Aug 30, 2023 - News

Dog euthanizations on the rise in Des Moines

Illustration of a dog collar with a metal pendant in the shape of an emergency symbol with an exclamation point.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Dog euthanizations at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) are at their highest monthly level since at least 2018.

Why it matters: The leagues' shelters are being overrun, with this year's monthly average intake of 405 dogs well above the organization's previous five-year average of around 353.

The big picture: According to the Shelter Animals Count database, animal intakes at both public and private shelters across the country are expected to reach a three-year high this year, and adoptions or returns to owners are not keeping pace, Axios' Carrie Shepherd reports.

By the numbers: 208 dogs — an average of about 30 a month — were euthanized between January and July, ARL public data shows.

  • That's 33% higher than 2021's monthly average of just over 22 a month.

The latest: The ARL waived fees last weekend in an "urgent" adoption drive to reduce shelter crowding.

  • Around 200 pets were adopted between Thursday and Sunday.
  • But there's still a shortage of space, ARL director of development KC Routos, tells Axios.
Data: Animal Rescue League of Iowa.; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Animal Rescue League of Iowa.; Chart: Axios Visuals

Meanwhile: Monthly cat intakes so far in 2023 are slightly lower than in the two previous years.

  • Cat euthanizations averaged just over 46 a month so far this year, slightly higher than last year but still 13% lower than in 2019 when there were 53.

Of note: The ARL doesn't euthanize animals unless they are suffering or have severe behavior concerns that haven't been resolved after training techniques are exhausted, per Routos.

  • Things like foster programs and creative adoption promotions have for years allowed the ARL to avoid euthanizing healthy, adoptable animals.

Yes, but: Keeping euthanizations limited is a daily challenge.

  • Pet overpopulation is a community problem that needs a community solution. It is not up to the shelters alone to make this happen, Routos says.

What they're saying: A lack of affordable pet friendly housing also plays a role in intakes, per Routos.

  • The ARL advocates for landlords to make their properties more pet friendly by evaluating restrictions or financial barriers like extra deposits.
  • Pet-friendly housing options in the metro are listed on its website.

Zoom in: The Animal Rescue League handles the city of DSM's animal control services.

  • The city is building a $14.1 million animal shelter that will be three times bigger than its current facility along Southeast 14th Street.

What's next: The new facility, which is about five blocks from its current site, is expected to open later this year.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more