Australia and the United States are same-same, but different. And a challenge we face in bringing No Kill programs to Australia is a pretty significant language difference between the two countries.
Much of the US documentation refers to ‘shelters’ reclaiming their lifesaving role in the community. To us ‘shelter’ generally means a local, privately managed rescue. These can be large, open admission and have pound contracts, or small and selective… or anything in between. They can be No Kill, low kill or high kill, depending on who’s in charge. And they nearly always run primarily on the donations of the public, meaning donors (the local community) can dictate the organisation be both transparent and run those programs which save lives. Shelters, by large are the focus of Australia efforts towards No Kill.
However, in the US shelter means all of these things, but is also the generic term for ‘pound’. ‘Municipal shelter’ or ‘animal control shelter’ is the equivalent to our council pound. This oh-so-subtle language difference between America and Australia, lets the largest killer of our companion animals off the hook when it comes to No Kill initiatives.
While there are few that would argue that shelters are obligated to be running programs which save the lives of pets; council pounds continue to neglect and kill companion animals and work to block relationships with the community rescue groups that could save them. What’s more, animal welfare advocates often make excuses for pounds; “it’s unrealistic to expect them to change”, even though overcoming the often regressive behaviour of pound management is undeniably the biggest hurdle to any No Kill initiative.
I urge you to pick up your copy of Redemption or Irreconcilable Differences, and read each reference to ‘shelter’ as ‘pound or shelter’, as it was intended. It puts an entirely different spin on where we as No Kill advocates are headed and the future we need to create for pets.
It is not pet overpopulation that is killing animals when shelter pound or shelter directors wilfully refuse to implement lifesaving alternatives to killing; such as a comprehensive foster care program, as is too often true in pounds and shelters across the country.
Similarily, it is not pet overpopulation to blame when adoptions are low because the pound or shelter is not doing off-site adoptions.
It is not pet overpopulation when animals are killed because working with rescue groups is downplayed, discouraged, or these groups aren’t given access to animals facing death.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when feral cats are killed because a TNR program is not in place.
It is not pet overpopulation when people aren’t helped to overcome behaviour, medical or environmental conditions that cause them to relinquish animals because effective pet retention programs aren’t implemented.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when animals are killed because of ineffective and passive efforts to help reunite lost pets with their families.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when shy or scared dogs are killed because a rehabilitation program has not been integrated into the behaviour assessment process.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when adoptions aren’t steadily increasing because an effective public relations strategy and adoption campaign isn’t being coordinated, or the pound or shelter is not effectively competing with commercial sources of animals.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when dogs go ‘cage crazy’ because volunteers aren’t welcome or allowed to socialise them, and then ‘cage crazy’ dogs are killed because behaviour rehabilitation efforts are not in place.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when cats get sick because pound or shelter staff are not thorough in their cleaning and thoroughly reprimanded for failure to do so.
It is not pet overpopulation to blame when these sick cats are killed because the pound or shelter does not provide medical care or treatment.
And it is especially not pet overpopulation to blame when pets are killed despite empty cages, an all too common occurrence in pounds and shelters across the country that are killing and claiming to do so because of ‘lack of space’.
In fact, we could be a No Kill nation today. But we aren’t. And we aren’t for one reason and one reason only – pound and shelter managers find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it. Accordingly, we must reject the term ‘euthanasia’ to describe unnecessary pound or shelter killing. We must stop using the term ‘pet overpopulation’ when it does not exist. We must stop portraying the problem as the fault of the public when pound and shelter managers fail to implement the necessary programs. And we need to stop seeking laws that empower animal control to impound and kill more animals.
Irreconcilable Differences – Nathan Winograd
So what policies would a pound or shelter director need to implement to put their organisation on a No Kill path?
When the alternative is killing healthy, adoptable pets by the thousands, we should accept nothing less than the comprehensive implementation of these minimum basic programs by every single pound and shelter director. In every way, our animal organisations should be working to get the pets in their care out alive and they must deem the death of every healthy, treatable pet to be a profound failure in their management.
A No Kill Australia is within our reach, but this will not happen without the community demanding it. The slogan for the conference was that we need more No Kill leaders – people who are able to drive their own initiatives on behalf of animals.
If you care about pets and want to become more involved, then check out the video ‘Strayed’ for a background on the No Kill movement and start getting involved in your own community. There are also resources from the conference here:
To download the Shelter Track materials, cut and paste the following to your browser:
To download the Legal Track materials, cut and paste the following to your browser:
The only thing standing between us and a future where no homeless pet goes without a home, is our drive to save their lives.