The county pound was the first in the state to require spaying or neutering.
LISBON -- Dozens of dogs in Columbiana County got reprieves from canine death row last year, thanks to an arrangement with private animal-rescue organizations.
The Columbiana County Dog Pound euthanized 34 percent of the 1,380 dogs that entered the facility in Lisbon last year. That's down from 55 percent of the 1,369 dogs that entered the facility in 2003.
In addition to the rescue groups, county officials said the pound did a better job finding homes for animals, posting pictures on an Internet site.
"This has all helped," said Jim Hoppel, chairman of the county commissioners.
County officials and rescue advocates said the potential exists for greater reductions in a few years because of regulations that took effect last year requiring all dogs adopted at the pound to be spayed and neutered.
The fee for adopting a dog jumped from $16 to $50. The county keeps $15 of that amount; the rest goes to Angels for Animals, a rescue organization south of Canfield that performs the procedure.
"This means that the dog pound adds no more dogs to an already-overcrowded animal population," said Diane Less Baird, the developmental director for Angels for Animals and a co-founder of the group. "It makes their jobs a million times more effective."
Baird said Columbiana County was the first in the state to require all dogs at the pound to be spayed and neutered. Since then, four other counties have adopted similar requirements and next-door Stark County has expressed an interest, she said.
The biggest cause of dog euthanasia is that supply vastly outstrips demand, Baird said. Dogs have far more puppies than their owners can give away. Many end up at the pound, which also cannot find homes.
"It's a crisis. There are so many animals that have to die that people are not aware of because they die in silence," she said. "You can't save every animal. There's just too many of them."
The spay and neutering requirement should reduce the number of dogs entering the pound in a few years, Baird said.
"We just found that we were totally defeating our purpose by putting dogs back out in the community who weren't spayed and neutered," Hoppel said.
Contrary to the fears of some, Baird said the increased adoption fee has not discouraged prospective pet owners. She noted that the $35 spay and neutering cost is far less than the fee charged by veterinarians.
Because the Columbiana County dogs now are spayed and neutered, it prevents con artists from trying to pass them off as pure-breds.
Baird said a spay/neuter requirement at every dog pound in the state would dramatically cut the number of stray animals and dogs that must be destroyed. She said she would like to see Mahoning County adopt similar rules at its dog pound.
"We've tried to get them to do this for, oh, maybe 14 or 15 years," she said.
Mike Fox, who was appointed Mahoning County dog warden last month, said he is receptive to the idea. Money is the big stumbling block. Baird said her organization does not have the resources to provide the service for Mahoning County.
"An awful lot depends on funding: Who's going to pay for it and where it's going to come from?" Fox said.
Fox said getting dogs fixed before they leave the pound would help reduce the population of unwanted canines. The pound accepted 2,000 dogs last year and euthanized about 1,100 them.
But Fox added that fixing pets is only one component. He pointed to a 2001 survey indicating that 75 percent of the people who adopted dogs from the Mahoning County pound in 2001 got them spayed and neutered.
"The problem is there's always new dogs coming in from other sources," he said.