Sue Cosby on: What is No Kill?

July 20, 2008

Written by TNKN contributor Sue Cosby

When I first took my current job, some people (luckily only a handful) were really freaked out that someone who was passionate about No Kill sheltering was coming to town.  In addition to the high profile hoarders, convicted of animal cruelty who had labelled their shoddy operations as “No Kill” shelters, trumpeted by PeTA as the “reality” of No Kill, there is another shelter in the community (not the one I was going to work for) that describes themselves as No Kill.  The perception of that shelter has been at times, relatively poor among animal welfare advocates.  Concerns were that they kept animals caged for years and were not doing much - if any - work within the community.  Sadly, the image presented by PeTA along with that shelter’s lack of proactive programs had become the representation of No Kill for some in the area. 

I suppose that these people expected that I would further reduce the number of animals handled through the shelter as cages were tied up with vicious animals living out their lives in confinement or adopted out to unsuspecting families.  I’m not really sure.  You would think that coming from a large, urban animal control shelter, (yes, I worked at a large, urban animal conrol shelter that handled appx 25-30,000 animals annually and all of the problems associated with it … and still believe in No Kill) people would be afraid that I would kill a lot of animals but that wasn’t the case.  That is kind of amusing to me.  

What I asked of them is to not throw out the baby with the bathwater - don’t give up on the No Kill movement because of the poor performance or inaction of a particular organization or person - and instead think about No Kill as a holistic philosophy.

What is No Kill?  No Kill:

  • Is an achievable ideal for community animal care where a concern for animals guides the process and our decisions.
  • Means euthanasia is reserved for animals who are irremediably suffering or truly dangerous.
  • Is turning our backs on failed philosophies, seeking out poor policies that hurt animals and eliminating them.
  • Is opening our eyes and hearts to the power of the community, not making life and death decisions based on what is possible within the four walls of a shelter but rather allowing others to share the burden and help find answers.
  • Is constantly challenging ourselves and others as well as allowing others to challenge us to do better.
  • Is understanding that every animal is a unique individual, a unique case with its own challenges and the answers for each animal are not always easy or black and white.
  • Is recognizing that “is it adoptable” isn’t the question.  “Can this animal be saved” is the question.
  • Means saving and re-homing animals, not warehousing.
  • Is working to our maximum capacity and providing the best possible care for animals in shelters and rescues.
  • Is finding staff and volunteers who do better work than you, recognizing and stepping down when others will be more effective.
  • Means recognizing that the public is not our enemy but our valued friend who will help us in amazing ways.
  • Means getting on the phone, networking, making friends, sharing your story, asking for help every single day. 
  • Means spaying and neutering everything you can get your hands on … look out world!
  • Is a movement whose time has come.

Since I’ve arrived at my new job at a “limited admission” shelter that does not have animal control contracts, my new team and I have increased adoptions, reduced euthanasia, increased spay/neuter surgeries, expanded partnerships to save animals from animal control shelters including taking in neonatal, sick and injured animals, added two targeted free sterilization programs and more … Phew! 

Despite all this, we can do better - and we will because we are dedicated to creating not just a No Kill shelter but a No Kill community.

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