When I was twelve, I volunteered at my local animal shelter. My job was to match shelter animals with descriptions of lost animals people had called in, and if we had an animal that matched that description, I called people to tell them to come down and look to see if we had their pet. That was 30 years ago, and back then, that was essentially that shelter's (and many shelters') only method of getting the animals back into homes. There were no big adoption fairs, no offsite adoptions, no public-friendly adoption hours or mobile adoptions and certainly no social media to network animals to larger audiences of potential adopters.
Today, we live in a vastly different world. Society has changed - people see their pets more like family, Americans spend over $55 billion a year on their pets' welfare, and the Internet has revolutionized every aspect of our lives, including the options we have for saving shelter animals' lives.
These changes have made adopting animals into good homes a vibrant and viable option for shelters -- it is now possible for one single organization to adopt out thousands of animals per year.
Great shelters do this by hitting the adoption effort from every angle - getting local businesses involved, participating in offsite adoption events at EVERY opportunity, changing their hours to include "after-5" hours, decreasing the cost to adopt an animal (the University of Florida did a study that showed that there was no correlation between how much someone pays for an animal and how much he or she loves that animal), establishing adoption goals, and constantly thinking outside the box in order to meet goals they've established.
This is what we want in our city, and we don't currently have it. We've been pointing this out for some time now.
Now - a small group of people in Long Beach have said that pointing this out means that we're bashing ACS. They say that talking about the fact that ACS euthanizes 50% of the animals at the shelter is being negative. They've said that we all have to get along, and in order to do that, Stayin' Alive has to stop talking about what's going on at the shelter.
Talking about numbers and discussing programs and how to improve them is something that goes on every day in our country. In fact, it's one of the major ways that we improve our society and our institutions. Turn on NPR on any given day, and they're reporting on educators' and policy makers' discussion of how we can improve our educational system, how we can increase our graduation rates, and how we can get more students prepared and out into the workforce so they can have positive, productive lives.
This process is applied every day to multiple institutions. This is life in a civil society...we allow multiple voices so that everyone is heard, and in a democracy, we then can make decisions about how we want our cities, states and nation run. That's why we at Stayin' Alive continue to talk about programs and numbers. Avoiding the truth is never the way to make things better. We don't take that stance in any other area of civil society. Why would we do it with animal shelters?
An initiative to make Long Beach a No Kill community.