It has been a couple of years since I started following the Athenspets.net website. What is so miraculous about this one site? After all, it isn't the official Athens County Animal Control website where anyone can adopt!
What makes the the site so extraordinary? Is the committed volunteers who faithfully post appealing listings of the impounded animals? The wonderful pictures of each pet? How the site encourages volunteers to improve the quality of life for the animals at the shelter? Or is that kind hearts can donate towards life saving veterinary care through the site?
All of these are of course Good Things ... but the truly impressive bit about this site is the impact it has made for the animals impounded by AC.
When I first started following the site, it was heartbreaking to see how many lovely pets were killed every week. Nothing was sugarcoated... right on the side bar it listed the number of animals in care and the outcome for all the ones who were no longer there. Site visitors could see at a glance how many were adopted, rescued or killed!
Why do I think this is important? Nothing inspires people to act like having the naked unvarnished truth right in front of their face. Rescues in New England were motivated to save southern lives from this shelter! Even here in Nova Scotia, kind hearts in the rescue community were moved to rescue those who were knocking on heavens' door.
Like begets like ... and has resulted in a rescue ripple effect that has benefited impounded animals in AC's in other areas and states as well. This site is not the only reason that the collective rescue consciousness has been raised to the plight of southern AC's ... but there is no denying it has played a big part.
Why do I believe this is important? In the space of time that I have been following this site, there has been a noticeable shift in the weekly numbers. In realspeak, there are now more animals being adopted and rescued than being killed.
Here in Nova Scotia, animal advocates are in hot pursuit of the No Kill Holy Grail. Four years ago, when I first started the homeless pet site, quite a few of the private rescues were already referring to themselves as No Kill. Once an adoptable made it into their care, he or she was safe for however long it took to find a second chance at love.
But .... no rescue can really be an island when it comes to No Kill. On their own, many of the little groups were akin to stand alone computers ... doing wonderful work by providing safe sanctuary for a precious few but unable to really impact the big picture.
A couple of years ago, the society developed a Strategic Plan to bring the organization to No Kill. ( Click here for the original document ... and HERE for the updated and current one )
Does this mean we are there yet? Not even close! As critical as society support is for No Kill, the missing link is still Animal Control.
If there is one common thread in Animal Control in Nova Scotia, it is that there is no constant. Every county and municipality has its own arrangements. Nor, in these days of unprecedented fiscal restraint, are we likely to see any great sums invested in Animal Control anywhere.
So here is today's What If .... just imagine the possibilities if all counties and municipalities were obliged to use the free petfinder listings they are actually entitled to have. If volunteers were encouraged to set up facebook pages. I get positively dizzy thinking about what might happen if volunteers were allowed access in a timely manner to all animals impounded by Animal Control ... instead of being refused entry with flimsy excuses of liability risks!
No question about it .... social networking saves lives. Rescues that are listing adoptables on their face book pages are often finding that they do not even get a chance to list the adoptables on Petfinder!
The short version of all this is that we need a law in Nova Scotia to allow volunteers ready access to all impounded animals in Animal Control ... along with legislation to make it mandatory for all impounds to be advertised for adoption and rescue.
In real speak, that is often called a Red Flag Network ... and saves lives by NOT sugar coating anything.
To be perfectly honest ... without a Red Flag network for the animals impounded by Animal Controls around the province, No Kill is only ever going to be a great idea that cannot get out of the gate.
What time is it? One of the best bits about living in a democracy is that strong voter feedback is always the best way to help paint the big picture for our elected politicians In these days of fiscal restraint, it is time to encourage our provincial MLA's to provide the legislative tools that would permit the power of volunteer love to provide the services they are unwilling or unable to pay for.