Sterilization a key to the problem

Comparing how animals in South Florida fare to with those in the rest of the nation is difficult. There is no national tracking system for the number of cats and dogs taken in, adopted or killed at shelters.

Most states, including Florida, do not require shelters to report statistics.

"Florida needs to do that," says John Snyder of the companion animal division of the Humane Society of the United States. "You have to have the numbers. That’s a weakness throughout the country."

The fairest comparison, animal-welfare workers say, is to look at the euthanasia rate, the number of animals killed per 1,000 people. The rates for Broward County, 18.6, and Palm Beach County, 15.4, are considerably higher than other large metropolitan areas, the Sun-Sentinel found.

Chicago’s euthanasia rate, for instance, is 5.9, and New York City’s is 4.6.

"One of the major issues [in South Florida] is this huge influx of people," says Laura Bevan, director of the southeast regional office of the Humane Society of the United States. "Pet overpopulation is not being recognized."

In 1996, a task forced formed by the Broward County Commission to address the problem issued a report with several recommendations, including extending the hours of operation at Animal Care to increase adoptions.

But little changed, says Ron Fach, a member of the task force.

Boca Raton City Councilman Dave Freudenberg, who also is a board member of the Tri-County Humane Society, says South Florida governments need to band together.

"It’s a regional problem," he says. "We need to do a lot more. The commitment needs to be made to neutering animals. There’s such a cavalier attitude about it."

Sterilizing more animals would help reduce the numbers of homeless and unwanted pets, animal-welfare workers say. The statistics back that up.

In six years, one female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies. A cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Sally Kestin can be reached at or 954-356-4510.