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.