Practical Issues >
Pet - Index >
Pet Care - Index >
It Takes A Community
By Nathan Winograd
A decade ago, the idea of
finding a home for every healthy shelter dog and cat would have sounded like
science fiction. Now we are poised to make it a reality. But whether you
call it No More Homeless Pets, No Kill, or other things, in a nutshell, the
challenge is to build a humane "society."
To meet that challenge, we
need to get the community excited, to energize people for the task at hand.
Everybody needs to be a part of the mission. And the measure of how much we
succeed-or fail-is a function of what happens to the cat living in an alley
in our community, whether the business downtown adopts a 'pets at work'
policy, whether landlords will help our lifesaving goals by saying yes to
renters with dogs, whether our neighbors adopt imperfect pets because they
believe in our lifesaving mission. It is about the cafes, the storefronts,
the squares, the neighborhoods. That is how we will be measured. And that is
what it takes to save all the lives at risk-regardless of how big or how
small your shelter is.
What confuses a lot of
people in this movement, what stops them before they start is the completely
false idea that to end the killing of healthy and sick homeless pets, you
need to start with big bucks and big shelters. That helps, it helps a lot,
but it is putting the cart before the horse. And that's not so great an idea
when our cart and our horse have a long way to go.
To reach our goals, we
must first focus our energies, not on building a shelter, but on rebuilding
our relationship with the community.
If No Kill is going to
become a reality in our hometowns, the ethic, the beliefs, the desire must
penetrate the community. No-Kill may be defined by what happens to the
animals within the halls of the shelter, but it can only be achieved by what
happens outside of them. How much the lifesaving ethic is embraced in the
cafes, storefronts, squares and neighborhoods. By how much we build our
image by reflecting the values that people hold dear, and in turn expand the
resources to save more and more lives at risk.
Let me give you one
example. Jamie had never heard of feral cats. All Jamie knew was that after
she fed the hungry stray in her yard, she started noticing others-- all of
them hungry. So she started feeding them. And she wanted to have them
She managed to catch
them-one by one. And since she paid full price, over $200 for an exam,
vaccinations, and spay/neuter, she could only afford one cat every two
When the local SPCA opened
a feral cat spay/neuter clinic and began loaning out traps for free, Jamie
went on to trap and alter over 120 cats in one year alone. And a team of 70
"Jamies" put together a neonatal foster network that reduced kitten deaths
by 85% throughout the city.
Jamie exists in every
community. We need to tap into that energy, that compassion, that desire to
do the right thing-and harness it. We build a humane shelter within our
walls. We become a humane society by embracing the landlords, merchants, and
feral cat caretakers in our communities-and energizing them for the
lifesaving effort ahead.
It is absolutely essential
for the humane movement to embrace the community we serve. We cannot save
the lives of animals without people's help.
If you reflect the
community's values, if you are doing a good job for animals, if you tell
them about it, and then ask for their help. They do help. They want to be a
part of the effort. Jamie traps cats for spay/neuter. Landlords make their
apartments "pet friendly." Others give donations.
Whether its pets in rental
housing, dogs at work, cats in alleys, or finding homes for older, sick,
injured or traumatized pets in our shelter, if we are going to save lives,
we need four things: desire, creativity, flexibility, and most importantly,
The big, beautiful
shelter, the expanding resource base, the successes will all be a byproduct
of that, not their cause.