28 November 2011

Florida fights to make animal shelters a 'no-kill' refuge

Animal shelters play a crucial role in saving the lives of animals that are abandoned, homeless or recovered from any number of horrific lives. Many of you have a four-legged (or possibly three-legged) family member you rescued from a shelter; adopting such an animal in need can change your life for the better. Most rescued animals are first kept in a municipally run shelter, whether surrendered by a community member, or brought in by Animal Control. Ideally, such municipal shelters work collaboratively with non-profits of which maintain no-kill operations. By working diligently with the community, sponsoring adoption drives and campaigning to eliminate the need for population control killing, these non-profit shelters help reduce the number of animals put to death. Ideally is the key word, as there is a surprising, and disturbing, lack of willingness on the part of state shelters to work with no-kill organizations. Without legislative recourse, these rescue organizations are powerless to give these animals a second chance.

In the state of Florida, SB 818/HB 597, the "Florida Animal Rescue Act," will give strength to the no-kill movement, making it illegal for municipal shelters to refuse to collaborate with these rescue groups. This clears the way for such rescue organizations to save, and adopt out, many animals that would otherwise be put to death. Bill sponsor, FL State Senator Mike Bennett filed the legislation earlier in November, "aimed at saving taxpayer dollars along with the lives of Florida's four-legged friends…combing compassion and business sense." No-kill groups alleviate much of the financial burden that municipal shelters experience, and have a wider reach within local communities to adopt out animals in need.

According to a statewide survey of non-profit animal rescue organizations, sixty-three percent were unable to save animals from a municipally run shelter simply because they had a policy of "not working with rescue groups or being openly hostile to doing so." The Florida Animal Rescue Act will eliminate such scenarios, and prevent retaliation from state-run shelters towards no-kill groups for reporting "inhumane conditions." SB 818 is based upon a widely supported, bi-partisan legislation passed into law in California in 1998 (which saved taxpayers nearly $500,000 in single year) and a similar law enacted by Delaware in 2010.

If passed, the Florida Animal Rescue Act would take effect July 1, 2012. For more information, visit the Florida Animal Rescue Act, Rescue Five-O (a national animal rescue campaign) or the No Kill Advocacy Center.

Nathan Rivas
Nathan is a passionate animal advocate and vegan in the Seattle-area, who lives with a crazed dachshund, an enormous Maine coon and a judgemental short haired black cat. Nathan graduated with a Bachelors of Science (summa cum laude) from Northeastern University. He is preparing for his Masters of Science program in the fall and likes to make jokes that involve the chemical compound arsole (and is totally addicted to gardein).

Photo credit: SXC acadmeic