Saturday, May 2, 2009

No Kill Conference - Keynote Address

Today was the first day of a seminal start to what hopefully becomes a yearly tradition -- the No Kill Conference 2009. Myself and animal-welfare colleagues Jean Gilbert and Julie Miller arrived in Washington, D.C., yesterday -- making our own personal sacrifices to be here. Julie and I have ailing dogs back at home, who are thankfully being cared for by our wonderful husbands. We thank them for supporting us!

It was wonderful to meet some of the people I have only communicated with by phone or by cyberspace or have admired from afar, including No Kill's fearless leader, Nathan Winograd. I got to put the faces to many other names as well--Ryan Clinton of, Richard Avanzino of Maddie's Fund, Bonney Brown of the Nevada Humane Society, Susan Cosby of The No Kill Nation, Abagail Adams of the Tomkins SPCA, and Suzanne Kogut of the Charlottesville SPCA.

Starting with the keynote address by Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino, the message of the day was set -- No Kill is an inevitable social movement. Those communities who have not achieved it yet will do so someday--either now or later. It takes a paradigm shift where animal rescuers, shelter directors and community civic leaders come to terms with some overwhelming facts in the face of the myopic vision they have of irresponsibility and abuse of companion animals. The facts, as Avanzino presented, are these:

  • In 1970, we were killing about 24 homeless animals nationally.
  • By 1996, that number was reduced to about 6 million.
  • By 2007, that number was further reduced to 3.7 million.
  • With more resources available, more compassion and giving to animal-welfare groups and causes, and with the pet population growth to go from the roughly 135 million in homes today to 190 million in homes projected by 2015, we are at a place to compete more for that companion animal adoption market than ever before and reach a time that all healthy and treatable animals entering shelters find a second chance at life instead of the end of the road.

Winograd talked more about the narrow vision that rescuers sometimes have that blinds them to the entire picture. It is understandable why some people, who deal only with the worse-case scenarios day in and out, cannot see that caring and compassion toward animals far outweighs the cases of abuse and neglect. Yet, the evidence of this caring is all around us if we will pay attention to it -- it's in the billions spent on animals by pet owners each year, it's in the dogs you see walking each day with their owners, it's in the numerous best-selling animal books on the market as well as successful movies about animals that people cannot get enough of. It is because of this compassion that we have the power to harness the people and resources necessary to change ... to "bring animal sheltering into the 21st century".

That's the social movement we all have to get behind. It is a movement and revolution that is inevitable. The progressive philosophy and sheltering models are there for us to follow and create. Because of this, not a day goes by that more shelters around the country are added to this list of No Kill success stories.

So, the question is: What are we waiting for, Dona Ana County?!?!

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