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  • Mike Fry

Engaging the Community in No Kill Discussions Can Smash Through Obstacles to Success

Whether it was Austin, Texas; Reno, Nevada; Lake County, Florida or Huntsville, Alabama, one factor contributed to No Kill advocates successfully getting buy-in for the life-saving programs generally known as the No Kill Equation: They actively and effectively engaged their entire community in the No Kill discussion. Doing so, and doing it well, is essential for success, because there are many obstacles to success, many of which No Kill advocates don't understand when they first begin their advocacy. These obstacles can be complex and challenging. They include some of the following:

  • The general public and other key stakeholders have misunderstandings and misconceptions about No Kill specifically and animal sheltering in general.

  • Shelter leaders may be resistant to changing policies and practices, because change can be hard and fraught with political challenges.

  • Many people fear change.

  • Elected officials are often reluctant to take on issues that are controversial, emotional or complicated.

  • There are well-funded entities that oppose No Kill for purely personal or political reasons that will likely use the above items to deliberately raise fear and confusion about No Kill efforts.

The solution to all of these things is engaging the public in an open, informative discussion about the realities of No Kill, how it works, the policies and practices that create it and the pride and accomplishment experienced in the communities that achieve it. A well-informed and engaged public is the number one defense against opponents of No Kill who will use the above-listed factors in what can only be described as self-serving efforts to derail No Kill efforts.

"Who would want to derail No Kill?" a person might reasonably ask. The answers are surprising to many, and can include organizations that profess to speak on behalf of animal rights. A partial list of the kinds of organizations that often oppose No Kill efforts include:

  • Extremist "animal rights" that believe keeping pets at all puts the pets in "servitude" to humans

  • Animal welfare organizations that have taken in large amounts of money running or supporting high-kill shelter operations

  • Large-scale, commercial dog breeders (a.k.a. "puppy mills") and their various business partners

The most notorious and pervasive organization that falls into one of these categories is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the folks known for throwing red paint on people who wear fur coats or who make headlines for complaining when a president swats a fly. Because of their high-profile media stunts, people automatically assume they would be advocating for the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. But, they don't. Instead, in virtually every community where the No Kill discussion comes up, they insert themselves, advocate for killing animals, and justify killing by spreading information proven to be false. Yet, because of their high-profile name, local press will usually give them a lot of ink, in the form of op-eds or letters to the editor that favor killing healthy pets at the local shelters.

To counter the narratives put forward by entities like these, it is essential for No Kill advocates to engage their communities and prepare them with knowledge and information so they can appropriately respond when these kinds of special-interests try to derail their efforts. Now, No Kill Learning has a series of services for how we can help communities do just that. For more information check out our Community Engagement page. If you want to start the No Kill discussion in your community. We are here to help!

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