NC Annual Public Animal Shelter Report Shows High Cat Euthanasia Rates

This older cat is shown in an Eastern NC shelter. She was adopted. Photo: Kay Whatley.
This older cat is shown in an Eastern NC shelter. She was adopted. Photo: Kay Whatley.

According to the 2017 report released by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) this month, public animal shelters across North Carolina euthanized over 24,000 dogs and over 54,000 cats during 2017.

NCDA&CS’s Veterinary Division Animal Welfare Section issues licenses for public and private animal shelters and kennels. They also oversee the certification program for Euthanasia Technicians, and collect shelter data on animals “put to sleep.” For 2017, their report covers all animals handled by public animal shelters including county animal control facilities. While horses, livestock, wildlife, birds, and other animals may be included in a shelter’s intake numbers, the vast majority of animals received by NC public animal shelters are dogs or cats.

Of the total 234,563 animals taken in by NC public animal shelters, 82,601 were euthanized statewide (over 35%).

For 2017, the vast majority of animals euthanized were cats, with dogs as second-most euthanized.  Statewide percentages broken down by dogs or cats (other animals not included) are:


  • Dogs taken in:  115,253
  • Dogs euthanized:  24,533
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 21.2%


  • Cats taken in: 112,374
  • Cats euthanized: 54,937
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 48.8%

Some NC county shelters euthanized well over 50% of cats taken in. Percentages for several eastern NC counties are included below.

The full 2017 report is available to the public at The report includes data by species, the total number taken into each shelter, how many were adopted by a new owner, how many were returned to their owner, and how many were euthanized.

**UPDATE: On January 7, 2019, a revised version of the 2017 Public Animal Shelter Report was posted at


Edgecombe County: Tarboro Animal Shelter

This shelter reported only dogs and cats taken in; no other animals.


  • Dogs taken in: 123
  • Dogs euthanized: 22
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 17.8%


  • Cats taken in: 111
  • Cats euthanized: 65
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 58.5%


Franklin County: Franklin County Animal Shelter

This shelter also took in a rabbit and 11 un-specified “other” animals, of which 14 (their math) were adopted out or returned to the owner.


  • Dogs taken in: 1,373
  • Dogs euthanized: 257
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 18.7%


  • Cats taken in: 1,449
  • Cats euthanized: 739
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 51%


Johnston County: Johnston County Animal Services


  • Dogs taken in: 3,118
  • Dogs euthanized: 696
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 22.3%


  • Cats taken in: 4,115
  • Cats euthanized: 2,511
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 61.0%

Note that there is also a Town of Clayton Animal Holding Facility listed, with no intakes and no animals listed as euthanized. No animals were euthanized in the Town of Benson shelter.


Nash County: City of Rocky Mount Animal Shelter

In addition to cats and dogs, this shelter in Rocky Mount found homes for 22 rabbits.


  • Dogs taken in: 653
  • Dogs euthanized: 94
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 14.4%


  • Cats taken in: 395
  • Cats euthanized: 261
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 66.1%


Nash County: Nash County Animal County

Nash County shelter also took in a chicken (returned to owner), a horse, three hamsters, two parrots, three foxes (one euthanized), rabbits, raccoons (euthanized), and opossum (euthanized).


  • Dogs taken in: 700
  • Dogs euthanized: 136
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 19.4%


  • Cats taken in: 1,234
  • Cats euthanized: 1,074
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 87%
A dog in a shelter. Photo: Kay Whatley.
A dog in a shelter. Photo: Kay Whatley.


Wake County: Wake County Animal Care Control


  • Dogs taken in: 4,850
  • Dogs euthanized: 708
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 14.6%


  • Cats taken in: 5,160
  • Cats euthanized: 1,674
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 32.4%

Note that there is also a Town of Cary Police Department Holding Facility listed, with 19 dog intakes and 13 cat intakes alongside a wide variety of other animals. A total of 64 animals were euthanized, including two dogs and five cats. Note that while the majority of public animal shelters in NC have a “cost per animal” under $395, the Town of Cary facility has a cost of over $3,000 per animal.


Wayne County: Wayne County Adoption and Education Center

Wayne County also took in and re-homed one rabbit and two guinea pigs. This location euthanized a hawk, a muskrat, five opossum, one rabbit, and three raccoons.


  • Dogs taken in: 1,829
  • Dogs euthanized: 292
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 15.9%


  • Cats taken in: 1,814
  • Cats euthanized: 1,174
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 64.7%


Wilson County: Wilson County Animal Shelter

Wilson County Animal shelter received an array of species in 2017, including bats, a bird, a deer, chic kens, fish, foxes, guinea pigs, pigs, rabbits, raccoons (euthanized), a turtle, and a squirrel (euthanized).


  • Dogs taken in: 1,093
  • Dogs euthanized: 181
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 16.5%


  • Cats taken in: 1,000
  • Cats euthanized: 543
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 54.3%


Greene County: Greene County Animal Shelter

This shelter also took in several goats and pigs, all of which were adopted or returned to their owner.


  • Dogs taken in: 393
  • Dogs euthanized: 49
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 12.4%


  • Cats taken in: 235
  • Cats euthanized: 134
  • Percentage of cats euthanized: 57.0%


Forsyth County: Forsyth County Animal Control

**UPDATE: Forsyth County numbers were incorrect as reported in the NC annual report. It is being updated.**

According to the shelter, their actual 2017 numbers are:


  • Cats taken in: 2,510
  • Cats euthanized: 1,783
  • Percentage of cats euthanized:  71.0%

The number of cats adopted was 304. Additionally, 64 cats were returned to their owners.


  • Dogs taken in: 3,359
  • Dogs euthanized: 1,462
  • Percentage of dogs euthanized: 43.5%

The number of dogs adopted was 616. Additionally, 604 dogs were returned to their owners. There is no category for transfers to other rescue groups on the statistics; however, the county reported that they transferred 558 dogs and 295 cats as well.

Spay. Neuter. Fix.

There may be factors in certain areas that contribute to high euthanasia rates. Human population differences, urban vs. rural, and shelter budgets may impact the rates of adoption versus animals put down.

Putting down so many animals cannot be considered a good path for the state of North Carolina — or any US location — to follow. None of the animals put down in 2017 can be helped now, obviously; however, if more humans “fix” their pets (male and female), the shelters can become emptier over the coming decade. At a local level, this problem can go away with a local fix.

If humans take the time to get their dogs and cats “fixed” the shelters could be receiving fewer animals. Fewer “unwanted” animals would exist to be euthanized. The NCDA&CS Animal Welfare includes spay/neuter information.


Adopt from a Shelter

Humans with space in their homes and hearts, money for animal food, and time to care for pets, adopt from animal shelters to help lower the euthanasia rates. Adopt a fixed animal, or get it spayed or neutered. In doing this, you help lower the number of animals that end up in shelters in your area.

Keep an animal for its entire life-span. While kittens and puppies are cute, they may be different as adults. When you adopt an animal, take responsibility for it for its lifetime.

If you can’t adopt any [more] animals, you can donate to a no-kill animal shelter. Help them to continue their work. The future doesn’t have to be a future with unwanted domesticated animals.

Let’s work together to get this under control before our children and grandchildren inherit the earth. No healthy animals should be euthanized if humans are doing their part.


Ed. Note: See a similar article published on this news site in 2016 regarding NC’s 2015 shelter report.

This article originally published on April 11, 2018. Updated April 13 with new numbers from Forsyth County, which had initially shown a 107% euthanasia rate for cats. The actual percentage is 71%.

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About Kay Whatley 2309 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.