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No-Kill - no other solution

Sit down in the waiting room at the East Honolulu Pet Hospital expecting to breeze through a pretty picture book on kittens while you wait to see the vet, and you may be in for a shock. The Dreaded Comparison - Human and Animal Slavery; Eternal Treblinka - Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust; Disposable Animals - Ending the Tragedy of Throwaway Pets. Horrifying photographs. Dark. Decidedly political.

"Scare you?" asks the vet. Not "scare" exactly, but the waiting room reading selection will certainly get your attention. What's going on here?

Essentially, this is no ordinary veterinary practice. Although the sign on the office building next to the Aloha station on Hawaii Kai Drive has not yet been changed, the new owners are the non-profit animal rescue group Animal CARE Foundation � East Honolulu Intervention Center. Dr. Sabina De Giacomo is the vet; she is well-equipped, a Purdue University education and 14 years of experience treating beloved family dogs, cats, and "exotics" including rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds. An impressive array of high quality medical, surgical, and 24/7 emergency care is available.

What is EXTRAordinary is that the profits of her practice provide the medical care for the less fortunate animals on Oahu: abused, misused, neglected, abandoned, the victims and vanquished.

Dr. De Giacomo's convictions run deep. She has seen a lot of suffering. The intensity of her gaze and crystal clarity of her logic will make you question long-held assumptions. She will ask you to open your eyes and heart to the fact that "humane" practices that may have made sense at one time, have increasingly devolved to become distorted, futile, economically counterproductive, and cruel. Most compelling of these is the euthanasia of tens of thousands of animals on Oahu every year.

As a society, we have largely accepted animal euthanasia as a necessary evil, the only way to control an unwanted population out of control. Dr. De Giacomo explains that once SPCAs and humane societies contracted with governments to operate city pounds - animal control - the income for their good works came from collecting strays, which set up a vicious cycle that knows no end. Of the estimated 45,000 animals rounded up on Oahu each year, 85 percent will be put to death. There are simply not enough adoptive homes to go around, not enough cages, nor enough staff to rehabilitate and care for the flood of animals collected, and there never will be.

"We MUST go to the No-Kill system," she says. "It is the only viable solution, the only way to decrease unwanted animal populations." She emphasizes, "sterilization - not extermination - is the key."

The heart of the No-Kill system is a proven effective strategy called TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release), which focuses on the vast majority of unwanted animals, feral cats.

Abandoned by their human families or simply lost, unsterilized housecats eventually band together in groups called colonies. Feral cats live in alleyways, parks, college campuses, deserted buildings, wherever there is cover and a source of food, however meager. A single unsterilized female will result in 1,200 kittens over five years. Removing and killing them does not work because as long as the habitat and food source remain, new cats will take their place.

Instead of the perpetual and expensive procedure of "trap-and-kill," there is a better way, far more effective and far more humane. TNR workers trap feral animals and deliver them to a vet, where they are evaluated, vaccinated, microchipped, and neutered. Kittens and tame adults are placed in good homes and the others returned to their familiar territory, watched over and cared for by a trained volunteer. When trap-and-kill is terminated, significant resources are available to fund TNR.

With good colony management, malnutrition and disease are eliminated. With sterilization, nuisance behaviors such as the yowling of females and the spraying of toms disappear so that colonies co-exist in harmony with human neighbors. The cats live out their lives in peace, their numbers dwindling naturally over time. Dr. De Giacomo considers the dedicated individuals who care for feral cat colonies "our community's greatest asset."

Trap-Neuter-Release, in conjunction with aggressive adoption, training, and public relations programs, have resulted in 100 percent No-Kill shelters in San Francisco and Tompkins County, New York, where the numbers of animals entering the shelters has declined dramatically, and every healthy animal who is impounded finds a home. Dr. De Giacomo believes that once people learn about the No-Kill alternative, No-Kill will become a reality in Hawaii, because, she correctly notes, it reflects the aloha and compassion of our community.

Dr. De Giacomo encourages anyone interested in the No-Kill movement to check out www.alleycat.org and www.nokillsolutions.com. Call or visit the Animal CARE Foundation to for more information, to volunteer, or to make a donation.

Animal CARE Foundation - East Honolulu Intervention Center, 6650 Hawaii Kai Drive, (808) 941-2452; Intervention, (808) 396-3333.

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