Our group, the KC Pet Project, is gearing up to take full control of the Kansas City, MO Animal Shelter beginning January 1. It's weird essentially starting a new shelter organization with 20 new employees to inherit a completely full animal shelter that currently has about 250 animals in it.
But that's what we're preparing to do.
In 2010, the shelter impounded 7,250 dogs and cats. Of those, about 40% were killed. While this certainly isn't as bad as it is in many places, it is still plenty of killing, and way better than it has historically been in Kansas City. In 2009, the city made the decision to hire a private contractor to run the shelter as opposed to the city running it. That happened, and the shelter almost immediately went from one that killed 60% of the animals impounded to one that killed roughly 40%. Still high. But better.
Our goal is to lower that still. While getting to no kill is the ultimate goal, it may take us some time. The Kansas City shelter remains one of only a couple of open admission shelters in the metropolitan area, and some of the live-saving infastructure still needs to be built (we are blessed to have a very strong low cost spay neuter program operated by Spay/Neuter Kansas City which has helped lower impounds over the past several years). Also, about 20% of the dogs impounded at the shelter are 'pit bull' type dogs -- and with many of our surrounding suburbs having breed bans, they are more difficult to find homes for.
But we're going to be creative and find a way.
One significant thing that is helping is embracing the many very strong rescue groups and volunteers in this community. While they haven't always been embraced, we are embracing them.
For the past month, KC Pet Project has employed our Executive Director at the shelter to work with the city staff to help in a smooth transition. The shelter we inherited was above capacity. Our kennels are the two-sided kennels with the guillotine doors separating the two sides so dogs can be moved from side to side to ease in cleaning. Most of the kennels at the shelter are doubled down so there are dogs on both sides.
While there are a lot of reasons this isn't optimal, it does give us the ability to hold animals longer in order to give them a chance at findng homes. Unfortunately, it also gives us very little wiggle room for increased capacity.
Last Thursday night, Animal Control dropped off 30 more dogs at our shelter. We were officially beyond our maximum capacity. But instead of doing the "easy" thing, which would be to kill for space, we sent out a plea. We put the list of dogs that were on our "short list" and sent an email to rescues and our volunteers for help. While our volunteer base is relatively small, they are outstanding, and they responded.
Within 24 hours, we were able to secure several foster homes for our long-timers, get several dogs adopted, and get several others sent to local rescue groups.
We have a large transport coming up tomorrow, which will free up some space for us at the shelter. We also have a huge New Years Day Adoption Event planned (yes, a huge adoption event on the first with an almost entirely new staff -- should be exciting) which should help more. It will at least give us a little breathing room for a few days. So for now, crisis averted.
While I'm not going to completely change the focus of this blog -- I will, from time to time, post updates on our transition at the shelter. My hope is that giving real examples of our successes and failures can help others who also wish to transition their local shelters into No Kill Shelters also.
So here is a key learning from our small Christmas miracle:
In the No Kill Advocacy Center's Companion Animal Protection Act, there is a clause that requires shelters to give 24 hours notice before any adoptable animal was killed. This isn't a pain in the butt -- this is a huge opportunity. When we officially hit our "above capacity" situation, we provided all rescues and volunteers 24 hours to pull from our shelter. They responded by pulling enough animals to keep any from having to be killed. And that's pretty darn cool.
We may not always get bailed out -- but we're going to try. And isn't giving animals one last chance at adoption worth it?