I think it's important to volunteer in a kill shelter to understand the magnitude of the problem. You are in California, which has a problem of epic proportions -- spend some time working in the shelter to see what they are up against. I didn't really understand it until I started volunteering in a public shelter and got to know the staff and management well. It's given me a very different perspective.
In my small city, on a busy day, 20-30 dogs come in through intake. A great day of adoptions is 10, but most days just 2-3. With these numbers, we're at capacity quickly. There's only one way to make space: euth dogs to make space for other dogs.
This is a hard, hard thing. My city briefly tried to go no-kill overnight in a very poorly thought-out attempt to wish the problem away. Dogs stacked up in hallways, bathrooms, closets, on top of each other -- it was awful. I wasn't volunteering back then, so I didn't see it, but the stories of them packed into kennels and fighting for space horrifying. That lasted just a couple of weeks, then they started euthing again because the situation was inhumane.
Then there's the pit bull and feral cat problem. About 7 out of 10 dogs impounded are likely pit bulls--and probably just 1 out of 10 adopted out (I'm guessing, based on what I've observed at the shelter as a volunteer). The PB rescues are all full, always. So what do you do with them? Keep them in a small kennel with minimal care forever? The most creative solution I've heard for the feral cats is to neuter and vax them and release them back to be community cats. You can't exactly do that with pit bulls though.
We are currently looking at a 3-5 year, or more, journey to becoming no kill. (And "no kill" by the way, means a kill-rate of 10% or less, not truly no kill. The 10% includes dogs with aggressive temperaments and health issues that make them unadoptable.)
Target Zero Institute in Jacksonville (a non-profit org.) advises cities on how to do it, and I've looked carefully at their plan. The plan is very, very controversial. As worthy as the goal is, parts of it really make me queasy.
First, the plan requires a massive increase in free/low-cost speutering--including control of feral cats. The benefits of that in cutting the numbers of strays are realized a few years out with a sharp drop in shelter population, but it has to happen before the no-kill goal is feasible. This means most animals in the community need to be fixed. If you've followed this board for a few months, you've seen the controversy spay/neuter laws stir up!
In cities that have used the TZI protocol to get to no kill, they also strive for an "open adoption" policy from both shelters AND rescues, with little or no adoption fee, no home checks, and no vet reference checks. Anyone who shows up can walk out with a dog, on a whim, for next to no money. If they want to chain it up outside, make it a junkyard dog, whatever -- they get a dog and a counselor attempts "education." If their last dog died from untreated heartworms because it wasn't on preventative, they get a dog. If they have no idea how to manage a powerful breed, no plans to exercise or even minimally train, they get a dog. If they train by beating the dog, I guess they get a dog. And on and on. TZI claims the "open adoption" policy is an essential component of the no-kill formula.
Some rescues in Jacksonville, where it was instituted, have told me they view the plan as having unintended negative consequences -- shoving the problem around and making it a neglect/abuse problem instead of a euthanasia problem. It's also put pressure on private rescues who spend hundreds of dollars vetting dogs, as adopters are socialized in the community through lots of advertising to expect dogs to be "free." I fear it creates a community perception of dogs being disposable since they don't cost anything.
I've seen what terrible homes have done to the psyches of dogs I've fostered -- the idea of placing a dog into one of those homes gives me the shivers. I won't do it.
This isn't to say I don't wish we could be no kill. I have some great dogs at the shelter tagged with my phone number so that I get a call to come foster them when their time is up. I'm on the front lines trying to save lives--there's a sweet one at my feet that was under a euth order last week until she got a foster commitment.
I fear solutions that may cause other worse problems. The policy issue is incredibly complex, esp. in places like California and the Deep South were it's puppy season year round, and dogs are bred constantly and indiscriminately in the community. All of this is a long way of saying, I wish we didn't have dogs dying for space...but the path to getting there is fraught with peril.
Last edited by Magwart; 07-29-2013 at 09:16 PM.