No kill? No problem


Rochita Ghosh

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hroughout history, humans and animals have lived alongside each other and depended on one another for survival. In modern times this still rings true, but so does an overpopulation of domesticated household pets, in far greater quantity than there are willing adopters. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 7.6 million household animals live in shelters, often stretching the resources of these organizations thin. Much of these shelters, in order to healthily support the animals under their care, are forced to reduce their numbers through euthanization. 2.4 million adoptable cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters per year, according to the Humane Society, which inspires action in some people to reduce this statistic.
Liz Burks, co-founder of the No Kill Columbia organization, was one of those motivated. She once worked with a shelters that put down animals and felt discontented with how these shelters treated the animals, prompting her and others who thought similarly to do something about it.
“As co-founder and president of NKC, I witnessed the unnecessary killing of healthy and adoptable dogs and cats [in the shelter] and knew change needed to take place in saving the lives of these beautiful animals,” Burks said. “Many of us approached the staff and board members of the organization with solutions and willingness to help implement, [but] no action [occurred].”
Through Burks and the others’ determination, the kill rate at these shelters has decreased. In 2011, the year the organization came to be, 2,741 animals were euthanized at the Central Missouri Humane Society, according to No Kill Columbia. However, the number has decreased since then; in 2014 a total of 907 animals were killed at the shelter, according to No Kill Columbia. Burks said they accomplished this through uniting together and making sure their voices were heard.
[box title=”A broader view of the issue” style=”glass” box_color=”#2bb64c” title_color=”#000000″ radius=”0″]Of the dogs entering animal shelters, approximately 35 percent are adopted, 31 percent are euthanized and 26 percent of dogs who arrived as strays are returned to their owner. Of the cats entering animal shelters, approximately 37 percent are adopted, 41 percent are euthanized, and less than 5 percent of cats who arrived as strays are returned to their owners. About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are brought back to their owners, according to an article from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. [/box] “As former volunteers, fosters and employees of the shelter, our goal was to raise awareness of the shelter’s annual statistics and practices,” Burks said. “The new model of sheltering which, when implemented, results in saving 90 percent and more of the animals walking in the door.”
The organization introduced the idea of an 11 step plan to succeed in saving the lives of animals, ranging from medical programs to rescue groups, on No Kill Columbia website. Burks said that as long as each of these factors are utilized in a community, the amount of euthanized animals can be drastically reduced.
“No Kill Columbia and their supporters knew it could be done and are hopeful the trend to save lives of all healthy and treatable companion animals and free roaming cats in the community will continue and surpass the 90 percent save rate,” Burks said. “There are many now who are saving 95 percent and more.”
Perhaps because of the organization’s youth, only one no kill shelter resides in town, which began long before No Kill Columbia. Second Chance originated in 1985 as a privately-funded organization, comprised solely of volunteers. All animals are able to find a home at the shelter if possible, interim executive director Kerri Burrows said.
“We’ve always worked under the philosophy that we don’t ever euthanize an animal just because we no longer have space for it,” Burrows said. “However, we are a closed-door rescue group, so we don’t take in animals that we don’t believe we have the capacity to care for, so the term no-kill doesn’t impact us as much as it would an open-door and/or municipal facility.”
[quote cite=”Liz Burks, co-founder of No Kill Columbia”]As former volunteers, fosters and employees of the shelter, our goal was to raise awareness of the shelter’s annual statistics and practices. The new model of sheltering which, when implemented, results in saving 90 percent and more of the animals walking in the door. [/quote] The shelter works closely with those who euthanize animals for space, helping to make sure that no one feels forced to put down an animal. Throughout its history, Second Chance helped more than 14,000 animals, Burrows said, and hopes to keep this and other accomplishments occurring in the future.
“Our goal for Second Chance is to make it the premier animal rescue in Central Missouri,” Burrows said. “And, as always, continue to build on the number of families we create every year.”
Not all see the no kill shelters as necessarily beneficial, however. Sophomore Audrey Milyo and her family adopted their dog from the Central Humane Society, and while she approves of the concept behind these organizations, she considers adopting a pet from a shelter that performs euthanizations to benefit the animal more than from one that is a no kill shelter.
“I believe that adopting from a kill shelter is the better option because you are preventing more death than if you adopted from a no kill shelter, since the animals aren’t going to be killed there either way,” Milyo said. “But at a kill shelter, the animals will be killed unless they are adopted, so adopting from a kill shelter ultimately saves more lives.”
Regardless, Burks still feels moved by the amount of deaths that animal shelters enact each year, and strives to achieve her organization’s goal.
“The No Kill Columbia mission is to end the unnecessary killing of companion animals in Columbia by increasing community involvement through awareness and education,” Burks said. “We envision the city of Columbia proudly to be declared a no kill community by citizens, animal welfare organizations and city government officials.”
What do you think about No Kill shelters? Leave a comment below!