There is a long-standing story about a boy on a beach, surrounded by starfish which have washed up on the shore. The boy reaches down, picks up a starfish and throws it in the water. A man who sees the boy asks, “don’t you see how many there are? You'll never be able to make a difference.” The boy picks up another starfish, throws it into the ocean and says, “I made a difference for that one.” Many in animal rescue circles refer to homeless animals as "starfish." As they wash up on the beach, rescuers work either individually or collectively to help them. Rescuers often say that they cannot save them all but they can save that one.
Our proposition is this: while it is noble to save those individual starfish, we can do so much more if we take a little time to look at the bigger picture. Where are all these starfish coming from in the first place? Can we somehow keep them from washing up on the shore at all? Once they are on shore, are there more efficient ways to help them than by trying to do it all ourselves? Can we get the public and the media to help us get them off of the beach and on to new lives?
Through the No Kill Equation, we can strive to keep those starfish from washing onto shore in the first place through pet retention programs, proactive redemption programs, spay/neuter programs and feral cat TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs. For those starfish who do end up on shore (meaning in our shelter), we can strive to remove them from "the beach" with the help of volunteers, through foster programs, through comprehensive adoption programs, through medical and behavior programs and through public relations and community development programs.
We hold those who rescue in the highest possible regard. You are some of the hardest working people in America and you are to be commended for every life you save. But if we work to look a bit further out to sea, we will find there are ways to stem the flow of starfish onto the beach. And if we look a bit further inland, we will realize we can involve others in our life-saving efforts. We all know we Americans love our animals – our “starfish” - so let's make this a community effort to save more animals by educating ourselves, educating those around us and then by working together.