One of the places that has made big gains is Huntsville, Ala.
When Tracey Durning first met her dog, Fred, in an animal shelter in New York City in 1995, he looked underfed and was shaking uncontrollably. A five-year-old terrier mix with wiry hair, Fred had been given up by his previous family. Durning adopted him, set him up in a warm bed, smothered him with affection, and fed him well. “The transformation was amazing,” she said.
A delightful personality emerged and Fred soon became a well-liked figure in SoHo, greeted by gallery owners, waiters and doormen as he walked down the streets. “Upon meeting Fred, the stigma of ‘damaged shelter animals’ — which is still prevalent today, but was even worse then — was totally obliterated,” said Durning. “He was everything you’d want in a dog and more.” She added: “He was also a big reason that many people I knew decided to adopt instead of buy their dogs.”
If these approaches can save the lives of so many animals, why isn’t everyone using them?
After Fred died in 2010, Durning, a social entrepreneur, wanted to do something to honor his memory. She started looking into the plight of shelter animals, a national problem.
One of the places that has made big gains is Huntsville, Ala. Karen Sheppard, the director of animal services for Huntsville, recalled that, a few years back, she would often go home after work and burst into tears. A veterinarian and animal lover, Sheppard oversaw the public shelter, and when it became overcrowded, it fell on her to euthanize the cats and dogs for which homes could not be found. “It hurt a lot,” she said.
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The Tuscaloosa Spay & Neuter Incentive Program, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization, was founded in the spring of 2013 with the mission of reducing the unwanted pet population in Tuscaloosa County through a variety of programs.