If we eliminate their right to life, no other rights matter

We received an email from a concerned person today. We thought the email deserved an answer, but felt it was better to answer publicly. We of course will not name this person, but here is the questions presented:

“I know you try to get the no kill Colorado law passed.

I volunteer at the Denver Shelter and they are very upset at possibly being told what they can and cannot do. They say (and I agree) is will be terribly detrimental to the dog . They will have to turn away animals (they get in 600 per month!!!) Dogs will be turned loose and create a horrific situation for the animals. The dogs that we do take in will be imprisoned for life . If you love animals please let the shelters do what they do best. (by the way they have a 90 percent live release rate! ) Ofcourse, if you do not care about animals being turned loose and some living in a cages for years , by all means go ahead. Here are 2 (of many similar ones) stories for you I think you ought to read.”

The “Here are 2” stories were articles they pointed out.  One was an article about a hoarder, the other was a PETA article (PETA is an opponent of the No Kill movement). The articles are anecdotal and fear mongering propaganda, we will not present them here, these articles are all over the internet. We can present one for and against all day so we decided to avoid that.

What we need to address is what is being proposed and why it can work.  There is a continual gross misrepresentation of what the proposed legislation says and how it will affect shelters that are saving healthy treatable animals.

If a shelter is already saving over 90% of the animals, they may already be complying with the proposed legislation. It might mean they have to work a little hard to save a few more percentage points. These shelters should not fear this legislation, they should embrace it. They are the model against the regressive shelters in the state.

But Colorado is not just the Denver Animal Shelter or some of the other fine shelters we have in the metro area. It is places like Fremont County Humane Society that killed 1 in 2 cats throughout the last decade that would be improved by the changes to PACFA. Because of the actions of some of the same advocates of this legislation, the Fremont shelter is being watched by local pet lovers and has slightly improved. But since there is no law demanding they do a better job, they still killed hundreds of healthy cats in 2013. And continue to kill today. And they will continue until it is demanded by law.

Healthy homeless pets are being killed in some Colorado shelters. Does the Colorado community think that is OK?  They don’t.

Opponents of the legislation present the argument with only two outcomes:

  1. Homeless pets stay in cages forever in horrible situations, neglect and no socialization (What they say the law will do)
  2. Destroy animals (what they do for space)

But those are not the only two outcomes. There are alternatives to save lives in a myriad of ways if we just value the life of each homeless pet and recognize they have a right to life. If we eliminate their right to life, no other rights matter.  The premise that the choices is life in a cage or being killed is disingenuous and self-defeating.

The way shelters have overcome this is through proven programs and services, stated in the legislation, that will change the fate of thousands of homeless pets. Working with more rescues, expanding adoptions programs, expanding volunteer programs, using the power of the local government for marketing, community outreach, etc.

And then the opposition brings up money. They say there’s not enough money. First of all, money isn’t the only thing that’s important. Lifesaving is made easier with money, but it is not the end all be all. Otherwise with organizations such as Denver Dumb Friends League holding over $65 million in assets and an operating revenue of over $15 million annually, they should save every healthy treatable pet coming into their facility.  but it is not just about money.

Regardless, the legislation addresses needed funds for improvement. Intake in shelters is affected by pet sales. The legislation provides revenue from commercial pet sales to create a fund so shelters and rescues can create these programs with a fund over more than $6 million annually. There are two positive outcomes from this: 1) Pet sellers are unaffected by the tax to their sales and $6 million to save homeless pets for Colorado shelters and rescues that need funds to implement lifesaving programs or 2) less pets sold in the state which will in turn lower surrender rates at Colorado shelters.  From a lifesaving perspective, this is a positive move in the right direction.

Just a few years ago DAS was killing a lot of homeless pets. In 2009 the published statistics of the shelter showed they were killing about 30% of all the pets coming into the shelter. The years before then was worse. And in 2009 they said they were doing the best they could. But 4 years later they are publishing that they are killing 10% or less. So doesn’t that show us that saving every healthy animal is possible? Doesn’t that show us our shelters can and should improve?

We applaud the improvements at DAS (as well as other organizations), and we think they are at the stage where they can save every healthy treatable animal.

There is no evidence that dogs will be turned loose or imprisoned for life. This is exploitation by opponents to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt on what is lifesaving legislation. Municipal shelter are expected to save lives. At least Colorado people we talk to expect their tax dollars to shelter animals, not kill them. Private shelters, of which most are non-profit have a fiduciary duty to do the same with their donations.

The stories pointed out are

1) A self-proclaimed rescue that did not implement the lifesaving services in the legislation. A hoarder that call themselves a rescue is simply a hoarder that is misrepresenting their organization. Hoarders are in no way, and should not be, lumped in with rescue organizations of which the vast majority are dedicated lifesaving institutions.

And

2) From PETA that runs a single shelter in Virginia that has killed more than 90% of ALL animals entering their facility. They are not in a position to comment on shelter practices.  they also advocate for killing pit bulls and Feral cats.

Would you like to know how shelters across the country have been saving every healthy treatable homeless pets? There is a screening of a documentary on July 12 at the Denver Post Auditorium about the No Kill movement in the U.S. and how shelter reform is changing the outcome of tens of thousands of animals. Colorado is in a better position than many other states to reach this goal as a state, and we have the community that wants it.

~Davyd Smith, SCSP, Inc.

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