The Road To No Kill Is Saving Lives!



By Valerie Hayes
Photo by Clifford Blizard

Lost and homeless animals must navigate a landscape pockmarked with buildings where healthy and treatable animals are killed just for being homeless. Where they ought to find a safety net, these animals often find neglect, abuse, and death. Some are killed without being given the chance to find a new home or to reunite with their owners; others are killed despite offers to save them. We call these buildings "shelters." Why do we allow this? Shelters cause so much suffering. Why do some people, including those who have labeled themselves animal advocates, make excuses for them? It's completely crazy if you allow yourself to actually think about it.

I believe in No Kill because it is logically consistent and it gets practical results. The problem of shelter killing is clearly defined and solvable, and animals and people have a shared interest in fixing it. Everybody wins. I believe in No Kill because I cannot believe otherwise. When the shelter I volunteered for killed two kittens from my first-ever foster litter, despite my offer to take them back, I was shocked to my core. I had to rethink everything I'd been led to believe about animal shelters. I learned that shelters are places where words don't mean what they mean elsewhere where killing is called "euthanasia," as if it were a kindness to kill a healthy animal rather than finding her a new home. No Kill advocates are sometimes called confrontational, but what could possibly be as confrontational as killing an animal that someone had specifically offered to save?

Confront this: saving lives requires leadership. But those who kill or make excuses for killing have abdicated their responsibilities, leaving a leadership vacuum that needs to be filled whether they like it or not. I believe in No Kill because it is doable. When the shelter that had previously killed my foster kittens began operating under new leadership, the first No Kill community in the country was created. If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I believe it will happen in every community in Georgia, or anywhere else, when people act to make it so.

Last year, I became involved in an exciting development in Georgia shelter reform: the passage of Grace's Law. As of December 31, 2010, killing shelter pets by gas chamber is illegal in Georgia period. Because of the need to keep H.B. 788 on the minds of Georgia animal lovers, this campaign inspired me to write so that they would actively support it along the way. The Georgia Voters for Animal Welfare formulated an all-out grassroots voter campaign, found an outstanding bill sponsor in Representative Tom Knox, and hired a committed lobbyist. There were some harrowing moments, but voter support was tremendous; some legislators reported that they got more calls about Grace's Law than about the budget. Ultimately, the Grace's Law team saw the Governor sign the bill into law, ending one form of animal cruelty in our state.

We live in an exciting time, and there is much work to be done. The fact is that we need shelter reform nationwide and leadership vacuums exist everywhere. There's one waiting for you. Ordinary people can make a difference.

For more information:
Valerie Hayes writes a column on animal welfare issues for the Atlanta Examiner at:

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