"Please don't do this! Don't kill them- I will take them into our rescue- we have the donations to treat them for their health issues, to spay/neuter them, to vaccinate them, to heartworm and parvo test them....we have the volunteer power and the volunteer foster homes to give this canine family unlimited love, attention and care....We find the very best homes - forever homes for pets who come to our rescue. Let us help! Please don't kill them!" This was the plea. This is the daily reality of most American animal shelters. Sadly, all too often the 501c3 non-profit, no-kill rescue organizations pleas to help innocent animals on death row fall on the deaf ears of shelter workers. In this particular situation, a young female dog and her puppies were all loaded in an unmarked van to be euthanized- or for a more accurate word- killed- because the shelter said so. The shelter decided to flex their muscles and show the rescue coordinator that they are in charge- and what they say goes. They choose who lives and who dies. They choose not to implement the necessary programs to become no-kill and they choose to use their power for death versus life. They make that clear to the public and to rescue organizations every day- they choose. So why are we, the American public, allowing this practice to continue? If becoming a no-kill shelter is possible for any community- despite funding, environment and other factors- why are more shelters not moving in the right direction? What's the hold up?
Despite the desperate pleas from rescue coordinators willing to help, shelter workers harshly picked up the mama dog and her innocent puppies with catch poles, allowing them to dangle, choking, mid-air and tossing them harshly into the vehicle, separated from each other behind the cold hard bars of the cages- separated from the only ones that had ever shown them love- yelping in fear, and rightly so. The doors were slammed shut and the van drove off- leading the innocent dogs to death – when other viable options were standing right in front of them- killing for no reason other than spite. The family of dogs never knew love from humans, never knew what it felt like to be petted or to snuggle up in a warm bed, they never knew a kind touch….they never knew because death is final- it’s irrevocable, it’s the end of any hope or chance. And why is it that our shelter directors choose not to use their power for the betterment of animals? The term animal shelter implies a safe haven for animals in need, but it turns out they are anything but a safe haven. This is not happening in one rural animal shelter, this is happening everywhere, across the entire United States. To date, there are close to thirty true no-kill shelters who save 90% or more of the pets who enter their doors. What about the rest of the shelters? Why aren’t they moving forward? What’s holding them back?
It all starts with a motivated and educated leader. Killing innocent animals can not be an option. When killing innocent animals is taken off the table- other, creative, compassionate and cost-effective solutions can be and are being found. Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center outlines the steps to achieving a no kill shelter/community and they are as follows: a compassionate director, pro-active redemptions, volunteers, community involvement, behavior programs, pet retention programs, comprehensive, adoption programs, foster homes, willingness to work with rescue groups, high-volume/low cost spay/neuter options and a feral cat TNR (trap/neuter/return) program.
So what’s the difference between no-kill shelter leaders and the overwhelming number of old-school shelter leaders who refuse to do what is right for the animals? It’s plain and simple- the difference is effort and a poor exercise in the use of perceived power by those who are appointed as leaders. The killing of innocent shelter animals must come to an end and we have the plan and the tools to end it- to create a better world for all living beings- but it is up to all of us to make it happen. We cannot sit back and rely on the leadership that currently exists, we have to make a stand together- to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. We have to stand up for what is right and insist on the implementation of the no kill equation in shelters across the country. Each of us makes a choice to speak up or to remain silent. We each make a choice to do what is right or to continue blindly playing follow the leader, being lead down the wrong path. We have a choice to make a change, to save lives and to reform shelters. We have the power to make change happen. We can choose life over death. We can take a stand together. We have a voice. We make the choice.