Wisconsin No Kill Shelters

Twenty years ago, the concept of a No Kill animal community was little more than a dream. Today the movement is poised to make it a reality; they hope to meet the challenge of building a truly humane society. The first step in building a No Kill community is to stop using death as the primary tool to manage shelter population. There are only two ways to make space for new dogs, kill or adopt the ones you currently have.
The decision to end an animal’s life is an extremely serious one. No matter how many animals a shelter kills, every animal has a story. So what does this movement need to work? It needs to lower the number of animals needing the shelter.

High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter
Spay/neuter is the most successful lifesaving effort. Low cost, high volume spay/neuter will lead to fewer animals entering the shelters, allowing more money to go to toward adoption efforts.

Rescue Groups
Rescue groups free up space. Getting an animal out of the shelter and into an appropriate placement is important and rescue groups can screen adopters better than many shelters.

Foster Care
Foster care is very important to No Kill movement. It is a low cost, and often no cost, way of increasing a shelter’s capacity, improving public relations, increasing a shelter’s public image, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals.

Comprehensive Adoption Programs
Adoptions are vital to a shelters lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management’s hands. The goal is not just adoption but adoption into permanent homes so these dogs do not end up back at the shelter.

Owner Pet Retention
While some of the reasons animals are surrendered to shelters are unavoidable, others can be prevented—but only if shelters are willing to work with people to help them solve their problems. Saving all healthy and treatable pets requires communities to develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. The more a community sees its shelters as a place to turn for advice and assistance, the more success this movement will have.

Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation
A shelter begins helping treatable animals by closely analyzing statistics. How many animals entering a shelter are treatable? What types of injuries and illnesses are most common? The answers to these questions will determine what types of rehabilitation programs are needed and how to effectively allocate resources. For example, spay and neuter. In Milwaukee, you would most likely find that a large portion of treatable dogs are dogs with behavior problems. Other areas might be simple health issues such as mange or mite.

Public Relations/Community Involvement
Building a relationship with the community starts by defining oneself as a “pet rescue” agency. The community must see improvements in the area of lifesaving. Public contact with the agency must include good customer service, more adoptions, and tangible commitments in order for people to give money.

Volunteers are the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources are. That is where volunteers come in and make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death.

A Good Director
The final element of the No Kill equation is a hard working director that is not content with tired clichés or one that hides behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes.”

A No Kill program requires everyone involved to think about rescue in a different way. It is about creative thinking, teamwork and commitment to the animals. This is much more work than simply “putting down” an animal when their time is up. With dedicated volunteers staff and pet owners, this philosophy can influence the way we all think about dog shelters, adoption and rehabilitation.

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