Daily, as an animal “rescue” we are faced with life-saving (and potentially life-ending) decisions. Which animal’s life is more important? Which animal’s situation is more urgent? Do we have enough money to save that pet’s life? Do we have a place for that animal to go? What are ALL of the potential, positive solutions for that animal? Our staff and volunteers are in the trenches daily making these decisions, and we are doing our best to wade through such murky waters. These are also unchartered waters for an animal rescue and shelter who goes to the root of the problem and provides solutions on a community level. This means, we are not only faced with a never-ending list of “URGENTS” from our local municipal shelter but also faced with community members who can no longer care for their pets because of financial, physical or health issues. So, we go back to the beginning of the list of questions: which animal’s life is more important (when we are met with resource limitations)?
This is every hour of every day of every year. And frankly, it sucks. Too many homeless animals… So few resources. So, who’s problem are they? (And, what is the answer?) Does the weight of these decisions and lives have to just fall on us as animal welfare professionals?
Our industry can be quite brutal and judgmental about how one organization chooses to save lives over another. The key to that statement is “chooses to save lives.” Once an animal welfare agency CHOOSES to save lives, over ending lives, as a means to end the problem, we can move to the next step: collaboration.
Recently, an organization in the Chicago area took to the streets (okay, I mean Facebook and mass media) and engaged the community to become part of the solution. Letting them know, very realistically that they needed fosters and adopters OR animals may end up at a shelter where euthanasia is possible. Do you know what happened next? People lined up around the block to adopt dogs and cats! WHAAAAAAAAT?! Brilliant! Clue the community in on our struggle. Let them know we are in this together, and TOGETHER, we can create change… LIFE SAVING CHANGE.
As someone reading this, you have most likely adopted your pet or understand why adoption is one of the many ways we create a no-kill community. Yes, I said it… No-Kill. I am also here to let you know what that means. It doesn’t mean you need to keep your children and pets locked up because the crazy animal people are saving all of the aggressive dogs. What it does mean is that 90% or more of our community’s pets leave our shelters alive. If it is healthy and adoptable, it leaves ALIVE. There are many pieces to a no-kill community that I won’t dive into fully but know that they should all exist within your community to truly obtain and maintain a 90%+ save rate. Some of these pieces are low-cost spay/neuter, foster programs, community cat programs, volunteer programs, community resources and effective leadership. Good news is… the St. Louis metro area has all of those things.
In order to provide positive, live outcomes for our shelter animals, we all must work together toward the common goal. Everyone that volunteers or works in animal welfare started for the same reason, right? We love animals, value their lives and want to see positive outcomes. Best Friends Animal Society has recently declared a goal of a no-kill (90% or more save rate) for the COUNTRY by 2025! (To be truly inspired, CLICK HERE to watch a video shown at the 2018 Best Friends’ National Conference.) How are they are going to do it? Empower organizations like ours to team up and provide us with the tools and best practices to work as effectively as we can together. Find our strengths, weaknesses and fit them together to move the train forward. Here’s more good news… The St. Louis Petlover Coalition is one of the top 3 coalitions of animal welfare organizations in the COUNTRY! (You can’t see me but I am doing a happy dance at my desk!) And to drill down further, we have created the St. Clair County Animal Welfare Coalition to put our St. Clair County, IL no-kill stake in the ground for 2021.
I am, by nature, a positive person so I choose to look at that initial list of questions as a challenge and an opportunity to make real change. After ten years and a complete landscape change regarding wandering pets, we are asking ourselves important questions as we look to the future. How can Gateway Pet Guardians make the biggest impact on our immediate service area? And further, how can/will our work impact our larger community? We know we are a piece of the puzzle, and we want to be strategic about the programming we put in place because, well, our community’s pets deserve that.
I realize I am droning on, BUT that’s precisely the reason I am sharing all of this… SO YOU TOO CAN BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION! There is no shortage of ways for you to help and be a part of a safer, more humane community. There are easy things like adopting, fostering, volunteering, donating, encouraging spay/neuter and microchipping. There are harder things too, locating lost pets owners versus taking to a shelter, encouraging your politicians to support animal welfare, support and assist TNR (trap neuter return) efforts or transport an animal from our local area to another part of the country that has been networked.
To wrap things up, individually and organizationally, we play a very important role in ensuring our community’s animals are safe. It is OUR neighbor’s dog that jumped the fence and is roaming on the next block. It is OUR community feral cat that had another litter of adorable kittens. It is OUR best friend who fell on hard times and needs food from the pet food pantry to keep their pet.
So, whose problem are the community’s homeless pets? All of ours.
And by working together, we can ensure that more than 90% of our community’s pets live a safe and enriched life.
–Jamie Case, Executive Director
Join GPG to end homelessness for our community’s animals by FOSTERING!
Join GPG to end homelessness for our community’s animals by VOLUNTEERING!
Join GPG to end homelessness for our community’s animals by ADOPTING!
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