The Oklahoma City Animal Shelter says it wants to be a no-kill facility by 2010.
"It's great for us to go no-kill," Unit Operations Supervisor Jon Gary said, standing nearby. "But we're not going to be able to go no-kill unless they go no-kill out in the community. "¦ Until they start changing what they do out there, it's going (to be the same in here)."
While Oklahoma City formally resolved to go "no-kill" in October 2006, the idea has been in the works since 2004. For OKC's about-500 capacity shelter, it means in a matter of years, no reasonably healthy and behaviorally sound animal 8 weeks or older would be euthanized " like 3,500 killed last year for space alone.
Exactly how achievable " and sustainable " the movement is seems to be the question. Despite cutting its death rate, Austin, Texas, which embarked on no-kill in 1997, still euthanized more than half its intake almost a decade later, according to published reports. And no-kill doesn't mean no animal dies; it partly depends on how one defines "adoptable."
In Oklahoma City, after strays' three-day holding time ends, that definition depends on behavior, health and space, with three options: adoption, rescue or euth. Dogs with parvovirus, bad mange or that exhibit aggression die. Ditto feral cats not part of managed colonies, and those with potentially fatal illnesses.
Proponents of the so-called "no-kill movement" instead envision a nation in which no adoptable shelter animals face euthanasia at all, and better marketing and adoption pacts ensure they receive homes. Socially concerned cities must embrace the challenge, according to Rich Avanzino, the former San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals head, credited as father of the no-kill effort.
In Oklahoma City, placement of animals with rescue groups and adoptions have doubled in the last decade " but only account for 6,000 or 7,000 out of about 28,000 coming in annually. Still, Avanzino maintained no-kill success is possible nationally by 2015, if the 3 million to 4 million animals killed in shelters yearly, as estimated by the Humane Society of the United States, can be adopted.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn't consider going no-kill or adoption as the solution to animal-welfare issues, but contends the public needs to take responsibility for unwanted cats and dogs.
"It's so easy (to do something). So easy," said Daphna Nachminovitch, vice president of cruelty investigations for PETA. "Spay or neuter. Don't buy. It's easy. "¦ The public thinks, 'Why don't they stop killing?' and 'They can just go no-kill.' Well, no, because you just bred your dog. I think the shelter has to say, 'We can't stop killing. Because you're still breeding, and you're still buying. We're doing your dirty work. You're killing them. We're just holding the syringe.'" "Emily Jerman