Sunday, March 14, 2010

Knocking on Heavens Door

Last night I was checking my seed file, to see what herb seeds I'll need to order from Richters. When their catalogue arrives every year, my original seed order is always two pages long ... until I remember that there is only one of me, that I don't have a bottomless bank account, that this is a Zone 6 not 11 and of course that I still want to have time to spend with my cats and dogs
So every year I have to narrow the list down to what we used to refer to in the military as 'an achievable objective'. Its always a bit of a gamble, as not everything is offered every year. But I cannot order everything and so I have to choose.
There has been a certain amount of debate in the rescue community that has trickled into my inbox about the merits of bringing dogs in from away for adoption in Nova Scotia. On one side is the multitude of Unhappy Tails happening elsewhere. On the other is the harsh reality of the need at home. As one friend of mine put it ... there are at least ten dogs in need for every available space in rescue. Even worse, those numbers are multiplied many times over when it comes to the cats.
Not to be mean .. but that is the single best argument I can think of for rethinking traditional approaches to pet adoption. One of the cornerstones of the No Kill Philosophy is the recognition that there ARE enough spaces if the tested and proven No Kill Equation is followed.
Don't get me wrong ... I admire the groups and shelters that have taken the very important first step of deciding not to kill any of the healthy adoptable animals in their care. In many instances, this has been done in the face of strong opposition that comes from conventional resistance to change.
But that is a first step and only the beginning. Without more aggressive adoption programs, these groups are safe sanctuaries that have to refuse more than they can help. What happens to those for whom there is 'no room at the inn'? We'll never know, because those Unhappy Tails are shrouded in silence. Why? Until Animal Clinics and Animal Control are obliged to provide real numbers, large pieces of the puzzle are veiled in mystery. Nor will we ever have any real sense of the actual numbers of animals dumped on little country roads like mine who become eagle / coyote / hawk / fox chow.
What happened here in Nova Scotia last year before the holiday season? Did our rescues and shelters sign up for the benefits and free publicity of the Home for the Holidays program? Nope ... not a one. Some, like Bide A Wile went on record with the media about how they disapprove of holiday adoptions. Others didn't accept applications for the period prior to the season. A few tactfully dodged the issue by going away on vacation,. Some shelters, such as the Kings SPCA actually closed their doors for the holidays.
So where did the folks go this year who wanted a nice familly pet? It doesn't take a leap of imagination to see that many of them went to all the sources for pets that create problems for animal rescue. With the very best of intentions, by sticking with the old conventional wisdom, the rescues and shelters are cutting off their collective noses to spite their face , so to speak.
Next month will be the time that long time animal rescuers refer to as Christmas for the shelters. Will this be the year ... when the annual floodgates open ... that everyone has an Ah Ha moment? Will this be the year that Nova Scotia rescues and shelters start signing up for the Home for the Holiday's program?
While I can understand the temptation, it is truly counterproductive to scold the public about buying pets online and in pet stores. Why do people choose to do that? Do they not care about animals? Nope. It is simply that in this busy world, people will usually take the simplest and most convenient path.
How can rescues and shelters compete with that? Because make no mistake ... it is a competition on every level. How can rescues and shelters undercut the competition? By making it easier .. not harder ... to adopt a pet.
How can they do that? At the risk of sounding like a stuck record:
  • user friendly hours, as of this writing, the only two shelters that I know of in the entire province that are open on Sunday are Metro and Yarmouth
  • bringing the animals to the people with offsite adoptions ... because at the end of the day, the best way to promote the animals is to get them out where people can meet them
  • simpler adoption forms
  • offering a stay at home petfinder listing services
  • taking advantage of the free promotion of existing campaigns
  • take a page from the lifesaving use that social networking tools are being put to for dogs from the southern states
  • and last but not least, by listing all their adoptables on petfinder. Why is that important? Why bother listing the cute and the young little ones that will 'fly off the shelf" To let potential first time adopters know that there really is someone available for everyone in rescue.

What time is it? Its always time to remember the truth of the old saw ... that if you keep doing the same thing, you'll keep getting the same results.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete - Buckminster Fuller


Ang said...

Before I was savvy in the ways of animal rescue, I wanted a cat. I didn't care if I had a kitten or an adult cat so I went to the only shelter I knew existed, the Metro SPCA. I wanted in at about 10 to 4 on a week day (my mom picked me up early from work, it was December). We walked in and barely got a look at a cat when a girl came to me and said, we close at 4, we're open tomorrow at 10 and all but pushed us out the door. So my mom and I walked out with a chip on our shoulders about the whole thing. I would be at work tomorrow at 10, and don't they want me to save a cat? I just didn't get it. So what did I do? I went to Pets Unlimited and bought a kitten. Yup. I know now that that was a stupid thing to do, but back then I didn't know the reality of where those kittens and puppies come from, and the type of industry I was supporting. All I knew is I was out on my own for the first time and I had just broken up with my boyfriend and my apartment was very empty.

Metro has since smartened up and made better hours, but they're still in the middle of nowhere, and nearly impossible to find.

We need a shelter in the mall. Seriously. Remember way back when there were pet stores in malls? We need something like that, only with shelter animals. Cute doggies in the window get adopted.

Anonymous said...

I have found that our static hours work fairly well, however, we do tell people if those hours are not convenient we can set up evening and weekend appointments. Most people will make every attempt to come in during open hours, but for some (especially distance adopters) other hours work best.

We do not have the funding to pay someone to work those extra hours, so a trusted volunteer usually meets people and gets them to fill out paperwork if there is someone who suits the potential adopters family.

I have found our Christmas adoptions do tend to work out, just screen people as usual and most will agree, if their home is too crazy around the holidays, to pick them up later. It just seems unfair to leave the animals in limbo for those 2 weeks of holidays when there are good, responsible homes out there who are being punished just because of the time of year they are adopting.

For the record, of the dogs we adopted out in December, the majority went to adult homes who were really not all that involved in big Christmas celebrations and some were of other faiths.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas and not everyone celebrates the same way. We need to be able to evolve with the changing times and attitudes, we want the public to learn, but we must also be open to learning to.