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.