On Sunday at the No Kill Conference in Washington DC, I got some much needed motivation from a presentation given by Ryan Clinton of Fix Austin and got to hear something that I knew, but needed to hear. And you probably need to hear it too.
Because of the successes they have in Austin (I'll get to those in a bit), Ryan has become a go-to person for advice from people dealing with local politics. And when people first communicate with Ryan, it seems like the first words out of their mout is always "you're not going to believe this".
But the funny thing is, he does. Because the stories aren't all that different.
So your shelter or animal control....
- doesn't scan for microchips
- has someone who has called about a missing dog, describes a dog in the shelter, says they're coming down after work to get their dog, and the dog is killed before they get there.
- keeps the animals in such horrible conditions that many of them get sick and die while in the shelter's "care".
- has a policy against calling people who's animals are lost and in the shelter even if the animals are microchipped, tagged, licensed
- Doesn't post adoptables on petfinder
- Leaves half of their kennel spaces empty so the shelter is easier to clean.
The unfortunate truth is, there are a LOT of regressive shelters and animal controls out there. We're all (unfortunately) dealing with the same things. Quit making excuses, and fix it.
This is what they've done in Austin. In 2005, the city killed 14,000 pets in their shelter and their stated goal was a 50% save rate.
In 2009, 7000. They have replaced a regressive shelter director with a more progressive one. They have prevented the city from closing down a shelter in the middle of town with easy access and moving all of the adoptable animals to a bigger building in a warehouse district outside of town (the new facility opened, but the one with easy access for adopters remains). They also became the first city to pass the Companion Animal Protection Act -- which among other things repeals laws (like pet limit laws, mandatory spay/neuter), allows open shelter access for shelters and rescues, mandates the use of foster homes, mandates TNR, guarantees access to low cost spay/neuter programs, creates humane shelter standards, mandates that euthanasia records be open and mandates microchip scanning. The city's newly stated goal is a 90% save rate.
They didn't do it without opposition. In fact, one of the largest national animal welfare groups in the nation, the ASPCA, opposed them the entire way. There will always be people who defend the status quo - people who will deny problems exist, redirect criticism, falsely claim they are reforming in spite of no improvements being made, and offering scare-tactics to discourage reform.
The defenders of the status quo expect you to get frustrated and give up. Don't.
Regardless of what many would have you believe, we are a nation of animal lovers. Sixty eight million US households own pets -- approximately 61% of us. Most of us take remarkable care of our pets -- letting them share beds and couches with us. We cry when their lives are done.
The general public wants to do right by the animals. You just have to show them the way. Show them why killing is avoidable and wrong, and why defending the status quo is no longer acceptible (as if it ever was).
If Toledo, OH can get a regressive animal control director removed so that the lives of animals can be saved, we can all do it.
Austin has. And they are now en route to making positive changes in the city. They overcame a regressive shelter director, people who protected the status quo, and a city council that really opposed change at first. Their situation was just like yours, and mine.
But in a compassionate society, which we all live in, people will rally behind positive changes that wil end shelter killing. You just have to stick with it, rally the troops, gain support, and move forward. Your situation is not unique. It's not insurmountable. And there IS something you can do.
It takes just one person to get started.
For more on Austin and Ryan's presentation, check out Christie's article.