Georgia’s rate of euthanizing animals higher than most other states in 2023, data shows

Georgia is among the states with the highest number of shelter animals euthanized each year, but there are ways the public can help reduce the number.

Georgia had the fifth-most animal killings in shelters in the U.S. in 2023, according to data from Best Friends Animal Society. That year, the state euthanized more than 19,000 cats and dogs.

Tracey Weathers, the shelter manager at Bibb County Animal Services, said shelters euthanize animals for a variety of reasons, but the most common in municipal shelters are public safety concerns and a lack of space in the shelter.

“Municipal shelters have to euthanize because they have a responsibility to the public,” Weathers said. “They’re picking up sick, injured, aggressive animals, and then the ones that are good, they can only hold them for so long before they have to make room for more animals that need to come in.”

In 2023, Bibb County Animal Services took in about 2,351 animals, according to their annual report. The shelter tries to reduce the number of animals euthanized by partnering with rescues to place animals in foster homes and find permanent families. However, while it’s been effective, it doesn’t totally erase the problem. The shelter still had to euthanize 631 animals last year.

Weathers said that in her experience, shelters are more likely to have to euthanize dogs due to the safety threat they present if they become aggressive. Additionally, shelters tend to take in more dogs than cats.

“With cats, there’s more options than with dogs. If you have a cat that’s feral, for instance … we can trap it, neuter it, release it back into the community,” Weathers said. “Whereas if dogs have behavior issues, we can’t allow them back into the community.”

Community members can take action to reduce the number of animals killed in Georgia shelters. Weathers said it’s important for people to keep animals on their property, and to make sure they have food, water and veterinarian care.

Additionally, the law in Bibb County requires that all animals over the age of six months be spayed or neutered, something Weathers said can go a long way in keeping people safe and animals out of shelters.

“Just being a responsible pet owner with [spayed and neutered pets] would definitely help our euthanasia rate,” Weathers said.

Groups like Best Friends Animal Society also advocate for more people to adopt and foster pets so they’re less likely to be killed at shelters.

Animal welfare groups also advise people to put tags on their pets. This allows them to be returned easily and reduces the number of animals shelters take in.