Advocacy at Home

This morning I met with my county administrator regarding the local pound.  The county contracts with a non-profit group to run the pound.  That group is warehousing and killing roughly 3 out of every 4 pets in its care.  I went to advocate for no kill and get a sense of the county administrator’s stance.

Using the No Kill Advocacy Center’s guide for advocates, I put together 3 brief pages for the meeting.  It was hard to leave out the other 877 pages of things I wanted to cover but the guide says not to bombard officials with info so I didn’t.  It was a good call since the administrator said, ‘I’m a bullet point guy” when I handed him the folder.  The three pages included information on the No Kill Equation, questions I’ve been unable to get answered regarding the pound’s annual stats and the following:

Comparison:  Marquette Co, MI/Kershaw Co, SC

Population:  61, 694/61,697

Median income, household:  $35,548/$38,804

Percent of families below poverty line:  6/9.7

In 2011, percent of pets returned to owner:  14/3

In 2011, number of pets adopted/transferred per 1000 people:  22/18

Note:  Marquette Co adopted 1342 animals and transferred 36 to other shelters/rescues.  Kershaw Co adopted 688 and transferred 452 to other shelters/rescues.

In 2011, number of pets adopted (excluding transfers) per 1000 people:  22/11

In 2011, Kershaw Co killed 73% of the dogs and cats that entered the shelter and returned only 3% to their owners.  By comparison, Marquette Co, a rural county in MI with similar demographics to Kershaw Co, has an open admission shelter which euthanized 5% of its pets in 2011 and returned 14% to their owners.  Where Kershaw Co adopted/transferred 26% of it pets, Marquette Co adopted/transferred 74% and it did so at half the cost of what an average shelter spends.  Warehousing and killing pets is unpopular, unethical and expensive.  We can do better.

Thanks to the No Kill Advocacy Center’s guide, I was prepared for the administrator’s likely responses.   And, almost as if he’d read the guide too, he brought them all, including:

  • Kershaw Co isn’t progressive like the other communities you mentioned.  We don’t have MSN laws like they do.  People here drown kittens in the creek.
  • The non-profit group does a good job.  Nobody there wants to kill animals.
  • There are many places in SC doing worse who would love to have Kershaw Co’s kill rate.
  • The county is doing its part – we gave them more money.
  • We have to follow the law.  State law requires us to hold animals for 5 days and that’s what we do.

I explained that the programs of the No Kill Equation operate within existing state laws, that none of the 50 open admission no kill shelters in the U.S. serve communities which have MSN, and that SC law doesn’t require that pets be killed after 5 days, just that they be held for that period so their owners can reclaim them.

I also touched upon increasing community involvement by putting an end to pet killing, opening the shelter when people can get there to adopt (currently it’s only open for 3 hours on the weekend), participating in offsite adoption events, and I stressed the 100% failure rate of MSN everywhere it’s been enacted.

So although there were some negatives, I would call the meeting overall positive.  For one thing, he didn’t throw me out and kindly let me talk for 40 minutes.  For another, while the administrator doesn’t believe no kill is possible here, I didn’t go into the meeting expecting to immediately win hearts and minds and in fact, he did state he was open to saving more animals.  And he recommended a county councilman I should meet with so I’ve got a foot in the door there.

I will be following up with the administrator, sending him a bullet point list of 10 things the pound could implement today to save more pets.  My hope is that if I can start the ball rolling, other local advocates will pick it up and run with it.  Watch this space.



24 thoughts on “Advocacy at Home

  1. This is great and a good model for others to follow in their own communities. I hope it is shared on all the No Kill FB pages.

  2. Bravo! So many shelters just keep doing things the way they’ve always done them, they don’t even know that there are OTHER ways to do it!

    1. My shelter knows there is another way, but they stick their fingers in their ears and start singing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” so they don’t have to hear it.

  3. Thank you! Not just for making the appointment and gong – but for posting the detals for all to read. County Govenrment is hard. It takes a steady drip drip drip of pointed communications (in my experience).

  4. Thank you so much for posting about this experience! This is precisely what I am hoping to be doing here in my town very soon.

    There is a group of us here in the Twin Cities that have just about had it with some of our shelters and impounds. I’m reading “Redemption,” reviewing No Kill Advocacy materials, etc., trying to educate myself. While all that is great, it really helps to open up this blog and read a first-hand experience of what it’s like at that first sit-down.

    You took the words right out of my mouth: we can do better!

  5. Great job! No need to overwhelm the officials as just a few changes can make a big difference.

  6. Shirley.. if only you lived or could come to Caswell County, NC. Two years ago Jim Stay tried to get our shelter to go No-Kill.. he did exactly all the things you did and said. Sadly, not one thing has changed.

  7. Well done! It’s not rocket science, and the truth is that no kill can save money AND lives! (Not to mention the hearts and souls of a caring community.)

  8. Thank you Shirley! I agree that you are an inspiration! You and Nathan have inspired me a lot. Keep up the good fight! :) Keep us updated, please!

  9. Hats off to you for going right to the powers that be.

    My favorite excuse: “We aren’t doing as bad as other shelters.” WTF?

  10. YES!!! This is where to start!!! At home, your local shelters… start posting the animals available (if you are not already) Get rescues interested in getting animals that they can find homes for and get TRANSPORT networks built up in the local area that will tie in with outher transports to build a network that can any animal anywhere in the country for any rescue or adopter ….Also low cost spay/neuter clinics set up in areas to lessen the burden of unwanted babies….the there can be (fair) laws made to license AND regularly inspect REPUTABLE breeders and keep the puppy and kitty mills from springing up….and that is just a few of the things that can be done…If we all work at our community levels we actually have a real shot at becoming a “no kill nation”!!!

  11. Excellent effort, Shirley and I do hope the next step brings an even more positive report. It may go without saying but if there is anything on the no kill site I developed for use here that you can use in any way, by all means, help yourself. I’m having some luck with local advocates as far as describing the equation in terms of “keep them out” and “get them out” elements.

    Same goes for anyone else who posts here and is working toward no kill. Use anything on the site which is of any use to you at all. I don’t know what progress I’ll make in my own backyard and as is often the case for me, my keyboarding tends to be of more use outside of my own backyard. All for the greater good.

  12. thank you for posting about your experience – it is very interesting to hear how others are tackling this problem. here in wicklow,ireland we have been trying to get our local county council and pound to be more open to adoption and rehoming. How sad that they still think killing for convenience is acceptable.I think the poster who said that chipping away at offialdom is the way forward. I wish you all the luck in the world and hope that No Kill will soon be in place. Nathan Winograd has been an inspiration to those of us who believe every animal has a right to life.

  13. Do you have some sources on analyzing animal control budgets? I am in the muddle (oops, middle) of getting comparatives, (Similar intake #) and have come across two bigger city animal controls with relatively high budgets, compared with the others…I am looking for guidelines on what animal control budgets should be… Positions for care vs control, # administrators….

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