Forever on the Cusp

A dog available for adoption at the Humane Society of Fremont County, one of the brightest spots in Colorado’s constellation of progressive sheltering communities.

Colorado is stuck.

Don’t get me wrong. The state has the second largest number of communities with placement rates above 90%. Fremont County is continuing to help redefine the rehabilitation of dogs with behavior challenges, finding homes for 99% and limiting “aggression”-related killing to 1/4th of 1%. The City Council in Castle Rock voted unanimously to undo its decades-long ban on pit bulls, not only welcoming all dogs, but giving them a chance at the local pound. Pueblo passed the Companion Animal Protection Act which, among other things, would ban convenience killing, mandate rescue access, make it illegal to kill healthy and treatable animals, and require a minimum 90% live release rate when it goes into effect next year. And overall, roughly nine out of 10 animals are leaving shelters alive statewide. That’s worth celebrating.

The problem is that the placement rate remains the same. 2017 data for Colorado shelters and rescue groups was released yesterday and, as has been true for several years now, Colorado remains on the cusp yet again: about 89% for dogs and 86% for cats. The state has been on the cusp of a 90% live release rate for both dogs and cats (and for rabbits, birds, small mammals, and others) for far too long and it isn’t crossing it. It was on the cusp last year. It was on the cusp the year before. And the year before that. It is forever on the cusp. Why? Progress in many areas is being weighed down by too many shelters which are content with mediocrity. How long do the animals still dying have to wait?

If you live in a community in other states where less than 10% are saved or you live in an area/state where animals are still shoved in gas chambers or given heart attacks via heartsticking while fully conscious, Colorado may seem like a dream. I get it. But when looked at from the perspective of lost potential and compared to the best performing communities in the nation—Austin placing 99.5%, Muncie placing 99%, the millions of people who now live in communities with placement rates above 98%, including Fremont County—lives are being needlessly taken. And even if Colorado gets its act together, bans breed discriminatory legislation in the few communities which still have it, and crosses the 90% threshold, that’s hardly the finish line. As Austin, Muncie, and the other communities at 98-100% prove, it can do better. Much, much better.

Colorado needs a push. Not a discretionary one. Not an encouraging one. Not a collaborative one. But a mandatory one. To get Colorado where it needs to be and where it can be, to get it passed 90%, passed 95%, and pushing upwards to join the most exclusive club in the No Kill movement (which it can and should be in), Colorado needs to pass statewide legislation that forces shelter managers to do better or to get out of the way for others who will. Such legislation would not only ban the killing of healthy and treatable animals, the killing of community cats, and prohibit killing based on alleged “breed,” but it would ban killing unless and until:

  • There are no empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter;
  • The animal cannot share a cage or kennel with another animal;
  • The shelter has made a plea to foster homes and a foster home is not available;
  • Rescue groups, the former “owner,” and the finder have been notified and are not willing to accept the animal; and,
  • The animal cannot be transferred to another shelter with room to house the animal.

That’s essentially what cities like Muncie and Austin have done, as well as states like Delaware, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Shelter reform legislation works. And it is the future. The sooner Colorado embraces it, the lower the mounting body count will be.

Colorado’s 2017 data is here.

Data for individual Colorado communities in the 90% Club will be posted to in the coming weeks.


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