What is “No-Kill”? We see it bandied about and yet, it’s difficult to nail down a true definition of this ideal. We, as animal lovers, want it to be something so simple: no animal is euthanized to make space, no animal is thrown away, or turned away because of “lack of space”. In practice, however, it can mean that only a small percentage of animals turned into the shelter are euthanized. This percentage can be 5-10% or merely “certain kinds” of animals. For animal welfare supporters, any number if unacceptable.
To this end, the No-Kill Advocacy Center was founded in Oakland California, to raise awareness of this issue, and to offer guidelines to reduce and eliminate this threat to the companion animals in our shelters and communities.
The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter & Sanctuary has long been an advocate for the no-kill philosophy. We were founded on the ideal that every cat is precious, and should never be killed for the convenience of the humans around them. We have worked hard to codify our own stance, and are working to implement the 11 Tenets of No-Kill in our own Shelter.
The 11 Tenets of No-Kill seem very obvious, but implementing them can be difficult. The Hermitage is fully dedicated to this, however, and we will not rest until Pima County is no-kill. Then, we will continue our work, to spread the ideals of No-Kill throughout Arizona, and the US. We know we are not alone; there are millions of supporters, and they are also working to create a world better than the one we have; a world where every companion animal is treated as the beautiful individual they are, and loved for it.
These 11 Tenets are adapted from the No-Kill Advocacy Center’s publication, “No Kill 101”. You can find out more about their mission at www.nokilladvocacycenter.org or on their Facebook page: facebook.com/nokilladvocacycenter
The Eleven Tenets of No-Kill
1. TNR Program: Not only should we alter our companion animals; we should work to alter the stray and community cats in our cities and towns. Lowering the number of unwanted puppies and kittens being born helps lower the number of cats and dogs needing placement, or roaming freely without a human guardian.
2. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter: Early surgeries that sterilize cats and dogs will prevent accidental pregnancies and, like TNR, helps lower the number of unwanted litters. The Hermitage contracts with Arizona Spay and Neuter, and we keep a listing of other early surgery clinics in the area that can help.
3. Rescue Groups: Placing animals for adoption, or transferring them from a kill shelter to a rescue group not only frees kennel space, but gives that cat or dog a second chance at finding their forever home. Reputable rescue groups should not be denied the chance to pull a cat or dog from a county shelter.
4. Foster Care: Caring for very young kittens or puppies, sick but treatable animals, or animals who need behavior modification is something many municipal shelters cannot do. For this reason, and so many more, foster care is a resource that should never be forgotten. Foster parents can care for “bottle babies”, helping orphaned puppies and kittens become strong and healthy enough for adoption; they can work with dogs and cats who need behavioral training, and they can help socialize very shy or frightened animals. These foster parents are an extension of the shelter walls, and without them too many adoptable animals are destroyed at county shelters.
5. Comprehensive Adoption Programs: While it might stand to reason that adoptions are a necessary part of animal rescue; too many rescues can forget this in their mission to save the animals and care for them. We here at The Hermitage consider adoption to be just as important as rescue; we want every cat in our care to have a loving family. We know that adoptions mean happy families and kitties—and we know that adoption is a very important part of spreading the message of No-Kill throughout Arizona.
6. Pet Retention: There are many reasons people relinquish their pets; one of the most common is behavioral problems, like urinating outside the litter box (for cats). Other reasons include moving, or financial difficulties that make it hard or impossible to continue to feed their animals. The Hermitage has long advocated for education of pet parents on behavioral issues. We are willing to work with pet parents and regularly offer tips and advice on a myriad of cat-related issues. To help in financial difficulties, we instituted our Food for People’s Pets Program. We never want anyone to have to relinquish their pets because they can’t afford cat or dog food; we can help.
7. Medical and Behavior Programs: Working hand-in-hand with number 6, many times small changes are needed to cause large differences in “pet troubles”. We also pay attention to the cats in our care, making sure they are healthy, happy, stimulated and socialized. Until we find their forever homes, we want them to be as healthy and happy as they can be—if our cats become ill, we treat them.
8. Public Relations/Community Development: Not only do we want to increase our adoptions, we want to introduce ourselves to our donors, and meet new volunteers! Without a community of no-kill supporters behind us, we can’t do it ourselves—and we know this. We also want to promote transparency in all of our work; whether it’s the number of cats we’ve rescued, and the shelters they transferred from, to the number of adoptions we’ve had in the past year. We want our supporters and our community at-large, to know they can trust us, and that our work is good.
9. Volunteers: Our volunteers help us hold the shelter together. In so many ways, they are an addition of our staff, our shelter and our mission. Our volunteers make the difference, here and at other no-kill shelters.
10. Proactive Redemptions: Many shelters don’t or can’t take the time to reunite lost pets with their families. One way to prevent untimely deaths is to do just this. The Hermitage always recommends that families with lost pets contact Pima Animal Care Center and the Humane Society, as well as watching online for “found” pets. Please see our link for Lost and Found on our Resources page for more information.
11. A compassionate Director: Last, but certainly not least, a no-kill shelter needs an executive dedicated to the hard work of pushing for a no-kill approach in everything the shelter does. Not only is it important that the executive work with the shelter staff, but s/he must be willing to speak out in public, even if it is unpopular in the community. A director who is compassionate, not only to the animals in the shelter’s care, but the staffers, can create a work-place that supports the mental, physical emotional needs of all involved.