Some local issues recently have put me in a position of being attacked by those who do not share my values and who think it is appropriate to use social media to try to bully me. I am not immune to the effects of such hostility, but my news flash is pretty simple: I will not be bullied. Which leads to my blog post for today.
I am a no kill advocate.
I advocate for the end of the destruction of healthy and treatable companion animals in places we call animal shelters. I do not want my money used to end lives when that same money can be used to save them.
"No kill" is not a definition and does not mean "never kill." No kill is a culture in which healthy and treatable pets are not destroyed. The culture allows for the euthanasia of animals which are suffering or irremediably ill. To keep those animals alive would be unethical. The culture also allows for the destruction of dogs which are genuinely aggressive and present a public safety risk (as opposed to dogs which are scared or traumatized) when there is no sanctuary placement available for those dogs.
The measure of a no kill community for me is not all about math and very much about method. I am not at all focused on the live release rate in any shelter provided the savable animals are not destroyed. If that means the live release rate is 98% one month and 88% the next, so be it. It is the standard on which I am focused. I do not see a 90% save rate as a goal. It has historically been considered a benchmark of success and, as a result, this has led some shelters to focus on achieving that rate at all costs, even if it means reduction in public services and engaging in practices which are harmful to the public, animals and the community as a whole.
I promote a series of programs which work in concert with each other to reduce animal shelter intake, increase animal shelter output and bring the animal-loving public to the table so they can be educated to make better choices which affect animals, families and communities. I believe in the value of these programs because I know people who are using them to revolutionize their communities and to bring animal sheltering in line with existing values in our society. I do not claim to know of the only way to stop the outdated practice of killing shelter pets. If you know of another way which works quickly, efficiently and is sustainable long-term, I am happy to get out of the way and allow some other methodology to work.
I am a cheerleader for change and a broker of ideas. I believe in engaging in genuine dialogue to help shelters change how they think and function by following the path taken by others. I am forward thinking and see no value in assigning blame or guilt. I am results-oriented. Period.
I do not engage in name calling. I have never called a shelter director or employee a murderer or killer and have never engaged in any personal attacks of any kind. I do refer to the act of destroying healthy and treatable pets as killing them because it is not euthanasia. I know exactly what euthanasia means and it does not apply to taking the life of a healthy or treatable animal. I am very critical of people in the shelter industry whose actions over a period of years demonstrate that they are more focused on their own pride or image than they are on the lives of the animals entrusted to their care.
I do not expect any shelter to become a no kill facility overnight, although I am aware of occasions when that has actually happened. I do expect the shelter industry to stop blaming the very public which can help it save lives and to act with a genuine sense of urgency to develop the programs necessary to do just that. Just because some people should never have pets does not mean that the public at large cannot be trusted and is completely irresponsible. I believe there is enough compassion in any community to overcome the responsibility of the few and I have seen that compassion demonstrated time and time again when the public is told exactly how they can help.
I see shelter killing as a disease and no kill programs as the cure. If you are told there is a cure and you refuse to examine it for whatever reason, you need to find a new job. If you are told there is a cure and you are willing to network with and learn from those who are saving the lives of healthy and treatable animals in municipal and nonprofit shelters across the country - and to do so earnestly and urgently - you will have my respect.
I don’t want your job. I have one already. And I am already incredibly busy during my spare time with rescuing animals, fostering animals, marketing for animals and doing volunteer work for a host of nonprofit organizations across the country which help animals each and every day. There are no days off. Do not presume that because I am not in your shelter or doing volunteer work for you that my advocacy has no value. I support organizations which share my no kill values. Do not label me as part of the problem and as being incapable of helping kill shelters do a better job simply because I have standards. I would no more volunteer in a kill shelter than I would work the line at a poultry processing plant. If you want my time and my emotional energy, convince me that healthy and treatable pets are not at risk in your shelter and that you treat all animals as individuals with value.
I want those in the shelter industry to do the jobs they are being paid to do. In the case of those in municipal shelters, you are public servants and you are paid with my money. It is entirely reasonable and acceptable for me to be critical of how you spend my money when it comes to matters of life and death. I hold other municipal officials to the same standard regardless of their profession: police, fire, public works. If you are not willing to accept any form of criticism from the very people who pay your salary, you need to leave public service and find another form of employment where you are not subject to public criticism.
I am not the enemy. I am a no kill advocate.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson