The No Kill Community and Animal Control

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BusbyandHeywardThe number one cause of death for companion animals in the United States is the animal shelter. In the average, 6000 companion animals are being killed in US animal shelters every single day  either by blowing carbon monoxide in a gas chamber or by injection with sodium pentobarbital.
Fortunately for the animals, things are changing. More and more communities are now saving the lives of companion animal that before would have been killed. In a No Kill shelter, adoptable and treatable companion animals are no longer being killed which results in a 90% or higher live release rate.
With the change of philosophy in animal care and sheltering, Animal Control also needs to change philosophy, away from catch and kill to education and assistance, in order to work hand in hand with the animal shelter and create a successful bond.
Mitch Schneider, who was a long time Manager of Washoe County, NV Animal Services gives us some insights:
WCRAS (Washoe County Regional Animal Services) policy directs Animal Control Officers to make every reasonable effort to return animals to their owner instead of impounding the animal.  In addition to checking the pet for identification (tags or microchips), officers will check lost reports and/or with area residents in an attempt to determine if anyone knows were the animal lives. In addition to reducing sheltering costs, this policy also reduces animal abandonment and enhances public support.  A dog license is promoted as “Your Dog’s Ticket Home”; providing a true benefit for licensing increases voluntary compliance, further reducing shelter needs and the inherent potential for abandonment.  Note: upon returning the animal to the owner all laws are enforced and warnings or citations issued as deemed appropriate.
Another traditional practice in animal services that increases abandonment is the policy of not allowing an owner to redeem their pet if they can’t pay all of the fees at the time of redemption.  Continuing to hold the animal until all of the fees are collected simply increases the redemption fees for the pet owner, increases the need for shelter space; it may also reduce public support and increase abandonment and euthanasia rates.  To address this issue Washoe County has established a billing system; this is only done with supervisor permission to ensure that it is only offered as a last resort and kept to a minimum.
Operational Principals
  • Collaboration with community animal rescue groups can reduce program costs
  • Establishing niche volunteer opportunities can reduce costs and improve customer service
  • Impounding pets, unless absolutely necessary, is not in anyone’s best interest as it:
    • Increases the need for a larger facility to house more pets
    • Increases stress for the owner and animal alike
    • Increases staff needed for care of the animals
    • Increases abandonment and the associated euthanasia costs
    • Reduces public support
  • Returning animals to owners in the field and issuing the appropriate warning or citation is a more cost effective approach and increases public support
  • Increasing pet registration is necessary to reduce the need for impounding of pets
  • Pet identification through licensing and microchipping initiatives can have a very positive affect on a program’s costs and is an important part of an animal services’ business plan; the City of Calgary funds their entire program through licensing fees for dogs and cats
  • Promoting Trap-Neuter-Return for feral cats reduces costs and increase public support.
  • Encouraging spaying and neutering through differential licensing fees helps to address the pet over-population problem
  • Providing problem pet behavior assistance through a help line and other educational materials is helpful in reducing the abandonment of pets
    • Pet behavior problems cause people to “fall out of love” with their pet and is a major reason for abandonment at shelters
      • Common reasons for abandonment are barking, house-training, chewing, digging and repeatedly running away
With a willingness to move away from traditional practices when necessary, by utilizing current technology to its fullest and collaborating extensively with local animal rescue groups an animal services’ program can reduce costs, increase public support and create a pet friendly, Win-Win program for their community.
An animal control department that passively accepts all animals brought to its doors while actively sweeping harmless loose and stray animals off the streets is a department that assures itself of plenty of work for the future, for its activities do not confront the causes of animal overpopulation and abandonment. Rather, they treat symptoms and in doing so enable the “disease” to continue. A “no questions asked, open-door policy” for animal relinquishers communicates an attitude that animals really are disposable commodities and that it is a proper city government function to provide easy means for disposition.
The Allegany County Animal Shelter changed philosophy by end of 2010 and became a No Kill community with a 96% live release rate in 2013. Of course, things are not perfect and it always will be work in progress. The ACAS Team is working hard to implement new and better solutions as well as new technologies every day to serve the community and the animals.
Ryan Clinton from Austin Pets Alive said:
 “No Kill is not a destination, it is a journey. You aren’t done when you achieve it. We will continue to face obstacles and challenges that we must over come.”