Advocacy at Home: Remarks to County Council – 2

For the second time this month, I addressed the Kershaw Co council during the public comments portion of its meeting.  I was limited to 5 minutes so I had to keep my remarks brief.  I share them here in hopes that someone else may find them useful in developing a plan to address his/her own county (or city) council regarding the local shelter.  Anyone is free to copy and modify these remarks.

My name is Shirley Thistlethwaite and I have lived in Kershaw Co for 11 years.  At the last council meeting, I spoke about no kill animal sheltering.  Tonight I’d like to specifically focus on the economic benefits of no kill.  I know the budget is a serious concern for everyone here.

Publicly funded no kill open admission shelters are succeeding in more than 50 communities in the U.S. When they stopped killing healthy/treatable pets, they started saving more than lives – they saved money. I’d like to see Kershaw Co move in this ethically and fiscally responsible direction too.

The estimated cost to impound and kill a pet is $106. This includes labor, feeding, housing, controlled substances and associated killing supplies as well as disposal. This is entirely budget negative. In 2011, Kershaw Co killed 3147 pets. We can do better.

In contrast, open admission no kill shelters save municipalities the costs associated with large scale pet killing and transfer some of the costs associated with lifesaving to private charitable groups willing to partner with a shelter that does not kill pets. Open admission no kill shelters also bring in adoption fees. Imagine if Kershaw Co had collected adoption fees on most of those 3147 pets last year instead of spending taxpayer money to put them into the dumpster. And perhaps most importantly, open admission no kill shelters put neutered pets into the community, resulting in lower pet birth rates which ultimately reduces municipal animal control costs. We know people here in Kershaw Co love pets and are going to get them. But many won’t consider going to a pet killing facility to adopt and seek alternative sources for their animals. Why not transform the shelter into a pet saving facility, encouraging people to visit and adopt so we can get neutered pets into homes? It only makes sense.

Local businesses too are more likely to partner with a shelter that saves pets. They not only see it as positive community involvement, it’s good business. The open admission no kill shelter is putting new pets into local homes where owners are likely to spend their money purchasing food, supplies and services for those animals. Businesses who profit through such ventures are eager to promote the lifesaving efforts of the shelter and increase their own visibility in the community. And of course all the food and supplies purchased by pet owners generate revenue via sales tax. As the booklet from the No Kill Advocacy Center that I am leaving for council members tonight puts it: “No Kill animal control not only makes good sense. It makes dollars and cents.”

In 2011, the shelter took in 70 pets per 1000 county residents. This is 5 times the national average. We are taking in too many pets and killing 73% of them. We can do better.

By investing in programs aimed at reducing the number of pets coming into the shelter, we can expect economic benefits. These programs include assistance for owners who are facing challenges they do not know how to meet with their pets before they surrender them to the shelter. Examples of these would be pet food banks, behavior counseling, and self-rehoming assistance. Proactive redemptions – returning pets to their homes before taking them to the shelter – has proven key in many communities to reducing intake. Low and no cost spay-neuter programs and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) provide numerous benefits, one of which is reducing intake in both the short and long term.

As long as the shelter currently has sufficient staff, it is unlikely that an increase in staff would be needed in order to stop killing pets. And it’s likely that more volunteers would be willing to help at the shelter if it stopped the killing. I would be one of them. Former donors who currently send their contributions elsewhere because of the fact that Kershaw Co kills roughly 3 out of 4 of its pets would be welcomed back. Likewise, there are numerous private rescue groups willing to partner with no kill shelters and to take on the costs of care by pulling pets out of the shelter.

By partnering with the community, redirecting the efforts of the staff toward lifesaving, utilizing free labor in the form of volunteers, and opening the door to private donors and rescuers who want to support true sheltering of Kershaw Co’s community pets, the county need not worry that no kill would require an outlandish level of funding. We can do better with our taxpayer dollars and we can do it today. How much longer can we afford to wait?

Thank you for the opportunity to address the council and please let me know if I can provide any additional information about no kill sheltering.

***

I left copies of Dollars and Sense from the No Kill Advocacy Center for the council members after I finished speaking.

Leave a comment

18 Comments

  1. mikken

     /  September 25, 2012

    Excellent. I do hope someone there sees the sense in the money side of things, at least.

    Reply
  2. Well done, again! Have you had any feedback from your first visit? Any sense about who/how many are receptive to what you are saying?

    Oh, and by the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (Saw your virtual birthday card on FB) AND MANY, MANY MORE!

    Reply
  3. I too am interested in knowing what if any response they gave you? What about the citizens in your community? Are many of them showing up? Does anyone seem supportive?

    Reply
    • I’m also interested in knowing of any response from the first meeting.
      Sorry I missed your Birthday Shirley. What day was it? Happy Belated Birthday.. My birthday was Monday.

      Reply
      • ezbuddy

         /  September 27, 2012

        I’m interested in their respomse too. How could they not show interest in such a good presentation of the facts from someone more knowledgeable than most on the subjects.

        I personally thank you, Shirley, for speaking up and all your efforts to save lives. You’re doing such a good job & helping us all learn how to do it.

        I didn’t know, but Happy Birthday Shirley & Dot !

      • Thanks EZ…

  4. I second Lori’s questions…I am inspired to start addressing the Council myself since they have all taken a big gulp of the look-aid served up by our local kill shelter.

    Reply
  5. Jessica C

     /  September 25, 2012

    Very awesome, and inspiring. I may have to do the same with my city council members. I suggest others do likewise. We can make this a no kill nation, if we try hard enough. Please keep us updated, Shirley, on anything new happening in these areas. Though Im sure you will. And Happy Birthday! :) Hope you have a wonderful day with your loved ones, human and animal-alike!

    Reply
  6. Barbara

     /  September 25, 2012

    you are awesome and inspiring and have led me to take the first steps into rescue and spreading the no kill message. happy birthday and thank you.

    Reply
  7. Lisa B

     /  September 25, 2012

    Brilliant! As soon as my schedule permits me to attend one of my county commission meetings, I’m going to copy you!

    Reply
  8. Nice job shirley.

    Reply
  9. There was no interest expressed from anyone on the council after the last meeting. I did a follow up e-mail and included a link to the booklet I’d left at the first meeting. I will do the same with this one. AFAIK, all the council members are satisfied with the status quo. There has been some support from members of the community but for the most part, no one is willing to rock the boat. I don’t want to be the only public boat rocker since that will undermine reform efforts and make me little more than a target and a scapegoat. I’m hoping some of those who have expressed a desire to see the killing ended will change their minds and decide to take a stand publicly. Or perhaps some people I haven’t met yet will come forward.

    Reply
    • Thank you for trying again and I hope your able to address them again over and over. This is teaching me a lot.

      Reply
    • ezbuddy

       /  September 27, 2012

      Good thinking on becoming their target & scapegoat. That’s what happens to others here like Jodi at MAS when they are really the best thing that the shelter needs. Shelter administrators want to feel like they alone run the show & boat-rockers are a threat, somehow.

      Reply
  10. mary francis

     /  September 26, 2012

    Happy Birthday Shirley – I’ve written down some of what you wrote and will be using your ideas in a closing argument (if the case is not dismissed) Between you and Nathan (and unforeseen circumstances) – I’m getting my courage up to speak publicly about No Kill (again) – thank you.

    Reply
  11. mary francis

     /  September 27, 2012

    I will keep you posted.

    Reply

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