Monday, December 6, 2010

Alice's Jam

Like many people who used to smoke, I quit at least half a hundred times before I actually got out of the gate.  Some attempts lasted as long as a few days ... others less than a day ...and a few memorable failures fizzled out after fifteen minutes.
But each and every time, I was confident that I had actually quit ... right up to that second when resolution went up in a puff of smoke.
At what point did that final effort become a success?  Was it when I put out my last cigarette? Hardly!  Truthfully it was years before I really reaped real health benefits.   
Perhaps it was nine months later, when the fine folks at Stad were able to entice one of HRM's surgical geniuses to perform heroic lifesaving thoracic surgery that would not have been considered if I had still been a smoker.  Had it only been the week before, my claim of quitting smoking would have lacked any credibility, hmmm?
So just how long does it take for a rescue or a shelter to become No Kill?  Do they need to have any successful history?  Or like Alice's jam, is it possible for today not to be like any other day?
So why all the fuss?  Isn't it lovely to be No Kill?  Of course it is.  Is it enough to say one is No Kill?  Of course not. 
No Kill may begin with an effort of will ... a determination to stop the killing, but it is more than a philosphy, it requires a strategic plan that includes all the elements of the No Kill Equation:
  • Accountablity requires clear definitions, a lifesaving plan and most importantly .. tracking both the successes and the failures.  I know I natter on like a stuck record, but if there is no sense of the scope of the problem, how on earth can any organization set goals?
  • This in turn also requires shelters and staff to be accountable with respect to their protocols for decision making with respect to all outcomes for all animals.   It involves not allowing protocols to supercede the cardinal rule of No Kill ... that the only rule that can't be broken is the No Kill rule
  • Life Saving programs are critical.  Shelter hours MUST include opportunities for working people to adopt or reclaim lost pets.  Keeping adoption fees affordable plays a critical role for adoptions .. particularly in small facilities obligated by contractual obligation to accept all the AC intake.    When privately run shelters are unwilling or unable to run offsite adoption events and to advertise their adoptables in the media, transferring adoptable animals to rescues and shelters with available space must be the first option if a shelter is to be considered genuinely No Kill.
  • In all fairness, sheltering contractors are not responsible for municipal pet retention programs such as low cost / high volume spay neuter.   Nor are they responsible for advocacy.  Those responsibilities lay with the municipality and the society respectively.   Its a fuzzy grey area as to whether a contractor can be considered No Kill if the municipality does not engage in their end of the No Kill Equation.
The common definition of No Kill has been summed up by Nathan Winograd:
No Kill does not mean that no animals die in the shelter. In our view, a no-kill community is one where all healthy and treatable animals, including feral cats, are saved. We don’t use the term “euthanasia” because euphemisms make the task of killing easier.
Now the No Kill movement wasn't born yesterday and over time there have been particular Matrix's developed to establish a consistant definition of the word healthy and treatable.
Why?   This was done to prevent shelters from having too broad a definition for "unadoptable"  They realized, for instance, that "some shelters considered a kitten with a cold or a dog over five to be unadoptable"
The purpose of the Matrix is to force accountablity ... to specify the definition of healthy and treatable.  It clearly states that shelters which are killing animals that can be treated with routine care or who are exhibiting normal behaviors for their species such as territorial marking, house soiling, scratching, digging, barking ...  are not entitled to consider themselves No Kill.
It also clearly states that:
  • Failure to achieve No Kill is a direct result of not following the proven No Kill Equation.  In realspeak, that means that if shelters are killing animals when there are available rescue slots to transfer them to, then they are Not No Kill.
  • Secondly, it states that when shelters do embrace the No Kill Equation, they will be able to resolve all the reasons for killing , and last but definitely not least 
  • No Kill is only achieved when 90 % of all impounded animals are saved ...and to make any claims to No Kill with less than a 90 % Live Release Rate indicates inappropriate use of the term No Kill.
What time is it?  While its always time to celebrate that first act of will when a shelter says "we are going to stop killing", its important to remember that the proof of the pudding will be in the stats.

'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.' 
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected. 

'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!' from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.  1871.

No comments: