that the shelter is doing several things to divert intake. For instance, animal control officers are following the latest recommendations of No Kill shelter experts by not picking up stray cats unless they need help. The ACC also makes efforts to return animals in the  field, which can reduce intake.


I do not have combined numbers for the ACC and the Animal Humane Society, but it look as though their combined live release rate would be about 85% so far in 2014. With kitten season finished, it’s possible that the combined live release rate could reach 90% for 2014 as a whole.

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