No Kill - A Path to Walk and a Destination to Reach
The coming of the new year has left me reflective of the decades of work that have passed since since my family first became involved in No Kill advocacy and shelter operations. Those years have been a journey that began in 1977 when my mother helped found what became Minnesota's first No Kill animal shelter, and that is still unfolding today. Looking back at all of those years I am struck both by how long it has taken to get to where we are now and, ironically, how fast it has come.
That is because in my early days of activism I was naive. I innocently believed that getting my state to No Kill status was a realistic five year goal. Logistically, I was right. Politically, I was way off the mark, because I underestimated the weight of the stagnation created by the group think in animal shelters of the times. The group think was that shelter killing was a necessary evil and there was massive resistance by animal shelters, therefore, to do anything about it. Another thing I underestimated was the amount of public education that was needed on the topic.
In the late 1990's I was shocked to discover, for example, that the majority of people in my own community had no idea that most of the shelters were killing the majority of animals they took in. In those days starting a No Kill movement was like trying to form a snow man with powdery snow that wouldn't stick together. The shelters believed killing was necessary, and few people knew what was going on behind the scenes at their local shelters. But, some bits did stick and over the years the snowball that is the No Kill movement has grown larger and stickier and it is getting a lot bigger a lot faster these days.
Once considered a fringe movement, No Kill is now on the radar screen of nearly every shelter in the USA and beyond, with hundreds of No Kill communities on the No Kill Map, and more government officials openly talking about making the leap to No Kill. The growth in the No Kill movement in general has also been reflected in smaller aspects of the movement as well.
Several years ago, for example, I was honored to have conceived of, and hosted, Just One Day, the first national day of No Kill in the United States. It was a great success, with waiting lines for adoptions, shelters ending the day empty and about 10,000 lives saved. Each year since that event has grown. But, more importantly, there are now multiple national days of No Kill hosted by others at other times of the year. At the same time, growing numbers of animal shelters are hosting their own mass adoption events throughout the year, because they have come to realize that every day is Just One Day and every day they can commit to saving every savable pet in their care. (Like this and this.)
In all of that, one of the things that I have learned is that No Kill is, in one way, a destination. A shelter or community arrives there once they commit to saving all healthy or treatable pets. Getting to that place often requires No Kill advocates to walk a sometimes bumpy and lonely road. Furthermore, once No Kill is achieved, that work never stops, because No Kill is a daily commitment to live by certain guiding ideas that need to be lived through countless daily decisions and actions on the part of shelter leadership. It is a complex set of policies and practices that need to be implemented and staff managed to ensure they are following. In that way, it is path that must be walked every day, one day at a time.
Furthermore, what No Kill looks like the first day it is achieved might be very different than what it is in the fourth or fifth year. That is because, with practice, shelters can learn to save some animals that were previously not savable for them. As a result, shelters that initially achieve No Kill status with save rates of 91% or 92% can begin reaching 95% and higher in following years. The path of No Kill is one of continuous attention to individual lives and ongoing improvement of shelter practices.
For all of those reasons, in 2017 I am expanding my service offerings to help more people in more communities get on the path to No Kill, and to sustain it once they have reached it. These include, but are not limited to:
A dramatically expanded list of consulting services available to shelters, rescues and advocates to help them achieve or sustain No Kill in their own communities.
A new Growing Leadership Online course to help individuals or organizations assess and develop critical leadership skills.
New technology solutions via RescueSuite Software to help shelters and rescues manage animal records, do fundraising and market adoptable pets.
An even bigger and better Just One Day event on June 11. Stay tuned for details.
Shelter design recommendations for new construction or renovation.
Together we can all work to make 2017 the best year ever on the path to a No Kill Nation.