When I began in the animal welfare profession euthanasia rates were over 90 percent. 35 years later, we are experiencing placement rates at 90 percent. We have come a long way and there are plenty of people wanting to claim credit for our success. Many animal shelters have euthanasia rates under 5 percent.
Ten years ago, Delaware created a law that prohibited a shelter from having any empty kennels; I was opposed to Delaware’s law, it created a crisis every time that an Animal Control Officer brought in a stray animal, because there were no empty cages. Experience teaches every shelter manager to know the number of cages that must be empty to accommodate intakes. In addition to the number of animals that are delivered by officers, the public is at your front door delivering animals. No one is going to ask a person to hold on to the animal until someone can go back and “make space.”
Colorado decided to go further, animal shelters cannot euthanize, even if they lack cage space. Since no kill has become a moot issue in our shelters as the reach or exceed 90 percent placement rates, politicians are eager to move shelters to the next evolution of animal sheltering: for the shelter to become a “socially conscious shelter.” A shelter that does not concern itself with the practical side of animal sheltering but look only to the needs of the animals. On the surface, this sounds like a great idea. A socially conscious shelter doesn’t have to worry about cage space. Whether or not there is cage space, you find a spot for the animal. And then, try to provide care.
The concept of “just one more animal,” is the premise that starts every animal hoarding situation. I had to oversee a seizure of 700 cats in which the organization started with just a few and just kept accept “just one more” cat.
The politicians like to get their faces in the media showing their support for saving the animals. When they are done, they leave one more unfunded mandate and leave the local jurisdictions responsible for administering the mess that they have created. Every community is difference; they allocate different budgets and enjoy different mores. Due to the uniqueness of communities, they should be allowed to enact their own laws.
What role will the State of Colorado have when they have to deal with shutting down rural animal shelters for either failing to comply with the new law or that they have become hoarders and have insufficient funds and staffing to care for the newfound burden placed on them by the State.
Animal Shelters have a responsibility to care for the animals that come to them. Forcing them to start hoarding animals is going to diminish the general care that they can provide. Under the right circumstances, this new law will have unintended inhumane consequences as animal shelters are force to hold animals beyond their capacity of space and staffing.