The last ten days have been busy, and the buzz about the No Kill Conference is still plentiful. Bloggers, advocates, shelters, rescues, and even those outside the No Kill movement have noticed the energy surrounding the event in its 3rd year. Sponsored by The No Kill Advocacy Center, The No Kill Nation, and the George Washington Law School, this year my little advocate’s dream came true.
I first learned of Nathan Winograd and his book, Redemption, in 2008 while listening to an episode of the Vegan Freak podcast. Around that time, I learned that the County was planning on trapping feral cats near my former place of employment. The Commissioner’s office had made my boss aware of the situation, and let her know that if we wanted to save any of them, they needed removed immediately. We quickly mobilized traps and started our mission to save them. I was soon after contacted by not only the animal shelter, but the police department as well. I attempted to discuss Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) with the Animal Control Officer who contacted me, but she wasn’t even remotely interested in what I had to say. They threatened to arrest me for “trespassing on private property” and “stealing county property” if I was found to be feeding or trapping any of the strays or ferals. I’m not sure how many cats the county ended up capturing (not many), but we saved 16 cats who were either socialized and sent into adoptive homes or spayed and returned to the wild. I would do it again in a heart beat, if need be.
Fast forward 2 1/2 years and Allegany County Animal Shelter comes under a firestorm for ignoring complaints about 4 abandoned dogs. Thousands of calls came in from Allegany County, throughout Maryland, around the United States, and Canada. This led to further egregious acts within the shelter, and more public outcry over their meager 15% save rate. Chief of Public Works, Dick Devore, temporarily suspended euthanasia, and the Shelter Director resigned. An euthanasia policy meeting was held, and several representatives from local animal rescues, foundations, and concerned citizens were called in. I arrived with enough copies of the No Kill Equation for everyone, and gave Mr. Devore my copy of Redemption.
Shortly after the meeting, Queen City Animal Rescue was founded in an effort to assist the shelter in incorporating the No Kill tenets such as calling forth potential volunteers and fosters, finding other rescues that would work with the shelter, getting the community aware and involved in making the shelter a better place, founded a petition requesting the new Shelter Director be of the No Kill philosophy, and with the help of the Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation and the community at large, an amazing transformation has been taking place. Karl Brubaker started his position as Shelter Director in April, and has been carrying forth and expanding upon the work of the dedicated volunteers who helped run the shelter in the 4 month gap of having no manager. As of the last Animal Control Board meeting on July 13th, 2011 the current save rate for the year is 93%. The transition has not been easy, and we experienced the same perverse treatment that all other shelters go through from those who have interest in maintaining the status quo, but oh what a difference caring leadership creates!
Karl, Animal Control Officer Aaron Alt, and I were able to attend the 2011 No Kill Conference, and enjoyed what was by far one of my favorite weekends ever. This is something I had only dreamed of being able to accomplish for years, and showing up 40 minutes early that Saturday morning, seeing Ryan Clinton hanging the official banner in preparation, and then meeting Nathan personally, I knew it was indeed this girl’s dream come true!
We all came away from the weekend having met amazing advocates, dedicated presenters, and a personal drive to make our communities a safer place for our companion animals. Our Director’s first order of business when he came home? Securing a bus to be used for events and services! I will be posting notes and thoughts from the Conference soon.