Why does Southwest Georgia euthanize so many dogs?

BFHS has dozens of dogs waiting to be adopted / Romney Smith

More than 5 million dogs are euthanized in the U.S. every year and thousands of them are in Southwest Georgia. Officials say because of amateur breeders and pet owners who don't spay and neuter, kennels are full of happy healthy dogs that get put down by the dozen daily. Fox 31 spoke to dog experts to explore the euthanasia epidemic in the special report 'A Doggone Shame'.

Best Friends Humane Society in Worth County receive all kinds of dogs including purebreds, puppies, dogs families can no longer take care of, and abused dogs. Worth County Animal Control Director Sherri Hendley says one of their success stories includes the rescue of an 18-month old chocolate lab that was thrown out of a moving vehicle. "She didn't sustain any injuries from being thrown out of the car, but someone had taken a very sharp object - a knife, a hatchet or something and almost completely chopped off her tail. So you know we took her to the vet and she's happy and healthy now ready for adoption" says Hendley. Lizzie's tail wags, thankful for another chance at life, but she's still waiting on someone to adopt her.

Best Friends has to put down approximately half of the dogs they take in each year; however Shelter Director Shelly McPhaul says euthanasia can be easily stopped. "If people would spay and neuter, we would not have overpopulation and there would not be euthanasia" says McPhaul.

The Worth County shelter says they don't base euthanasia off of how long a dog has been at the shelter because in most cases it's a matter of health. "Eventually they start showing signs of stress. It might be chewing on their feet, it might be rubbing their faces on the kennel doors, it could be turning aggressive, or withdrawing â" there's a lot of different signs" says McPhaul.

When it is time to put a dog down, both Hendley and McPhaul say they take the dog to a room, comfort them with hugs, a soothing tone and love; everything they couldn't receive somewhere else. "It's so important especially in their last few moments to give them that compassion, every bit of compassion that you have in your heart at that moment. It's one of the most important things that will ever happen to them especially during their life because their life is about to come to an end" says Hendley. She adds the process is quick and painless because once injected, the dog's heart simply stops beating.

The ladies say puppies are typically the most adoptable kind of dog, however If they find serious illnesses in little ones during processing time â" they euthanize them.

Both women say euthanasia is something they wish they didn't have to perform. "It eats you up and it breaks your heart. I don't think any of us ever get past that. You rationalize it because you have to. We're here for the good of the many, and if you don't make those choices, we would be full and we couldn't take in any more animals" says McPhaul.

Best Friends does the best they can to get their dogs and cats adopted by taking them to fairs, using social media, and partnering with other shelters who want adoptable puppies. As of early November the shelter had 24 adult dogs and 45 puppies they are trying to get adopted. "If you've got friends who are looking for animals, encourage them to go to the shelters because the truth of the matter isâ| if dogs aren't adopted â" they're euthanized. You'll never find a better pet than you can get at a shelter" says McPhaul.

Best Friends is always looking for donations of pet food, volunteers, blankets, and more. To find out more information on the Best Friends of Worth County Humane Society click here or call 229-777-7774. They are open Monday through Friday from 1-6 p.m. and Saturday from 2-3 p.m. and they are available for pickups when necessary.