The most effective program of all

Since jumping into the no-kill movement as a volunteer for Best Friends in 1994, I have been involved in just about all aspects of our work to end shelter killing, including pulling together a statewide coalition in Utah, a citywide coalition in Los Angeles, a mobile spay/neuter program that roamed the rural reaches of Utah, super adoptions, local and national fundraising efforts, legislative campaigns, a national conference and, of course, shelter rescue.

Of all the types of programs that I have led or been a part of, one stands head and shoulders above the rest in its potential to end shelter killing and to profoundly change the landscape of animal welfare. Interestingly, it is an activity that is often regarded as a second- or third-tier option, if not an afterthought.

What is this powerful program? It’s the one that usually comes at the end of the list of proactive things that we are often asked to do to make a difference for the animals. You know that list: adopt a pet from your local shelter, spay or neuter your pet, volunteer for a shelter or rescue group in your community, provide a foster home for a dog or a cat, donate to your favorite local and national animal organizations, and, finally, spread the word.

Yes, I’m talking about spreading the word — becoming an active messenger for Best Friends and the no-kill movement. And, while adoption, spay/neuter and fostering have an immediate and direct impact on lifesaving, what we really need to seal the deal to achieve and sustain a no-kill country is for more of the animal-loving public to lend their support.

According to recent surveys, the overwhelming majority of people who have a pet believe as we do, that shelter animals should not be killed unless they are too sick or injured to be treated or too dangerously aggressive to be safely placed in an adoptive home. However, those same surveys show that most people have no idea how many animals die in our nation’s shelters every day. Most people quote a number between a couple of hundred and a few thousand, and they are shocked to learn that about 9,000 dogs and cats lose their lives every day.

When people come to understand the extent of the gulf between what they feel should be happening in or nation’s shelters and what actually is happening, and realize that they can make a difference, that’s when change starts to happen, and not just at the grassroots level.

The most effective and enduring change takes place when local elected officials come to understand how important the issue of ending shelter killing is to their constituents. When that happens, they enshrine no-kill goals and objectives as public policy and start to hire administrators and agency managers to achieve those goals.

That’s why we want everyone who feels as we do to become messengers for the no-kill movement. And that raises one of the greatest problems in animal welfare. We tend to speak to the choir — our friends, members and supporters who already understand the issues through channels such as this blog, our social media outlets and Best Friends magazine. While the Internet and social media channels have the potential to reach more people than ever before, most people receive information according to what Google, Yahoo, Bing or some other search engine has determined to be our interests.

That’s why it’s so important to spread the word about Best Friends and the no-kill movement to family, friends, co-workers, and the folks at the dog park or the cat café.

Here are some easy things that you can do to spread the word:



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