After one week of work, a group of Bradley County residents has facilitated the adoption/rescue of half of the arriving dogs and cats at Cleveland Animal Control, added more than 500 participants to its online group, recruited more than 30 active workers in the community, and garnered an agreement from Cleveland Animal Control Director Gene Smith to cooperate with its work.
Calling itself Cleveland for a No Kill City, the Bradley County residents forming the activist group have set a goal of seeing their community join the country's growing list of "no kill" communities by 2017.
Cleveland for a No Kill City is a grassroots movement of concerned residents who organized themselves to meet a gap in the community's efforts to reduce the kill rate at local animal control. The group is not formally organized and does not have elected leadership or non-profit status.
The group created a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/clevelandforanokillcity. Then the group divided itself into six work teams. One of the teams visits the pound each day of the business week and takes photos of the animals who have been surrendered there or brought in as strays. These photos, along with information about each individual animal, is uploaded to Cleveland for a No Kill City's Facebook page. From there, the photos are shared dozens and dozens of times with hundreds of viewers by the 500 participants on the Facebook page and through Twitter.
In those hundreds of people seeing each animal's photo and information, the organizers hope that there will be a single person who will see that animal and commit to rescuing it. To that hope, the group established a telephone number and email address. A volunteer coordinator is on duty each day and night to answer phone calls, emails and monitor the Facebook page and Twitter account to help adopters, rescuers and pet guardians who are seeking to reclaim a lost animal.
The first "pound team," as the group calls the pairs of volunteers who visit Cleveland Animal Control, took photos of animals being held on June 16. Within minutes of the photos being posted on the Facebook page, offers to rescue dogs and cats were pouring in. In the first week of its work, Cleveland for a No Kill City was able to facilitate rescue for half the animals that came into Cleveland Animal Control. As of Monday, the group had facilitated the rescue of more than half of the animals currently being held at the animal control facility.
On Friday, about 20 of the volunteers met with Animal Control Director Gene Smith. The group requested that animal control hold dogs and cats two days longer than current regulations because efforts at rescue could be more successful with 48 more hours to share photos and move potential rescuers and adopters through the process. Mr. Smith said he didn't have the authority to grant that request but asked the group to put its proposal in writing and he would present it to his captain.
When asked by the group if Cleveland for a No Kill City could count on his cooperation, Mr. Smith said that he would cooperate with the efforts.
The idea of no kill is promoted across the nation by Nathan Winograd and the No Kill Advocacy Center. Mr. Winograd's website states: "We have the power to build a new consensus, which rejects killing as a method for achieving results. And we can look forward to a time when the wholesale slaughter of animals in shelters is viewed as a cruel aberration of the past. We have a choice. We can fully, completely, and without reservation embrace No Kill as our future. Or we can continue to legitimize the two-pronged strategy of failure: adopt a few and kill the rest. It is a choice which history has thrown upon us. We are the generation that questioned the killing. We are the generation that has discovered how to stop it. Will we be the generation that does?"
Mr. Winograd outlines the steps communities must take to be able to become no kill. These include a comprehensive trap-neuter-return program for feral cats, low-cost spay/neuter, comprehensive adoption programs and more. There are currently 41 open-admission (meaning all animals surrendered by the public and brought in as stray are accepted), no kill government-operated shelters in the United States and many more that have committed to working toward becoming no-kill. For more information, visit the No Kill Advocacy Center's website at: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/
To become involved, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/clevelandforanokillcity or follow the Twitter handle @NoKillCleveland. Participants can save a life by doing no more than hitting the "share" button beneath photos or retweeting. To become more involved, consider training to work on one of the "pound teams" or as a coordinator. For more information about volunteer opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423 464-6070.