Last week, the No Kill Advocacy Center released a new report entitled "The Economic Benefits of No Kill Animal Control."
The report, which is 12 pages long seems to be in reponse to an article in USA Today recently that talked about how "costly" no kill shelters were for cities to run, along with the reality that this is a seemingly common thought.
So it appears that we have a little bit of conflicting information. So what gives?
There is one major distinction that I want to make between the No Kill Advocacy Center's report, and the USA Today article -- and that's the difference between creating a No Kill Shelter and creating a comprehensive No Kill Animal Control program.
Some cities separate these two functions. Some don't.
When the two work together, they can definitely not only improve public safety, but can save lives -- and with minimal if any fiscal impact. Unfortunately, many cities try to create No Kill Shelters, while still maintaining their status quo approach of punitive animal control. If this is the case, then yes, maintaining a no kill shelter can be costly to absorb the influx of animals that comes from the animal control side. However, if animal control is operated under a no kill philosophy, then the two can work very well together.
Let me talk a little about the no kill animal control.
When it comes to creating a No Kill community, the math is really pretty simple. In order to save them all, you have to increase postive outcomes (adoptions, sent to rescue, Return-to-owners), and lower impounds. When positive outcomes = impounds, you are no kill. So while increasing positive outcomes is essential to success, lowering impounds by keeping animals from ever coming to the shelter is just as effective.
And that's where no kill animal control comes in.
This isn't about being negligent with public safety and allowing dogs to roam the streets freely. But is about making smart decisions that can minimize impounds.
This means not seizing animals when someone is over the city's pet limit (or repealing the city's pet limit).
This means not seizing dogs because of the way they look based on a city's breed ban (or repealing that law)
This means no seizing animals that are unaltered because of a city's mandatory spay/neuter law (or repealing that law).
This means allowing animal welfare advocates to trap, neuter, and release community cats as a means of population control instead of spending resources trying capture them and house them at the shelter.
This means that if a stray animal is caught by animal control, if it has identification, returning it home without even taking it to the city shelter.
This mean working with pet owners to keep animals in homes whenever it is feasible and possible. Obviously, in situations where animals are in abusive, or neglectful situations where owners should be cited for animal cruelty, these animals should be safely and immediately removed from the cruelty in which they live. But in most cases, animal control officers should work to keep animals in homes by referring them to low cost spay/neuter clinics, pet food pantries, or just allow owners the opportunity to keep their pets vs taking them to their homes.
As Reno's Chief Animal Control Officer Mitch Schneider says, "Don't punish people through their pets, because the pets lose". Most cities have enough homeless pets without their shelters having to also spend time handling and killing animals with homes.
The side benefit of animal control not taking homed animals to the shelter is that they then get to focus their time and efforts on dealing with truly aggressive dogs (a public safety issue) and prosecuting cruelty/neglect cases (an animal welfare and public safety issue) that will lead to improved public safety.
Then, on the back side, the shelter has fewer impounds, so they can focus their resources on better care for the animals and finding them homes. So all sides win.
This is why sometimes cities mistakenly think that having a no kill shelter is more expensive -- it can be -- but not if both animal control and the animal shelter are thinking, planning and acting with a no kill mindset to truly build a no kill community.