Kill rates in many animal shelters across the country are as high as 50% and some are even higher. That’s not very good survival rates for a dog or cat entering one of these shelters. For pets surrendered by their owner, the chances they will go out the front door to a new home is pretty slim. It’s almost as if some animal shelters would rather take the easier and less expensive solution to our pet overpopulation problem and put pets down rather than care for and find homes for all healthy and adoptable pets. Every year, three to four million pets are euthanized in animal shelters because we can’t figure out a more humane and compassionate solution to properly care for homeless pets.
Any pet owner can understand the financial strain animal shelters are under with food, veterinarian calls and other operating costs. Tax dollars fund most shelters, but it’s difficult to keep up with an overflowing number of pets turned into shelters. However, people surrender their pets to shelters because they believe it’s the right thing to do and they think shelters will in turn do the right thing. Euthanizing healthy pets isn’t the answer, but there is help and hope if the animal shelter and community are willing to make a commitment to work together to help save pets and move towards a no kill promise to every pet who is healthy and adoptable.
Maddie’s Fund was created by Dave and Cheryl Duffield to honor their beloved Miniature Schnauzer. Maddie was ten years old when she passed away in 1997. The Duffield’s started their organization to honor her memory by trying to save the lives of all animal shelter pets who are healthy and adoptable. Maddie’s Fund isn’t a rescue group; they give financial aid to animal shelters when the community, counties, rescue organizations, animal control and veterinarians all come together in a common cause to save shelter pets. The idea is to work together to convert their kill shelters towards no kill facilities. There’s no reason why healthy and adoptable pets should ever be put down. By requiring entire communities to become involved; ending unnecessary euthanasias will more likely succeed when everyone works together.
Maddie’s Fund has an aggressive goal of turning all animal shelters into no kill shelters by 2015 to create a no kill nation. We are one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world and yet we can’t provide a better option for healthy and adoptable homeless pets other than putting them down when shelters are full. The problem has been and continues to be; out of sight and out of mind. What we don’t know about what goes on at our local shelters can’t upset us when we don’t take the time to find out how many pets are going out the back door instead of out the front door to a new home. For too many pets, being adopted is like winning the grand prize at a state fair.
To qualify for grant money from Maddie’s Fund, communities and counties must come together to develop a business plan and long term plans. Human population matter and in order to qualify for grants, there has to be a population of at least 100,000 people in a coalition made up of animal groups, counties and cities (large and small) to build commitments supporting the people we charge with taking care of animal shelter pets. That includes everyone in the community who works with pets from shelter workers to vets, rescue groups and animal control personnel.
Once a community qualifies, money is then available to implement long term goals that will eventually lead a shelter to becoming no kill. Starter grants help committed communities pay for developing long term goals and business plans. Maddie’s Fund helps communities see other options to save shelter pets instead of taking the easy route too many shelters are still doing.
Animal shelters don’t usually have a vet on staff. Maddie’s Fund supports the colleges of Veterinary Medicine programs to help future vets learn about shelter medicine so more are qualified to work in animal shelters and can help pets who need behavioral rehabilitation and can take care of the medical needs of all of the pets in their care. Shelters that commit to an adoption guarantee and have a full time vet on staff will then be able to apply for grant money to help pay for medical equipment. Maddie’s fund wants to change the way shelters have been doing business to a more humane and progressive focus that actually solves problems instead of hiding the sad reality behind closed doors.
Most pets in animal shelters are not there because they have behavioral problems. The reasons vary for why a pet is surrendered to a shelter and if more people looking for a pet would visit their local shelter instead of supporting puppy and kitten mills that sell their pets through pet stores, more homeless pets could find a good home and puppy and kitten mills would stop producing as many pets once their main connection to the public is shut off.
Maddie’s Fund is about educating entire communities and getting them on board to commit to a more humane way of treating animal shelter pets. There is no reason why healthy and adoptable pets should be euthanized. For more information on Maddie’s Fund, please visit their website. We can create a no kill nation, if we have the will and courage to change, by doing it one animal shelter at a time.