Each of us may think we’re doing our part by adopting a shelter dog and giving him or her a loving home. But the sad reality is that it’s a drop in a giant bucket. Every day, at animal shelters across this country, millions of wonderful, adoptabledogs are killed. A new non-profit organizationis determinedto do something to stop the killing. It’s called The Animal Shelter Project, and it’s easy for Dogsters to like – so please findit on Facebook and “Like” it.
The Animal Shelter Project was founded by veteran dog rescuer Steve Sacchitelli. I first met Steve when he volunteered at his local animal shelter in New Jersey; he’s a tireless advocate for homeless dogs. Even if you are full up to here with dogs, hecan sweetly convince you to take just one more. And you will, trust me, you will – and you’ll be glad you did.
Steve lives in New Orleans now, where there is lots of work to be done for animal welfare. But first on his list is raising awareness of the Animal Shelter Project.
“Every day in the United States, approximately 11,000 healthy dogs and cats are killed in places we commonly call ‘shelters’,” he says. “The killing continues for a number of reasons and they may not be what you think. Knowledge is half the battle.”
I confess I always thought that the reason so many animals are killed is that there aren’t enough homes for them all. Steve explains why that thinking is deadwrong:
“Many people still believe there is an overpopulation of pets with nowhere to go. We may see their deaths as unavoidable, however sad, and so we quietly allow it. You hear this all the time: there simply arent enough homes for all of the homeless animals that come into the shelter. Its a lie.”
Well, that got my attention. Steve continued: “Here are the facts: We kill somewhere between 4 and 6 million adoptable dogs and cats every year in our nations shelters. Somewhere between 17 and 23 million homes get a new pet every year. There are enough homes. We simply need to try harder.”
Try harder. That’s a wonderful motto for animal rescuers and Dogsters everywhere.
Here’s another eye-opener:Shelter killing is the number one cause of death for dogs and cats, above old age and all diseases.
“When we all come to understand that the killing of homeless pets is not necessary, we can stand with one voice and demand better from our shelter system and our elected officials,” Steve adds. “Without us, the animals have no voice.”
Sadly,he continues, “Animal shelters can, and do, kill any animal in their possession for any reason, or no reason, even if there is space available and even if rescue groups or adopters are interested in taking the animals. If you drop your pet off at a shelter, they can kill her as soon as you walk out the door, without even trying to find a home for her.
“Many shelters kill even when they have available space because ‘Friday is Euthanasia Day’or because ‘no one will want this 10 year-old dog’ or simply because its easier than feeding and cleaning up after them. Many shelters do not even offer public adoptions and kill all animals that enter their premises. It is impossible to make the argument that shelter killing is necessary when so many of our shelters do not even try. Many are not open on Sundays, make adoptions difficult, or kill animals that have never been offered for adoption, all while they tell us there aren’t enough homes.”
We may wish to believe that the killing is painless because the word euthanasia is so overused. However, killing is killing – and death for a shelter animal isoften extremely, excruciatinglypainful.In order to bring about positive change, Steve says we must firstface some hard facts: “Many shelters still kill animals in gas chambers or with a ‘heart-stick’, which is an injection to the heart that causes the dog or cat to die a painful death of heart failure,” he explains.
So the Animal Shelter Project aims to give animal shelter management the knowledge and motivation to implement life-saving programs. “There are many animal shelters in the United States,” Steve says. “Some are good, many are bad, most are little more than extermination facilities. They all have one thing in common: They have a proven system of life-saving programs available to them.”
That system is the 11-step No-Kill Equation developed by Nathan Winograd and the No-Kill Advocacy Center, which has succeeded in many shelters that previously killed adoptable animals, in both urban and rural areas, wealthy and low-income demographics and high and low population densities.
To read more about how the Animal Shelter Project is working with shelters to creatively design and implement life-saving programs that work, go here. Steve is right:If we all work together, we can stop the killing. Let’s start today.