All aspects of the No Kill Equation are intertwined and it would be foolish to think we can single out one or two tenets and solve the problem of killing pets in shelters. Having said that, I sometimes think about doing something along those very lines. That is, I consider what single thing could happen today to bring us dramatically closer to being a no kill nation. The two most obvious to me are:
- All those killing homeless pets in this country simply stop. They adopt the no kill philosophy and begin to implement the changes needed in their communities. And in the meantime, they stop killing pets.
- We increase shelter adoptions a little bit. Nathan Winograd breaks down the math for us here.
Now of those two ideas, I think it’s unrealistic to expect the first would happen today. Changing philosophies takes time. Especially when many shelters are still very far away from the no kill philosophy and consider killing to be a “kindness” they perform because they love pets or a “necessity” due to so-called pet overpopulation. As for the second, I think yes, that could happen today.
The first and most important point to my mind is to stop blaming the public. We don’t want potential adopters to feel guilty for buying a pet from a responsible breeder by perpetuating the myth that a shelter pet must be killed for every pet purchased from a responsible breeder. There is room in no kill, and in fact a need for, responsible breeders selling pets to people. In addition, we don’t want the public to feel guilty that animal shelters exist. For example, when we wag our fingers at owners who do not neuter their pets and state that they are the reason we must have shelters and in turn “must” kill pets, we demonize both potential adopters and the shelters themselves. More education, assistance and understanding – less judgment.
Secondly, let’s recognize that there is a group of people in society who would like to add a pet to the family but are not sure how best to obtain one. This is our target market. If we can influence some of the people in this group to adopt from a shelter, we can make that giant leap toward no kill I dream about. The good news is that the potential adopters are out there and the pets are out there. The bad news is that there is a gap between the two preventing them from connecting. It is this gap we must bridge and everyone must pitch in if we are to be successful.
Shelters must make themselves as inviting as possible to the public by keeping pets and facilities clean, keeping their doors open when people are most likely to visit, getting pets out to high traffic locations such as pet supply stores, and maintaining reasonable guidelines for approving adopters. To meet these goals, high quality, committed leadership is essential and more volunteers will be needed:
Some pets will need more than a bath in order to look presentable. If you have basic grooming skills, your help is needed.
Other pets will benefit from some time in foster care to learn basic manners. For example, a large dog who has been taught not to jump up on people and not to pull on the leash is going to be far more adoptable than one who hasn’t. If you have basic obedience training skills, your help is needed.
Orphaned kittens who need to be bottle fed around the clock in order to survive their first weeks of life arrive at shelters every Spring. If you have the ability to offer a temporary home to a litter of kittens in need of care, your help is needed.
Shelter cats who have been handled lovingly by humans are going to be more adoptable than those who haven’t. If you have cat petting skills, your help is needed.
Dogs who have been walked are going to have less anxiety when visitors stroll through the shelter than those who haven’t and as such, will be more appealing to adopters. If you have dog walking skills, your help is needed.
Sick or injured pets will require more veterinary care than healthy pets to make them adoptable. If you have veterinary skills, your help is needed.
Caring for pets costs money and shelters want to keep adoption fees as low as possible in order to encourage adoptions. If you can donate money to your local shelter, your help is needed.
Educating the public about the availability of shelter pets and how to responsibly care for pets over their lifetimes is essential. If you have a digital camera and know how to create a website to advertise shelter pets, your help is needed. And if you have good written and/or verbal communication skills and know how to make people feel good about themselves while learning something, your help is needed. (Lecturing finger-waggers need not apply.)
You get the idea: Your help is needed. If we all pitch in and work to bridge the gap between adopters and shelter pets, we could bump up shelter adoptions enough to make enormous strides toward becoming a no kill nation. It could happen today.