Learn How You Can Help Save Them All at the 2013 No More Homeless Pets National Conference

This is the first in a series of posts leading up to the conference that will tie together the issues and challenges that we face as a movement and the valuable information and know-how that will be shared in Jacksonville this coming October.

Full disclosure: I love the No More Homeless Pets National Conference! It’s loaded with important lifesaving information, and it is also loads of fun. The four conference days are organized to provide animal welfare professionals, rescue community leaders, veterinarians and community advocates with access to the tools, networks and program know-how to make immediate, sustainable strides toward no-kill.

This year, the conference, which runs October 10 – 13, will be held on the East Coast in Jacksonville, Florida.

Jacksonville is a great host city for the national conference. It is a work-in-progress example of how a major American city can implement life-saving change in its approach to municipal animal services that move the city down the road to no-kill.

Just last month, Jacksonville hosted its second annual mega adoption weekend that found homes for 1,007 pets from rescues and the city shelter. The event was a success, as was last year’s record-setter. The city, however, already has a secure place in the no-kill narrative by virtue of its innovative approach to community cats.

In 2008, I was director of Best Friends Community Programs and Services when Rick DuCharme, founder of First Coast No More Homeless Pets, contacted us with an offer we couldn’t refuse. Actually, he wanted funding for a first-of-its-kind public/private partnership for community cats, and we jumped at the opportunity to put the management strategy of trap/neuter/return (TNR) into practice at the municipal level as an integrated city shelter program. The program was simple. Bypass the municipal shelter entirely. Instead of catching, sheltering and then killing healthy community cats, why not neuter and return them back to their habitat? This concept is now referred to as shelter/neuter/return (SNR) and is being practiced by a number of forward-thinking municipalities across the country.

The program has had an immediate and continuing effect on community cats and on Jacksonville’s shelter statistics. The first year of implementation saw a 50 percent reduction in shelter cat deaths in Jacksonville!

When Rick began his transition from a career in business to a full-time commitment to animal welfare in the early 2000s, one of his first stops was the No More Homeless Pets National Conferences. In fact, all of the programs and strategies that are working in Jacksonville, as well as those that have propelled other communities such as Reno, Nevada, and Austin, Texas, to no-kill status, will be broken down in detail for conference attendees in Jacksonville.

This year, we are especially excited to be offering Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program, a full track for veterinarians, technicians and program managers. It is packed to the brim with continuing education sessions presented by a diverse team of experts, ranging from practitioners in the field to consultants and academics.

The conference, however, is much more than the sum of its parts and is a full-immersion experience into the energy, innovation and collaboration that is driving the no-kill movement. It’s a powerful four days, and I am looking forward to meeting many of our East Coast friends who have not been able to make the trip to past conferences in Las Vegas.

For more information and registration details, visit the 2013 No More Homeless Pets National Conference site.

Julie Castle with Sunny the dog
Julie Castle
Best Friends Animal Society