Adopting a philosophy of no-kill at a shelter is no simple task. Done wrong, it can lead to institutional hoarding and some might suggest that we have seen an example of that at the Toronto Humane Society. Done right, it can lead to dramatic if not almost miraculous reductions in animal killings by shelters.
The Humane Society of Utah, for example (h/t KC Dog Blog), is the latest shelter in the United States to reach a goal of no-kill for their dogs.
For the first time in the 50 year history of the Humane Society of Utah, the non-profit animal shelter did not have to euthanize a single adoptable dog.
According to HSU Executive Director Gene Baierschmidt, “This is a great achievement, one we’ve been striving for over the past five decades. Ten years ago one of our goals was to end the need to euthanize healthy, adoptable animals. And last year’s record for canine adoptions bring us much closer to reaching that goal.”
In 2009, the Humane Society of Utah was successful in finding homes for 3,917 dogs.
Compared to 3,763 dog adoptions in 2008, the HSU experienced a 4.1% increase despite the economic downturn.
Mr. Baierschmidt credits a proactive approach for the high adoption rate. The HSU’s Outreach (off-site) adoptions, pet foster program and the Transfer Initiative all contributed to a successful year. More than 100 families in our community are fostering animals, taking special-needs or hard-to-place animals into their own homes and working with them until they are ready to go to new families in permanent homes.
The HSU’s transfer program, established in 2008, works with more than 140 shelters and rescue groups (i.e. Katherine Heiglsʼ Hounds of Hope) taking different types of animals to areas where there is greater demand for them. And the Outreach effort expanded in 2009 from 3 adoption sites to 7 different locations, including local Petco and Petsmart stores. 350 volunteers work closely with all three programs, helping socialize and groom animals while assisting the full time staff with various other duties.
In addition to these programs, the Humane Society of Utah Clinic spayed or neutered more than 11,000 cats and dogs during the past calendar year, addressing the root cause of the pet over-population issue and helping the HSU achieve its goal.
I'm thinking that what they've done in Utah, we can do here. Specifically, in reference to the reformation of the THS, here are some points to consider:
No kill does not mean never kill. It refers to the saving of all healthy and behaviourally sound animals. Humane - truly humane - euthanasias are still performed on those animals which suffer and will likely see no end to their suffering. Included in that are those animals which would be forced to live out the rest of their lives in institutional cages because they are too aggressive, with little or no hope of changing that behaviour, to be adopted out.
No kill is a goal. It is not a commandment that is to be thrust upon an organization which is not ready for it. Every aspect of the organization must be committed and ready in order for no-kill to be successful, from intake to adoptions, from every animal care worker to every board member.
No kill is a community goal. It cannot be reached without communal involvement and that includes networking with rescues, foster homes, businesses, vets, government agencies and the public at large.
No kill means having a truly open admissions policy. It's not no-kill if an agency refuses entry to some animals so that others have to deal with them or they end up on the street.
The online, no-kill website is here - as if you didn't know already - but first check out these excellent videos recorded in Australia at the 2009 National Summit to End Companion Animal Overpopulation.
NOTE: Oops, the following videos have been taken offline until permission to post is given by the presenters. Hopefully, they'll be okay with them.
The first is Mike Arms who is the president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center. He gives a spellbinding talk and you might want to keep some hankies close at hand, just in case:
I wonder if either of these two guys would consider a relocation to Toronto.
And here are two more from the conference, first with Joy Verrinder who talks about her shelter's experience with moving towards no-kill.
This last one is of Michelle Williamson, who is the chief of PetRescue, Austalia's equivalent (or arguably better) to Petfinder, an online search engine for finding shelter dogs.