Sunday, October 3, 2010

No-Kill Austin & More

It's been busy around here--last week I spent a whole day in Austin, TX (a three-hour hike from my house) attending the "No-Kill Austin" conference, which promised appearances by Nathan Winograd and other big names in the "No-Kill Community".  Winograd couldn't attend, but the roster of speakers offered several hands-on topics by folks from various Shelters, including The Animal Ark, of Hastings, MN.  I had to find pet-sitting for my two dogs and one foster (thanks so much, Ms. Anne, a wonderful animal advocate!) and arrange for my 16-year-old daughter to pick my dogs up in the evening.  I rode up with two volunteers from the Shelter, including my dear friend, Ms. M., who has been the Off-Site Team Coordinator for the Shelter volunteers.

Ms. M. has, after a great deal of thought and with sadness, decided to step down as Coordinator, a volunteer position she's held (actually, more like has "lived") for two years.  Ms. M. has spent more than four years dedicated to the animals of the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.  It's better to let her explain things herself, as written in her formal resignation letter to the volunteers:

For four years, I have been working to lower the killing at this facility by volunteering.  For the last two years, I have been supporting the shelter’s stated goal of becoming a no-kill* facility by leading a team of volunteers working to establish a key component, a Comprehensive Adoption Program.   Let me stop here and say thank you to all of you that have worked along side toward this goal.  We would not have been successful without you.

September ended my second year in this team lead role.  The team has accomplished much in the last two years

-- We have built a team of 300+ adoption volunteers and 53 trained off-site adoption coordinators.
-- Over 2700 animals are now “out-of-shelter” from off-site venues due to our efforts.
-- More than $20,000 in donations and merchandise has been raised for MCAS animals. 
-- We have held over 1000 adoption events throughout Montgomery County. 
-- Our adoption coordinators have contributed over 2 man-years of service to the County (just physically sitting at adoption events).
-- We have worked with over 80 businesses and agencies in Montgomery County. 
-- Our second year we have increased performance in each of the above categories over first year results. 
--We have planned events, arranged animal transport, solicited donations of all equipment, tracked our results, participated in marketing, and maintained websites to communicate event schedules to fosters and volunteers
-- We have, as a team, made a concerted effort to help MCAS staff with adoption support functions like help with kennel cards, animal inventories, tracking long-term animals, heartworm and FeLuk testing, on-line inquiries and data input for off-site adoptions.

However, I cannot support the current change in direction to a “low-kill” goal.  We can do better and the animals depend on us to do so.   A no-kill goal is non-negotiable.  Our resources are too valuable to expend on a lesser goal. 

We need: 
--Leadership that believes it is possible to save all savable animals while maintaining quality of life for each and is dedicated to achieving this goal. 
--Full implementation all of the programs as identified in the No-Kill Equation ( 
--A means by which volunteers can participate in the development of policies and programs for their shelter. 
--An adoption program that is a primary shelter program with substantive shelter support. 
Animal inventories that are accurate (including fail-proof identification of animals) and used as the basis for formulating needed programs & marketing strategies. 
--Kennel cards that are complete, informative (including owner turn-in information) and accurate.
--Promised adoption services provided in an efficient manner so that animals can be competitively marketed to the public. 
--A fail-proof system to assure Spay/Neuter compliance. 
-- Appropriate goals set and progress toward them measured and communicated publicly.

It is time to get serious about implementing the only programs shown to be effective in saving all savable animals while maintaining quality of life.  Shelters that have accomplished this say that it does not take four years or five years nor does it does require privatization.  It does require the right goals, a determined, accountable management & staff and an engaged public, working diligently, and with integrity, to organize this shelter to support all necessary programs.  I’m sure that this is possible for MCAS.

                  The selfish part of me wants her to continue.  But Ms. M. is adamant that the management of the MC Animal Shelter has reneged on promises to dedicate resources toward making the Shelter no-kill.  I understand her concerns, and hope that I'll be able to work with her in her next endeavor.  For the moment, she plans to take a well-deserved sabbatical and spend time with her family.

                  I have had the honor of working with Ms. M. for almost two years, and her dedication and energy has always amazed me.  I will miss doing Off-Sites with her.  It won't be the same.

                  At any rate, I'm not exactly sure what my future with the Shelter will be--right now I am in a "hold" pattern due to High School Band commitments through the end of October.

                  I have one foster dog, the awesome Chihuahua senior, Mrs. Puff.  I'm working to find her a home.  She is a great dog who deserves her own home.  Of course, she thinks she already has a home.  Here she is scratching a food dish to let me know that a treat might be appropriate.

                  My other Chihuahua foster, the incorrigible but cute "L'il Dude" is now with Dakota Rescue.  He'll get neutered then he'll be put up for adoption.  I delivered him to his new foster mom in late September.  I'll post an update when I have one.

                  Meanwhile, my own dog, Chopper, recently adopted from the Shelter, came inside one day with a severe squint in his left eye.  I figured he'd poked himself on the shrubbery while trying to get at the neighbor's Labradoodle on the other side of the fence.  When the squint didn't ease up, I decided to take him to my Vet.  Dr. Williams did a stain and we saw a 2mm "hole" in the cornea.  I had to administered antibiotic eye drops and tablets, but the hole has healed quickly and Chopper is back to his normal self.

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