I am like a tiny no kill shelter in some ways. And I suspect many of you are too. We don’t call ourselves that because we are not official businesses – we’re just pet lovers doing what we think is right. I don’t take in every homeless pet in my county, enforce animal welfare laws or invite the public to my home for adoption events. There are indeed some differences between our home-operated, tiny no kill shelters, as I’m characterizing them here, and the county run facilities. Municipal shelters are charged with caring for pets on a large scale and accept all comers, regardless of circumstances. For their services, they are paid with taxpayer dollars. You and I are simply doing what we can do within our personal means.
But there are many similarities. Return to owner? Yes, I offer that service and have returned pets to their owners, including driving the pet home if necessary. Owner surrender? Yes, I offer that service and currently have a dog whose owners brought her to us when she was a puppy because they live nearby and saw us with our dogs regularly and figured us for kind-hearted pet lovers. Abandoned mama dog with litter of pups? Yes, I offer that service and when a neighbor moved and left the dog behind to have a litter beneath the empty mobile home, I made friends with mama and got the entire family to safety. Stray? Yes, I offer that service and have fed and housed numerous strays over the years. Isolation for coughing dogs? Yes, I offer that service and have set up pseudo isolation wards in my home to contain the spread of disease. Veterinary care? Yes, I offer that service and have paid for vaccines, neuter surgery, heartworm testing and various other services for the pets in my care.
Killing healthy/treatable pets because there isn’t enough space or because the owner requested it? No, I do not offer that service because I am for no kill. I am willing to do anything within my means to help a pet in need but killing is not an option. Threatening rescuers in my network that if they don’t take some of the pets in my care, I’ll kill them? No, I don’t offer that service because I am for no kill. I appreciate the rescuers in my network and setting aside the violence of the threat itself, I would never want to keep such valuable resources as rescuers in a continual crisis mode which would burn them out.
If so many of us are willing to open up our hearts and homes and wallets to operate as tiny no kill shelters, why can’t the taxpayer funded municipal facilities follow our lead? I would argue that in fact, the taxpayer funded shelters have an obligation to at least partially model themselves after us little guys for several reasons:
- No kill is the only ethical choice.
- It’s our taxes that pay their salaries and fund their shelter operations.
- We are succeeding at saving pets’ lives. They are failing.
- We’re succeeding, in many cases, on money carved out of the grocery budget.
- We’re volunteering our time and effort to save pets. They are paying themselves with our tax money to kill pets.
Tax money is not intended to be used to fund practices that fall outside our societal norms. We are a humane society. We do not want to see pets needlessly killed and we most certainly don’t want to pay for it. The last place within our society where it’s still the norm to kill friendly pets is our broken shelter system. Many of those within that corrupt system are fighting to maintain the status quo. But they are outnumbered and the public is fast becoming aware of no kill and demanding reform.
Naysayers will argue that we don’t understand the difficulties of operating an open admission shelter. They have a point. I just have my home and my small group of pets so I can’t say I face the same exact challenges as an open admission shelter. But I know this: There are many open admission no kill shelters throughout the country so it is indeed possible. Big places like Reno, Austin and Charlottesville are saving pets’ lives. Tiny home operations such as those operated by many of us here are saving pets’ lives. What’s the excuse for the rest of our municipal facilities? They are becoming a niche entity – boutique pet slaughterhouses, if you will. How much longer can they hold out? It’s up to you.