Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All relevant comments will be posted on this bog

I was in Albuquerque the past few days at the New Mexico Humane Conference, and I have many exciting observations to write about at a later date. I also want to get into describing in more detail the 10 programs/services of the No Kill Equation and how they each can save lives; when added up and implemented all at one time, it is no wonder the tides can turn at a shelter if it will choose to embrace these ideas. It is not enough to do just one or two -- all the programs are needed and a new, positive outlook and way of dealing with and engaging the public are also a must.

Also in the near future, I will announce the time and place for my first No Kill Study Group meeting. I plan to hold these very soon, and anyone interested in helping to do research for some reports I plan to write are all welcome to attend and participate. These reports are going to be the basis for lobbying our leaders to implement the programs and services that are showing success right now in our own state and elsewhere in the U.S.

As one commenter asked, doesn't the fact that our shelter's annual budget was increased from about $500K to $1.1 million mean we are poised to do a better job? I think it does, and these are exciting/hopeful times for our shelter and the animals that end up there hoping for a second chance at life with a better-matched owner -- not the end of the road.

Another commenter said that my obvious criticism of our shelter at this time is not helping matters, and I imagine it does look that way--especially to anyone working hard on a daily basis at our shelter and feeling very burnt out because of this. I understand these staff people care about animals, but I also think that many are stuck in a negative mindset that hinders progress. And, in this way, our shelter is not unique; many have operated in this way for decades. I liken it to anyone who has repeated the same story in their head over and over again being so brainwashed by those ideas that they have never considered that maybe they are not true.
This blog asks each and every one of us to question what we have always taken as fact and truth and think beyond that and the possibilities of improvement. If a shelter like ours concentrated on providing, say, great customer service to everyone walking through its doors, especially potential adopters, and if they approached each person from a place of mutual respect, imagine the possibilities that could open up from just that one shift in perspective?

I assure you that any criticism is meant to always be fair and constructive and offered up as more of a challenge to our community's leaders to see that things can be done differently and MUST be done differently if our shelter and our animal services are ever going to change. Which industry, I ask you, is static and does not seek ways to improve or progress? How do we move forward if we can't turn a critical eye on what we have been doing, how we have been doing it, and considering alternatives? Even if our shelter's leadership and our city/county leaders have their doubts, I hope they will consider each and every program and service for what it is -- tools for saving lives.

None are very controversial today; even TNR (trap-neuter-return/release of feral cats), which I will go into in greater detail in my next post, is more controversial here because people have not kept up with its successes and how mainstream it is becoming elsewhere because of some brave souls of the recent past who have stuck with it and shown over time that it works better at reducing population and issues with loose cats than anything else can (much better than catch and kill ever has). We have a program here that has done wonders at the NMSU campus, and my TNR discussion will cover the latest about that as well. I will also address the one comment I received about TNR in my next posting as well.

So, I do not write this blog out of some malicious place meant to harm others ... I write it because I wholeheartedly and passionately believe what I am saying and advocating for ... if I didn't, I would not bother. I understand walking in another person's shoes, and what I am asking our shelter's leadership to do is the same thing ... consider change ... consider alternatives ... consider that maybe approaching each day from a place of defeatism is a self-fulfilling prophesy we cannot break out of until we open ourselves up to other ideas. At the rate we are still killing homeless animals in our community, what do we have to lose in trying?

I received another comment from an anonymous person who was put off by the fact that the comments on this blog are moderated. I want to assure this person and all the readers of this blog that I will post each and every relevant comment--even if it is critical of myself or anything I say in the blog or any ideas. The only reason I moderate them is to avoid automatically posting anything with language that is too obscene (especially for the host of this blog, the Las Cruces Sun-News) or something that is unrelated or off-the-wall.

So far, I have gotten nothing but good, relevant comments and have posted every one of them as they were written. I thank every person who has posted a comment for your feedback, and I will try my best to provide an answer or my thoughts on each one.

Tonight, I am tired from my trip and the work that was piled up on my desk after taking a couple of days off from work, so I will not be up late this evening. However, I will leave you with some words from Mr. Nathan Winograd--author of "Redemption" and a lawyer-turned-shelter director and now director of the No Kill Advocacy Center--who was gracious enough to answer my e-mail inquiries about how he dealt with emergency situations in the past or how shelters operating under the No Kill Equation are able to save more lives when 100+ from a hoarding case hit at one time.

Here is what he replied:

"If the shelter has comprehensively implemented all the programs of the No Kill Equation, it will be better able to deal with extraordinary situations like those described. It would be able to call upon its network of foster homes, its volunteers, its rescue group relationships, its supporters, and its media contacts to rise to the occasion and help save the lives at risk. Last year, the animal control shelter in Charottesville, VA, fostered 1,700 dogs and cats with a population base very close to Las Cruces, NM ... that's a lot of foster potential to care for cats seized under a hoarding situation or to foster others while the shelter cares for those. In Tompkins County during my tenure, we took in about 70 dogs with major medical problems, including blindness, neurological problems, and more. We issued a volunteer alert to come and provide supportive care, we called upon our contacts in the veterinary community to provide immediate and emergency medical care, we contacted our rescue network and the media and even adopters and all of the animals were out of the shelter within 48 hours. There are always going to be times when out of the ordinary events strain a shelter's capacity. But, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure ..."

Next, we'll explore each and every program and service of the No Kill Equation. None of these ideas are radical or new ... most shelters are doing some or most to a certain extent. I will also report on what I learned others in our state are doing and how it is not an impossible dream to think that we can start moving to a progressive model ourselves in the near future.