By Tiana Nelson
If you haven’t heard about this movement yet, there’s no doubt you soon will.
When I first heard about the No Kill Movement, I thought the theory of not killing animals in shelters was nice, but questioned it in practice.
I wondered if our society was ready for it; yet, after researching and experiencing this method through my volunteer efforts, I challenge that we are ready … and that it has nothing to do with people having more pets than they originally intended, or even changing their thought process much.
In fact, I see No Kill as the concept of integrating animals into the current evolves of how we react within our existing society.
I like to think of it like this: we don’t kill people because there are too many of us being born, we find creative solutions to the problem. We build structures up and not just on ground-level to utilize space we have, we move to different cities if there’s not enough room, we have people who chose not to have families.
The No Kill Movement suggests a parallel philosophy.
Nationally, it costs an average of $104 to euthanize an animal in a shelter. No Kill theory suggests that rather than euthanize that animal, that shelters push the boundaries and use that money to promote the animal, to increase foster homes, to educate the public about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, and about adoption.
In short, No Kill suggests using the money and effort currently spent to kill an animal, and save that animal.
Not only does this sound good, it makes sense.
– The economics of the deal are sweet. Rather than lose more than $100 on each animal killed, shelters have the opportunity to gain revenue for their communities, to lessen the burden on taxpayers and donors.
– There are enough homes. More than 23 million people are looking for pets annually. Of those people, 2 million have already decided to purchase animals or get them somewhere other than a shelter and 4 million plan to adopt from a shelter, leaving 17 million people looking for pets that have not decided where to find them. Shelters take in 7-8 million pets annually and subsequently kill 3-4 million every year. Even with conservative estimates, if 17 million people are undecided and 4 million shelter pets are dying each year, we need only convince 1 in 4 people to adopt in order to solve this problem. Do the math.
– It encourages partnerships. While the community does not have to work together to stop the killing, the businesswoman in me loves that this is a prime opportunity for community collaboration and public-private partnerships.
Not only does this make sense, it works.
The No Kill Movement began unofficially when Nathan Winograd, a former corporate attorney, became the Executive Director of the Tompkins County SPCA. He took a community that killed around half of the animals that entered its doors, and declared that it would not kill savable animals any longer. His approach was outside the box, it was different, but it worked. Winograd had to change the culture of the shelter, but the killing stopped that day … June 11, 2001.
With Winograd’s efforts Ithaca became the first community in the nation to save all healthy dogs and cats, sick and injured treatable dogs and cats, and feral cats. He started the No Kill Advocacy Center in 2004 and has since helped agencies and communities nationwide reduce shelter killing.
Communities around the country, big, small, urban, rural, educated and in economic strife have succeeded in creating no-kill communities. San Francisco was an early adopter and many communities of all kinds have followed … like many things, it’s not so much what you’re given, but what you do with it and how you work to improve it.
Washoe County Animal Services in Nevada is a prime example. In 2008, they took in 39 dogs and cats for every 1,000 residents, a number twice as high as the national average. Still, the shelter took some proactive, common-sense initiatives that are not entirely common, like calling families or knocking on neighborhood doors when a pet is found as a stray rather than taking it to the pound immediately. They make the pound a last resort, and if an animal is impounded the shelter staff posts them online to try to reunite them with their family before they get lost in the system. These simple steps led to returning six in 10 stray dogs to their homes and 7% of cats. By contrast, the national average is around 25% for dogs and 1-2% for cats.
Couple the efforts of the kennel staff in returning animals with an increased adoption rate of 50% through efforts of the Nevada Humane Society, the Washoe community has a 90% save rate for animals. It can be done anywhere.
The programs and services of No Kill are as follows, and each is critical to the success, but can be implemented in any kind of community.
1. Feral cat TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program
2. High-volume, low-cost spay/neuter
3. Rescue groups
4. Foster care
5. Comprehensive adoption programs
6. Pet retention
7. Medical and behavior rehabilitation
8. Public relations/community involvement
10. A compassionate director
This model makes business sense, and has a proven track record of success.
We have the opportunity to be part of the solution, to be part of ending the killing healthy and treatable animals.
When June 11, the day of the No Kill Movement began, rolls around take notice of the No Kill events in your community and educate others; dispel the myths.
We are close to a solution.
Now is the time to make a change and we can each make a difference.
Facts attributed: Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, and www.nathanwinograd.com
Tiana Nelson is from Denver, Colo., and started the Doggie Avenger Blog with the goal of educating people and changing their perceptions about animals. When she began volunteering at a local animal shelter, it struck her that so many people were not actively aware of animal overpopulation. She hopes to change the lives of animals one-by-one through increasing awareness and encouraging people to always adopt — never buy from a breeder or pet store, to always spay and neuter their pets, to understand the depth of animal issues and to know why all of that is important. Tiana currently works in higher education, and in her free time enjoys traveling, running, volunteering with animals, spending time with her two pugs, and her family and friends.