Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slinky's Separating Sojourn: Statistics and the No Kill Model. Resources and Education. Day 17 of Slinky with Misha May Foundation

Slinky’s health is compromised and she has been to see her vet for some common and curable conditions. She may have had them upon entering the shelter or may have contracted them at the shelter. Since her immune system would have been compromised due to stress, either could be likely. Often, poor health, even if it is not a serious condition and is treatable, may be a contributing, or the deciding, factor in whether a dog in a shelter is deemed adoptable or unadoptable. Once a dog is labeled unadoptable, his fate is sealed unless a rescue is notified and can place him in one of their foster homes.

Shelters have differing protocols and procedures for the timing of spay and neuter surgeries, the administering of vaccinations, and the dispensing of medications. Many don’t allow for any of the above until the animal is adopted as they don’t want to spend money on animals that they will be putting down. Unfortunately outbreaks of a common and fairly preventable illness like kennel cough become life or death circumstances. One summer a few years ago, Misha May accepted many dogs with kennel cough from a local kill shelter. Each dog cost us approximately $150 (all from donations – we don’t receive any government money) to be treated and isolated at our vet’s office. Otherwise the shelter was going to put them down. I have to ask wouldn’t it be wiser, not to mention more compassionate, for a shelter to use their money on preventative care for each entrant in the form of a vaccine and an antibiotic as they enter the shelter rather than to use the funds to kill them when they tragically become stressed and ill?

There are really two main types of shelters in the United States today. One is the more traditional type which adheres to the belief system that euthanasia is always on the table as an option to deal with pet overpopulation. The other type has committed to the No-Kill philosophy which focuses on developing innovative solutions so as not to rely upon killing. I’m including some information in the next paragraphs to help you take a closer look at both. I believe that the more information the public has the more they will demand the changes necessary to save more animals NOW.

A very informative and interesting link to statistics regarding several more traditional type local shelters is the following
This allows one to see how many animals were accepted by each local shelter, how many were deemed unadoptable, how many were euthanized and how many were adopted. I invite you go there and interpret the statistics for yourself or call the specific organizations with your questions, and come to your own conclusions. There are considerations in the tables, some clearer than others, such as numbers of animals accepted, owner requests for euthanasia and those animals released to rescues. My motivation for including this information is to educate those of you who think that local shelters are not euthanizing, and to convince you to please open your eyes, get involved and help bring about the changes needed.

The most recent statistics I could find were for 2008 in which the Denver Dumb Friends League had a live release rate of 73% and adopted out 14,914 animals, while euthanizing 6739 dogs and cats, and Table Mountain Animal Shelter, now reborn as Foothills Animal Shelter, had a 76% live release rate and adopted out 3780 animals with 1808 euthanizations performed.

Neither Denver Municipal Animal Shelter nor Boulder Valley Humane had calculated their live release rates but they adopted out 1539 and 5016 respectively while euthanizing 2145 and 995 respectively. Again, there are other factors to consider within the statistics, but anyway one looks at it 11,687 animals were killed by these four organizations in 2008.

The other perspective is summed up in a mind-blowing book called Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America by Nathan J. Winograd. Winograd purports that the No Kill model has been successfully implemented by shelters in many cities in the U.S. by comprehensively instituting the following ten components.

1) Feral Cat Trap Neuter Release Program. Feral cats living in colonies have the chance of a decent life, whereas if they are surrendered to shelters they are almost always killed. If they are spayed and neutered, the population does not become unmanageable. This affords them a chance and decreases the number of euthanizations performed by shelters. Here is a local group where you can get involved.

2) High Volume, Low Cost Spay and Neuter. I personally believe that spay and neuter surgery should be offered free to the public with funding coming from that which was allocated in budgets for euthanizations, supplemented by local veterinarians volunteering on a rotating schedule. Low Cost is a start if it is more widely publicized, especially by vets to their clients who can’t afford their typically higher prices. Here is a link to low cost spay and neuter clinics:

3) Rescue Groups. The collaboration between shelters and rescue groups saves so many lives. Those animals who are passed over for adoption, those who deteriorate in a shelter setting, those who have specific behavior or medical issues or those with any special needs can be transferred to rescues who typically have foster homes that are supportive of healing. For information about fostering, click here:

4) Foster Care. Shelters themselves need to have a comprehensive fostering program as well. Many animals arrive sick or weak or traumatized and need a healing space. Check out our Together We Save Lives page for a list of places to volunteer.

5) Comprehensive Adoption Programs. It isn’t enough just to get the animal out of the shelter. If the adopters are not screened thoroughly, the animal could land in a bad situation. If the animal and adopters are not a good match, it can end in disaster. This link directs you to information about our adoption program.

6) Pet Retention. Once an animal is adopted it is important to offer resources to the adopter in the form of a behavior help line, library of resources or affordable classes.
If you have a training question or want to set up an in-home behavior session, you can email us at or call 303-239-0382.
Our training videos are here
Our resource and education page is here
Our dog training class schedule is here

7) Medical and Behavior Rehabilitation. With very little effort or additional expense many more animals could be saved with money specifically earmarked for these areas. There must be a philosophy in place that routinely supports widespread rehabilitation.

8) Public Relations / Community Involvement. The public needs to feel welcomed as a partner in saving lives through adopting, volunteering, fostering and fund raising. Transparency is required to allow the public to see the truth about what is happening to the animals in their community. They need to understand why spay and neuter is crucial to saving lives and why purchasing from pets stores supports the horror of puppy mills. They need to be informed of just how dismal it is now but also alerted to the attainable goals possible with their assistance.

9) Volunteers. Volunteers are the key to success. Lots of volunteers are the keys to many successes. There can never be enough volunteers. Please contact us at if you would be interested in learning more about volunteering.

10) A Compassionate Director who does not accept methods and ideas that lead to euthanasia. There must be someone in charge who is willing to step outside the typical thinking of ‘too many animals – not enough homes’ rationale. If there were not enough homes, then pet stores, puppy mills and most breeders would not exist as their only motivation is profit. There are homes if we can create the links between them and our shelter animals.

Slinky was not spayed until she had been adopted. She would soon develop symptoms and become ill. She had already been in 2 shelters that we know of. This sweet girl could very easily have become a statistic in 2011. Why am I speaking about this? Because when you donate your money to a non-profit organization, it’s a very big decision because most of us rely solely on your donations. You should have the facts and the figures. Know what your money will be used for. What are the primary goals of the organization and how do they plan to achieve them? Is the director committed to ending euthanasia except as a rare option for truly suffering or dangerous animals or is it carried out routinely?

Slinky spent the day with Gina and Gene and will be staying overnight as well. I can’t wait to hear about her progress at home. When they came to pick her up, Gene took her for a walk along my street while Gina stood talking with me. I thought it was a positive sign that she wandered so far away from mom. She got distracted by the sights and smells and seemed to really enjoy her time with dad.

After they departed, I wrote my article on the CPR and First Aid class for Canines for Mile High Dog Magazine. You can see it in the December 2011 issue. At the following link, you can see ‘When You Wish Upon a Star – the Story of The Misha May Foundation’ also featured in this terrific magazine:

Later in the day I received this update on Slinky:

“Slinky has had a good stay. We had company and she was lying down in her crate. No accidents in the house. She has been better with the "wait" while I take out the garbage, grab something out of the garage, etc.”

I am so proud of Slinky and her family!

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