Here's my opinion and my answer: It all boils down to a matter of trust.
True No Kill advocates believe that most of the people in the world are good. They should be trusted. We believe that those people who are convicted of animal cruelty should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but those people are very few and far between. To make the programs of the No Kill Equation work we have to trust people and involve the community in the solution.
Shelters and rescues that trust the public:
- Adopt out more animals and save more lives
- Have more foster homes
- Have higher reclaim rates because they don't assume that people that lost their pet are bad owners
- Actively support pet owners who are having difficulty instead of immediately trying to get possession of the animal (reducing surrenders)
- Have increased goodwill and support in the community (increasing donations and volunteerism)
Unfortunately, many animal welfare folks have gone down the path of non-trust. They read and then regurgitate horror stories to support their beliefs that "people can't be trusted." They assume the worst unless proven otherwise. They develop animal welfare programs at their shelters and rescues that don't foster a trusting relationship with the public.
Shelters and rescues who base their operations on fear-mongering of the "irresponsible public":
- Have stringent adoption policies that reduce and discourage adoptions
- Don't proactively reunite lost pets with their owners
- Won't post stray photos online because they are afraid the public might try to claim an animal that isn't their own (thus reducing reclaim rates)
- Belittle and berate owners who are having trouble with their pets and who need help
- Use words like "irresponsible, dump and abandon" frequently in their conversations
Shelters and rescues that don't trust the public think that only they know what is best for a pet. They don't trust a new adopter to make choices for themselves. They harbor an atmosphere of suspicion and skepticism. They think that "nobody can take care of this pet like I can."
Shelters and rescues that don't trust the public are often the ones where animals languish for months and even years. Then they complain that there are "too many pets and not enough homes". When in fact, this isn't true.
Our neighbors just recently adopted a new dog. Their old dog of fifteen years had passed away. They needed a small non-shedding breed because of allergies in the family. None of the "trusting" shelters in the area had any so they had to adopt from a rescue. The home visit lasted three hours. I personally would have told the rescue to pack their bags and sent them on their way. But our neighbors adopted the dog anyways, despite the extensive and embarrassing inquisition. Believe me, they aren't jumping on the adoption bandwagon because of this negative experience and I'm sure they'll tell their friends and family.
A very wise Wisconsin shelter director recently told me "At our shelter, we will always default to trust". Amen, to that. The shelters who default to trust are pulling away from the pack and leading the charge. Thank you for saving more lives!
"Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him." - Booker T. Washington