Report: No-Kill movement facing hurdles in San Angelo, Texas

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An article that came across the Pack New Wire this morning highlights the no-kill shelter movement and in this case the hurdles the system in one municipality is facing to reach this status.

Let’s start by reaffirming my thoughts on the No-Kill Movement. I’ve scanned over the book Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution  by Nathan J. Winograd and finally this week I’ve started reading it straight through.

The ultimate goal should be No Kill – for all shelters, animal-welfare groups and rescue organizations. Of course, everyone involves admits that some homeless pets will never make it out of shelters, due to severe health problems or aggressive behavior.

But again, I FULLY support the mission of the movement. Where I tend to get a bit squeamish is this message that pet overpopulation is a myth. I understand the point Winograd is making, but I fear the people at the root cause of the problem will decide it lets them off the hook.

And the people and entities creating homeless pets should never be let off the hook.

Winegrad suggests there are plenty of homes available for homeless pets in the United States. The problem he and others see is that too few families are being reached out to as potential homes. Again, this is probably true. But half of the equation is being left out of the mix.

On one hand, we’re asking these families to take on the responsibility of caring for the dogs and cats dumped out by irresponsible people. This is happening by the what – say the millions of pets each year? So it is very important to suggest the system is broken and we need to do more in shelters to drastically reduce the euthanasia rates. And it is important to try to reach out to more potential homes each year.

But I would like to see an equal emphasis on the root causes of homelessness. We need to shut down the puppy mills and greyhound racetracks and find a way to make sure more dogs and cats are spayed and neuter. We need to reach a point where ONLY quality breeders are selling dogs and cats and where the general population is not allowing their pets to breed puppies and kittens into homelessness.

The article on GoSanAngelo.com (Standard-Times) reports about half of San Angelo shelter’s adoptions are through rescue groups. Last year, 6,061 cats and dogs were euthanized at the shelter, down from 7,089 in 2010. That number is still way too high. I think everyone can agree on that.

The article quotes Jenie Wilson, director of Concho Valley PAWS (Pets Are Worth Saving) – “We may need to look at restructuring some ordinances so there are some consequences to people who breed (their pets) indiscriminately,” Wilson said, adding that the puppies breeders sell often end up in shelters and face euthanasia. “People adopt (from breeders) and realize it’s more than they can handle. That is one of the biggest feeders to the shelter.”

The biggest feeder to the shelter – dogs purchased and puppies breed indiscriminately. Exactly. And don’t let anyone tell you that purebred dogs don’t end up in shelters or with local breed-specific rescue groups all over the country.

We need better and more cooperation between municipal shelters and local rescue groups. We need more low-cost and no-cost spay/neuter programs. We need improved legislation to shut down puppy mills and greyhound racing.

It’s not just about the shelter operations and it’s not just about spay/neuter and it’s not just about the irresponsible people who create homeless pets. The solution is multifaceted and unfortunately the change for the better won’t happen overnight.

But now is the time to make it start happening.