MSN had an article last week (editor's update: the article was actually written last summer, but just popped up on my MSN last week, which is odd -- go MSN) about how, as a country, we may be coming close to becoming a No Kill Nation. While the article was mostly good, there was one big thing that stuck out at me in the article that is bugging me.
I'm tired of there being talk about no kill shelters. It is time we make the conversation about being no kill communities instead.
The article begins talking about the Richmond, VA SPCA - -and their decision to become a no kill shelter int 2002. When the announcement was first made, the SPCA CEO Robin Starr said she got unexpected vocal opposition. And possibly, rightly so.
Two paragraphs later explains:
So the Richmond SPCA, a private organization, entered into a partnership with Richmond Animal Care and Control, the city’s shelter, with the joint goal of ending the killing of healthy, homeless animals in the community.
The Richmond SPCA began limiting the animals it accepted, opened a spay/neuter clinic, implemented a foster care network and instituted new programs emphasizing adoption and responsible pet ownership. Richmond SPCA also created programs to help pets remain with their owners, including a pet food bank and animal behavior-training classes. Richmond Animal Care and Control, in turn, pledged to focus on public safety issues.
First off, let me state, that most of the programs mentioned here are extremely good programs -- and I applaud the Richmond SPCA for putting them into action. However, the part that I bolded is exactly why many shelter and rescue people cringe when they hear the words "no kill shelter".
While the act of not killing any adoptable dogs and cats in a shelter is the end goal, it should not only be done through limited admittance. Limiting admittance into the shelter only means that other animals (often "less adoptable" ones) have no place to go -- putting a much great strain on other shelters and rescues in the community. That's not no kill -- that's just making it so that other people have to do the killing.
If we are to really get to being a no kill nation -- where no healthy or treatable animal is killed for being homeless -- we need to quit talking about being "no kill shelters' -- and have all organizations in a community in order to become "no kill communities". This way everyone can take an equal share in finding the animals homes, intaking all homeless animals, and finding space for them in other shelters in the community.
But choosing to be limited admission by limiting the number of animals you accept, then touting yourself as "no kill" while leaving other rescues to deal with the animals you didn't accept only divides the animal welfare community...which in the end is bad for the animals.
I don't really mean to pick on just the Richmond SPCA for this (it's worth noting that Richmond is HSUS's model when it comes to no kill) because they are far from the only guilty party here. I see this across the U.S -- and even in my own city -- and see the divide and anger it causes. I am just using them as an example of the problem of focusing too narrowly on one shelter -- and not on the community as a whole.
It should also be noted that the Nevada Humane Society, one of Winograd's success stories, is also mentioned in the article -- with no mention on limiting intake as part of their "success" model.
It is time we quit talking about 'no kill shelters' and make the conversation about 'no kill communities'. We need the idea of not killing adoptable dogs and cats to be something EVERYONE embraces....not cringes and opposes because we are forcing the problems off on other people. We need to quit making the words 'no kill' bad words in our community -- and instead, make them community initiatives. If we don't, the whole movement is jeopardized - - which will be bad for the animals.