Sad fact: More than 20,000 cats and dogs are killed every year in the Triangle’s shelters. And in our entire state? More than a quarter million cats and dogs are killed annuallyearning us a position among the worst in the country.

Yet, dozens of cities and counties, even entire states, have ended the practice of euthanizing healthy animals. How have they done it? Through prevention, using targeted spay/neuter financial assistance and intense cooperation.

The “Spay/Neuter Bill” the N.C. legislature recently passed may slightly increase state funding of the Triangle’s preventive efforts. However, that alone is not a solution to pet overpopulation.

The models of success have been well-planned collaborative efforts among government agencies, nonprofits, veterinarians and citizens. Utah’s “No More Homeless Pets” Community Project is one well-documented example. Consisting of many groups and individuals historically at odds28 rescue groups, 54 animal control agencies, and 91 private practice veterinariansUtah’s statewide coalition reduced shelter animal deaths by more than 40,000 animals in a five-year period.

If an entire state can collaborate successfully, surely we can tighten up our act in the Triangle.

Providing financial assistance for pet spay/neuter for our lowest-income residents is fiscally smart, costing approximately 40 cents per resident per year, and the costs are often offset by animal control cost savings. New Hampshire estimated a savings of $2.2 million in the first seven years of its statewide program.

Some great news: We see a recent increase in cooperation among Triangle groups and an interest in supporting spay/neuter assistance programs.

The Animal Protection Society of Durham, which operates Durham’s shelter, recently contributed $10,000 to AnimalKind‘s program, “The $20 Fix,” to provide pet spay/neuter subsidies for the county’s impoverished residents. The Orange County Animal Control Advisory Board recommended increased license fees for unaltered pets, with the funds to be dedicated to a spay/neuter program. Wake County Animal Services’ multi-year strategic plan includes goals of reducing shelter intake and euthanasia and funding targeted spay/neuter. In 2008, the SPCA of Wake County will open a high-volume low-cost spay/neuter clinic modeled after the successful Humane Alliance clinic in Asheville and will be working with other organizations to serve animals without owners and the pets of low-income residents.

Nine veterinary practices currently partner with AnimalKind to provide spay/neuter assistance to low-income residents. These dedicated veterinarians and private donors and volunteers have enabled the program to alter nearly 4,000 pets since 2004.

The Triangle has the brainpower and resources to end unnecessary pet euthanasia; let’s be sure we have the cooperation that’s required, too.

Beth Livingstone is the executive director of AnimalKind, a nonprofit that administers The $20 Fix program. Donations can be made to P.O. Box 12568, Raleigh, NC 27605. Volunteers and donations of gently used items are also welcome at ReTails Thrift Shop in Raleigh, where all net profits support The $20 Fix.