The Urgency of No Kill
During my decades-long career advocating for No Kill models of animal sheltering it always felt urgent to me, which is probably why I was able to push so long and so hard to achieve it. The thing that kept the mission urgent for me were the people I spoke with regularly who realized what was happening at their animal shelters all too late. Some of them were people who brought their family pet to a shelter, wrongly believed their pet might be better off with another family with more resources to care for them, only to change their minds and return to the shelter only to learn their beloved pets were dead already. Then, there were the people whose pets got lost through no fault of their own and then the pets ended up in a shelter system that made it impossible for their families to find them. These pets all too often ended up dead, sometimes without being held at the shelters for the required amounts of time.
When I began my No Kill journey back in 1999, animal shelters in my community (the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota) needlessly killed people's pets about 20,000 times every year. When I received the emails and phone calls from the families of those pets it was always emotionally devastating. Always. Every time. That created the sense of urgency I carried to make No Kill happen as quickly as possible. For the families and pets lost, it was too late. Yet, my focus was on stopping it from happening again today and tomorrow.
For far too many people involved in animal sheltering, there is little or no urgency to change. Large, national organizations prefer to sit back and point to the progress that has happened overall in animal sheltering. And, while it is true that, in the aggregate, a lot of improvement has been made in animal sheltering overall, the problem with that thinking is that the overwhelming majority of improvement has happened in only some of the shelters. A large number of animal shelters are still killing. The big picture hides that fact. Some shelters (even a LOT of shelters) being safe places for pets does not minimize the urgent need to reform shelters that are still killing.
For those who live in communities where their shelters have yet to embrace No Kill (which is the majority of cities in the USA), there is urgent work that needs to be done, because lives are needlessly being lost daily. If a shelter in your community is still killing then your family is not safe from the gut-wrenching lesson that someone should have done something sooner to change the system.
I produced my film Boots on the Ground: Animal Advocacy Stories to help people understand what is at stake. If you care about your furry family members I encourage you to watch it and then learn what is really happening in your own animal shelters. If they are still killing, and you want to bring about change, I have also set up a Take Action Page you can use to help inform your community about what is happening - and what is possible - in animal shelters.