Friday, September 26, 2008

We are not alone ... yet, should that keep us from progress?

Modern sheltering is at its inception

I know that most shelters in the U.S. run about the same way as our own--entrenched in an old system of operations that leads to high rates of killing. When I am critical of our shelter, it is not driven by malicious intent with no purpose other than to hurt others; it is constructive criticism meant to inspire us to do better and for the public to be informed and demand better for our shelter as well.

Some places have multi-million dollar buildings and budgets but still kill the vast majority of animals that come through their systems (look no further than El Paso for a good example of that). Many examples such as these exist in the U.S. today; shelters operating with the best of resources--yet still killing the vast majority of their animals.

So, our shelter and entire animal-welfare system in Dona Ana County is not unique, but it is my hope that we'd want to get modern and progressive sooner than later and explore how you can allocate the resources you do have--money and hours--in ways that save more lives and enrich the lives between companion animals and their humans, with the understanding that nothing you do will ever make every person out there a good, responsible pet owner. No Kill knows this but does not operate from that mindset every day (focused on how to make bad people good or simply find new ways to punish them); No Kill organizations look to the homeless animals in their care and shift their focus to what can be done for them and how can all the good people out there be engaged to come forward to help as well. After all, which one of us would rather a person that is neglectful or cruel keep a dog or cat out of responsibility instead of us helping that dog or cat find a more appropriate and safe place to be?

I think all shelters will eventually cross the No Kill road because it is inevitable and ethically sound to do so, but the growing pains we are feeling are reminiscent of most social movements in recent history. The decision of when we join the No Kill movement definitely lies in the hands of those that are ultimately responsible, and that is our city and county leadership, not solely the director of the shelter facility. We've had directors come and go so many times in our recent past that even this points to the systemic issues further up the animal-welfare ladder of responsibility.

The question is: Do we work toward crossing that No Kill road starting now--following the lead of the brave and few in this nation that have done so already--or, do we wait? What can a shelter director do to start leading us in that direction with or without the full support of our community's leaders?

Reading the following posting on the newly-created site, The No Kill Nation, reminds me that we are not alone in the struggle. This is excellent and compares/contrasts viewpoints from the status quo vs. newer sheltering philosophies. If you have the time, please follow this link and read this entry:

A Compassionate Director

Winograd says that this is the final but most important element of the No Kill Equation because the director is No Kill's tireless leader. All other elements of the entire equation are thwarted without the "right" kind of leadership. So, what does this entail?

He says that a director needs to NOT be content or complacent in regurgitating the tired cliches and myths of the past, such as "too many animals, not enough homes." Sadly, this leader is the hardest to find. Too many seasoned shelter directors are stuck in the only way they know how to operate, which is kill driven, and most successful directors don't even have a sheltering background, so they lack the experience in sheltering that most employers look for. Most communities are out looking to hire a director with experience, which is understandable. It's one of those classic Catch-22 situations.

There is no doubt in my mind that the task for a No Kill director is mighty, and it is harder work than we can imagine because not only is the work itself harsh, you are also fighting the status quo built into all of us for decades. We have all been repeating the same supposed truisms for as long as we can remember, and that is even more true for shelter workers than anyone else. So, this director is a person who does not hide behind anyone or put up walls around them or make excuses for anything that is the matter, including lack of support from the very leaders that should be giving it. To me, this compassion that Winograd speaks of must also extend to humans; that is very lacking at this time. Maybe compassion for humans and animals alike, and treating each one equitably and individually, is the biggest key of all.

For too long, the myths that most of us (even most animal lovers) have repeated over and over have become facts in our heads -- even without much proof or validation -- or only isolated incidents of validation that are not often seen from the broad prospective in which they occur. What this has done is stagnate the way in which shelter business is conducted, and this is happening in most communities across our nation today. There is no vision, much less action, toward creative problem-solving nor engaging the public to partner with the shelter to create success more quickly.

What No Kill says is this: What we have been doing, the way we have been doing it, and the assumptions we are making, along with all the punitive laws we have instituted, are NOT working and have not worked for decades. If you are killing most of the animals that end up in your "care", something is wrong. You can't simply hide behind the banner of doing the public's dirty work anymore because other shelters are proving otherwise, and others are joining each year, so as time goes on, this success will surely catch on. Eventually, the public you are serving will be more aware and demand the same level of care for their homeless animals.

If you are killing at a high rate without exploring options or other modes of operation, especially a model that has worked elsewhere, you are accountable for not learning all you can about the trends in your industry and what successful shelters are doing in order to see what you can implement in your shelter ... after all, what is the worse that can happen? Will your kill rate climb as a result? That's highly unlikely.

In my next posting, I will answer the "personal" comment I received regarding how our shelter would look under No Kill leadership. I don't see this as a personal comment at all. It is a question I get often: how would this mythical, compassionate director approach a situation such as ours? I plan to speak to some of these directors in the near future for the no kill research I am doing, and I may ask them about our situation explicitly for their opinions, but I have my own ideas of how this would play out and am happy to share them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

No Kill advocacy in the City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County

No Kill Study Group this Wednesday

Please come join myself and others at the No Kill Study Group meeting this coming Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the foyer of the Unitarian Universalist Church at 2000 S. Solano Dr. I first want to see where we are all at in regards to our thoughts and ideas concerning No Kill. We'll then discuss the No Kill Equation model of sheltering from the No Kill Advocacy Center, which is the type of No Kill for which I am a strong advocate. Anyone intersted in this work will be invited to break up into working groups that will go out and reserach how other shelters are finding success by employing this full set of programs. We will all come together as often as the group wants to share what we have learned, and all of this research will feed into a full No Kill report I plan to create for our city and county leaders.

As we progress in this work, I am hoping some people will get as excited and motivated about this work and progressive sheltering as I am because sometime in the near future, I plan to form a non-profit organization inspired by and modeled after Across the nation, more No Kill grassroots advocacy groups like this one are forming, and they are all going to pool their resources together in the national march toward this revolution and asking our respective leaders to fully adopt this model of sheltering in order to save more lives and create an animal-welfare system in which we can all be proud.

If you are interested in learning more about No Kill, please join us this Wednesday. If you cannot make the meeting but still want to help and be involved, please e-mail me at

Good question from Mute Witness

In the last comment from Mute Witness, a question was posed that I have been seriously considering. Can a community work toward No Kill from outside the shelter system, or can several groups come together and work on the same set of lifesaving programs instead of it all having to be driven from the shelter's and Animal Control's leadership?

That is a good question. If you look at animal welfare from the broadest of perspectives, it seems like animal cruelty, neglect, homelessness, hoarding, etc., will always exist and have always existed. This is why shelters exist in the first place--to deal with the fallout from these issues. I'm sorry to say that the mythical day when ALL people in a given community will learn compassion and a humane way of dealing with companion animals is never going to arrive, though we can work to create a greater number of people that love and respect animals. In the last few decades, we already have.

I think animal welfare gets too poisoned by the bad and ugly stories we hear on a daily basis. For example, Dona Ana County has been a hotbed of hoarding cases of late, which leads us to believe that there's some sort of epidemic here that does not exist in other areas. We see editorials written about the need for more humane education and for people in our community to learn how to be more responsible and compassionate toward animals, as if Dona Ana County is somehow a misfit in the entire United States regarding animal care and control issues.

The truth is ... irresponsibility knows no boundaries and no borders, and there will always be homeless animals because of this. Yet, there are a few areas in the U.S. that are "short" on homeless animals. Instead of lamenting why that is not the case for us, we should be exploring ways to export more of our excess animals to all these areas. I know that's what I'd be doing ... getting on the phone and asking other shelters if they need more animals. That's the case in Denver of late, and it is probably the case elsewhere. PetSmart Charities has a whole Rescue Waggin' designed around this idea. Our shelter used to send animals to Colorado on this Waggin', but we haven't done so in a long time.

As we all know, hoarding is a mental illness where well-meaning people are trying to protect animals from a social system that systematically kills most of its homeless (i.e., most animal shelters). These people get in way over their heads after a time and don't have the space or money to care for the animals they have. Alternately, not everyone in violation of pet limit laws is an animal hoarder. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of true hoarding happens in every county around us--in El Paso County, in Lincoln County, etc. It happens all over the nation, from rural, poor areas to urban areas as well. In other words, our area is not as sickly unique as we think.

We are also NOT a community predominantly made up of deadbeat animal owners. I find it offensive when the entire community is painted with that same brushstroke. Instead, I would venture to guess that if we could go out and poll each pet household in Dona Ana County, we'd find the vast majority of pets are either living in the lap of luxury and considered part of the family or at least living in decent homes where they get protection form the elements, food and water, and attention paid to their social needs on a daily basis. The fact that we don't hear about the daily heroes that rescue animals from death and homelessness or the vast number of animals living in good homes does not mean this is not the case.

This is the positive fact on which No Kill takes its stance. It says that animal-welfare systems are here to help the homeless and abandoned and abused, and if we focused more of our time, energy, and resources on problem-solving instead of defeatism, we could engage this animal-loving public to help us save more lives. It says that contrary to what we've always believed, there are more untapped homes out there than we know, and we need to compete for those homes with the backyard breeders and puppy mills through positive associations with the public, savvy PR,and focusing our efforts each and every day on the most important aspect of this job -- treating each animal life equitably and finding a way to keep more of them alive and into decent homes/fosters/rescues/other shelters/areas that are actually short on adoptable animals/etc. Those that remain in the shelter's care need to be cared for humanely and responsibly as well, with attention paid to their behavioral and social needs, too.

So, back to the idea that Mute Witness had. If this problem of homeless animals is community-wide, then maybe the solutions can be community-wide as well ... if we can get organized around trying to implement as many programs of the No Kill Equation as we possibly can outside of the shelter's walls.

If all the people interested in high-volume spay and neuter could get together and pool their resources, maybe we could get some innovative programs and services going to provide more opportunities for the public to do the right thing.

If all the area animal trainers and would-be animal behaviorists would pool their efforts, maybe we could find ways to help people retain their animals instead of give them up. If we focused on the real issues and problems plaguing people with their dogs and cats, we might be able to salvage the relationships and enrich them. If we could match surplus pet goods with needy families, maybe we could mitigate some of this homelessness during harsh economic times.

That means some people could be working on one part of the No Kill Equation while others focus on areas they are interested in, such as TNR for feral cats. We need a whole army of No Kill workers on-the-ground and finding opportunities for these efforts, with or without the blessing of our current animal-welfare system's leadership.

We will be exploring all these ideas and possibilities in the No Kill Study Group as well, so I wanted to let Mute Witness know that when and if I come up with some specific answers, I'll share them with yourself and everyone else who can benefit from what we find out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thanks, Mute Witness ...

... for offering your very personal and professional observations from your state and from your shelter worker experience on these subjects ... it is invaluable to hear from people like you who are out of our state but who show that these issues are collective and similar for us in this entire nation. I wish your area much luck with your newfound horse leading your progressive cart. I only wish my community was halfway where you are, but I am still hopeful we'll find a horse for our cart very soon! To me, no kill is inevaitable and will be reached by all ... it is just a matter of time until all states and individual communities join this march and the paradigm shift in philosophy and practice being proven in more communities. As it is, there was a time not that long ago that we--as a country--were killing upwards of 12 million homeless companion animals a year. We keep getting better, and all we need to do is work hard and think and act outside of our collective myths and boxes to make it the rest of the way.

Take care,

Downside of legislating morality & responsibility; high-volume/low-cost spay and neuter

Responses to recent comments

Margaret wrote in about also loving the new Best Friends commercial regarding spay/neuter. And then tonight, I watched "Bones," which showed the ugly world of dog fighting and which guest-starred Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer. It is refreshing to see pitbulls being shown on primetime national networks in a more honest, non-stereotypical way ... the show highlighted the suffering of this breed and others at the hands of people who force them to fight. Another great commercial aired during the hour-long program that featured dogs "talking" about their experiences as forced fighters, using the same realistic animation as the movie "Babe". I sure hope that more animal-welfare issues are featured in primetime shows and that these kind of commercials become more common in the advertising landscape on T.V.

Ed Zimmer wrote in about his foundation's TNR efforts and how they are also fighting similar battles in Michigan as the rest of us. Check out his websie at He is working to save the lives of cats locally and nationally.

Eri wrote to ask if I support the idea of banning backyard breeders. Although I agree that the less backyard breeders we have, the better it is for animals, I am one to be leary of draconian legislation that often leads to more animals being impounded and killed in our shelters and which end up hurting and punishing the wrong people, too. On one hand, the last thing our area needs are more pit and chihuahua puppies, but I think that first our shelters need to try to put these breeders out of business by making shelters the preferred place for people to get their companion animals. For more on my thoughts of why trying to legislate morality is a double-edged sword, see my discussion on the downside of just using law enforcement to try to get where we wish we were. But, don't get me wrong, Eri ... if someone is not a legitimate, responsible breeder, I would hope that with the programs and services that lead to high-volume spay and neuter, we could reach more people and convince them to do the right thing and not breed as many animals as we are breeding now.

Following Eri was an Anonymous comment about the answer to backyard breeding being the passing and enforcement of strict mandatory spay/neuter laws. This person also mentioned that doing this takes money. Unfortunately, even many animal-welfare activists still believe these sort of myths, which is also understandable. In theory, it would seem like these sort of laws would do the trick; it's the practice of them that has proven otherwise. Oftentimes, these laws backfire and end up punishing the wrong people and leading to more animals being impouneded and killed in our sheltering system. See more on this later in my blog.

The second myth this points to is that progressive sheltering takes MORE funding, and this mistake is made because most of us do not know or realize how expensive it is to catch and kill most unwanted animals. I am in the process of gathering some data that proves no kill does not have to be more expensive and that it can often be more cost-effective. More importantly, it can also lead to more wealth as the community rewards you for the good work you are doing with monetary and volunteer support.

A last Anonymous comment pointed to the No Kill Resources link I had listed on the left, which I have since removed. To be honest with everyone, I had not clicked on or followed all the links on this page. At first glance, it seemed like a good resource pointing to legitimate groups. After receiving this comment which said an animal rights link led to the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), I checked each link myself. Of those that were legitimate and that I do support--such as Alley Cat Allies, Maddie's Fund, Best Friends, etc.--I realized I had already linked to these organizations. Then, I saw that half the links did not work, and then there was the link to the ALF, a group whose work I do not personally endorse.

In fact, though I do consider myself to be an animal rights and human rights activist, I do not blindly follow any group that waves these banners ... not even some of the big, rich, "legitimate" ones--such as PETA. I have many issues with PETA's messages and tactics, too. So, in short, the only work that I endorse on this blog is any group that is sincerely working toward the kind of no kill I believe is doable, noble, and within our reach. That's the point of this particular blog -- not the entirety and enormity of animal rights issues. Animal sheltering, to me, is unique in that I think our companion animal-welfare institutions are accountable to the public that funds and supports them through tax dollars and contributions, which is very different from the issues facing other animals that suffer in other types of industries, such as factory farms, etc. The only pressure we can exert on these industries is through our consumer dollars.

And, I wanted to let this Anonymous person know that the erroneous assumption and reference they made to my supposed support of the ALF and their tactics and how this might affect the non-profit status of the local Humane Society of Southern New Mexico (HSSNM) was also incorrect. This blog and the viewpoints I write are mine and mine alone -- as an independent activist and supporter of the no kill philosophy and set of programs. I do not speak on behalf of any group in our area, nor am I an official representative of any organization. I volunteer with many groups, including HSSNM, but I am not on their board of directors nor on their payroll.

Inherent problems in legislating morality & responsibility and the importance of spay/neuter programs and services

For decades, we have been trying to force people to do the right thing by their companion animals through punitive legislation and enforcement, and these laws often backfire in unexpected ways. The people they supposedly target -- hoarders, backyard breeders, neglectful owners -- will not change or become law-abiding just because we pass a law or even after we enforce it. Chances are, these people will do what they have always done and ignore the new laws until they are caught. All you have to do is open the newspaper these days to see the next hoarding case that pops up to see the complexity of that issue and to see that not all of those cases are alike.

Let's take mandatory spay/neuter laws, which many animal-welfare advocates support. If you pass these laws in an area like ours, where there are limited support services for spay/neuter for the public, what ends up happening is that more animals are impounded and put to death, and people who want to do the right thing but cannot afford to do so are punished much more than these "bad" people the laws are meant to target. There are countless examples of this from our recent past in the U.S.

Study after study conducted on this subject have shown that simply providing low-cost options doubles the number of poor people who spay/neuter their animals. Wealthier communities have historically spayed/neutered their pets at four times the rate of their poor counterparts. While these laws try to force people to abide by the law, without providing enough spay/neuter support and options, a community is remiss to pass these kind of laws. In other words, along with these laws should be great efforts made to allow people to comply and provide ways for them to do so--and great compassion shown toward people and their pets and sometimes special circumstances.

Instead of handing out citations and impounding animals for high fees that low-to-median income people cannot pay, which will lead to more killing and more bad blood between the public and our animal-welfare agencies, we need to instead focus our money and efforts to offer multiple incentives, opportunities, and programs for people to spay and neuter their pets. Right now, our shelter is no longer offering low-cost surgeries for the public nor have they done so for going on a year, so the only options are for very low-income families to get vouchers from SNAP or for families to get in line at a FSNP voucher fair to get the chance at one free voucher on a first-come, first-serve basis (with about 50 vouchers handed out per fair). Vets are booked for surgeries weeks at a time, and the average cost for these services are anywhere from $80-$200 per animal. This is very cost-prohibitive, especially in the current economic climate where a tank of gas can cost $60-80 for a V-8 truck or SUV.

I have talked to at least two families in the past few weeks seeking advice and assistance for spay/neuter. They either make a little too much money to qualify for SNAP vouchers or they have multiple animals they need to get fixed. They want to do the right thing, but they can barely afford the rabies vaccinations, and they are already in debt. I look at myself, and I understand their struggles. I used to be in their shoes, and though I now make a very high salary for our area, I still struggle to care for my 6 animals (and, yes, I am aware I am at my pet limit as a county resident!). My animals are aging and in need of many medications and vet services, and I am having a hard time keeping up with the costs. I can't imagine what I would do if I made less than $30K a year, as many people do.

Examples abound of communities thriving with opening low-cost spay/neuter clinics, running mobile vans, and finding other innovative ways to help people get their animals fixed. There are ways to set up day-long MASH units and do high-volume surgeries with the help of local veterinarians, provide shuttle services to and from surgery appointments for people who cannot get away from work to do so, and spend money on PR and advertising to help get the word out about your multiple programs and try to address some of the typical reasons people don't fix their pets. As it is, many people in our community don't seem to know that SNAP or FSNP exist.

Here's a frightening example of legislative backlash. In the 1970s, the City of Los Angeles opened four low-cost spay/neuter clinics that were so successful that within a decade of these services being provided, the LA shelters were killing half the number of animals they had been prior to opening the clinics. Every tax dollar invested in that decade actually saved taypayers tens of billions of dollars in animal control costs due to less impoundments, less handling and care, and less killing. And, despite the balking of veterinarians who sometimes worry these programs will steal their customemrs, the private vets of LA were still performing over 80% of the surgeries in the city. After all, these low-income families are not the average vet's clients because they cannot afford the services at regular costs ... it's people like me that go to the private vets and drop hundreds of dollars at a time!

So, this story of the City of Los Angeles does not end well. After two decades of running the clinics, the doors to all four were closed in a round of budget cuts, and by the year 2000, very strict ordinaces were passed in LA. regarding licensing and mandatory spay/neuter at the urging of their animal control director. Failing to license a pet became on par with weapons possession and domestic violence (up to 6 months in jail is the upper end of the punishment for this crime). Animal control officers were empowered to go door-to-door to fine owners hundreds of dollars or confiscate and subsequently kill their pets. Passing the mandatory spay/neuter laws while taking away the clinics that had helped people for decades has dramatically increased the killing of animals once again in LA shelters, erasing the good that was done previously without the laws in place.

This is why I will not support the legislation of responsible pet ownership in our community until our animal control departments and entire animal-welfare system provides incentives, opportunities, and support for people to comply with the laws. Instead of waste our tax dollars on enforcing laws which lead to more death (isn't killing ~17,000 a year enough?), we'd do better to spend that money on the high-volume, low-cost spay and neuter programs that have been proven to reduce the number of animals being born and subsequently killed. Until we have more options in place than two voucher programs that are having a hard time keeping up with this community's demands and needs, we have no business passing any such laws.

No Kill is about saving lives ... not supporting ways to lead to more death. No Kill is about allocating the funds we do have in ways that help people become more responsible owners, not trying to force "bad" or mentally ill people that will never comply or care to do the right thing. No Kill is about compassion for humans and animals and fostering open and honest communication with people and finding solutions to sometimes complex issues and situations.

In this sense, it is not noble to think this is possible. It is possible if you re-think the way things have always been done and move your money around to doing things new ways. It does not take millions of dollars to start working in this direction either. I hope to have proof of this for you very soon on this blog and in our No Kill Study Group.

Lastly, there is no doubt that high-volume, low-cost spay and neuter programs and services are very important to No Kill efforts. We cannot achieve No Kill without this very important part of the whole equation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Join us for the first No Kill Study Group

We will be holding our first No Kill Study Group meeting on September 24th, Wednesday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the foyer of the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2000 S. Solano Dr.

What this group will hope to achieve is monumental and will take alot of work. We will be taking an in-depth look at each program and service of the No Kill Equation, listed at left and described in more detail at the No Kill Advocacy Center's website (also available from the links at left).

What we hope to accomplish is first research-based. From all of my reading and investigation into sheltering and No Kill successes, what is very clear is that very little detail exists in writing about how it is done. I'm hoping to write detailed reports, or one large detailed No Kill report with an awesome executive summary. The intended audience is our local leaders and maybe a resource that could be used nationally.

I'm a technical writer, but I work full-time. I've had this idea for some time, but I don't have the time to do all the research myself. Because little is in writing, what we'll need to do is get on the phone, talk to people, and gather the information piece-by-piece. All I need help with is this information gathering; I will personally write the report, which we will then all review and finalize.

From that, I hope that in this group we start discovering as individuals which programs we'd like to start working on locally and find ways to implement them through existing groups, as individuals, or exerting pressure on our shelter's leadership to implement some of the programs. If we can implement each program, we can start tracking our own progress and how this starts impacting our community's kill rate.

Some of these programs are happening here to a certain degree. Some are in the works, such as the pet retention efforts I am starting with HSSNM via a pet help line. We have some transplants that have come here who have extensive experience and expertise in some programs, such as TNR, along with locals that have a program we can also model (NMSU's program).

The toughest battle we have ahead of us is reaching our city and county leaders with a concrete message and with factual data that we hope they will adopt because it is overwhelmingly clear the programs work. We have to prove that the current catch and kill philosophy of our shelter and AC departments is not the only way to go. It's not necessarily the most cost-effective, and it will never lead to the kind of community support and buy-in that can lead to huge monetary contributions. We need to give our state and local leaders objective data that their staff can then follow up on if they don't trust the numbers.

Sheltering is a hard nut to crack when it comes to the numbers. Shelters do not necessarily keep statistics nor share them willingly, or they all don't keep them the same way. Categories can be defined differently (unadoptable vs. adoptable, for example), and in many cases thorough assessment is not being done, so dogs and cats are arbitrarily thrown into the unadoptable heap and killed (hence, the high kill rates). This is what makes it difficult to compare from one area or shelter to another.

What we are especially interested in is the shelters and communities that have implemented or are in the process of implementing the No Kill Equation's full list of programs and services and trying to learn how anyone can export that model in their area. I'll have the list of places and contacts we can begin to call to gather the data. The good news here is that from the few I have talked to so far, these progressive shelters and directors are more than willing to share the knowledge and their materials/statistics in hopes other areas will adopt the model programs and services.

It will be alot of hard work and long hours, and I understand if people's time is limited. We'll try to divide the work up as evenly as possible, and if you can only do so much, that is still something. We still welcome your help and input.

If anyone has questions about this group, please e-mail me at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's time to start asking the tough questions

First of all, thanks LCSN!

In my last blog, I was extremely remiss to not thank and mention the Las Cruces Sun-News for hosting this blog and for being so supportive. I especially want to thank Jason Gibbs, the online editor, for his encouragement. The LCSN has also printed my blog in their stories as a place to read more about animal sheltering, and that is much appreciated.

Defeatism is a self-fulfilling prophesy

I am a firm believer in being analytical and looking constructively and critically at the way things are done and asking ourselves the tough questions: Why do we do it this way? Is this the only alternative? What else could we do, and what would it hurt to try?

With our shelter still at a kill rate of 70+% and facing issues with providing the basics of care in a facility that is old and outdated (don't get me started on the ongoing issues with things like the air conditioners and horrible ventilation, etc.)--we need to start asking more tough questions ... mainly, what is taking so long for progress? How long can we be stuck in transition, and what was the reason for the lack of progress before this transition at our shelter from being run by a non-profit to now being run directly by the City and County?

Even many animal-welfare people will point to another great myth that keeps us from moving forward: "everything takes money, and we just don't have enough funding" ... we all reapeat that one all the time ... it takes more funding. Well, I'm sorry, but I beg to differ that all things hinge on just this. The most successful no kills of recent history started off from a place of near bankruptcy, and by doing good work, grew into rich organizations. Even big, successful places like Best Friends Animal Society didn't start off with millions of dollars landing on that group's lap.

Moreover, didn't our shelter just get funded for approximately $1.2 million a year vs. the roughly $500K a year it previously operated with? And, didn't we get state capital outlay funds for shelter improvements of about $50K, including $10K allocated to updating our ventilation system? When will that happen so we can start meeting the HVAC standards of sheltering, which ensure that clean air is circulated on a constant basis. This helps combat common ailments our animals face and die for on a daily basis, such as kennel cough in dogs and upper respiratory infections in cats. When animals are stressed, too, their immune systems are stressed ... much of this is Sheltering 101 and many of these ongoing issues at our shelter were pointed out in the HSUS review and report a couple of years ago ... so, again, what is taking so long to address the worst of these issues and new issues that are arising?

And, what is our County's progress on putting their MARC van purchased months ago to the much-needed efforts of spay/neuter in low-income, outlaying areas? We need to start putting some of our own actions where our words are ... namely, fixing more animals so that our shelter is not pelted with as many litters of kittens and puppies next Spring.

For too long, our nation's animal-welfare agencies and shelters have been hiding behind the badge of public irresponsibility and that the only thing they can do is "humanely euthanize" our community's unwanted animals for lack of space, yet this horribly simplifies a very complicated issue and removes all accountability from the shoulders of the shelter's leadership and our municipal leaders.

If we just rest on our laurels and accept this sad "fact" and become defeatist, does that not stop us from finding and working on other alternatives and efforts/programs? Is this rate of killing really the only choice, or have we already prophesized ourselves into that outcome? Or, even more sinister, is it that as humans, we truly don't think that our homeless companion animals deserve any better treatment while in shelters or are worth the sheer hard work and effort it takes to think outside the box? I don't think anyone would agree to this; studies and polls have shown that most of the general public will come out in droves and with big dollars to support shelters that choose a different path.

In the end, in the state our shelter is still in and has been in for years now, it can't hurt to ask the questions and speak up, whether you are an average citizen who cares about animals or an animal-welfare advocate that dedicates most of your time to helping animals or someone that has something to say about their personal experiences at our shelter. Pick up the phone; write letters and e-mails to your local and state leaders, including the City and County managers. All their contact information is available online or is a phone call away.

It is one of the biggest ironies of animal sheltering that, first of all, the ASPCA took on the sad role of basically running and operating city pounds those decades ago and started humane societies on this path. It is understandable that they cared about the atrocities and lack of any care for animals in pounds at that time. And, we have come a long way from the days of animals not being given food, water or any care at city pounds and ultimately meeting inhumane deaths.

Yet, on the other hand, and especially in this day and age (the year 2008!), we've also stagnated. It is very hard to preach to anyone from this shelter platform of high kill rates. How can shelters chastise the general public for treating animals like throwaway objects when that's exactly how our animal-welfare system treats animals themselves? By being accepting of the status quo, we are still filling our landfills with the 900 or so killed each month--many of which were healthy or treatable.

It is no wonder the shelter and public cannot come to peaceful terms with each other ... people cringe at the thought of shelters, and then shelter staff hate everyone who makes them do this awful work ... this horrible, unhealthy cycle needs to be broken, and now, with the No Kill movement, there is a light at the end of this dark, long tunnel.

So, I know this posting is darker and seems more negative than my previous ones, but the hope and light and possibilities are out there for us, too. We can look to other models that are having success right now, and we can learn from them. There are many people working in animal welfare that are happy to mentor and network with us if we reach out to them.

In closing, look to the left for even more links to people doing great work for animals, including those most discriminated against and misunderstood, even among us animal lovers -- feral cats and pitt bulls.
There are many opportunities for change and innovators to emulate.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Responses to Recent Comments & The Most Important Thing Anyone Who Cares About Sheltered Animals Can Do TODAY

About recent comments

I have gotten some fantastic feedback and comments on this blog in the past couple of weeks that I have yet to address. I want to take the time to do that tonight before I move on to my discussion about the second item of the No Kill Equation, which is high-volume, low-cost spay and neuter.

TNR comments

First of all, I received an anonymous comment from someone not liking the idea of TNR and claiming to have been bitten by a feral cat at the NMSU campus. Instead of answering this one blind, I asked the Director of FCaMP, the TNR program on the NMSU campus, to give me some advice about how such cases are handled and how common cat bites are on campus (from what I understand, feral cats attacking or biting humans is very rare--they are not like feral dogs). Michelle Corella, the Director, did one better and posted her own comment in response. You can read that under my "How No Kill Handles Hoarding Cases" blog from August 24th. Thank you, Michelle, for clearing that up and for your report about the success of your program.

Like Michelle says, TNR is not an easy, quick fix, but it is a far cry better than what we have been doing. Catching and killing some in a feral colony does little to reduce their numbers. The only thing that does is TNR because though many cats can live and survive the harsh lives of wild animals, attrition eventually catches up to the group of altered cats, and less and less are born each year until the population is limited and controlled.

Some other anonymous comments about TNR came in that show more wise insight from people who have implemented TNR and have hands-on experience. The more people that share these success stories, the better! I thank everyone who wrote in with their experiences, especially the person who ran a TNR program back in 1978--which was a time that this subject in the U.S. was more unheard of than controversial.

I think many cat lovers do not consider how different these animals are from most domesticated animals. History shows they domesticated themselves, and only to a certain extent. They are one of the few groups of domestic animals that can survive and thrive as wild animals (even in the harshest conditions) or as pampered lap cats. We do not catch and haul off any other group of wild animals to our shelters to be killed in the numbers feral cats are killed each year. That's why no kill cannot happen without TNR for most feral colonies. Any shelter's kill rate for cats cannot go down without support for these efforts. Luckily, most of the public would support TNR if they understood how it actually works and how successful it can be.

Ed Zimmer's comment

I was very appreciative of the comment I received from Mr. Ed Zimmer of the Zimmer Foundation, which I believe supports TNR efforts. (Correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Zimmer.)

An anonymous comment came in shortly after asking myself and Mr. Zimmer if we are aware that animals/pets are still considered personal property in most states, including New Mexico. Although this is true, I don't think Mr. Zimmer meant to say that the legal truth of that is no longer the case. It is the thoughts and feelings pet owners now have that has changed, and the laws regarding animals and their protection have changed, too. Now, for example, it is a felony in many states to hurt or kill animals, even if they are your own "property".

More important for the movement of no kill is this shift in people's personal (not legal) attitudes about their pets and about animal welfare in general. When you look at the majority pet owners, there has been a major shift in people thinking of their pets as part of the family and the numbers of pet homes has substantially increased each decade. Right now, there are approximately 165 million pets in homes, and the rate of shelter killing is about 5 million a year. Just from these numbers alone, it is easy to see that the vast majority of pet owners are caring for their pets, and that is true of any area, even Dona Ana County and the City of Las Cruces.

No kill does not deny that there is some public irresponsibility. Of course there is. However, it argues that "good" pet owners far outnumber the "bad", and this is what shelters need to keep in mind while going through their daily business. All of the people that walk into a shelter are potential adopters, foster homes, or volunteers that will go out of their way to save animals' lives if given the chance and the right atmosphere from which to work.

In the Maddie's Fund 2006-2007 Annual Report, Richard Avanzino (the president and former director of a successful no kill--San Francisco's SPCA in the late 1990s) has some fascinating things to say in his President's Letter. Here is an excerpt:

"The United States population is growing, and more people are adopting pets. In 1996, there were 130 million pets in homes. Today, there are more than 165 million pets in homes. We project that by 2016, there will be over 200 million pets in homes. We can save all of the healthy and treatable shelter pets if we adopt out three million more each year, a doable feat in light of the growing number of available pet homes."

Looking at the national projected numbers, that means that in 8 years, there will be 35 million potential homes. That's about 4.68 million animals being adopted per year. If the majority of the public gets animals from somewhere other than a shelter/rescue, which is the case now (only 20% adopt from shelters, etc.), then there is a huge market shelters are not tapping into. It's way past the time that shelters need to better compete with backyard breeders and puppy mills, and even legitimate breeders for that matter.

If there wasn't a market out there, breeders of any kind would not exist. If millions of good pet homes did not exist, then the pet industry would not be earning multi-billions a year. Add to this the increase in giving for pet charities and foundations coming into the mix, and it is obvious that old-guard sheltering has not kept up with what is really going on in the world of pet ownership and animal welfare in this country.

From these ideas and numbers, the no kill movement was born, and as Mr. Zimmer says, it was Nathan Winograd who gathered up everything about the subject into one, comprehensive book. It's not that other no kill pioneers, like Avanzino, had not talked or written about no kill and innovative ideas, but "Redemption" takes the reader through the fascinating history of animal sheltering and makes a compelling argument that the time has come for sheltering to match public sentiment and support.

Fantastic comment from a shelter worker

I want to thank "mute witness" for your flattering comment about this blog. Coming from someone who works in a shelter, I am especially humbled by your generosity of spirit. It gives me hope that someday in the not-too-distant future many shelter workers such as yourself will start to see there are many sides to animal issues (and many gray areas, too). Your blog gives some wonderful examples of how important it is for shelter workers to not lose touch with their humanity and compassion for their fellow man and woman in your day-to-day business.

At some shelters, for example, the idea of pet retention counseling when someone is bringing in a pet to relinquish is to hammer them over the head with the idea the animal will most likely die and it is their fault because they are bad, irresponsible people. You get a sense they'd love it if this person could witness the animal's death or maybe even partake in it so they "can see what it feels like".

What this might do is guilt someone into keeping a dog or cat they may be having serious, legitimate issues with. Instead, what would it hurt to have a positive, compassionate conversation with the person to find out what has been going on and offer support to help them deal with the issue? Granted, you may only reach a few people this way, but those you don't reach will give you honest information about the animal so you know how to work toward rehabilitating the animal or making a better adoption match for him or her the next time around.

There are examples like this from everyday dealings between shelter staff and the public. I continue to stress that this disconnect between the two "sides" (shelters vs. the public) is what most directly leads to more killing--not just the simple fact that irresponsible pet owners exist.

Again, thank you, mute witness, for your candidness about how it is a moral, spiritual, and intellectual struggle everyday to do the work you do. I have no doubt this is true and have much compassion for the pain and suffering of shelter workers as well. That's what is such a shame ... Winograd says it is uncaring directors and workers that leads to the high kill rates, and this is one statement I do not fully agree with. I know most shelter workers care about animals, so it is not that simple.

However, I see from where his frustration comes as well. He knows first-hand that if each shelter adopted all the progressive programs of the No Kill Equation and more successfully competed for the pet market, less killing would be the result. Euthanasia could be returned to its dictionary definition in every shelter. And, that could only help to improve the morale of every shelter worker in our country and make us proud of this work instead of fed up, burnt out, and negative.

Imagine that?!

What is the most important thing you can do today?

I hate to sound like I'm making a commercial plug here, but I sincerely, honestly, and wholeheartedly believe that if you are someone who works in the world of animal rescue and welfare, the single most important thing you can do today is to read "Redemption" if you have not already. It is a VERY important book on the subject of sheltering. Shelter directors and workers, especially, should read it--no matter how turned off you may be by it in the beginning. Grit your teeth and try to keep as much of an open mind and heart as you possibly can. If you genuinely care about the animals that end up in your facilities, this may be the most important thing you can do for them. You may see or find ways to help more of them make it out of your shelters alive.

Refreshingly, some communities have not struggled as much as ours. There are stories of shelter directors and municipalities coming away from reading this book with a complete, 180-degree turnaround and immediately beginning the important work of implementing all the No Kill Equation programs.

Cute approach to spay/neuter

Important messages cloaked in cute or catchy commercials can do more than someone standing around trying to lecture people about being responsible, especially with a tired old subject like spay/neuter. I am elated that not only is the National Geographic channel on its second season of Dogtown, which chronicles some cases that the Best Friends Animal Society works on (such as rescuing and rehabilitating many of the Michael Vic fighting pitt bulls), but the station also plays some Best Friends commercials when the show airs on Friday evenings.

In true Best Friends spirit, there was a commercial that played about spay and neuter that is sure to touch many people's minds and hearts. It was a very simple commercial showing a dog entering a convenience store. A caption comes up on a black screen that reads, "If your pet could practice safe sex, he would." The scene goes back to the dog coming out of the store holding a box of condoms in his mouth that have some kind of "stud" label on them. The dog looks sheepishly into the camera and walks off with the box ...

How is that for creative advertising and something that might help sway anyone on the fence about fixing their male dog or cat because of macho attitudes they hold? When trying to combat beliefs held, it is especially imperative to try to find other ways to relate to and reach people.

Next blog: More about creative solutions to spay and neuter that can increase the volume of surgeries in any community ... no kill knows that fixing more animals is the cornerstone to curbing the number of animals entering shelters each year. This gives you more time and opportunity to save more of the lives at risk for being put down for treatable medical and behavioral conditions. Each part of the No Kill Equation and programs informs the other in these ways.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Busting TNR Myths & Shelters Needing Better Customer Service

TNR -- Let's try to approach this subject with an open mind

Like much of what all of us preach as "animal advocates", it was not not long ago that I held onto old myths instead of examining what has been proven to work in recent history--especially when it comes to the plight of today's homeless/feral cat. I tip my hat to any and all people who have worked hard at TNR (trap-neuter-return/release) programs for feral, stray cats amid its many detractors.

Just as pit bulls are the most misunderstood and discriminated against in the dog world today (even among animal lovers), the same is true for feral (wild) cats. We cannot reach no kill in our community if we continue to approach the feral cat problem with old-guard views and practices. That's why TNR is one of the top programs of the No Kill Equation.

The usual detractors of TNR point to cats needing a good home and warm lap to curl up in and that all cats deserve great, indoor homes. Well, I can't argue with that. In a Utopian cat world (and dog world, too, for that matter), all domestic animals would have the purrfect lap to curl up in. However, the reality is that many cats are truly wild and will never live that life, and many thrive and live long lives as the wild counterparts to our lap cats. What we have been doing for decades is trapping and killing these homeless cats to try to eliminate the numbers (population) that survive in these feral/wild conditions. This idea has NOT worked for decades. Cats continue to reproduce at a rate in which our catch and kill systems can never keep up with.

Winograd, in "Redemption", talks about the feral cat program at Stanford Law being his indoctrination to the world of companion animal welfare. He was part of a group of students and advocates who fought for the right to try TNR on that campus to prove it can work. What they accomplished was phenomenal. The estimated 1000 cats on that campus in the 80s/90s has now dwindled down to about 50 in number today. Yes, it takes time because you have to fix all the cats and let them die off naturally, but this is the only system that can work in the struggle to save millions of feral cats from having to meet an unhappy, sometimes painful and long demise at shelters across the country.

When it comes to cats, we must consider how different they are from dogs. The domestic dog of today cannot live and survive as a wild animal. Cats do and can. It might not be the perfect life, as is the case for all wildlife, but cats do survive and thrive. Some ferals, when taken in by humans and fed, can become semi-domestic, and their kittens can be rescued and raised as tame house cats. That's why cats have now overtaken dogs as the most popular pet in America. We all know someone who is feeding and has named an outside cat or two (or more!).

Other arguments against TNR are that loose cats sometimes are a nuisance to people and that they are responsible for killing and hurting birds and other prey. What these detractors don't think of is that only more birds and other prey will be saved in the long run with TNR efforts. That's why the Humane Society of the United States finally changed its position on TNR in 2004 (
The effort has been proven to work time and again, and this actually lessens the nuisance and population of cats and lessens the birds and other wildlife affected by feral cats.

As humans, too, who are we to talk about wildlife destruction? We kill off more wildlife than all feral cats combined when we take over natural habitats, fill them with pesticides, and then fill these areas with tall buildings and vehicles with windows and windshields, which hurt and kill more birds each year than do feral cats.

In our area, we are far behind the times on this subject matter--maybe because we don't keep up with the latest and greatest research and information from Alley Cat Allies and other national leaders on this subject--not to mention our own feral cat program at NMSU, which has shown much success over time ( If you haven't heard about this program, visit their website to learn more.

Many locals will point to our city and county ordinances (cat leash laws) as making it impossible to start legal and Animal Control supported-TNR programs. Well, this is true, but we can lobby for changes to these ordinances to start this important work. Laws should not be broken, but they can be changed to reflect our times and needs. We need to lobby our leaders at the City and County for these changes. Other communities have done this, so all we need to do is mimic their laws (no need for wheel inventions here).

When a TNR program is done well, it helps everyone--from people living in areas with feral cat colonies to AC officers to shelter staff having to kill less of these wild cats. No matter what anyone says, killing these cats is not a humame, pretty picture. And, if we think about it, no other group of wild animal is rounded up and killed in shelters this way or in these numbers.

Volunteers run these TNR programs and are caretakers for cat colonies in various areas, providing food and water, trapping and delivering the cats to and from vet offices for the surgeries, etc. This involves dispute resolution and sometimes having to release cats into new areas to avoid human conflicts. Luckily, feral cats rarely attack or bite human beings, but TNR also involves not just spaying and neutering cats but also giving them rabies vaccinations. Many communities have barn cat programs for cats that need to be relocated to new areas. I know I have personally heard from people in Dona Ana County wishing they had a feral cat colony in their barns to help control rodents. So, besides the local detractors, there are many of us in favor of TNR and ready to do the work on a full-scale, community-wide program.

When I was at the NM State Humane Conference last Monday/Tuesday in Albuquerque, I was happy to hear how much the attitudes and rhetoric about cats has become pro-TNR. The comments and questions were not detractors of TNR as they would have been a decade ago, but more along the lines of, "Are you doing TNR yet?" Many communities in our state are there now, and it would not take much for Las Cruces/Dona Ana County to get with the times. We actually have a successful, local model to build from at NMSU, so what are we waiting for?

A current shelter experience that screams for the need of better and more thorough customer service

Last week, an animal-welfare friend of mine called to ask me for help and advice. This person is a counselor, and one of her clients had just had a bad experience at our shelter and didn't know what to do. The client, whom I'll call Reba, had a chihuahua who had been picked up by Animal Control the day before. Reba has had this dog for five years, and this was the first time the dog had gotten away from her. He is a male, not neutered, and also not current on his rabies vaccination. Reba is a young woman living on limited means and much like the way I used to survive--which was check-to-check and completely broke a few days before getting paid. Needless to say, I could relate to Reba's predicament.

Reba was at the shelter the next day, identifying her dog in one of the kennels and wanting to know what she could do to get him out. She was told all the fees for the first day added up to $88, and she asked the person helping her if she could pay it in payments or if any other options existed. She was told no, and she was also told (or she understood) that if she didn't pay that amount by end of business that day, the dog would become the shelter's property and perhaps get "euthanized" the very next day. Reba was in a panic. She cried all that day and was throwing up at the thought of her dog possibly getting killed the next day. She loved the little guy, but she didn't have the $88 to pay the fees.

Lucky for Reba, she knew someone who volunteered in the animal world. When I got this call, I knew something was amiss. By law, the shelter has to hold onto any dog or cat that does not have ID for three days before he or she becomes the shelter's property. In Reba's case, when she ID'd the dog, then that dog should have had five days before he became shelter property. However, the fees would increase by day as well.

I agreed to meet Reba at the shelter that same evening before they closed, and it was my intent to see what was going on and act as an informed go-between with her and the shelter's office staff. Our shelter is broken up into two sections -- the office that deals with adoptions only and the RTO (Return-to-Owner) side, where people either report lost animals, claim their lost pets, or relinquish animals they found or no longer want. In the time I was there (about half an hour), two people claimed and took home their lost pets, and one man came in with a sick cat his kids had found. He wanted to keep the cat, but having two dogs of his own, he sincerely said he could not afford vet bills. He said he hoped his own dogs didn't get sick because he wouldn't know what to do.

Before I talked to the staff about Reba's dog, I looked at the sheet of paper the shelter gave her. On it was an itemized list of the impoundment fees, and it clearly stated that if that entire fee was not paid by the end of business THAT day (only the next day after the dog was brought in), then the dog would become the property of the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley.

I was respectful and calm and asked for an explanation of the misleading paperwork given to Reba and the status of the dog. I clearly stated that I understood the laws in our system and that there was no way the dog could become the property of the shelter before his five days were up. The young lady at the desk (whom I know) was quick to say that Reba misunderstood and that the paper was simply a quote of the fees for one day, and this person stated she had no idea that Reba didn't understand her options and that she was sorry the young lady had been in distress over her dog all day. She thought Reba had the money to pay the fees and would be back to do so, but Reba said she did ask for payment options.

I tried my best to explain to the young lady at the counter that the paperwork itself was misleading as it clearly stated what Reba had gone away "misunderstanding"--that the dog would become their property by the next day. I also asked what the options were for low-income people who care about their animal but may not have the full fee up front ... Was there a payment option? Could the fees be frozen instead of increased each day the dog was held there, etc.? By asking the "right" questions, I was finally given more information. Yes, the fees could be frozen ... Yes, if Reba had asked to speak with the manager (the Director), she may have been given the option to pay in payments ... And, finally, if Reba paid to get the dog out, and if she used the vaccination certificate provided and got the rabies shot for free at participating veterinarians and got the dog neutered within 30 days, she could get the entire impound fee back. None of that had been explained to Reba before.

While I was there, I asked Reba why she had not gotten her dog fixed yet. She simply said she could not afford it, and knowing that most vets in this town are booked up past 30 days and that these surgeries now cost upwards of $100, I knew this was probably the case. I explained the no- and low-cost options in our community (SNAP & FSNP), both of which she had never heard of before, and I gave her all the numbers to call. I asked her if she'd be willing to get her little guy neutered and get him his current rabies shot, and I even told her that the shelter can microchip the dog for $20. She seemed elated to be able to afford to do all of the above, so I personally lent Reba the $88 in fees to get her dog out of there at that moment, and I trust she'll get all of this business taken care of. I told her she can pay me back in payments--or better yet--get the dog his shots and get him fixed, and then just give me the fee refund the shelter offers.

Reba was now smiling instead of crying, and I stayed to see the cheerful reunion of the dog and his owner. I drove off from the shelter behind Reba and her boyfriend and the chihuahua enjoying the fresh air through the car's open window. And, it felt good that I could be there to help her and her dog.

However, what this sadly points to is that the average person off the streets is not only getting poor customer service, but they are also not getting all of the pertinent information clearly explained to them nor are they given all of the information regarding resources available in our community for low-cost vaccinations and spay/neuter. How was Reba to know, for example, that if she had asked to speak to a manager, she might get to other options the regular staff is not authorized to approve?

Not an isolated incident (unfortunately)

This reminded me of something I witnessed at our shelter a couple of months back and how detrimental it can be to both animals and people when the shelter's staff makes negative, pre-judgements about people. I was there late one evening talking to our new director. Shortly before the shelter was closing, a family drove up and piled out of their car. It was a Hispanic family -- a husband, his wife, about three small children, and a couple of puppies they were towel-drying in the parking lot.

Before they even made it to the door of the RTO side of the shelter's offices, the staff was already assuming the worst ... that this family was there to give up the puppies like so many people do and had the audacity to bathe the dogs for this ... that the family was teaching their kids to treat animals like throwaway objects ... etc.

When the family finally entered the office, it turned out they were there to get low-cost vaccinations for the puppies, who they were intending to keep and care for. They were a happy family looking for assistance, and our shelter no longer offered this service to the community. I was not in the room to hear the exchange, so I am not sure if the family was given any other ideas or options for getting the low-cost vaccinations for their puppies and also advice about spay/neuter options. Also unfortunate as well, no one on the staff seemed at all embarrassed for assuming the worst and relying on myths and stereotypes for pre-judging this family.

This is what I mean when I say that reaching no kill takes alot of work -- not just to simultaneously implement all 10 progams of the No Kill Equation ... but also the hard shift in perspective, which costs nothing to change. If you don't run the facility from an arleady defeatist, judgmental, negative point-of-view, imagine how many scenarios a day could be played out differently? To be successful at no kill in any community, shelter staff have to have compassion and understanding for BOTH people and animals.

Coming soon: Pet Help Line and No Kill Study Group

Another part of the No Kill Equation is pet retention efforts, and I am happy to report that myself, along with some volunteers and the generosity of the Humane Society of Southern New Mexico, are soon going to launch a Pet Help Line to assist people in resolving issues with their pets in order to enrich the human/animal bond and try to mitigate some owner relinquishments at our shelter. Please wish us luck, and look out for the phone number and e-mail to call and write in to.

If anyone out there knows of anyone like Reba who needs help at our shelter, please write me at I am also available, especially on the weekends and my Fridays off, to meet potential adopters at the shelter to help you find your best match for a new dog or cat to add to the family.

Lastly, I will soon be calling the first meeting of my no kill study group, which I hope can focus primarily on research and reporting on the No Kill Movement and programs and success stories in our own state and nationwide as well.