No Kill Movement - One Part Revolution, One Part Renaissance
The no kill movement in the Unites States has frequently been described as a revolution. However, recently, as I was walking through the Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery) in Florence, Italy, it occurred to me it is as much a Renaissance as it is a revolution. If you have not been to the Uffizi, it is hard to describe the place. It is among Europe's oldest and most famous art galleries. To get there, you must usually walk through some of the oldest and most historic sites in Florence. The nation's official replica of Michelangelo's David, along with many other breath-taking Renaissance period sculptures, is just outside. It is a stone's throw from the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo. Simply getting to the Uffizi requires you to submerge yourself in a history that is important to all of human kind. Florence is recognized as the epicenter of the Renaissance in art and culture that took place between (roughly) the 14th and 17th centuries. The exhibits at the Uffizi document the explosion in creativity that occurred. It is, in many ways, a collection of new artistic techniques that collectively transformed the way humans express the world we see. New methods for depicting shadows, texture, shading and lighting... Each may seem simple. Collectively, they moved art from the world of the flat and bland into a realistic realm filled with color, light and life, and from a core belief that the human body was unholy to one where they body was an expression of life itself. Italian art from the 14th Century was flat and lifeless compared to that of the 17th Century, when it had depth, shading and a life-like realism never before seen. That transformation - the Renaissance in art - is on full display at the Uffizi, where you can walk the galleries and see the advancements as if traveling through time. (i.e. this new artist or group of artists brought about his new technique of shadowing, or lighting, and these paintings right in front of you are the result.) As I toured the Uffizi, I could not help but reflect on the Renaissance that is taking place in animal sheltering in America - which is largely driven by the inspired creativity of a diverse group or people, each with their own unique focus and perspective; each taking a different portion of the perspective and creating their own solution. Mitch Schneider of Washoe County (Reno, NV) Regional Animal Services, for example, fully transformed the "return to owner" aspect of animal control. At the same time, others have changed the way shelters think about adoptions, and marketing. Still others, focused their efforts in their own areas. In St. Paul, Molly Lunaris of St. Paul Animal Control is transforming the way animal control coordinates with the local rescue community. As I toured the Uffizi, watching the Renaissance in art unfold before my eyes, I could not help but map it to the world of animal sheltering. Occasionally, you would see a minor change in one thing, like lighting or perspective, that would affect all of the other areas. In the world of animal sheltering, that would be like Aimee Sadler's doggie play groups idea, which are really quite simple and yet require shelters to rethink just about everything they think about dogs. In other words, they are very simple, yet very profound, resulting in a whole new wave of innovation in other areas. (i.e. if dogs we previously thought were "dog aggressive" are now running around and playing socially with other dogs, maybe we need to rethink our evaluation criteria. Or, if play groups provide an important therapeutic activity for shelter dogs, maybe we need to rethink our isolation and quarantine protocols.) Collectively, all of these new ideas are ushering in a new era in animal sheltering, one in which the saving of animals' lives is the prime directive, and where old excuses for killing are falling away. It really is a Renaissance in animal sheltering. But, don't get me wrong: the revolution is still going on and necessary. When the volunteers at the Tompkins County SPCA stood their ground and demanded reforms at the shelter, they were revolutionaries. They wielded pen and paper. They wrote letters to the editor. They complained to the board of directors. Ultimately, the former director was replaced. The result was a surge in creative inspiration. Life-saving has been the rule in Tompkins County since June 11, 2001 because of them. Similarly, in Austin, Texas - the revolutionaries got the establishment out, and a Renaissance followed. The no kill movement is equal parts revolution and renaissance. However the revolution would be unnecessary if those who resisted the renaissance would simply join in the exciting and beautiful explosion of creativity that is all around them, and that is saving the lives of millions of animals each year. To those who continue to resist: The renaissance is far more fun than the revolution, and saves more lives. I urge you to join us! For information about how to bring the renaissance to your shelter, visit No Kill Learning's web site or call (877) 799-9951.