By: Tracey Paige
Each year 15,000 to 20,000 dogs and cats enter Broward County’s shelter as lost, abandoned, neglected, or mistreated through no fault of their own. Their chances of leaving the shelter alive vary by whether they are dog or cat; pretty or ugly; young or old; injured or ill. Most could be quickly placed into good homes if there was an effective public outreach effort.
In April 2012, the Broward County Commissioners passed a No Kill resolution with the goal to achieve a 90 percent live release rate. Three years later the Broward County shelter had a 57 percent live release rate (July 2014 to June 2015). This amounts to 6,628 innocent dogs and cats killed during the past year, mostly because there was not enough room or they were at the shelter for more than 30 days.
Broward County is far from reaching its goal because the County Commission and shelter management do not feel the urgency to save the lives of the dogs and cats in their care. The high kill rate is because the County has not implemented any effective No Kill programs and the ones that it touts are too small and ineffective to ever achieve No Kill status. For example, the animal shelter currently under construction should improve the comfort of animals and humans but it will not significantly increase adoptions or prevent surrenders nor will the 4,200 County-subsidized spay/neuters each year reduce animal overpopulation. They say they want to follow the successful models around the country, but we are still waiting for that to happen.
No Kill goal achieved in other communities after only several years
Many shelters that began their No Kill program with 20 percent to 30 percent live release rates have reached the 90 percent goal within three years without spending significant sums of money. Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Brown County Indiana significantly improved their live release rates in a relatively short period of time. Their successes are due to hiring shelter directors who believe that No Kill is achievable, implementing effective spay/neuter and Trap-Neuter-Release programs, expanding adoption opportunities; providing effective public outreach; and a maintaining a strong community partnership.
Becoming No Kill is not expensive or a taxpayer burden
In Atlanta, Trap-Neuter-Return is the first response for free-roaming cats that has saved over $2 million. The shelter euthanasia rate for cats dropped from 69 percent to 22 percent in less than a year. Kansas City, Missouri increased its live release rate from 65 percent in 2011 to 93 percent in 2014 with an intake of 10,000 animals per year and a $1.2 million annual budget. Broward County has an intake of 20,000 animals each year and an annual budget of $5.3 million. That’s $120 spent per animal in Kansas City with a No Kill program versus $265 spent per animal in Broward without a No Kill program.
Broward County has gotten nowhere in its negotiations to partner with the Humane Society of Broward County to build a high volume, low cost spay/neuter clinic that it approved 14 months ago. Shelter management set a very low bar on the shelter’s future goals in its 2014-2016 Strategic Business Plan and there is no written No Kill Plan “with goals and measurable objectives” as required by its No Kill resolution. Last month I attended the Best Friends conference in Atlanta – No one from Broward County attended to learn about state-of-the art-strategies to save more of our cats and dogs from euthanasia.
Broward County must change shelter management; learn from other communities; design, publicize and put into action a strategy to quickly achieve a 90 percent live release rate; and hold shelter management accountable. Until then, Broward County might say we are moving toward No Kill but the reality is that more and more innocent cats and dogs are being killed every day.
Tracey Paige is the President of Cat Pals, Inc., a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization which has dedicated itself to supplying food, water and medical care to abandoned and feral cat colonies living at the 56-acre beachfront park of Hollywood North Beach, which includes socializing the cats to get them ready for foster/adoption if possible. Their goal is to educate people and animal organizations on the benefits of “trap, neuter, release”. Their ultimate goal is zero population growth through management. Find out how you can help at www.catpals.org
Tamarac and Lauderhill residents that are interested in adopting a dog or a cat can view available pets online Broward County Animal Care