Nearly 81,000 animals were taken in by New Jersey shelters in 2015, according to a state survey, and more than 17,000 were put to sleep.

Vin Ebanau, Townsquare Media NJ

The county-by-county analysis from the New Jersey Department of Health tallied the number of animals impounded at each shelter, and whether the animals were redeemed by their owners, adopted or euthanized.

According to the figures, only Gloucester County euthanized more animals than it adopted out or had redeemed. Cats accounted for 1,784 of the county animal shelter's 2,030 kills.

In total, the shelter brought in 3,967 animals last year.

"Euthanasia is always a last resort for the animals at the shelter," said county spokeswoman Debra Sellitto. "However, when it comes to cats, many of the cats brought in are feral, sick or injured and basically unadoptable."

She noted the Gloucester County Animal Shelter is the only facility in the county that accepts strays, while many other counties feature more than one option.

Euthanization outweighed adoption and redemption totals in Gloucester County in 2014 as well.

In October, 2015, a visit to the county shelter by a state inspector revealed that 71 dogs, more than 300 cats and a rabbit were improperly euthanized between Jan. 2 and Oct. 9 before the state-mandated seven-day holding period was complete.

The visit also uncovered unsanitary conditions. On Thursday, Sellitto told Townsquare Media "all procedures are being properly followed" in accordance with current codes and laws.

The shelter recently opened a spay/neuter facility nearby in order to help reduce the unwanted pet population in the county.

In Monmouth County, according to the state survey, 1,017 animals were euthanized at shelters within the county last year. But more than 4,100 were saved by their owners or through adoption, accounting for one of the best rates throughout the state.

Rescue operation of hundreds of dogs from a home in Howell (Monmouth County Sheriff's Office)

"We have cats that have been here for almost three years," said Monmouth County SPCA executive director Ross Licitra. "We have dogs that have been here for over a year."

Licitra said the county will never euthanize an animal due to the need for space. That decision will be made only if the animal is severely sick or injured, or extremely violent.

"We care for these animals, and we want to make sure that they have a right to live and we have a right to get them into the right homes," he said.

Licitra's shelter is currently filled to capacity with more than 500 animals, including dozens of dogs removed from the home of a Howell Township couple in June. The shelter took in 109 dogs from the Howell hoarding case, and more than half have been adopted.

At 614, Essex County euthanized the most dogs last year, the survey finds. Warren county euthanized the fewest number of animals overall: 40.

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