Two hotly debated leaders from the world of animal welfare recently sat down for an interview that gave great insight about the future of realizing a nationwide No-Kill policy for companion animals. Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) dedicated three days of his blog to his interview with Robin Starr, CEO of the Richmond SPCA and creator of a no-kill city.
Yes, this is the same Wayne Pacelle who was in-charge of the HSUS as it stood by while hundreds of rescued fighting dogs were euthanized. And yes, this is the same Robin Starr who met with controversy last summer when her deaf and blind dog died after being left alone in a car.
However each individual has also been a pioneer in the field of animal welfare and rescue and the concept for the interview gives us a glimpse into the future policies of the HSUS.
Earlier this year when Pacelle was criticized for his role in euthanizing dogs rescued from a dog-fighting operation, HSUS made a commitment to begin evaluating all rescued dogs on an individual basis. This commitment has led HSUS to launch The Shelter Pet Project – a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to end euthanasia of healthy and treatable homeless animals.
It has also led to the creation of the National Federation of Humane Societies. This is a coalition of dozens of major shelters and rescue groups throughout the country that have vowed to stop euthanasia for healthy homeless pets by the year 2020.
In his blog Pacelle said, “…there is broader acceptance of no-kill principles, and an acknowledgment that it must be our goal as a movement to find homes for healthy animals and to halt the killing of animals except when it’s medically necessary. There is a pathway, although a challenging and difficult one, to see an end in the years ahead to the routine euthanasia of animals in shelters.”
The new coalition may have been what prompted the interview with Robin Starr. Her discussion gives a great overview of how a city can implement a no-kill strategy. Even if it helps one town change, the effort will be worthwhile.
Pacelle explains how Starr took the Richmond SPCA in 2002 from a “traditional animal welfare group” to a no-kill shelter and how she ultimately moved the entire city to adopt no-kill principles. She discusses how her decision was controversial because the act of euthanizing pets had become the accepted practice for controlling pet overpopulation in Richmond. And she states how her organization was “aggressively attacked” by other animal rescue groups when she made her decision.
Starr reveals her partnership with Richmond Animal Care and Control (the city-operated shelter) and how they helped create a town in which “no healthy homeless animal would lose its life.” Her goal was achieved in 2006 and the city of Richmond, VA has remained that way ever since.
Starr points that there are many “multi-pronged” steps to create a successful no-kill city. Here are some of the first steps her group took:
- Create a vast volunteer based foster network that can provide individual care and rehabilitation for homeless pets with special needs. This was especially helpful during kitten season.
- Establish a Pet Retention Program. Richmond SPCA created a hotline to help solve behavior questions for pet owners. The goal was to keep as many cats and dogs in their homes as possible.
- Set up very accessible, low-cost/no-cost spay and neuter clinics. The program also targeted specific areas where pet overpopulation was at its worst.
- Create a progressive pet adoption program.
- Institute an aggressive Trap-Neuter-Return program for feral cats.
- Educate the public about the need to adopt from a shelter.
- Establish a wide network for fundraising.
The group even learned how to utilize social media resources to communicate with the community. It came in handy when they tackled their latest goal, this year.
Starr said, “This year we decided that we were going to take on the goal of saving the life of every neonatal kitten in the city of Richmond that was not seriously ill. To do so, we needed to vastly expand our foster care network to meet the huge demand in the spring and summer kitten season months. We broadly communicated that need, responded quickly when people offered help to us and removed every roadblock possible to getting kittens out to a huge number of foster care homes. We gave them training and trusted them to care. The result was that we saved the life of more than 500 neonatal kittens in 2009.”
Wayne Pacelle’s interview with Robin Starr is both practical and enlightening. It shows how one city can take a step in the right direction on behalf of homeless pets and it proves that every city can get organized and lessen the suffering of abandoned cats and dogs.