Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shelters like ours give No Kill a bad name

No Kill is one of those terms that is very misused and misunderstood, even among us animal lovers. Just like any strong term that brings a vision in one's mind, No Kill has been misused so often that its definition has become murky. This is further confused by many powerful national animal groups attacking the misunderstood or horribly applied version of the term in practice. More confusion comes in when you see shelters such as ours and others that are sad places akin to hoarding using the term No Kill to define their operations. It's no wonder the term causes ill will and confusion.

In light of the recent misleading comments about No Kill made by Anonymous on this blog, we need to get back to some dictionary definitions of terms we use and to compare and contrast what this blog is talking about when it uses the term No Kill. The way successful shelters operate is the antithesis of what we have at our shelter now and in these examples that groups like PETA use to mislead their supporters about No Kill. That's the anti-No Kill propaganda this Anonymous commenter is spreading here.

Here are some definitions of terms we need to keep in mind:

Open-admission: animal shelters that take in all homeless animals in their community.

Limited-admission: animal shelters or rescues/sanctuaries that take in a limited number of animals; all have different guidelines for animals they will and will not accept and how many they can take in.

Kill: to deprive of life in any manner; cause the death of; slay.

Euthanize: the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, esp. a painful, disease or condition.

The way limited-admission shelters and rescues/santuaries operate varies from one to the other. Those who attack No Kill use examples of limited-admission shelters that call themselves No Kill as the only example of No Kill. They are No Kill in the sense that they do not put down healthy or treatable animals, but these facilities and operations are not what I refer to in this blog and in my advocacy. It is a given, to me, that any limited-admission shelter or faciliy should not be killing its animals.

My No Kill advocacy refers to animal shelters and communities whose open-admission shelters and other animal-welfare stakeholders work together to reduce thier overall kill rates to 20 percent and less. It does not mean these communities do not euthanize those animals that are deemed vicious or irremediably suffering after equitable health and behavioral evaluations. That would be cruel and neglectful if a shelter did not offer euthanasia in the dictionary-definition sense of the term.

I am referring to open-admission shelters that are legitimate safety nets for the homeless animals in their care and appropriately and fully implement the No Kill Equation listed at right. They do exist ... these good examples ... just as bad examples such as our shelters and others exist, too. Many are next door to us, such as in El Paso. Bad examples are the majority at this time, but many are working hard to add more good examples into the mix.

What our community's leaders need to do is some serious research to get beyond the high-level terminology and into the nuts and bolts of what makes a good animal shelter tick. What do they do, how to do they do it, how do they operate, and what policies and protocols/procedures do they have in place? This is the business model we need to follow. It's not that hard to figure out, and they could also go visit places to see success first-hand.

It is clear to anyone who is not clueless about progressive sheltering who has walked into our shelter the stark difference in these terms, how far we still have to go, and how some ways in which our shelter operates are in direct opposition to a shelter headed in the No Kill direction. That our community has a long way to go is an understatement.


Jean Gilbert, Humane Society of Southern NM said...

This is a response to "Anonymous": I want to dispell myth that "no-kill" shelters are somehow synonymous with warehousing of animals while open admissions aren't. An illustration in point is our shelter with high kill rate of 12,000 animals annually with an intake of 17,000. The majority are killed yet warehousing & crowding are the rule of the day. If you question this, I urge you to visit. You will see dogs in adoptables kept in stalls with minimal living space, animals who are rarely taken out for exercise & socialization with majority allowed to languish with MINIMAL custodial service provided. Our shelter is not an exception, countless others like it typically called "pounds" exist across the country while other open admissions shelters just kill rather than use their space. The latter occurred at our shelter during the brief term of an incompetent director. To say "No Kill" means warehousing is a stereotype & myth that has long been perpetuated. Considerable literature & research exists to prove the point that "No Kill" is possible if ALL aspects of the equation for lifesaving programs & services are implemented. For example, one simple service that successful open admission no kill shelters offer is maintaining a list of people who want to adopt specific breeds & type of animals & then calling the people as animals come available for adoption consideration. This is one form of match making that successful shelters do. There are a multiple means to lifesaving & increasing live exit rates for animals. Simply holding them to languish isn't lifesaving & it isn't what NO KILL proponents are advocating.

Anonymous said...

what do you people want?
i remember when there were hardly any animals at the shelter to adopt. and you all were complaining that the shelter was euthanizing too much. now there are a lot more animals than ever before, and you still complain. and the euthanasia rate is the same.
all this tells me the intake numbers either increased or were a lot higher than the DACHS let on when they were in charge.
so why don't the HSSNM get their own facility and run things if they think they can do better.
It seems all the negativity on the animal situation here in this county is always coming from folks like you.
it is time for you to put up or shut up

Lorraine said...

People like this Anonymous always whine and complain the most when animal organizations are trying to get this local shelter to do better, which we know it can when the right people are in charge, and they stop feeling threatened by volunteers.

As for HSSNM getting a facility of their own, that will happen as soon as possible because animal lovers around here need another choice whenever they must give up a pet for whatever reason. For your info, HSSNM is already doing lots to save animals from certain abuse, cruelty and death at this current shelter.

By the way, Anonymous sounds an awful lot like our shelter director. Has anyone else wondered about that.

Anonymous said...

SAN ANTONIO - In the old lobby of the city-run animal shelter, a cheerful-looking sign written in neon pink, blue and yellow delivers a somber message: In a week’s time, 1,004 dogs and cats were brought in and 925 were killed.

San Antonio’s Animal Care Services wants to turn those numbers around by converting to a “no-kill” facility, meaning all animals deemed healthy or treatable would stay at the shelter until adopted. The program is to be phased in by 2012.

Animal welfare advocates caution that the national shift toward no-kill shelters isn’t always in the best interest of the animals who never find a home.

“It sounds very good, but the reality is that it will probably leave some animals to suffer,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, director of the domestic animal department at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

'Warehousing' a top concern
No-kill shelters that have worked elsewhere in the country have succeeded because they partner with other local facilities. But many no-kill shelters have no backup plan and hang onto animals for months, sometimes years, until they are adopted, causing crowding and health problems for the animals.

“I’ve been to good no-kills, and I’ve been to bad no-kills,” said Jef Hale, the San Antonio shelter’s director. “I was at a no-kill in Louisiana and basically what they did is they just put animals in a cage and they just continued to add animals to a cage. ... If we put them in a cage and we don’t interact with them, we slowly drive them crazy.”

The practice of “warehousing” is a top concern for animal organizations when a shelter decides to go no-kill. And animal advocates say they understand that killing the animals is sometimes the only humane way to ease overcrowding.

Animal Care Services has traditionally taken in 50,000 dogs and cats and euthanized 95 percent of them, Hale said. It once used a gas chamber, but switched to the more humane method of lethal injections about a year and a half ago.

Nationally, about 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters each year. About half are killed.

“The problem of course is that 8 million animals are being discarded,” Nachminovitch said. “If it were as easy as simply stopping euthanasia, then that would have been done a long time ago.”

National organizations want to reduce needless killing. The ASPCA this year launched “Mission: Orange” to increase adoption and reduce euthanasia in five U.S. communities. The American Humane Association has an initiative called “Getting to Zero.”

“We are definitely seeing a broad movement toward no-kill,” said Richard Avanzino, president of Maddie’s Fund in Alameda, Calif., which aims for the U.S. to be no-kill by 2017. “And there are some isolated examples of horror stories where things have gone astray and people in their zeal have actually done harm. ... It’s not something that you just flip a switch and it happens immediately.”

In pursuing the no-kill label, some shelters will only take in animals they’re sure they can adopt out, said Charlene Jones, founder and director of Animals at Heart, a nonprofit in Jacksonville, Fla., that works to help people keep their pets longer. Others will adopt out potentially dangerous animals just to make space.

Full article below: