The Lincoln County Animal Shelter has reached a major milestone, and the county is better for it. 

Lincoln County Animal Services has been working for several years to reach designation as a “no-kill” shelter. That goal could only be met once the county posted a 90-percent live-release rate in 12 consecutive months. At the end of June, the county reached that mark, making it one of few, if any, government-run no-kill shelters in the state. 

Reaching that goal took no small amount of effort. Animal advocates in the county worked tirelessly, fostering animals and holding adoption drives. County employees and the board of commissioners put resources and programs behind the notion that Lincoln County could lead the way and be an example for other counties and organizations that hope to transform their shelters into more humane institutions. The shelter’s achievement, which would be remarkable under the best of circumstances, also comes three years after a state report found serious inadequacies and neglect at the shelter, under previous leadership.

Lincoln County Animal Services director Hannah Beaver deserves credit for not only believing in the no-kill movement, but for also taking the necessary steps to see that the policies and best practices that led to the shelter reaching the 90-percent live-release mark for a full year were fully implemented. 

But the work isn’t done for the county, animal advocates and anyone who doesn’t want to see a healthy animal euthanized.

The county shelter’s no-kill designation will be removed if the live-release rate dips below 90 percent. That means the county and the community will have to continue all of their efforts and stick to the “No-Kill Equation,” a set of guidelines that have proven in the past to be effective in helping shelters, including Lincoln County’s, become no-kill. Lincoln County Animal Services said in a press release issued on Monday that the department’s program to spay or neuter community cats is ongoing, and that it will also be creating a “pet resources coordinator” position to assist pet owners and, hopefully, keep pets in their homes rather than having them surrendered to the shelter.

The last piece of the no-kill puzzle is more amorphous, but just as important. 

Pet owners have an absolute duty and obligation to care for their animals. That means having pets spayed or neutered. It means caring for animals and ensuring that they’re not neglected. It means encouraging your friends and neighbors to care for their animals properly. There is absolutely no reason the county shouldn’t be able to maintain its no-kill status if pet owners take responsibility for their animals. The shelter’s achievement is one we should all be proud of, and it’s up to us to make sure it stays that way. 

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