It seems that everyone thinks that killing healthy and treatable animals in our shelters is wrong. In a time when an unprecedented number of people own pets, and spend over $50 billion in this country alone on pet supplies, the idea that we cannot seem to be compassionate enough not to kill 4 million healthy/treatable animals in our shelters every year seems absurd.
In one of the workshops last week, Richard Avanzino said "10 years from now we will look back at this time and be embarrassed that we allowed all the killing to happen."
There is little doubt that he is right. And yet, there are many out there who oppose the No Kill movement. And I can only ask, why? The following are the 9 tenets to the No Kill Equation from the book Irreconcilable Differences:
1) Comprehensive adoption opportunities including incentives, weekend and evening hours, and offsite adoption venues
2) Foster care for underaged animals, those not ready for adoption, those who may need more focused care and when space at the shelter is at a premium.
3) Socialization and behavior care and rehabilitiation efforts to keep or to get dogs and cats happy and healthy
4) Thorough cleaning and care standards so animals do not get sick
5) Medical care and rehabilitation as prevention and care for already ill/injured animals
6) Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs for feral and other free-roaming outdoor cats
7) Helping people overcome behavior, medical or environmental conditions that cause them to relinquish animals
8) Proactive efforts to help reunite lost pets with their families
9) An effective public relations strategy so shelters effectively compete with commercial sources of animals
None of these are remotely controversial to people in the animal welfare world. Certainly providing clean shelters and vet care are important; as is helping people retain their animals in their homes by giving them the basic tools to do so and helping reunite lost animals to homes. Successful rescues have always relied heavily on foster programs and off-site adoptions to create more space, create more adoptable animals and to give the animals more opportunities to be fallen-in-love-with by their future forever home. And TNR programs have proven to be the only viable solution to working with feral cats and are now embraced by all animal welfare groups.
Successful groups are already doing most of these things - and yet, sadly, a large number of shelters don't do any of them, or only do one or two, or don't do any of them particularly well (rely on only a handful of foster homes or a small volunteer base, only do off-site adoptions a couple of times a year instead of virtually every day).
So if all of the tents of the No Kill Equation are known to work, then why is it even remotely controversial? And worse, why do some animal welfare groups actually oppose the movement.
One of the primary reasons I hear people opposing the movement is the notion that there isn't a pet overpopulation problem. In spite of the numbers, many still insist that there is a 'pet overpopulation" problem.
And even if they're right - so what? Whether 'pet overpopulation' exists, or doesn't, (It doesn't) doesn't matter -- the solution is still the same. The solution to killing none, or killing fewer still involves doing all of the things necessary to increase retention, decrease impounds, increase adoptions and killing fewer pets.
And if we all agree that the 9 tenets above will do these four things, why isn't everyone doing them? Even if 'pet overpopulation exists?
I personally believe it's because of laziness. It is just simply easier for some shelter directors to blame "overpopulation" for their killing instead of doing all of the things necessary to stop it.
Laziness is not an excuse to kill pets. It's not.
The solution relies on decreasing impounds, increasing adoptions, and killing fewer. And the solutions are easily noted and contained in the 9 tenets above.
So why all of the controversy?
Fortunately there's not. The movement is growing. The No Kill Nation on Facebook has over 70,000 members and is growing quickly. It just makes sense - and laziness can no longer be an excuse for not doing what is right.