The No Kill Advocacy Center designates this week as National Animal Shelter Reform Week. While pet advocates have long worked with their local pounds in hopes of winning the hearts and minds of public employees responsible for needless pet killing, the results have fallen short of expectations. In too many cases, those responsible for the killing have dug in their heels in the face of reform efforts and resorted to tactics such as flimsy legal threats, firing of volunteers for the offense of making an effort to save pets’ lives, and drawing an iron curtain around themselves in an attempt to hide their abuse and cruelty.
Memphis Animal Services (MAS) killed 77% of the pets in its care in 2010. This year, pet advocates have ramped up efforts to try and save more pets from the MAS kill room. The city has responded with various attempts to silence critics and to hide from the public by removing the webcams from the pound.
In the case of Mari, a feral dog who readers here worked to save from being killed at MAS, the city appeared determined to sabotage our efforts by initially failing to disclose that Mari was feral, giving us impossibly short deadlines to get him out of the pound and then suddenly putting us off by involving the city attorney’s office.
After Mari had already been at MAS for weeks, we were advised that he might not be released to us, or to anyone, and that the city attorney required 4 more days to make a decision on the matter. The city requested, and was provided, information on where Mari would be going. After receiving no response, we checked back the next day to find out where things stood. The city claimed it had not received the information on where Mari was going. We sent the information again. And so the shenanigans continued, all while Mari’s life was on the line and rescuers were begging to save him. During this time, we pursued possible legal remedies to prevent the city from following through on its threats to kill Mari. Unfortunately, we had no legal standing.
Rescue access laws such as the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) empower rescuers by giving them legal standing. CAPA makes it illegal for a pound to kill a pet if a rescue group is willing to save him. Rescue access laws have recently been introduced in Florida and Minnesota. Delaware and California have already passed similar legislation. If it seems like I’m forever nagging advocates in TN to wage a political campaign for reform, this is why. If TN had CAPA in place, the city would not have the discretion to kill Mari or any other animal rescuers were willing to save. If TN had CAPA, rescuers would be legally empowered. Shenanigans, such as those the city pulled with Mari, would be illegal. Life for shelter pets would trump death under CAPA and the MAS staff and its “Friends” would be legally prevented from strolling the halls of the pound playing their “You live, you die” games.
It should not be an immense political power struggle to save a pet from the kill room at MAS – or at any pound. Rescuers willing to save pets’ lives must be legally empowered. We can not continue to hope to win the hearts and minds of pet killers. Legislative action is required. Every day that passes without rescue access laws in place is another day maintaining the status quo and relegating rescuers to the peanut gallery. It’s time to stand up and demand your voice be heard. Because your voice is the only voice shelter pets have. If not you, who?
If you are a TN resident concerned with saving pets from needless killing at your shelters, here is a 4 step guide on how to get CAPA passed. (If you are in another state which lacks a rescue access law, this guide works for you too!) Please take the time to read through the guide and share it with anyone you think might make use of it. Let us know if you have comments, questions or thoughts on getting CAPA passed in your state. And especially let us know if we can count on you to try.
The homeless pets in TN can’t wait any longer for public shelter employees to decide if they will stop killing for convenience. They need you to take action to get CAPA introduced in TN.