A Lifesaving Matrix
How do you know if a condition is treatable or not? At the No Kill Advocacy Center, we've put together a matrix of diseases and injuries and definitions for what constitutes healthy, treatable, and savable vs. unsavable animals. (It is on the "Reforming Animal Control" page at www.nokilladvocacycenter.org , or here NoKillMatrix.pdf
By way of example, the following conditions would be considered "healthy" animals:
-- Age (senior/geriatric animals)
-- Behavior issues typical with dogs and cats such as house soiling issues, social shyness, barking, escaping
-- Ear mites
-- Missing limb
Conditions such as fleas, ear mites, or pregnancy do not change the animal's status from being healthy since they are resolved through professionally standard routine shelter care, such as flea preventative and spay or neuter surgery, and do not require out of the ordinary care. Healthy also includes animals who are exhibiting behaviors considered normal for the species such as house soiling, territorial marking, barking, chewing, digging or scratching behavior. Likewise feral and free roaming cats who are inhibited in social interactions with humans are not exhibiting abnormal behavior for the species. As long as a feral or free roaming cat is healthy, he meets the definition. An animal does not have to be cute and cuddly or easy to place to meet this definition. Healthy is not the same as easy to adopt. The animal may be blind, deaf, old, or missing a limb, but as long as the animal is healthy, she meets the definition.
Examples of treatable animals include:
-- Allergies, including dermatitis
-- Broken bones
-- Dental conditions
-- Heartworm positive
-- Mange, demodectic or sarcoptic
-- Motherless neonates
-- Ocular conditions such as "cherry eye"
-- Respiratory infection such as kennel cough or URI
-- Conditions resolved by surgery
-- Food guarding
-- Urinary tract infections
"Treatable" shall include any animal who is sick or injured, whose prognosis for rehabilitation of that illness and/or injury is excellent, good, fair, or guarded.
In order to achieve No Kill, for example, a shelter would need to save all these animals. It is worth noting that the vast majority of dogs and cats entering shelters are young and friendly animals, with no injuries, illnesses, or behavior problems. The aforementioned should not be read as meaning that most shelter animals have problems. Some do, however, and good homes can just as readily be found for them as the thousands of cute and cuddly kittens and puppies and adult animals who make their way to a shelter every year.
But let's say for the sake of argument that everyone agrees with this. How does an animal advocate know a shelter director is being truthful when he or she says an animal is truly ill or injured with a poor prognosis, or a dog is truly vicious with a poor prognosis? In other words, how do you know that the cat was killed for symptomatic distemper and is truly dying as opposed to a run-of-the-mill URI? That is where the 90% Rule (it is actually 91%) comes in.
The 90% Rule
Since 2001, the open door shelter in Tompkins County , NY has saved between 91-93% of all animals it takes in. The open door animal control shelter in Charlottesville VA saved 92% last year. And so far this year, Washoe County NV is saving 91% of dogs. This is all dogs and cats, not just those some bureaucrat claims is "adoptable" and there is no exception made for "owner requested euthanasia," animals seized under "dangerous dog" laws, or for any other reason. Of all the animals coming in regardless of reason, over 90% left the shelters alive.
Therefore, it is safe to say that a shelter has achieved No Kill and has therefore "zeroed out" deaths of savable animals only when it is saving approximately 91-95% of all animals it takes in. A community achieves No Kill when all of its shelters do so. To put it bluntly: regardless of what claims shelters make, No Kill can only be achieved when at least 90% of all the animals impounded (regardless of reason) are saved. Anything short of that precludes a shelter--or community--from honestly claiming it is No Kill.
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