I'm no longer on television and I don't have to remain uninvolved. So now I'm reporting for my own blog, "Save 90".
90% is the percentage of animals being saved in many shelters around the country. Many other communities are working hard to achieve this, like Pasco County, Fla. whose county commissioners adopted a Save 90 plan in 2012. Since then, the Pasco County shelter's live release rate has jumped from 22% to 80%, and the shelter's administrator is working hard to attain the 90% goal.
Clearly it can be done, and this mission should be adopted by the Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS) on Manor Rd. The BCAS live release rate in 2013 was about 50%.
As medicine and technology and all fields have evolved and improved over the last decades, so it is with animal sheltering. There are now best practices that improve the quality of life of animals in shelters and also save lives that were once deemed un-savable.
You can see these improvements in the numbers. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in 1970, shelters put down 12-20 million animals. Today it's an estimated 3-4 million. Sadly it's a lot, and way too many, but it's a big improvement nonetheless.
Social media and sites like Petfinder and Adopt A Pet which link adopters with animals available for rescue have made a big difference. A virtual explosion in the number of animal rescues that take animals from shelters and find them permanent homes has also helped. Another big piece of the puzzle is found within the shelters themselves: new ways of operating and networking, and an overriding emphasis on saving lives.
Baltimore City's shelter is a case in point. Its kill rate in 2003 was about 95%. Just think of it: 12,000 animals coming in each year...only about 600 walking out the door. But in 2004, the shelter became a 501c3 and changed its name to BARCS, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. BARCS operates as a public/private partnership. This means the city of Baltimore contributes some of the shelter's operating revenue; BARCS is responsible for the rest. What's resulted is no less than amazing. Executive Director Jen Brause has lowered the shelter's kill rate to below 25%. Now of the 12,000 that come in, 9000 leave alive. Some are placed with rescues. Some are fostered by volunteers in the shelter. Some are adopted. It doesn't matter how they survive. They survive.
This is what we want for the shelter in Baltimore County...a shift in mindset, a new mission to save as many lives as possible through coordination with rescues, the implementation of a viable volunteer program, and the utilization of all best practices developed over the last decades.
Many believe this cannot happen until we emulate BARCS...create a new entity to run the shelter as a 501c3 in a public/private partnership (PPP) with the county. I believe a determination to make change can have great success with or without a PPP.
Baltimore County is finding itself under fire from animal advocates over the need for change, but it's not unique in this situation. A movement for shelter reform is happening in communities all over the country because most animal shelters everywhere have been run in the same way forever. Shelters were places where almost all animals that went in were killed.
People who wanted pets bought their dogs and cats from breeders and pet stores, or from a friend or neighbor whose pet had a litter.
It isn't easy for government to shift its mindset and adopt new ways of doing things. So, it's our job to speak up. If you care about the lives of animals in our community, let our elected officials know it. Tell them you want our shelter to be a model for others around the country, that you want Baltimore County to Save 90.
I have faith in our government to ultimately do the right thing, once officials see that it can be done and recognize that it is being done in many counties just like ours.
In the meantime, remember animals at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter have the potential to be wonderful companions and family pets. They are animals like Molly who you can meet in this video.
Stay tuned to this blog for some of the amazing stories about BCAS animals and the shelters around us.