Widely celebrated as Australia’s answer to the No Kill movement of the US, the ‘Getting to Zero’ (G2Z) program has been, being developed by the Animal Welfare League of Queensland and claims to “detail the principles, structures and strategies for achieving zero killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs”.
The AWLQ seems like an excellent strategic driver for the program, having achieved a 91% save rate for dogs and a 76% save rate for cats in 2009/10 in Gold Coast City. And G2Z purports to be both similar and superior to the No Kill movement:
Simultaneously, in the United States of America, the No Kill Movement has been developing. It identifies similar strategies, providing evidence of the effectiveness of these strategies in a range of communities. However, the G2Z Model also provides the structures needed so that strategies can be applied effectively.
With G2Z being…
…a more comprehensive term than No Kill
… providing for a more comprehensive and sustained ongoing cooperative improvement community wide.
Both the G2Z Model and No Kill Equation claim to be working to zero out the killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs in whole communities. Both programs are based on the belief that 90% of stray and surrendered dogs and cats are either healthy or treatable. And both programs allow for ‘euthanasia’ in the true sense of the word; to relieve irremediable suffering from illness or injury; or because an animal is irremediably vicious. But from there, the G2Z Model and the No Kill Equation deviate significantly.
The No Kill equation calls for the comprehensive implementation of 11 mandatory programs;
1. A feral cat TNR program
2. High-volume, low-cost desexing programs
3. Working relationships with community rescue groups
4. An internal foster care program
5. Comprehensive adoption programs
6. Pet Retention strategies
7. Medical and behavioral rehabilitation programs
8. Public relations strategies and community involvement
9. A comprehensive volunteer program
10. Proactive redemptions for lost pets
And finally, 11. A hard working, compassionate shelter Director
“To succeed fully, however, shelters should not implement the programs piecemeal or in a limited manner. If they are sincere in their desire to stop the killing, animal shelters will implement and expand programs to the point that they replace killing entirely. Combining rigorous, comprehensive implementation of the No Kill Equation with best practices and accountability of staff in cleaning, handling, and care of animals, must be the standard.”
The No Kill Equation works. No Kill communities have been created in;
- Tompkins County, NY
- Austin, TX
- Benzie County, MI
- Berkeley, CA
- Charlottesville, VA
- Chippewa County, MI
- Copper Country, MI
- Duluth, MN
- Fluvanna County, VA
- Grosse Ile, MI
- Hastings, MN
- Kansas City, KS
- King George County, VA
- Lynchburg, VA
- Marquette, MI
- Otsego County, MI
- Porter County, IN
- Reno, NV
- Seagoville, TX
- Shelby County, KY
- Terre Haute, IN
- Williamsburg, VA
- Williamson County, TX
- Allegany County, MD
- Arlington, VA
- Georgetown, DE
- Longmont, CO (dogs only)
- Prescott, WI
- Emeryville, CA
- Piedmont, CA
- Wilmington, DE
Last month the City Council in Rockwall, Texas voted unanimously to become a No Kill community and achieved a 97% save rate. And according to the No Kill Advocacy Center more than 30,000 shelters, rescue groups and animal lovers have signed the No Kill declaration.
The No Kill equation has become the backbone of the ‘Saving Lives’ program of New Zealand; with a near identical set of 10 steps making up the program. When Saving Lives was launched in 2010, some of the organisations 48 centres were killing as many as 87 out of 100 of animals they were taking in.
Royal New Zealand SPCA national chief executive Robyn Kippenberger says SPCAs must save lives, that they can save lives, and that they should adopt their way out of killing. She says there are many humane alternatives to putting down animals.
“We are now in the “business of saving lives”. We are working to make New Zealand the world’s first ‘no kill’ nation.”
The immediate goal of the program was to achieve a situation where no animal coming in to an SPCA was killed because of a lack of space. In less than a year at least two SPCAs reported zero euthanasia rates, with more in single figures and some in the 20-30% range.
It must be noted, none of these cities enacted mandatory desexing laws to achieve these goals. These communities have seen that these laws have never worked in any community to either increase desexing rates or to decrease shelter intake. Not only that, but such laws have actually increased shelter intake and killing as pets are either surrendered or seized for failure to pay regressive fees. It is also believed that such laws may reduce veterinary care and vaccination rates. In fact, nearly every single national animal welfare organisation in the US is against mandatory desexing laws, including Alley Cat Allies, Best Friends Animal Society, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the No Kill Advocacy Center among many others.
Instead of passing regressive laws that criminalise pet ownership, the No Kill movement recognises the true cause of pound killing is the refusal of pounds and shelters to implement the programs that would stop it. We know that if No Kill is going to be achieved, shelters must put in place key programs, such as a commitment to Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) for feral cats, a foster care program, a comprehensive adoption strategy and working with community rescue groups.
The proof we see in city after city, is that these programs can eliminate shelter killing overnight. With the general public’s support, the No Kill movement has managed to reshape the thinking of many larger organisations and change community expectations of animal shelters and pounds. No Kill has brought about a new hope for companion animals worldwide. Given the overwhelming success of communities who have implemented the No Kill Equation, it would make sense that those driving for change here in Australia would want to follow in their footsteps.
While the blueprint for No Kill success is written in history, the G2Z program has deviated and its aim is based on an entirely different premise:
Getting to Zero (G2Z) aims to increase responsibility for companion animals so that every city and shire can achieve zero euthanasia of all healthy and treatable cats and dogs.
In short, the G2Z major driver is to get pet owners to be more responsible, moving away from the key programs proven to eliminate shelter killing, back to ideals that have failed us for decades; the belief that ‘irresponsible owners’ and ‘pet overpopulation’ need to be eradicated before the killing can end.
The four programs of G2Z are:
1. Community vet clinic
2. Shelter vet clinic
3. Community education, legislation and support
So, desexing, desexing, berating an irresponsible public, new laws… and finally, adoptions.
Which is exactly the strategy of the traditional high kill model; Legislation, Education & Desexing (LES). We can’t save all the pets until all the pets are desexed, we have the right laws and people are responsible. However LES has proven to be a failure, and is debunked in Redemption as never having achieved a No Kill goal being met.
… familiarize yourself with the opposition’s purported alternative strategy: Legislation, Education, and Sterilization (LES).
The opposition will say that the real keys to saving lives are tough mandatory laws (like pet-limit laws, licensing, bans on feeding outdoor cats, and mandatory spay/neuter laws), humane education, and sterilization. It’s a strategy they’ve been pushing for over 30 years, but that has never created a single No Kill community.
Remember, while increasing spay and neuter rates is an important part of saving lives, and community outreach is a fine goal in theory, ‘LES’ has never achieved No Kill success anywhere in the country. In fact, most communities that have achieved No Kill success did so even before a comprehensive, high-volume spay/neuter program was in place. Moreover, some programs of this strategy – like mandatory pet-limit laws or mandatory spay/neuter requirements – have actually increased shelter killing by increasing the number of animals surrendered to or seized by animal-control authorities. What works is the proven, cost-effective programs and policies of the No Kill Equation. It represents the future of lifesaving success, not the history of failure resulting from ‘LES’.
To be fair, a lot of the programs of the No Kill equation are outlined under G2Z; but they’re presented as suggestions, not requirements. There is no mandate for pounds to offer TNR to untame cats. There is no mandate for pounds to work with rescue groups. There is no mandate to expand adoptions to include all healthy, sociable dogs including pit bulls. There is no mandate for pounds to work collaboratively and transparently with their public. In fact there is no less than 55 optional programs and services for pounds to pick and choose from, under the banner of “getting” somewhere. . not actually achieving, but simply “commiting to achieving”, “focussing on” improvements and “progressing toward zero”.
While squandering the opportunity to drive for proven and effective internal shelter improvements, the G2Z program simultaneously emphasizes the very same laws that have been shown to drive up impounds: mandatory desexing and expanded licencing.
AWLQ has been working intensively on two key goals over the last 8 years:
- To achieve zero killing of healthy and treatable cats and dogs in one large Australian city, and
- To develop a strategic model that can be applied in other cities and shires around Australia to Get to Zero nationwide.
And in this 8 years;
Zero euthanasia of all healthy sociable dogs and cats in a whole city has been achieved.
Saving every treatable cat and dog in a whole city is the next goal, which is getting closer.
So while they’ve made an enviable improvement using the program, they’re yet to actually achieve No Kill.
The organisation is currently processing 7,000 stray and surrendered cats and dogs in Gold Coast City. Washoe County, NV, takes in 15,000 with a save rate of 91%.. Austin, TX is saving 93% despite 25,000 intakes a year. The Gold Coast is at most a medium sized city.
The G2Z program is about building alliances and relationships. They boast that their program; “is relevant to state governments, local government animal management departments, pounds, shelters, rescue groups, breed organisations, breeders, pet shops, animal trainers, groomers, wildlife organisations, veterinarians, and all community members who are concerned about better management and welfare of cats and dogs.” This broad desire to include ‘everybody’ in incremental improvements has evaporated the G2Z program’s ability to bring about a true revolution in sheltering practices.
Everyone in the industry having nice comfortable relationships with each other, has never stopped the killing. Animal advocates ‘getting along’ has never stopped the killing. Conferences where everyone networks and designs new ways to target pet owners has never stopped the killing. Groups putting up a nice front and agreeing not to speak of the unspeakable or challenge each other, has never stopped the killing. Communities supporting animal welfare groups with multi-million dollar fundraising budgets has never stopped the killing. Allowing groups free reign to lobby politicians directly for more and more draconian legislation around pet ownership has never stopped the killing. Even huge amounts of money spent on ‘public awareness’ has never stopped the killing.
The only thing that has ever stopped the killing is the implementation of the No Kill equation and a community brave enough to speak out and demand the killing stop at their local pounds and shelters.
Certainly, if the pound or shelter is being driven internally by compassionate staff who are willing to step up and make the changes needed to bring about No Kill outcomes in their shelter – such in the case of the Animal Welfare League Queensland – then just about any program can lead to good outcomes for pets. But no amount of ‘collaboration’ will work to change a pound or shelter who believes the killing is not only necessary, but a integral part of their sheltering processes.
There is the chance for Australia to learn from the past and not make the same mistakes that the U.S. collaborate-even-when-they-refuse-to-do-what-it-takes-to-stop-killing school have done.
We are at a crossroads. We can always come back to this crossroad – so it is not a point of no return – but for every unsocial community cat killed because council has followed the LES model, for each dog killed because a pound refuses rescue access and for every other animal killed because the No Kill Equation was a mere suggestion – there is no return. Once dead, they can never be brought back. Each time we choose the wrong road, the body count gets bigger. And given the evidence before us, that is just unforgivable.