18 August 2011

Advocate believes the killing of shelter animals will end

Somebody has the right idea when it comes to ending the killing of dogs and cats in animal shelters, and his name is Nathan Winograd, author and executive director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center.

Winograd, former 2001 leader of the Tompkins County SPCA in upstate New York, is confident that we will put an end to the killing of shelter animals, and it's a matter of WHEN and not IF.

Winograd has already had great success in reducing kill rates; he turned a struggling animal shelter into the first "no-kill" shelter in the United States, which reduced kill rates to 7 percent. This is a big change from the majority of shelters, who typically kill at least half of the animals they take in.

However, thanks to Winograd, other shelters in the United States have followed in his footsteps, and are reducing kill rates as well.

Winograd has great ideas about what shelters should do to keep animals alive, such as offering high-volume and low-cost spay and neuter services, moving animals to other shelters when there is more space, allowing shelter volunteers to foster animals, holding well-known adoption programs, working to help animals stay in their forever homes, offering medical and behavioral care, and increasing involvement within the shelter.

With so many ways to keep animals alive and healthy, Winograd isn't buying the killing excuses any longer. "This is a battle that we are winning, and we will win," Winograd said during the third annual No Kill Conference in Washington. "No more excuses, no more compromises, no more killing."

Mike Fry, executive director of the "no kill" shelter Animal Ark in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota, says it's all about the commitment to keep animals alive. "What it looks like after that is hard to predict; but once you've got that, you've got what you need," he said.

The commitment to make a difference certainly requires a desire to do so, and Nevada Humane Society shelter director Bonney Brown has that desire as well. Brown increased the save rate from 65 percent to 94 percent in less than five years. With the desire, it can be done. All it takes are some creative ideas, like Brown's.

Brown put her creative marketing to the test, in ways that would really get people's attention. She began putting together funny online videos, adoption events, pet festivals, setting adoption goals, having volunteers walk dogs wearing vests that read "adopt me," and allowing community members to come in and play with the animals.

The Nevada Humane Society shares a building with Mitch Schneider, Reno's animal-service director. Because of this, he changed how his department deals with stray or lost dogs.

Instead of locking dogs away and waiting for the owners to come looking for them, animal control officers actively look for the owners, and deliver them back to their homes. Owners are not even charged with a fine if it's their first offense. "Our success really boils down to embracing change, embracing technology, and thinking outside the box," Schneider said to the Toledo Blade. "Holding and ransoming [dogs] is not the way to do business."

They've all got the right ideas, and hopefully shelters all around the world will begin to follow in their footsteps. The best thing we can do is spread the word, and educate the people who have a long list of excuses in the "kill" shelters.

Like Winograd said, there can be no more compromises or excuses, and there certainly can't be anymore killing. There are too many ways we can keep animals alive, and to do that, we must spread the word.

Alexandra Beane | Facebook | Twitter
Alexandra is highly passionate about animals and animal rights, and wants to raise awareness of the cruelty that many animals suffer in the best way she knows how, and this is by written word. She is a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, with a degree in Professional Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.

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