Polk County euthanizes more strays than anywhere else in Florida

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It is nothing to be proud of. Polk County has the dubious distinction of euthanizing more than 12,000 animals a year, more than anywhere else in the state.

“It is a sad epitaph for us right now,” said the executive director of the SPCA of Florida, based in Lakeland, Shelley Thayer.

That’s why the SPCA of Florida is kicking off a new campaign to make Polk a kill-free county by 2025.

According to Thayer, the first step is to take in an additional 4,000 dogs, especially the hard-to-adopt breeds, and kittens this year.

“It’s a huge number, a big one to wrap your head around,” commented Thayer.

The SPCA is networking with rescue groups around the country and plans to send them as many animals as they can adopt out.

Right now, kittens are coveted in many northern states because it’s off season. In many places, cats don’t breed until spring when the weather warms up.

Certain dog breeds, like Rottweilers and pit bulls, are hard to re-home in Florida. In many other areas, they have better reputations are more likely to be adopted.

The SPCA also says it is going to try even harder to convince owners to spay or neuter their pets and convince veterinarians to provide more sterilization for free for low-income people.

“If everyone starts spaying and neutering, that’s the bigger solution to our problem,” explained Krista Creekmore, the SPCA’s digital marketing expert.

The cost of taking in more animals is expected to run an additional $700,000 a year, money the organization hopes to get from fundraising.