An ambitious initiative in Utah could spark a change that saves thousands of pets. Most pet owners are aware that there is a problem with overpopulation that forces many pet shelters to euthanize cats and dogs. According to ASPCA, approximately 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in the United States each year.
It's this staggering figure that makes Utah's goal such a seemingly dubious one: Utah aims to save 90% of its shelter animals through a series of gradual changes that would turn Utah into a no-kill state. The initiative in Utah was proposed by the Best Friends Animal Society and aims to make the entire state no-kill by 2019.
Though this goal seems optimistic at first glance, it’s actually in line with Utah’s current progress. In 2000, the No More Homeless Pets Coalition began making a significant impact on the number of pets euthanized annually. In Utah, the number of pets euthanized annually has been decreasing from a whopping 46,000 pets per year in 2000 to a its latest figure of 18,000 pets in 2013. The concept of the no-kill movement seems simple; but in practice, it entails far more than simply refusing to euthanize a pet.
The "No-Kill" Model
A "no-kill shelter" is a bit of a misnomer, as these shelters still euthanize up to 10% of animals due to medical or behavioral concerns. What sets them apart from other shelters is their commitment to pet welfare and the future of the pet population. Rather than rely on exterminations, these shelters spay and neuter feral animals, strays, and pets. With a catch and release program, these shelters could affect the future of the pet population immensely.
The infrastructure of a no-kill shelter centers on accountability. The No Kill Advocacy Center describes the nature of a no-kill center as one that fundamentally centers on accountability and flexibility. These two aspects check one another to ensure that each shelter does the best job that it can when it comes to saving animals. Therefore, rather than create strict regulations or definitions, the organization cites a checklist of programs that a no-kill shelter should run.
These programs include systems to control the population, such as the aforementioned neutering program, and basic resources needed to run these programs, like volunteers and a hard-working shelter director. Though the list also suggests that each program be implemented in a comprehensive fashion, the only real requirement to meet the no-kill criteria is that a shelter must euthanize less than ten percent of its resident animals.
Other Factors and an Expanding Movement
Utah’s dedication to the welfare of its companion animals is not a decision based solely on ethics or compassion. The state has also cited a financial incentive in its no-kill policy. Running shelters that are no-kill are surprisingly cost-effective when compared to traditional shelters. The impounding, warehousing, and killing of animals can often run a larger total than less expensive procedures like spaying and neutering. By focusing on efforts that control the population of pets and emphasizing adoption efforts, shelters and tax payers save money.
In addition to saving money, this effort reduces the hazards posed by stray animals. Feral cats and strays can carry diseases like Rabies and the strategies of no-kill shelters work to combat these dangers. Lastly, this effort can be combined with other pro-animal efforts to solve population problems. Efforts to increase adoptions from shelters can reduce the demand for puppy mills that are at fault for egregious animal abuse.
Utah may be in the upper echelon of no-kill states, but they’re not the only state that’s adopting these types of initiatives. In fact, the model for Utah’s current practices originated in Los Angeles. The hope of the Best Friends Animal Society and the other organizations behind the No Kill Movement is that it will spread throughout the country. What do you think of the no-kill movement and of the new initiatives in Utah? Let us know in the comments section!