Rescue Group: Our group is ready, willing, and able to save animals in your shelter.
ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund, HSUS: You should collaborate.
Rescue Group: We want to collaborate, but they refuse to do so and kill the animals we are willing to save.
ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund, HSUS to Rescue Group: No one wants to kill so stop bashing and trashing!
Defenders of shelter killing often argue that we should all get along. But how can rescue groups get along when shelters refuse to collaborate with them, choosing to kill the animals instead? Moreover, rescue groups must endure hostile and abusive treatment by shelter employees and directors who undermine and fight their lifesaving efforts every single day; efforts at collaboration and cooperation that fall on deaf, defiant ears.
That is why laws making it illegal for shelters to kill animals who rescue groups are willing to save are important and a key aspect of achieving and sustaining a No Kill nation. Thankfully, despite the fact that groups like Best Friends, the ASPCA, and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals fear monger about hoarding in order to maintain their power, several states, such as Texas, Rhode Island, and New York, are following the lead of California and Delaware by taking up legislation to give rescue groups a legal right to save animals shelters are determined to kill.
In the No Kill movement, our mission is two-fold. First, we must reform our nation’s broken animal sheltering system so that the animals who enter them will get the chance at life millions are now so cruelly denied. But reforming a shelter, wearing down the opposition, forcing the replacement of a regressive director with one dedicated to saving lives—all of these things take time. And time is one thing that animals entering shelters today do not have. To help these animals, we need to offer something more immediate. They need a way out. They need rescuers who want to save them to have the power to do so even when a director says, “No.” And they need that now, because tomorrow will be too late.
The second goal of the No Kill movement is therefore to arm those who want to save animals with the power to do so. Like the network of “safe houses” which protected runaway slaves as they fled north to freedom, the thousands of rescue groups, No Kill sanctuaries and No Kill shelters throughout our nation are our movement’s own safe houses. And they must be supported, and empowered through law. That goal is, in fact, fundamental to what our movement is all about, because that is what the animals most desperately need. And not only will doing so save animals today, but it will save them in perpetuity since the power of one director to say “Yes” to saving lives can be taken away by the next director who says “No,” absent a law to the contrary. That is why a shelter can be progressive one day, and moving in the opposite direction the next. Animals should be saved regardless of who is running our shelters and legislation like rescue access laws give rescuers the power to do so.
Rescue Access Laws save animals
A 2010 statewide survey of rescue groups in New York State found that 71% of non-profit animal welfare groups have had at least one NYS shelter refuse to work collaboratively and then turned around and kill the very animals they were willing to save. This is inhumane and bad public policy. Rescue Access Laws would make it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal when a qualified non-profit organization is willing to save that animal. This maximizes the number of animals who are saved, while reducing the numbers killed.
Rescues Access Laws save taxpayer money
Most rescue access laws are modeled after a similar law which has been in effect in California since 1998. An analysis of that law found that sending animals to non-profit animal rescue organizations saved the City and County of San Francisco $486,480 in publicly funded animal control costs. These laws save taxpayer money by mandating public-private partnerships that not only reduces expenses associated with having to care for, then kill and dispose of an animal, but transfer expenses from taxpayers to private philanthropy. Under some of these laws, shelters can also charge the cost of an adoption to those groups, thereby bringing in needed revenues and defraying any costs associated with implementation.
Rescue Access Laws provide whistleblower protections
A 2010 statewide survey of rescue groups in New York State found that 43% of groups have been the subject of retaliation by shelters after they expressed concerns about inhumane conditions which they have witnessed in New York State shelters, while over half (52%) who have witnessed such conditions did not express concerns—and simply looked the other way—because they were afraid if they did complain, they would no longer be allowed to rescue, thus allowing those inhumane conditions to continue. By giving non-profit organizations the legal right to save animals scheduled to be killed, these laws remove the power to condition lifesaving on silence as to inhumane conditions, and sometimes criminal behavior, witnessed by rescuers.
Rescue Access Laws level the playing field
All non-profit organizations have identical rights and responsibilities before the law. Rescue Access Laws seek to protect those rights by leveling the playing field between the large non-profits which have all the power and the small non-profits who are prevented from fulfilling their lifesaving mission when these larger organizations refuse to collaborate with them in order to save more lives.
Rescue Access Laws improve the emotional well-being of shelter staff
Studies show that staff members responsible for killing animals in shelters are vulnerable to emotional trauma, exhaustion, and burnout. These laws would spare staff from killing animals, when those animals have readily available lifesaving options.
Rescue Access Laws protect public health and safety
Rescue access laws specifically exclude dangerous dogs and irremediably suffering animals.
Rescue Access Laws protect animals from harm
In New York, the legislation specifically excludes organizations with a volunteer, staff member, director, and/or officer with a conviction for animal neglect, cruelty, and/or dog fighting, and suspends the organization while such charges are pending. It also allows shelters to inspect the group when probable cause exists to believe an animal would be put in harm’s way. In California, the law requires rescue organizations to be incorporated as non-profit public benefit corporations under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), which improves oversight of rescue groups. Moreover, a 2010 NYS survey revealed that 70% of organizations performing animal rescue which are not incorporated would do so if rescue access was mandated by law. This would require them to file articles of incorporation, to recruit a Board of Trustees, and to subject themselves to both state and federal mandates, and place them under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Office.
Furthermore, in a New York Times interview, the ASPCA conceded that dog fighters do not seek animals from shelters and hoarders have other available sources of animals. Not only is it highly unlikely that they will make themselves known to shelters, for example, but there is no adoption screening at Animal Care and Control of New York City, the state’s largest volume shelter system. Any person can adopt from ACC. If hoarders and dog fighters wanted access to animals, they are more likely to adopt than go through the expense of having to become incorporated and then seek to get animals via a rescue access law, that only contains provisions for inspection.
Rescue Access Laws improve shelter operations
Rescue Access Laws reduce the number of animals shelters kill. It reduces costs for killing. It brings in revenue, through adoption fees. And it transfers costs from taxpayers to private organizations, funded through philanthropic dollars. While some rescue access laws require shelters to notify non-profit organizations of animals they are going to kill, this can be accomplished through computer programs that do this automatically which are available at no cost to shelters.
Rescue Access Laws are good bipartisan policy popular with voters
Rescue Access Laws pending in NYS, Rhode Island, and Texas are based on a similar law in California which was passed in 1998 with overwhelming bipartisan support in California—96 to 12. It made no sense to California legislators that taxpayers were spending money on killing animals when non-profit organizations were willing to spend their own money to save them. Legislators also found that public shelters that killed animals when those animals have a place to go did not reflect the humane values of their constituents. And despite concerns raised by shelters while that law was pending similar to those raised in other states, none of the fears expressed have materialized. In addition, the State of Delaware recently passed similar legislation. The bill, mandating collaboration between shelters and rescue organizations, passed both houses of the Delaware Legislature unanimously.