‘We have been on a transformational journey’: Montgomery County Animal Services awarded for highest increase in lifesaving progress nationwide

Mabel, a former resident of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, was adopted in 2017. Montgomery County Animal Services reported its live-release rate increased from 92.3% in 2018 to 95.8% in 2019, according to MCAS data. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Mabel, a former resident of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, was adopted in 2017. Montgomery County Animal Services reported its live-release rate increased from 92.3% in 2018 to 95.8% in 2019, according to MCAS data. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

Mabel, a former resident of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, was adopted in 2017. Montgomery County Animal Services reported its live-release rate increased from 92.3% in 2018 to 95.8% in 2019, according to MCAS data. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)

Montgomery County Animal Services received the Touchstone Award from Best Friends Animal Society in August, recognizing the shelter’s lifesaving progress and no-kill designation, MCAS announced Aug. 31.



The Touchstone Award is given to shelters and communities that achieved a no-kill designation for dogs and cats and had the highest increase in lifesaving progress from 2018-19, according to Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization. The Best Friends Network includes 3,147 animal shelters, rescue groups, spay/neuter organizations and other lifesaving groups across 50 states. Of these, MCAS received the Touchstone Award for shelters and communities admitting 10,000 or more pets during the year.



“We are honored to be given this award,” MCAS Director Aaron Johnson said in a statement. “For the past several years we have been on a transformational journey at MCAS.”



Since 2016, MCAS has had several changes in leadership. Johnson has served as MCAS director since May 2017, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported, the longest-serving of the four directors since 2016. Prior to that, MCAS was operated by a private management company, Care Corp., until Montgomery County terminated its contract and took over operations in August 2015 to improve conditions at the shelter.



According to data from Best Friends Animal Society, MCAS achieved a 92.2% save rate in 2019, meaning 14,985 of the 16,240 cats and dogs entering the shelter during the year were returned to their owners or provided a home. Best Friends Animal Society notes on its website that save rates may differ from the shelter’s rate, as varying formulas may be used to calculate the rate.



MCAS reported its live-release rate increased from 92.3% in 2018 to 95.8% in 2019, according to MCAS data.



Community Impact Newspaper previously reported the shelter’s live-release rate in 2010 was 43.9% and more than doubled by 2017 to 92.6%, achieving what is considered a national standard for no-kill status for the first time. The national standard for a shelter to be deemed as no-kill status is at least 90% of animals leaving the shelter alive.



“This award recognizes all of the hard work put in by our staff, fosters, animal rescue groups and nonprofits, and volunteers—including our daily dog walkers and offsite social media team,” Johnson said in the statement. “We would not be where we are today without the help we have received from all. I am proud to be leading such an amazing organization.”



Best Friends and its partners are working to achieve no-kill status—saving at least 90% of admitted cats and dogs—nationwide by 2025, according to the Aug. 31 release.



"It's incredible to see so many shelters around the nation taking dramatic steps to increase lifesaving,” said Brent Toellner, the senior director of national programs for Best Friends Animal Society, in a statement. “Whether it be through new programming, progressive leadership or better collaborative partnerships, these groups are showing that lifesaving success is possible regardless of a shelter’s size or location.”



MCAS covers an area spanning more than 1,000 square miles in Montgomery County and accepts animals regardless of breed, health condition, temperament, stray or owner surrender, according to the release.

By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball/Magnolia & Conroe/Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.