Wednesday, January 5, 2011

D.I.Y. Feature: No Kill Louisville

Happy belated New Years to our D.I.Y. community.  We are officially back from a nice refreshing holiday break and ready to strap on our crafty shoes and get to work.  We have lots of new ideas brewing and fun stuff coming up for you.  So to kick off 2011 with a bang, check out this great interview with Jessica Reid of No Kill Louisville, a great group with an amazing cause.  Don't forget if you want to be featured on our blog, shoot us an email.

What is No Kill Louisville?  
We are a non-profit organization working to save all adoptable pets in our area
by changing our city's approach to animal sheltering. We believe this can happen by increasing community involvement; improving shelter practices, including improved customer service, helping people keep their pets, comprehensive foster programs, and more; and working with other animal organizations to save more pets. 

Who started No Kill Louisville and what made you want to do this? No Kill Louisville (NKL) was started by seven people who were volunteering at Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS). We saw that many animals were dying simply because people who came to adopt were treated rudely or because the shelter wouldn't work with rescues or because they drove off or refused to work with fosters.

I began volunteering after the flood at the shelter in 2009. After two months of the above conditions, I was feeling very bad about helping and getting nowhere at saving animals. An employee told me about a book called "Redemption" written by Nathan Winograd. He was challenging shelters and humane societies across the country that claimed it was the public's fault millions of animals were dying yearly.

In the book, he takes you through the history of animal sheltering and explains how people who wanted to save animals "lost their way."  He laid out a simple and logical plan to ending the killing of adoptable pets - which included some of what I mentioned in the above as well as proactive public relations, increasing the number of pets returned to their homes, behavioral programs, and comprehensive spay/neuter programs. It made sense and I started telling all the volunteers. Many thought I was nuts.

This year, Shelby County's No Kill Mission celebrated a year of being No Kill.  In honor of this achievement,  Nathan Winograd spoke in February 2010 at a conference in Shelby County. The volunteers also attended and realized the logic in what was being said.  We then began meeting in one volunteer's house and organizing ourselves.  We contacted city council members and explained how the No Kill model improves the "quality of life" for all residents.

They responded so positively to what we were saying that we decided it was time for the next step - No Kill Louisville was founded on April 22, 2010.  We've since grown by leaps and bounds and saved hundreds upon hundreds of pets. 
How long has No Kill Louisville been operating?  Officially since April 22, 2010; the founding seven members began working together on the effort in February 2010. 

What makes you D.I.Y.? We are a totally volunteer group that has pushed forward even when we aren't sure exactly how we'll succeed. We do everything ourselves. :D 

How does your group impact Louisville? We work to improve the lives of pets and people. By increasing spay/neuter efforts, it means fewer stray pets on the streets. By working to help people keep their pets through a pet food bank, behavioral training efforts, and more, which we are now working to establish, we'll help keep pets out of the shelters and with their families.  By working with the shelter to increase adoptions, foster programs, work with animal rescue organizations, and improve public relations, we'll not only be saving tax dollars for all Louisville residents but  improving the "quality of life" for both orphaned pets and for residents who love animals. 

What are you currently working on? We are currently working to establish a pet food bank because we recently learned that Kentucky Humane Society is closing their food bank as of December 18, 2010. The pet food bank served about 250 people every weekend so they could keep their pets. We feel this is a priority because it will force low income families to give up their beloved pets which is not only heartwrenching for the families but bad for many of these animals who end up in terrible conditions or dead. 

We are also trying to ensure adoptions for animals at the city-run shelter continue at PetSmart on Hurstbourne Road because off-site adoptions are key to saving lives.  We organize volunteers to staff adoptions and do transports.  In addition, we work to organize fosters, reach more adopters, raise funds for transports to rescues, and pay the medical needs of pets in danger at our shelters. On the more "fun" side of things, we're currently planning our Dog Days of Derby for April 9 and 10 at George Rogers Clark Park, which will be a national disc-dog competition with vendors, and the Wags to Whiskers celebration at the Louisville Zoo's African Outpost the evening of Saturday, April 9. 

What are your long term goals for No Kill Louisville?  I'd like to ensure that the city-run shelter becomes a No Kill facility and help the city maintain that status. By "No Kill" we define that as no adoptable pet is killed. Those who are euthanized are only done so if they are injured or ill and suffering with no hope of treatment or those who are deemed "dangerous to the public" by a proper behavioral assessment.   We want to help the city establish and maintain a "no kill status" for the long term. That means supporting our local shelters and rescues with foster programs, transport help, public relations help to reach new and more adopters, and much, much more. 

What is your favorite thing about running your group?  Hearing the "success stories" - it means so much to me to hear that an orphaned pet has found a home due to the work of No Kill Louisville - whether if it's through local adoption, through the foster program, or through a rescue.  Those stories, letters, emails, and phone calls I get from the "new families" make all of the late, after work hours worth it. Each one means we're one step closer to becoming a "No Kill Louisville." 

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? Convincing people who have heard the "old rhetoric" for too long that there is indeed another way.  In other words, for so long we (the public) have been told that the shelters have no other choice but to kill healthy, adoptable animals because there are simply too many. Of course it is important to continue comprehensive spay/neuter programs, BUT to blame shelters killing on the public is wrong. Especially when you consider most shelters have terrible customer service; do not have comprehensive foster programs; do evaluations on animals as soon as they get into the shelter setting (which is a terrible time and place to evaluate pets) and then kill them for failing those evaluations; don't do public outreach or community relations; don't allow volunteers who can be an "army of compassion"; and even work to hinder animal rescue groups from saving pets.  If you consider those things and many other issues, how can shelters blame the killing on the "irresponsible public"??  It's the approach to sheltering that leads to the killing and that seems to be difficult for people to  understand at times.

Do you have any advice for groups/non-profits?  Know your mission, believe in your mission, IF you feel unfocused or are questioning or have infighting, go back to your mission. People respond well when you believe in your mission (purpose) and stick to it. Those are the groups and non-profits that, I believe, weather strife and turmoil because you cannot avoid problems.  However, if you tell yourself "there will be missteps, there will be problems, but I will deal and tackle those issues with my mission always in my heart" then you will find success.  Which brings me to the second point, define what success would mean to you and go for it! 

How can people get involved with No Kill Louisville?  You can head to our website and go to "contact us" - simply sign-up to volunteer at our events or ask to be connected with local animal welfare groups to volunteer your time.  Or you can offer to be a foster or do transports, which is basically moving animals from high kill shelters to places of safety.  Or, you can join our FaceBook "No Kill Louisville" where we often offer opportunities or ideas on getting involved.  Just remember - it's okay if you don't do it all the time or if you don't do a lot to help, just do something - however small or big.

1 comment:

I love reading your lovely comments, thank you! Please leave me a link to your blog so that I may pay you a visit, as well. I try very hard to follow back all of my readers!