Thousands of animals are taken through the front door of the Kansas Humane Society each and every year. Most are adopted back out to new families. But sadly, there are still many that never make it back out those doors.
For the first time, the Kansas Humane Society is opening up about those numbers and how the community has helped them turn things around.
Euthanization is a sad reality folks at the KHS have to face every day. It's not a topic they've been comfortable talking about until now.
KHS says now is the time to be transparent with the community about the difficult decisions, why they make them, and how the community can continue to help.
Whether they're strays, lost or surrendered by their owners, the Kansas Humane Society becomes a temporary home for thousands of animals each year.
"Last year we brought in or provided care and services for 17,000 animals," says Melissa Houston with the Kansas Humane Society, "13,000 of those were animals that ended up being homeless."
Of those 13,000 animals, primarily cats and dogs, more than 9,000 were adopted out to new families. But what happens to the other 4,000 is something the Humane Society hasn't talked publicly about.
"Nobody loves it. Nobody is excited about, we're not excited about," Houston said.
More than 4,000 animals were euthanized in 2013. (Note: The two numbers listed in the chart add up to more than the total number of animals taken in. That's because some of the animals were already at KHS at the beginning of 2013.)
Each of those decisions to put an animal down is based on certain criteria, mostly dealing with the health and behavior of the animal.
"Typically we focus on how are they acting, how are they behaving, there's no time limits here so that is definitely not a deciding factor," Houston said, "It doesn't matter how long they're here, it's how well they're doing. A lot of animals don't handle a shelter well, we have a beautiful facility but it's still a shelter."
With only so many rooms, some of those calls are made based on space.
We asked Houston if KHS ever has to put down healthy animals.
"We are so close to being at a point where we don't have to put down a healthy animal," Houston said. "We're very close to being at a point where we'll never have to make a decision because of space."
While 4,000 sounds like a large number, it's the flip side of that statistic that has the Humane Society looking up.
Live-release rates - the number of animals adopted out - have been climbing steadily.
"Our live release rate last year was 73 percent, which in the sheltering world is amazing," Houston said. "The exiting part is so far this year in May our rate was 83 percent."
Compare that with 2003, when the live release rate was only 23%. That means three-quarters of the animals brought in were being put down.
A huge turnaround in the number of animals saved. It's something Houston credits to their new, larger facility and the community's continued willingness to help.
"The euthanasia rate was down 17 percent from the year before and it's even better this year," said Houston. "So that's really exciting and these numbers are all thanks to the community we can't improve from this point without support from the community."
She hopes releasing the information to the public will encourage people to pitch in and help even more.