(WXYZ) - According to The Humane Society of the United States, an estimated half of the 8 million cats and dogs taken in by U.S. animal shelters are euthanized.
Now, the popularity of "no kill" shelters is growing. These kinds of programs are focused on putting down only the most sick, injured or vicious animals.
Gail Montgomery and her daughter volunteered at many shelters, but discovered that many of the animals they were caring for were eventually euthanized.
"Overcrowdedness is big. If a dog was brought back for any reason they'd be euthanized. They wouldn't be given a chance," she says.
She recalls a dog named Muffy, a poodle with a skin condition. Montgomery says her condition was treatable.
"I saw her in the euthanasia room. I was stunned. I begged to take her and they let me take her. We found her a great home and she has no problems at all," says Mongtomery.
In 2006, Montgomery and her daughter created Almost Home in Southfield - a ‘no kill' animal rescue facility.
Almost Home accepts every single dog and cat brought to it by Southfield's animal warden and police department. It finds foster homes for them too.
"There's always a way. There's animal lovers out there," says Montgomery.
Kelley LaBonty feels the same way.
"I love animals. I can't stand to see them suffer," she says.
Last October, she started the Detroit Animal Welfare Group in Shelby Township, also known as DAWG.
Right now, it's a foster based non-profit, but it's goal is to open a large ‘no kill' shelter.
So far, it has given dozens of animals a new lease on life.
"There's an estimated 500,000 dogs on the street in Detroit .. homeless and starving.
People are losing their homes with the economy in Michigan. They can't afford them and they're surrendering them," says LaBonty.
However, before surrendering an animal to a shelter. she and Montgomery say do your research.
"There's been huge increase in non-profits, but that doesn't always mean all non profits are no kill. Do your homework," she says.
Montgomery says in six years of having her non-profit facility - just five animals had to be put down.
"If we do everything for them and the vet says you've already invested thousands of dollars, but we can't make them have a quality of life ... the humane thing to do is to put that animal to sleep," says Montgomery.
"We remember every one of them and we have memorials for them," she says.
However, Montgomery says just about all of them at Almost Home do get that second chance - thanks to donations and help from the community.
Last year alone, Almost Home had medical bills around $150,000.
As for the animals, Almost Home is at capacity, but is always looking for people to adopt their beloved animals or serve as a foster home. If you'd like to learn more on how to help at Almost Home you can visit http://www.almosthomeanimals.org/
For more information on D.A.W.G. you can visit its website http://www.dawghous.com/
If you're able to choose where to surrender an animal, or select one as a pet, what should you consider?
You can use the following tips as a guide:
- Does the organization have a website? What are its policies for accepting, caring for or placing animals? Does it have open admission -- offering shelter to any animal or does it place limits on species, breed or size? Or by where an owner lives?
- Does the organization have a facility or shelter? If not, how and where are animals cared for?
- Visit the facility. How accessible is it in terms of location and hours? Is it clean and well lit, with adequate space for each animal? Is the staff friendly to animals? And to visitors?
- How long does it keep strays or animals surrendered by owners?
- Does the organization charge to take in, or adopt out, animals? What do those fees cover? Veterinary care and food? Spaying or neutering?
- Is a veterinarian available or on site?
- Does the organization follow the Association of Shelter Veterinarians' "Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters"?
- If the organization can't accept an animal, will it help you find an alternative?
- If it describes itself as "no kill," what does that mean? What are its criteria for euthanizing animals?
- How does the organization determine if an animal is adoptable?
- How does it screen prospective owners and pets for adoption placement?
- Does the organization promote animal spaying-neutering beyond the shelter? How? Does it offer assistance, such as financial aid, to low-income families seeking the surgery for their pets?
- Who runs the shelter? How many people are on staff? Does it have a board of directors? Or volunteers?
- Does the organization provide outcome statistics for animals in its care?
- Does it partner with other shelters or rescue groups? Does it transport animals to, and/or exchange them with, other facilities?