Rick DuCharme, the founder of First Coast No More Homeless Pets, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based nonprofit group, has helped two animal shelters serving Duval County become no-kill facilities.

Jerry Larson / Waco Tribune-Herald

Waco already has programs in place to achieve no-kill status at the now city-run animal control facility, but it will take time and greater financial investment into the initiatives from the community to lower the euthanization rates.

That’s the message speaker Rick DuCharme shared with about 45 attendees at a no-kill summit Wednesday. The event was sponsored by the city’s animal welfare advisory board to gather ideas on lowering the local stray animal population.

DuCharme is the founder of First Coast No More Homeless Pets, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based nonprofit group that has worked to help two animal shelters serving Duval County become no-kill facilities.

A shelter is considered a no-kill facility when it has a 90 percent or greater save rate.

The Waco animal shelter euthanized 6,013 of the 10,328 animals it took in during the 2012 fiscal year, according to figures DuCharme received from the Humane Society of Central Texas, which ran the shelter until the city took over operations Nov. 30.

“You can’t blame the shelter because they’re the ones stuck sticking the needle in the animal,” DuCharme said. “It’s all of us working together that are going to either make a difference or not make a difference.”

DuCharme said his group began in 2002 and finally achieved no-kill status for the first time last month.

He listed three tasks he thinks had the greatest impact on lowering euthanizations in Duval County:

Offering low-cost or subsidized spay and neuter services for pets in low-income families and in ZIP codes with a higher concentration of low-income residents.

Creating a Feral Freedom program to spay and neuter feral cats then release them back to their communities.

Working with the city and local rescue groups to boost pet adoptions.

Similar programs already exist in Waco and McLennan County. The Animal Birth Control Center offers low-cost spaying and neutering, for example.

Also, the nonprofit clinic and the Heart of Texas Feral Friends both run trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats.

The city took over animal shelter operations Nov. 30, delegating adoption responsibilities to the Humane Society of Central Texas. In addition, groups like Fuzzy Friends Rescue and McLennan Animal Rescue Coalition can obtain animals to adopt out.

DuCharme also applauded Waco city leaders for their interest in no-kill operation and noted some city policies aimed at lowering the stray animal population.

For example, the city enacted an ordinance in 2010 that requires residents to spay or neuter their pets or purchase an annual intact animal permit.

“It’s a very exciting time in Waco, Texas, because you guys have got something very positive going on that not many communities have when they want to become a no-kill community, and that is you’ve got the support of the city government,” DuCharme said.

DuCharme outlined a plan that would help the city reach no-kill status in five years, primarily through increasing the number of low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, targeting more feral cats for the existing trap-neuter-release program, and aggressively boosting adoptions by 25 percent annually.

He estimated that doing so would require an investment of about $391,000 to cover surgery subsidies and amping up marketing efforts to spur adoptions.

In Jacksonville, the city began requiring an annual pet licensing permit of $20, with half of the fee going to a spay/neuter fund to cover the surgeries and the remaining dollars shared between animal control officers and administrative costs.

PetSmart Charities also regularly has granted funds to First Coast No More Homeless Pets, including sponsoring several adoption days the group hosted for the county.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen easily, and it’s not something that’s going to happen by itself,” DuCharme said. “You really have to work for it.”

Assistant City Manager Wiley Stem said he was intrigued by the ideas DuCharme presented and the success his group has had in Florida.

He said the city will continue talking through the suggestions with the animal welfare board to figure out the best solution for the animal control facility.

“Spaying and neutering, increasing adoptions, those are just things we’ve got to be doing, that’s the reality,” Stem said.

Carrie Kuehl, director of the Animal Birth Control Clinic, said she expects that city and animal groups will need to brainstorm creative ways to fund the initiatives, but that the current momentum of planning and communication can help fuel progress sooner.

“I think it’s exciting that we might be able to achieve no-kill status in under five years,” said Kuehl, who sits on the animal advisory board.

“It took (DuCharme’s group) over 10 years to do it, but we already have many of the tools in place to accomplish it. I think we have to continue ramping them up and refocusing to make sure we do reach that goal.”

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