A View to No-Kill by Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services

September 18, 2012 

To think that nearly one year ago we were finalizing a plan, the first in Florida, to become a no kill community. In just a short period of time, we have increased the save rate for dogs and cats impounded at Animal Services from a cumulative 56 percent last year to a cumulative 76 percent so far this year.

To become a No Kill community, the save rate needs to be at least 90 percent. It is known that about 10% of the dogs and cats impounded are either too sick, have debilitating injuries or are aggressive and vicious dogs and will be euthanized. While a 90% save rate makes a No Kill community a reality, we are not there yet. We can do better.

I have lived in Manatee County for over 40 years. I remember the "good old days" when neighbors were neighbors and community involvement was overwhelming. Manatee County was a small community and over the years things have changed. Manatee County has grown, becoming more fast-paced.

Remember Animal Control back in the day? It was just that, Animal Control, picking up loose, stray and abandoned dogs and cats and bringing them to the shelter. Those pets that did not get claimed by their owners had a slim chance of making it out alive. I was working at Animal Control 20 years ago, I remember. In the years since, Animal Control became Animal Services. Pet adoptions were better promoted and unclaimed dogs and cats were now available for transfer to local animal rescue organizations. Things were looking up for the impounded pets.

Status quo was maintained at Animal Services with everyone doing what they could to see that dogs and cats lived. But, were we doing enough? I knew we could do better. The book "Redemption," written by Nathan Winograd, boasts 11 programs and services that, once implemented, guide an organization to no kill. The programs and services had already proven effective in a handful of communities throughout the United States, but not in Florida. Many claim to be no kill, but those organizations can simply shut their doors, not taking animals in. This is not the case for Animal Services. We are an open admission shelter, taking in thousands of dogs and cats each year. Becoming a no kill community requires a community effort.

So, what do we do? We read the book and noted we were on the right track, already coveting most of the 11 programs and services. We were skeptical since we felt everything we were doing was already listed in the programs and services outline. Not until

we saw Nathan Winograd in person, at a conference, were we so inspired to dig deep, giving this concept a huge push toward making it a reality. We found that we had these programs and services going, but we just weren't doing them good enough. We had a long way to go and knew we had just the community to get it done. It was up to Animal Services to see this through by first getting the community excited.

An actionable implementation plan was drafted and a resolution was presented to the Board of County Commissioners. On Oct. 11, 2011, a new Animal Services was born, a community was opened wide and Manatee County was revitalized. We vowed to lead Manatee County to a no kill community. I can say that we have people who have come forward to help, even those who admittedly have no clue how to do what they volunteered to do. Then there are others who know nothing about animals, but want to get involved. We are here to teach those willing to learn. We will help you find your niche. I feel the sense of community, right here in Manatee County, a community to see us become a no kill community, giving shelter pets a second chance to live and love.

Don't forget to check out our adoption specials for September. Manatee County Animal Services has many mini cats. We have many mini tigers, many mini lions, many mini panthers, and many mini cheetahs to choose from. All cats will receive a health check, current vaccinations, be spayed or neutered, and microchipped, a $10 license fee is required for all Manatee County residents.

Help make it a "Summer of Love" for the animals at Manatee County Animal Services. Be sure to check out our long term residents who are now "Free to a Good Home." These dogs and cats have been at our shelter for over 60 days and are in need of finding their forever families. All dogs and cats will receive a health check, all current vaccinations, spayed or neutered and microchipped, a $10 license fee is required for Manatee County residents.

If you never have to look into the eyes of a dog or cat and make a choice, you are lucky. One day, we all would like to be lucky too.

Free and Low Cost Spay and Neuter Programs call our information line at 941-749-3067.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Bradenton Herald.

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