'Massive decrease': Dog euthanasia cases drop 92% as number of pooch licences soars

Significantly fewer dogs are being euthanized in Winnipeg at a time when the number of owners registering their pets continues to soar.

359 dogs euthanized in 2008 compared to 28 in 2016; dog licences issued jumped 49% in same period

Leland Gordon is chief operating officer of the City of Winnipeg's Animal Services special operating agency. (CBC)

Significantly fewer dogs are being euthanized in Winnipeg at a time when the number of owners registering their pets continues to soar.

"There are less animals coming in, but there's a massive decrease as far as euthanizations," said Leland Gordon, chief operating officer for the city's Animal Services Agency.

The agency continues to take in about 1,000 pets each year, but that's down from closer to 1,500 in 2008, Gordon said. Twenty-eight dogs were euthanized in 2016, compared to 359 in 2008.

"The residents of Winnipeg, the taxpayers can be really happy to hear a stat like that," Gordon said.

One big reason for the decline, Gordon says, is a rise in dog and cat licences in the city.

Fifty per cent more owners registered their dogs with the city in 2016 than in 2008.

More than 54,000 dog and 28,900 cat owners licensed their pets last year, compared to in 2015 when 48,600 dog and 22,900 cat licenses were issued.

Thanks to that uptick in licensing, Gordon said 311 operators have been able to help about 600 lost pets find their way back home in recent years.

But the drop in euthanasia for pets isn't just from a rise in licensing, Gordon said.

"We've been doing a lot of progressive things in the past few years to try and save really as many animals as possible," Gordon said.

Public awareness campaigns on social media and community outreach initiatives about responsible pet ownership have also helped, he said.

"We go to over 30 community events a year," Gordon said. "I think people are seeing more of animal services in the community and they're becoming more responsible."

Gordon previously said the agency was only able to find homes for 75 per cent of the dogs it rescued in 2008. Posting cuddly photos of adoptable dogs online a few years ago has helped change that, he said.

All of the agency's social media accounts are maintained by volunteers, Gordon says, and they often work with groups such as Winnipeg Lost Dog Alerts to reunite pups with their rightful owners.

Euthanasia will always be used in the case of aggressive or terminally ill dogs that are brought into animal services and can't be released back into the community, Gordon said.

"Will never be zero, but we can work as a team to keep that number as low as possible," he said.

Significantly fewer dogs are being euthanized in Winnipeg at a time when the number of owners registering their pets continues to soar. 0:55

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson and Bartley Kives