Stray pets in McLean County have a much better chance at a second (or third) life thanks to increased work by the staff at McLean County Animal Control.

That's because of a concerted effort between the agency and a number of community partners that came together in 2014 after criticism about the number of dogs, cats and other animals that were euthanized rather than adopted or transferred to another shelter or rescue group.

As reported last week, the change has been most noticeable for adult cats, traditionally the most difficult to place.

“Over the past several years we have seen a steady decline on euthanasia and we no longer euthanize animals to make space. I would like to continue on this same track, saving every adoptable pet possible,” said MCAC Director Marshell Thomson.

In 2017, MCAC had more than 560 cats, and most were adopted or transferred. Of the 540 dogs, more than half were returned to their owners and many others were adopted or transferred. The county facility is under the auspices of the county administrator's office.

Compare that to 2014, when MCAC was under health department purview, and the facility took in 617 dogs and 405 cats. It euthanized 170 dogs (27 percent) and 264 cats (65 percent). The 2014 numbers were comparable to shelters in Champaign, Livingston, Peoria, Sangamon and Tazewell counties.

"Historically, animal controls have been part of the health department and their mandate is to protect the public from sick or dangerous animals,” said veterinarian Eric Nord of Nord Animal Hospital. “The cool thing is, we can still do that while protecting the animals. They’re good animals that just happen to be lost or unwanted and we want to give them a forever home.”

Added veterinarian Matt Fraker of Prairie Oak Veterinary Center: “This is the hub of animal rescue. They’re performing a mandate given to them by the county, but these people are stewards of animals. Marshell has brought in these efforts to make this a placement facility instead of a death facility."

An overall increase in shelters and adoption groups — Wish Bone Canine Rescue, Pet Central Helps, Humane Society of Central Illinois, Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue, Cattails Feline Rescue — and others, as well as breed-specific rescue groups and more public knowledge about the problem, have helped MCAC and other government-based shelters increase their adoption numbers rather than their euthanasia numbers.

The county shelter also is the registrant for dogs and cats throughout the county, issuing tags after owners have provided proof of vaccinations. 

Not everyone is an animal lover, and not everyone is a good candidate to adopt an animal. But for those in both categories, finding the next cat, dog, rabbit, horse, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, ferret or bird may be as simple as a trip to the county shelter, 9279 N. 1375 East Road.

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