In order to achieve a No Kill nation, we must move past a system where the lives of animals are subject to the discretion and whims of shelter leaders or health department bureaucrats. Currently, No Kill is succeeding in those communities with individual shelter leaders who are committed to achieving it and to running shelters consistent with the programs and services which make it possible. Unfortunately, such leaders are still few and far between. Traditional sheltering, by contrast, is institutionalized. In a shelter reliant on killing, directors can come and go and the shelter keeps killing, local government keeps ignoring that failure, and the public keeps believing “there is no other way.” By contrast, the success of an organization’s No Kill policies depends on the commitment and vision of its leader. When that leader leaves the organization, the vision can quickly be doomed. It is why an SPCA can be progressive one day, and moving in the opposite direction the next.
For No Kill success to be widespread and long lasting, we must move past the personalities and focus on institutionalizing No Kill by giving shelter animals the rights and protections afforded by law. Every successful social movement results in legal protections that codify expected conduct and provide protection against future conduct that violates normative values. We need to regulate shelters in the same way we regulate hospitals and other agencies which hold the power over life and death.
The answer lies in passing and enforcing shelter reform legislation which mandates how a shelter must operate. The ideal animal law would ban the killing of dogs and cats, and would prohibit the impounding of feral cats except for purposes of spay/neuter and release. Given that local governments may not pass such sweeping laws at this time in history, the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) was written as “model” legislation to provide animals with maximum opportunities for lifesaving. No law can anticipate every contingency and CAPA is no exception. It is not intended to be complete or eliminate the need for other animal protection laws. Nor is it intended to reduce stronger protections that animals may have in a particular jurisdiction. The legislation can and should be modified in such circumstances. As such, it is considered a work in progress.
But because too many shelters are not voluntarily implementing the programs and services and culture of lifesaving that makes No Kill possible, animals are being needlessly killed. To combat this, CAPA mandates the programs and services which have proven so successful at lifesaving in shelters which have implemented them; follows the only model that has actually created a No Kill community; and, focuses its effort on the very shelters that are doing the killing. In this way, shelter leadership is forced to embrace No Kill and operate their shelters in a progressive, life-affirming way, removing the discretion which has for too long allowed shelter leaders to ignore what is in the best interests of the animals and kill them needlessly.
To learn more about CAPA, visit the Rescue Five-O website by clicking here.
Please note: While Nathan oversees the Rescue Five-O campaign, Rescue Five-O is not affiliated with this website.