We are often asked if Huntsville is a no kill community. The short answer is, "no. Not yet."
There are two schools of thought regarding recognized status as a no kill community, both of which originate from a time in this social movement when norms were being developed in terms of performance. There was a time when a community was considered a no kill community after having gone twelve full months with a "live release" or "save" rate of above 90%. The percentage benchmark was based on norms at the time which said that if a community was saving more than 90% of the shelter animals, it most likely was not destroying healthy and treatable animals.
Times have changed. There are communities where the lives of more than 95% of shelter animals are being saved. Some communities save 98% of shelter animals. This means that the 90% benchmark is no longer the consistently recognized standard for becoming a no kill community and the new benchmark is one not of math, but of method. It is our position that a community is a no kill community when healthy and treatable shelter animals are not at risk under any circumstances because a line has been drawn in the sand which will not be crossed. This may mean that the save rate is 97% in a given month. It may also mean that the save rate in another month is 87% if there were truly a number of animals entering the shelter who were suffering or so irremediably ill that euthanasia was the only responsible course of action.
Getting back to the question, ours is not yet a no kill community simply because the city has yet to make a public declaration of intent that it will no longer destroy healthy and treatable animals at Huntsville Animal Services. We are hopeful a time will come when the city does just that. We think that enough progress has been made in the last year to put the city in a good position to make a public declaration and be able to keep that commitment with the help of the public.
There is a website called Saving 90 which tracks communities where the lives of more than 90% of shelter animals are being saved. This same website tracks communities where the lives of more than 80% of shelter animals are being saved. We contacted the site last week to inquire about having Huntsville listed on the site in the Saving 80 Category. We did so in spite of our position on what the phrase "no kill community" means simply as a way of asking that Huntsville be put on the map of places making great progress. As we have said many times before, the city has come a very long way from the way things were when we first took this subject to the public in 2013 and we think it is important to acknowledge that.
We were told that Huntsville does not yet make the grade to be put on the website. In order for a community to be listed as a Saving 80 community, it must have saved more than 80% of shelter animals in the last year for both species - meaning that the numbers must be calculated separately for dogs and cats. We do not yet have the shelter statistics for the month of December of 2015. This chart shows the save rates for dogs and cats for the last 12 months.
It is very possible that Huntsville will be able to be added on the Saving 90 website as a Saving 80 community in the very near future. We will continue our requests for, an analysis of, the shelter statistics so we can keep you informed of the city's progress and so we can ask that Huntsville be added to the website once it has met the criteria to be added.
For those of you who have come to our website and are wondering if we still exist, yes. We are still here.
Late last year we made a collective decision to change our engagement in the community as a result of the fact that Huntsville Animal Services had made quite a bit of progress in saving animals. Although we still have some concerns regarding program development and sustainability, there is little to be gained by repeating ourselves for the sake of emphasis. We have made a number of recommendations regarding our concerns and have been told that the city "is and will continue to engage with industry experts in shaping the policies and procedures used in the shelter. We are extremely pleased with the progress. . .over the last couple years and confident that conditions are being set to continue that progress."
We are essentially in a holding pattern while we wait to see what happens in the months to come. A recent post by the Huntsville Animal Services on Facebook indicated that during 2015, the shelter "housed right at 3,218 dogs and 1,973 cats (5,191) releasing alive right at 2,738 dogs and 1,812 cats (4,550) and having still 287 pets in our shelter and foster home program." We have requested statistics for the year and have requested copies of records related to dogs destroyed in the last three months of the year so we can continue our analysis of the reasons why dogs are destroyed. Once we have those records, we will post them on our website.
We understand that there are many people in our community who are still angered by or unhappy with our advocacy. Some of them are with local rescue groups, some of them are shelter volunteers and some of them have chosen to go on the attack against us personally for our advocacy. As much as we find this type of behavior unproductive (and in many cases libelous) there is little we can do to stop it and we simply will not be baited by it. We have much better ways to spend our time than to try to engage in discourse with people who attack the messenger while completely losing sight of the message. We did not relish having to come together to seek better for our community in the first place. We are all incredibly busy and advocacy takes a toll in terms of time, money and emotional energy. There are no days off.
We have no regrets for having been the boat rockers for the sake of the lives of companion animals and the people who live and work here. We would ask those who find our advocacy too outspoken to consider this one fact: if local officials had chosen to embrace no kill philosophies years ago and on their own after having been introduced to those philosophies, our coalition never would have been necessary in the first place. As the saying goes, "we didn't start the fire."
We hope you will stay tuned in the months to come as we sit back, watch what happens and continue in our role of keeping the city honest. Will we become a no kill community in 2016? We certainly hope so.
No Kill Huntsville
Keep up with our updates and latest news regarding Huntsville becoming a no kill community.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson