Saving Lives Requires Brains as well as Hearts

We work in an emotional industry. When dealing with dogs, cats and other domesticated animals, it’s difficult to prevent our emotions from overriding our decision making. Yet that puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to the reasoned, deliberate approach taken by most city councils, county commissioners and other governing bodies.

But if we want to be effective No Kill advocates, we must use our brains as well as our hearts. Developing a plan and working that plan, as any business will tell you, will lead to greater results.

Two separate scenarios occurred this week that perfectly illustrate the right way and the wrong way to use our brain power. One of our heroes, Dr. Emily Weiss of the ASPCA, illustrated the perfect way to use your brain to save more lives. In her recent blog post, Dr. Weiss points out that shelters don’t always have to be a depository for all domesticated animals. There are some animals who should never end up in shelters, like dogs whose families can’t afford expensive medical procedures.

Her blog tells the story of a dog who was brought to the Arizona Humane Society by his distraught mother, who couldn’t afford the $2,900 surgery he needed to save his life. And before you judge, consider this scenario: If his mother worked a minimum wage job in Arizona, it would take 100% of her income for over 45 days of work to pay for his surgery. Most of us couldn’t afford to sacrifice every bit of our earnings for over two months of work – nine weeks – no matter how much we loved our pets.

We know of many shelters which would have thoughtlessly taken the dog and killed it, refusing to spend any money to help the dog and/or assuming that no one would come forward to adopt him or pay for his surgery. Nevertheless, the folks at Arizona Humane Society did the right thing: They gave the dog the lifesaving operation he needed – and threw in a complimentary neuter – and then handed him back to his grateful mother.

As Dr. Weiss said, “Arizona Humane sheltered Jax by not sheltering Jax.”


On the same day the blog by Dr. Weiss appeared, Kelli Eaves reported a problem that illustrates the other end of the spectrum. Kelli and her team of volunteers with Friends of Arlington (Texas) Animal Services have put their open admission municipal shelter on the cusp of achieving No Kill by doing amazing things with TNR. Yet the city’s animal control officers continue to bring ear-tipped cats, who were caught in field traps, to the shelter. These cats are obviously members of a managed TNR colony and don’t belong in the shelter on a mandated 72-hour stray hold.

Take it from us when we say we’re confident no one is going to step forward to claim these cats at the shelter.

The cats absolutely do not belong at the shelter, but the officers in the field aren’t using their brains. They’re blindly following outdated protocol. The proper thing to do is open the trap door and allow the cat to rejoin its colony. It’s a waste of time, taxpayers money and shelter space to bring these cats to the shelter.

So the next time you find yourself overcome with emotion at the plight of homeless pets, remind yourself to reflect on the situation. There’s often nothing to be gained by doing the same thing over and over. Develop a plan and work that plan. You’ll be happy with the results, your community will appreciate your efforts and you’ll be saving lives like never before. Your brain can be as useful as your heart.