Over the years, the movement toward creating no kill communities has gained a lot of momentum. Whereas only about 6 years ago you could count the number of such communities on one hand, now the number is somewhere in the 160s or so.
Over the years I've heard a lot of criticism over the term "no kill". People seem to dislike the term for a lot of reasons, one of which is that animals still are euthanized in no kill shelters, though only a small number of them that are hopelessly ill, injured or aggressive.
I've long defended the term "no kill" -- noting that the words "Kill" and "euthanize" have different meanings and intentions and should not be used interchangably. And if you differentiate the two words, the term "no kill" is what is says it is.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference in Jacksonville. The theme for the conference was "Save them all". Best Friends has seldom been bashful about using no kill terminology and supporting the movement as a whole and is definitely stepping up their efforts toward no kill.
It is a rare thing for me to take a theme of a conference and make a big deal out of it. But the more I think about the phrase, "Save them all", the more I like it. And I like it better than the phrase "no kill".
"No Kill", as a phrase, features two negative words. "No". And "Kill". While together the contradict each other to create a positive end, the words themselves are inherently negative.
Meanwhile, "save" puts the goal of the movement at the forefront. While, "no kill' certainly puts the onus on not killing animals, the words itself don't put the emphasis on SAVING them. I've written about this subtle distinction before. In that blog I wrote: "The focus should not be on ending euthanasia -- it should be on saving them all".
If the focus is merely on not killing, animals can tend to pile up on shelters. But if the focus is on SAVING them, they won't. And I think that's important.
Meanwhile, I also like the word "All".
About a year ago, the Lancaster Humane Society (PA) announced that it would be cancelling its animal control contracts in an effort to become "no kill". Notice, the humane society's move is not rooted in saving more lives, but on simply not ending them (and thus, making the animals they don't take someone else's problem). There is no emphasis on maximizing lifesaving here. At all. It's just in protecting their own interests.
This is something that is far from unique as many shelters have decided to close admission in the idea of themselves being a 'no kill shelter' instead of focusing on saving as many lives as they possibly can. I spoke to one former volunteer at just such a shelter and this volunteer noted "when we went closed admission the whole attitude changed almost immediately, and we lost our sense of urgency in saving lives."
We can, and must, do better. We have a moral obligation to save as many lives as possible. And I like the idea of focusing on "Saving them all".
I don't know if "Save them all" was ever intended to be more than a conference theme. And I don't know if the name works as the name of a movement. But I do like it as a mantra. Or a sentiment. Or a rallying cry. Because we need to do everything our resources will allow to save them all.
I have a lot of other thoughts coming out of the conference that I'll share in the coming weeks, but the short version of it was that I think the conference itself was outstanding and was a great opportunity to recharge my batteries, and hang with like-minded, life-saving people. Over the course of the 4 day weekend, I had the pleasure of talking with a lot (although not nearly all) of the conference's 1500 attendees, and am simply amazed at how many people there are out there doing great work in their communities. I got an opportunity to meet some new people, and meet people I've been sharing ideas online with for quite some time but never officially "met" in person.
It was a good weekend. And I think through the sharing of best practices and and idea we can reach the ultimate goal. I know many of you out there attended the conference and would love to hear your thoughts.