No Kill and Other "New" Technologies and Why Some Have Yet to Adopt Them
Anyone who has followed the constant release of new smart phones from companies like Apple and Samsung knows that different people adopt new technologies at different speeds. There are those who absolutely "must have" the latest and greatest iPhone, while others are still carrying around old flip phones. The field of animal sheltering is no different. There are shelters that represent the early adopters of new technologies, in other words, the pioneering leaders in the industry. And, there are those who lag far behind.
In the 1970's, '80's and '90's, for example, there were those of us creating some of the first No Kill shelters in our states. We were pioneers who were not just adopting new approaches within animal sheltering, we were creating them. In those early days, No Kill was a new technology that was still imperfect. It wasn't until 2001, for example, that the municipal, open-admission animal control made Tompkins, County, New York the first No Kill community in the USA. That led other early adopters of this new "technology" to begin jumping on board, and No Kill communities began popping up all over the USA.
On one hand, it has been inspiring to watch the number of No Kill communities grow over the years. On the other hand, it is surprising to see that so many animal shelters have yet to take a serious look at what can only be described as the best practices in the industry that link operations to organizational mission and public expectations and result in more volunteerism, improved public relations and, most importantly, increased life-saving. It is even more surprising given the changing public expectations for municipal animal shelters, reflected in the changing names of the shelters themselves. Thirty years ago, for example, it was typical for the local animal control building to be commonly referred to as "the dog pound" and animal control officers to be called the "dog catchers." Back then it was generally understood that the role of the "dog catcher" was to round up stray dogs and "dispose of" the ones that were not reclaimed by owners. Today, the function is more often referred to as "animal care" or some other, friendlier name. Unfortunately, often, the practices have not changed all that much. At many animal shelters, the transition from "dog pound" to "animal care" has largely been one of branding and not one of policy.
More animal-friendly branding aside, to this day, a great deal of inertia exists to keep the industry from evolving from "dog pound" to true "animal shelter," and it comes in many forms and from a variety of sources. In nearly every context it is always easier to keep doing what has always been done than it is to try something you have not ever done before. When talking about government agencies, the tendency to keep doing what has always been done is magnified several times over. The natural inertia in government animal shelters can seem heavier than lead and has put animal control on a collision course with rapidly changing public expectations. Collectively, those dynamics have pitted animal advocates against their local shelters and elected officials. It has resulted in shelter staff being reassigned or terminated or in government officials losing their seats on city councils or county boards, even as general progress toward better outcomes has been made.
At issue is the fact that people want their companion animals to be safe if they happen to end up in an animal shelter. They, therefore, want killing of healthy and treatable pets taken off the table. And, they know that it can be. They also know that the transition can happen very quickly. Those animal advocates who follow the goings on at their local shelters meet and know the animals whose lives are lost because of inertia. They feel their houses are on fire and they expect their city, county and shelter leaders to demonstrate leadership by putting the fire out. There is a body count associated with them failing to do so. That is understandably upsetting to animal lovers, who make of the vast majority of Americans.
At my house, we have been looking at transitioning to solar energy. A sales rep for a local installer was recently over preparing an estimate. We were looking at an array of solar panels plus the new Tesla Powerwall for power storage. She was kind and thoughtful and told me something that I think applies directly to the discussion about transitioning to No Kill. She said, "If you install the Powerwall, you will be a very early adopter, with the extra cost and possible headaches that comes with that. The solar array is completely different. We are way past the early adopter phase with solar. The process and technology are very mature and trouble-free." I realized that there was a time when the early adopters of No Kill were still needing to work out the kinks. However after it has been done hundreds of times over and over, that is no longer the case. It can be almost like flipping a switch. Over the 20 years or so that I have been talking to animal shelters, I have never spoken to one that regretted making the change. We have reached a point in the No Kill Movement where the fear of change should be outweighed by the fear of not changing.
If you are one of the people still carrying around a flip phone, I cannot help you transition to one of the new smart phones. However, if you are a government official - staff or elected - who oversees your municipal animal shelter, I can help you get to No Kill. Additionally, I may have sponsorship money available to help you begin that transition. Call today to begin a no-obligation assessment. (877) 799-9951.
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