The best is yet to come

Welcome to January. For many of us, it’s cold. The holiday marathon is behind us and a couple of months of winter lie ahead. For most animal people, one of the best things that can be said about January is that it’s not kitten season. My weather preferences aside, there are still things to celebrate, plan for and look forward to this coming year.

For pit bull terriers in Utah, this January is sunnier than last year’s because a new law went into effect on January 1. The law prohibits local breed-discriminatory ordinances from being enacted and rolls back such existing laws across the state. Best Friends worked closely with other advocates on that legislation, and we’re thrilled that pit-bull-terrier-like dogs will be welcome in nine Utah communities that previously had breed restrictions in place. Thousands of lives will be saved because of this legislation. Similar laws are now in place in 19 states.

August 2015 will mark the 10th remembrance of Hurricane Katrina, a landmark event for our animal companions in so many ways. We’ll look at the lessons from Katrina in more depth over the course of the year as we approach the 10th anniversary of the storm’s landfall, August 29, 2005. The experience of Hurricane Katrina changed the way pets are related to in times of disaster, while the public response to the tragedy has had lasting repercussions across animal welfare and for Best Friends in particular.

We will have a Hurricane Katrina retrospective at the 2015 Best Friends National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Mark your calendars because not only will we be convening in a new city, the conference will take place in the summer (July 16-19) rather than the fall. The conference will be held at the Cobb Galleria Centre and Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel. The last conference we held in Atlanta was in 2002, with 300 dedicated no-kill activists in attendance. As a comparison on the growth of our movement, last year’s gathering in Las Vegas welcomed about 1,700 attendees!

While we’re talking about calendars, it’s probably a good idea to note the dates of this year’s Strut Your Mutt events. There will be 12 different locations for Strut Your Mutt around the country, beginning with Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 19 and continuing through October 18 in St. Louis, Missouri. Strut Your Mutt is a great way for local shelters and rescue organization to leverage the scale and popularity of this national event to raise needed funds for their own lifesaving work. Last year, the Strut Your Mutt series raised $2.2 million, with $1.6 million going to more than 240 local organizations around the country. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s a great way to engage your volunteers and your donors.

On the “worth watching” front, there are several positive trends and new developments to keep your eye on. The most challenging and exciting of these is what’s happening with community cats. More and more shelters are coming to the realization that traditional cat sheltering policies have failed cats miserably, and progressive new models are emerging that better connect with the behavior of real-life cats and their people. All of these new models include one or another version of a shelter-integrated trap/neuter/return (TNR) program. These TNR programs aim to keep community cats out of the shelter entirely by having them fixed and returned to the location at which they were found, all under the auspices of the local animal control agency.

There are a number of complementary strategies that are also proving successful, and Best Friends is one of the supporting organizations of the Million Cat Challenge, created by shelter medicine experts Dr. Julie Levy and Dr. Kate Hurley. The Million Cat Challenge lays out a menu of proven best practices that offer hope for cats in general and community cats in particular. We’ll be checking in on the Million Cat Challenge over the course of the year.

Another development with enormous potential is the work that is being done in chemical sterilization. A recent Wall Street Journal article and some analysis by the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs (ACC&D) spotlight the emergence of a calcium chloride injection as a very cheap and easy approach to neutering male dogs. The Wall Street Journal article does a good job of describing the challenge of moving a low-cost, common chemical solution through the onerous and expensive FDA approval process.

Finally, of greatest interest to me is the work being done in communities such as Los Angeles, Kansas City, Austin and Salt Lake City, where no-kill is either cementing its position as the norm or is on a steady path to being achieved. This is where the future of sheltering is being designed and demonstrated — and it’s happening in communities large and small across the country.

2014 was a great year for the animals. Together, we will make 2015 even better. Together, we will Save Them All.

What are you looking forward to or tracking in the coming year? Let’s hear from you.