Nearly every open admission Southern California municipal shelter is overcrowded and looking for help in placing their pets. Supply considerably outstrips demand – and the public does not adopt as many pets as they dump at the shelters. The 501(c)3 rescues have to step in and try and help where they can, but most of these well intentioned rescues are underfunded and beyond full. When everyone is full the only way the shelters know how to solve the problem is to kill their excess inventory.
No one likes people who kill cute pets. Killing pets is abhorrent and those who kill are vilified. Some shelters react to this by saying they are trying to evolve to a no kill policy, but disingenuously obfuscating the English language and claiming that “No Kill” means you are adopting ninety percent of your animals. Some SPCA’s drive their “unadoptable” animals to municipal shelters or private vets to kill them off premises so they can cling to the myth they are no kill. I may not be an expert on the English language but from my layman’s perspective “No Kill” means you aren’t killing anyone, anywhere, ever. Anything less than that is a fraud and an outright lie, akin to George Bush claiming Mission Accomplished in Iraq.
Adherents of the No Kill movement are, like me, very vocal in their criticism of municipal shelters. However as much as I believe in the Utopian goal of no kill, I realize it is an elusive myth and not about to happen in present day Southern California except in small, extremely well run shelters like the SPARC shelter in Santa Paula, no matter how many billboards are erected, how many Nathan Winograd books are sold, and how many t-shirts are sold. Until adoptions can catch up to impounds it just isn’t happening. I hate that shelter management orders their workers to kill, but I battle the demon of understanding their rationale while still not quite being honest enough with myself to admit that I condone it.
So rather than debate how close we are to getting to fake no kill standards I would rather focus on how we can save as many pets as possible who are in the shelters. To maximize rescue efforts we as the general public need to perform due diligence and ask where our donations are going. You have the right if not the duty to ask what percentage of your donations is actually going to saving pets and how much money is going into salaries and fundraising. Is the animal welfare group that sends out brochures and maybe runs a few late night advertisements showing sad shelter animals using all their donations to save shelter animals?
I’m proud that every dollar donated to Wings of Rescue/Shelter Me/Bark Avenue Foundation rescue flights has been used to save pets. Not one cent in donations has been spent on salaries, t-shirts, billboards or advertisements. I’m equally proud of all the small rescues who are teetering on the edge of financial ruin as they try to save every pet they can, without taking a penny for themselves. These rescuers who are toiling in obscurity working one miracle at a time are the real heroes in this never ending struggle and the animals they save day in and day out are the proof in the pudding.
We need to work together to help municipal shelters do better, think better and work more innovatively to increase adoptions and rescues. We do not need to be spending our time and money making “No Kill” into some perverse form of an oxymoron.