HOW Bureaucrats obstruct real reform
“We are all animal lovers” say shelter management and staff because “No one wants to kill.” The facts, however, tragically and frequently tell a very different story. Statistics reveal that there are over seven times as many people looking to bring an animal into their home every year as there are animals being killed in shelters because due to lack of homes. We have animal control “professionals” denying reality, shunning accountability, ignoring success, all the while betraying the animals (and the citizens) they are pledged to serve. Shelter staff continues to avoid accountability at all costs, even in the face of rampant neglect and abuse. Horry County is no exception.
It is this very attitude that is at the heart of why our nation’s sheltering system is so tragically broken. Today, No-kill is a humane, sustainable, cost-effective model that works hand in hand with public health and safety, while fulfilling a fiscal responsibility to taxpayers. The success of this approach across the country proves the viability of the No-kill model and the above principles. We have an unprecedented opportunity for a new beginning. The citizens of our community are kind, caring and generous. They deserve an animal shelter that reflects the caring residents of Horry County, rather than have a shelter that undermines their values.
Below are some of their often repeated excuses:
“WE CAN’T AFFORD IT.” To begin with, many of the programs identified as key components of saving lives are more cost-effective than impounding, warehousing, and then killing animals. Volunteers augment paid human resources. Still other programs, such as adoptions, bring in revenue. And, finally, some, such as neutering rather than killing feral cats, are simply less expensive, with exponential savings in terms of reducing births and reducing animal intake to the shelter. This reduces the burden of cost to the taxpayer, as evidenced by a budget that has gone from $700,000 to $1,300,000.
“IT’S PET OVERPOPULATION.” Sometimes the bureaucrats also add that some people are' irresponsible pet owners'. Every year, roughly 23.5 million Americans will bring a new dog or cat into their home, and 17 million of those households have not decided where they will get that animal and can be influenced to adopt from a shelter. Even if the vast majority of those 17 million got a dog or cat from somewhere other than a shelter, U.S. shelters could still zero out the deaths of savable animals. We can save the majority of animals, it just takes leadership that is sorely lacking in Horry County. To accept the “No-Kill is impossible” argument requires pretending that No-Kill communities do not exist.
“WE’RE A MUNICIPAL SHELTER.” It does not matter if the shelter is public or private, municipal or a contract facility, “open-admission” or “limited-admission.” What matters is who is running the facility and how dedicated that person is to implementing the programs and services which make lifesaving possible. What also matters is whether the political establishment is willing to hold that director accountable to results, rather than allowing him or her to hide behind overused clichés about “public irresponsibility” and the “need to kill. “Open-admission” does not have to be an open door to the killing of animals as it is in Horry County. Moreover, the term “open-admission” is itself a misnomer as these facilities are actually closed to compassionate people who do not want to see animals killed.
No Kill needs shelter leadership to get the community excited, to energize people for the task at hand. The community is at the heart of a successful No Kill effort: they volunteer, they foster animals, they rescue, they socialize animals and they assist with adoptions. Where is the leadership in Horry County?
A No-Kill community is one where no healthy savable animals are killed. Unfortunately, there are some animals who are hopelessly ill or injured, irremediably suffering, or in the case of dogs, vicious with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation. These animals are not adoption candidates and they are euthanized. So N0-Kill does not mean the some animals cannot to be euthanized due to injuries, sickness or vicious animals.
Here are some of the ways shelters become successful:
Working with Rescue Groups: An adoption or transfer to a rescue group frees up cage and kennel space, reduces expenses for feeding, cleaning and killing and improves a community’s rate of lifesaving.
Foster Care: Volunteer foster care is a low-cost, and often no-cost, way of increasing a shelter’s capacity and caring for sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, thus saving more lives. Many animals flood the shelters during kitten season. Having a large foster program can keep animals from entering the shelter when the shelter is already overcrowded.
Volunteer Program: Volunteers are a dedicated army of compassion and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort: they walk dogs, socialize cats, assist potential adopters and more. Volunteers make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.
Public Relations/Community Involvement: Increasing a shelter’s public exposure through marketing, public relations and partnering with community groups and businesses increases adoptions, volunteers, donations and other support.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs provide feral cats that enter shelters a vital and more cost-effective alternative to killing. The cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated and then returned to their colony site. They cannot reproduce so the colony shrinks over time due to natural attrition. This is the proven model to reduce feral cat population and resultant cat colonies. Trap and Kill does not work.
High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter: No-cost and low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter programs increase the number of animals sterilized and reduce the number of animals entering the shelter by removing the primary barrier preventing more people from having their animals altered: cost. Horry County's low-cost spay/neuter program will not be a success: it requires residents to spend from around $75 - $100 for testing and vaccinations BEFORE they qualify for the low-cost spay/neuter. The total cost then is more than $100 for a cat or a small dog.
Bikini Beach Cat Rescue, a volunteer nonprofit organization, offers $55 spay/neuters for felines on a weekly basis. Why is Horry County charging so much money when they have a $1,300,000 budget?
A Compassionate Director: The final element of the No-Kill Equation is the most important of all, without which all other elements are thwarted. What Horry County needs is a compassionate shelter director who is not content to continue killing while regurgitating tired clichés about “public irresponsibility” or hiding behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.” This must change. We need new leadership. We must demand that our tax dollars are used for proven programs, not used for the failed policies Horry County has been using for decades. Remember that shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in America. Together, we can change that. We must advocate for change. We must be their voice.