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.