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The No Kill Model

The following is the No Kill Equation, which is described in further detail by Nathan Winograd in his book "Redemption". The No Kill Equation outlines the key programs necessary to protect and care for shelter pets!

I. Feral Cat TNR Program ? 

TNR most commonly stands for either "Trap, Neuter, Release" or "Trap, Neuter, Return". This is the only proven method for lowering the numbers of feral/community cats in an area. The traditional "catch and kill" model does not work, and only creates a vacuum for new cats to enter a territory. We believe that even though these cats are not ?adoptable? they should be allowed to live. TNR succeeds in lowering the population and these cats can live long, happy and healthy lives if left to do so after being altered. Locally (in Louisville) Alley Cat Advocates is one example of an agency using TNR to lower the population without killing.

II. High-Volume, Low-Cost Spay/Neuter ? 

Low cost, high volume spay/neuter will quickly lead to fewer animals (particularly puppies, kittens, loose pets, and animals injured by cars) entering the shelter system, allowing more resources to be allocated toward saving lives. 

Need to make an appointment for your pet at a local spay/neuter clinic? Click here

III. Rescue Groups ? An adoption or transfer to a rescue group frees up scarce cage and kennel space, reduces expenses for feeding, cleaning, killing, and improves a community?s rate of lifesaving. In an environment of millions of dogs and cats killed in shelters annually, rare is the circumstance in which a rescue group should be denied an animal.

IV. Foster Care ? Volunteer foster care is crucial to No Kill. Without it, saving lives is compromised. It is a low cost, and often no cost, way of increasing a shelter?s capacity, improving public relations, increasing a shelter?s public image, rehabilitating sick and injured or behaviorally challenged animals, and saving lives. With a foster program, the "walls of the shelter" are limitless! 

Interested in fostering? Click here

V. Comprehensive Adoption Programs ? Adoptions are vital to an agency?s lifesaving mission. The quantity and quality of shelter adoptions is in shelter management?s hands, making lifesaving a direct function of shelter policies and practice. 

Ready to adopt? Click here

VI. Pet Retention? Shelters must develop innovative strategies for keeping people and their companion animals together. Surrenders can be prevented through counseling and resource referrals. When citizens see the shelter as a place for advice and assistance, this becomes much easier.

Need help keeping your pet? Click here

VII. Medical and Behavior Programs ?

The shelter must put in place comprehensive vaccination, handling, cleaning, socialization, and care policies before animals get sick and rehabilitative efforts for those who come in sick, injured, unweaned, or traumatized.

VIII. Public Relations/Community Involvement ? Increasing adoptions, maximizing donations, recruiting volunteers and partnering with community agencies comes down to one thing: increasing the shelter?s exposure. Public relations and marketing are the foundation of all a shelter?s activities and success. To go No Kill, the shelter must be in the public eye.

IX. Volunteers ? Volunteers are a dedicated ?army of compassion? and the backbone of a successful No Kill effort. There is never enough staff, never enough dollars to hire more staff, and always more needs than paid human resources. That is where volunteers come in and make the difference between success and failure and, for the animals, life and death. 

Want to volunteer? Click here

X. Proactive Redemptions ? One of the most overlooked areas for reducing killing in animal control shelters are lost animal reclaims. Sadly, besides having pet owners fill out a lost pet report, very little effort is made in this area of shelter operations. This is unfortunate because doing so?primarily shifting from passive to a more proactive approach?has proven to have a significant impact on lifesaving by allowing shelters to return a large percentage of lost animals as well as garner more public support for the shelter. Lost or found a pet? Click here

XI. A Compassionate Director ? A hard working, compassionate animal control or shelter director not content to regurgitate tired clichés or hide behind the myth of ?too many animals, not enough homes.? Change starts at the top, because No Kill has to be an organized, all-encompassing effort.

No Kill 2.0

In recent years, some shelters have been so successful at saving animals, they began to wonder "Why stop at saving 98%?" These shelters started to also focus on the following:

I. Palliative and Hospice Care for animals nearing the end of their life, such as animals plagued with cancer. Caregivers, usually foster homes, dedicate themselves to providing hospice support, pain management, and assessing quality of life. The animal's will to live is honored, and the pet is kept happy and comfortable as long as it seems interested. When the time comes, the animal is humanely released from its suffering through euthanasia.

II. Sanctuary Care for "Non-Rehabilitateable" animals, usually the rare dogs considered too aggressive to be placed in a home. A team of well-trained staff and volunteers work with these animals and give them a good quality of life in sanctuary, with plenty of appropriate stimulation and interaction for each dog.

Watch inspiring and informational videos by visiting our video library!

Further reading:

No Kill is Where It's At!  

The No Kill News blog is an excellent compilation of No Kill communities. There are over 80 and counting! In the last year alone, Sue reported roughly 3 new No Kill communities each month. Wow! Some people think No Kill is impossible, but there are 80 reasons why they are wrong.

Which of these are closest to Louisville? Brown County, IN; Shelby County, KY; Gallatin County, KY; and Terre Haute, IN. If they, and dozens of others, can do it, so can Louisville. End of story!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this something you invented? Is it just a Louisville thing?

Happily, the No Kill movement is sweeping the nation! The first No Kill community celebrated its lifesaving success over a decade ago. Currently, there are over 50 confirmed No Kill communities in the United States with hundreds more on the brink, and shelters in over 9 nations are taking part as well. Upon our founding in 2010, No Kill Louisville joined the movement in order to one day add Louisville to the ranks of the No Kill communities.

NO killing at all? Are you sure?

Yep! What other goal would be worth reaching for? Here we must make a distinction between killing and humane euthanasia. The death of a healthy, treatable animal by human action is undeniably different from attending to a critically ill or injured animal and making a decision, with the guidance of a veterinarian, to release it humanely from its suffering. These "critically ill or injured" animals are actually quite rare in shelters, making up less than 10% of a population. Therefore, designated No Kill communities save over 90% of animals. Some even save over 98%! Dangerous animals given individual, professional evaluations usually fall into that 10% as well, although there is a current focus to move toward sanctuary care for these animals. After all, why stop at 98%?

Don't shelters already do all they can? Don't they all want to save animals?

The policies, procedures, programs, and services of a traditionally-minded kill shelter and a progressive No Kill shelter are very different. Because of these extreme differences in operations and attitude, shelters can do much, much more. In fact, in shelters where the director made a commitment to No Kill, change can occur instantly. How long does it take a shelter to become No Kill? 120 seconds is all it took in Seagoville, TX after its new director was hired. In other communities, grassroots movements are required to make the change.

Surely these No Kill shelters must be hoarding or warehousing animals, right?

Not at all! Although shelters can certainly become stuffed full when intake rates are at its peak, shelters following the No Kill model work diligently to move animals OUT of the shelter just as fast (or faster!) than they come in. Take for example the Williamson County, TX shelter that has only 72 kennels and cages, but has about 800 animals in their system at any one time. How is that possible? Most of the animals are housed in over 500 foster homes!

I heard that No Kill shelters only take the animals they want to take, and leave the rest to be handled by a kill shelter. What gives?

A common, and understandable, point of confusion is that a private, no kill shelter can exist within a killing community. The No Kill movement advocates city & county "open admission" animal shelters to adopt the No Kill model so that the entire community can be a safe place for animals. This is different from a private rescue group with a shelter facility that chooses not to kill the animals in its care, and therefore limits its intake. The No Kill movement does NOT advocate that municipal shelters become limited-admission in order to achieve No Kill!

Why does your mission statement say "feral cats"? What does that mean?

Feral, or community, cats live in colonies outside and are generally fearful of humans. Community cats are able to live in their colonies quite happily. Traditionally, however, being unaccustomed to humans means a death sentence for these cats. Some shelters actively catch and kill the cats in a misguided effort to eradicate a population. This method actually creates a vacuum effect, and more cats come to fill the territorial void. What a cycle! Shelters that do not actively "catch and kill" might instead kill any unmanageable cat that arrives at the shelter, seeing it as "unadoptable". Trap-Neuter-Return programs, better known as TNR, effectively lower the population of a cat colony. The alternative to killing any shelter cat considered to be feral is to neuter and return it to its location except under dire circumstances.

What about pet overpopulation resulting in too many pets and not enough homes? Isn't spay/neuter the only way?

The reality is that there are many potential homes. Communities have found that rethinking their adoption program and promotions make adoption rates soar, and kill rates quickly plummet. That said, spay/neuter certainly has a place within the No Kill model. Spay/neuter can immediately lower the rate of puppies and kittens entering a shelter. Neutering can decrease roaming tendencies, and can therefore reduce the intake of lost pets or those hit by cars. However, animals can end up in a shelter regardless of their spay/neuter status if a shelter does not also provide comprehensive pet retention services and support. Animal shelters will always need to exist as a safety net for struggling pet owners, and we need to make sure shelters can actually care for and protect the lives entrusted to them. Additionally, Dr. Ellen Jefferson of Austin Pets Alive! noted that over a 10 year period, the number of spay/neuters performed did not correlate with the number of animals entering shelters. Both numbers increased, spurring Ellen to do more for pets (Austin is now a No Kill community, hurrah!).

Do people really care enough about animals to make No Kill work?

If you see the worst in people on a daily basis, it can be easy to forget that an overwhelming majority of people are mighty kind! We know that people in our community care - just look at the number of people who donated to save the life of an abused border collie!

Is No Kill expensive? Can we really pull this off in a downturn economy?

No Kill is not necessarily about using more money. Rather, it's using money and resources differently. Most shelters in No Kill communities report slight fluctuations in budget, but dramatic increases in donations. People feel good about supporting a shelter that reflects their beliefs, after all!

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