Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No Kill Kansas City?

The Observer took an evening and went to hear a man named Nathan Winograd speak.  Mr. Winograd is a former lawyer who has become intensely involved in the rethinking of how to work with homeless companion animals.  It was a very interesting and very challenging presentation.
In a nutshell, Mr. Winograd believes that if you do certain things whole heartedly and have leadership committed to the idea of not killing animals that can be placed in homes, you can reduce the number of companion animals that are killed in an animal shelters.  Over 4 million animals were killed in animal shelters in the United States in 2010.  Winograd believes more lives can be saved and the leading cause of death for cats and dogs is not being killed in an animal shelter.
Winograd has worked in several shelters around the United States, both as a leader and a consultant.  His formula for action is for animal shelters to do the following things and make a commitment from kennel floor to boardroom to not killing healthy animals for whom it is possible to find homes.
1. high-volume, low/no-cost spay/neuter
2. comprehensive adoptions
3. foster care
4. use of volunteers
5. marketing/public relations
6. medical care and rehabilitation
7. behavior care and rehabilitation
8. neuter and release (TNR)
9. working with rescue groups
10. pet retention efforts
11. proactive redemptions

Mom cat and kittens at KC Pet Project
Most of this list is pretty self explanatory:  reduce the numbers of cats and dogs born in a year, adopt as many as possible, use foster care as a bridge to adoption or further rescue, lots of volunteers to spread out the work load and give the best possible care to animals, making sure the community knows about the shelter and the animals therein, caring for the medical and behavioral needs of animals in the shelter, trapping feral cats and returning them to locations creating stable colonies,  working with other organizations in a cooperative manner, helping pet owners solve problems so they can keep their pets instead of having to give them up to a shelter, and helping owners find and be reunited with their lost pets.  After hearing and reading about the success stories, a person could think that this is possible.  I still think it is possible, but in this spring season of puppies and kittens, and watching many animals come in the front door of the Kansas City Missouri shelter, and not very many go back out that same front door in the possession of families and rescues, it seems like a very large task.  It was discouraging today to look around the KCMO shelter and watch the staff and volunteers of Kansas City Pet Project labor with the knowledge that not enough animals had yet found their way out the front door.  
I am still digesting what Mr. Winograd said and still reading his books.  One thing is clear to me.  You can't just do one of these  items listed above--you need to do all of them, and not halfway.  Some of them interlock as well.  However, the spring is when the scope of the problem is truly appreciated.  It's not just that there are many animals, it is just that it isn't their fault they have ended up in the situation they find themselves and it becomes a matter of proper stewardship and care to find a solution to homeless pets that does not involve killing them.
Kansas City Pet Project is less than six months old in operating the Kansas City Missouri shelter.  They are still building their base of donors, volunteers, and foster families.  If you are interested in helping the shelter in anyway, visit the website, or call 816-513-9821.
For more on the work of Nathan Winograd visit

Adoptable dog at KC Pet Project