9th Life Hawai'i presented the first No-Kill Conference in our state on Maui late last year in an effort to offer spaying as an alternative to euthanasia for controlling feral or abandoned cats and dogs. This program, the speakers said, is most successful if supported by a volunteer-manned program of adoption and fostering for those saved animals.
This combination has, in many cases, also proved to lower costs to its community as well.
The effort is yielding good results in Hawai'i as well.
(Left to right) Appellate Attorney Ryan Clinton, co-founder of No Kill in Austin, Texas, the largest no-kill community in the U.S.; Nevada Humane Society Community Programs/Development Director Dianne Blankenburg; and Nathan Winograd, head of the San Francisco-based national No-Kill Advocacy Center, shared their experiences and advice about setting up successful no-kill programs as an alternative to euthanasia for controlling feral or abandoned cat and dog population.
The event took place at the Nahele Banquet Room of the Kahili Golf Course in Wailuku. Approximately 100 people paid $50 a head to learn more about what could be done to support this program, plus one skeptical reporter.
What I didn't anticipate was the validity of the arguments being summed up by the initial speaker, Nathan Winograd, the creator of the first no-kill community in Tompkins County, New York, who is now heading the San Francisco-based national No-Kill Advocacy Center.
Winograd is also the author of a book on the first no-kill community.
Nevada Humane Society Community Programs/Development Director Dianne Blankenburg spoke next about how her Reno and Environs Center also became no-kill and went from an 80 percent kill level to a 92 percent saved-animal ratio.
This reversal was accomplished through a vigorous public relations campaign and the inevitable removal of personnel who refused to adapt to the new, kinder regimen.
"These speakers have walked the walk and talked the talk; so this conference is being held so budding, non-kill communities can emulate their success," said 9th Life Hawai'i CEO and conference organizer Phyllis Tavares, after Blankenburg's speech. "If they can do it in Nevada, so can we do it in Hawai'i."
The third speaker, Appellate Attorney Ryan Clinton, is the co-founder of No Kill in Austin, Texas--a city which, largely thanks to his efforts, has become the largest no-kill community in the U.S. with a 90 percent save rate and an open admissions policy.
Maui's Humane Society has commendably also instituted an open admissions policy.
Clinton's presentation, like the previous talks, was replete with not only depictions of problems and solutions, but also with a heartwarming and endearing gallery of photos of cats and small dogs, and the people who fostered or adopted them.
He focused heavily on the very real fact that the creation of a corps of dedicated volunteers for fostering and adoption opens up new options.
His most persuasive argument was that by embracing volunteers, strained budgets could manage the ever-exploding feral and abandoned populations, and do so at less cost and more humanely by simply rerouting--rather than euthanizing--these previously unwanted animals.
But finding acceptance for that novel approach took a great deal of time and effort--first in convincing the shelters' existing bureaucracy and staff, then approaching city officials who controlled them and their budgets.
So intensive public relations campaigns via all available media were instituted.
The first target was to convince the public that no-kill was a viable and advisable approach for feral and abandoned animals. And once these efforts found approval with the public, rule-makers were targeted.
Personal visits to administrators and elected officials were made to validate the viability of the no-kill concept and make them aware of the new reality brought on by the positive reactions from the public.
This enabled the officials to make the necessary personnel changes of those who ordered or performed the animal executions.
These experts found this is necessary for such a drastic change to be accepted at animal shelters--facilities accustomed to viewing euthanasia as the only practical solution to population control.
In summary, for that effort to yield the kind of results that Clinton got in Austin, what is needed is a well-structured public relations campaign and a corps of dedicated volunteers who can envision feral or abandoned animals as possible companions for lonely people, or for those needing a responsive pet to ameliorate the loneliness all of us come to feel at one time or another.
This loneliness, for varied reasons, is something we are often unwilling to share with another human being. What we need then, is the silent support of a non-judgmental and well-loved pet, whose help can bring us back to a less-troubled state--a true win-win for humans and animals alike.