by Jean Peelen
What an exciting month January was for this initiative. First, and foremost, Manatee County Animal Services increased the number and percentage of animals saved to 75%. That is just amazing—a 20% increase in saved dogs and cats since August. I give so much credit to Kris Weiskopf and the entire staff of Animal Services. They have been able to change the entire paradigm out of which they worked in the past. They were the dogcatchers, and now they are the dog and cat heroes. Quite a change, huh?
I only wish that the rest of the animal control agencies in the State could take a page from Manatee’s books. A bill has been introduced in the Senate and House that might move this state closer to no-kill. It would require animal control agencies to keep a list of rescue groups and allow the rescue groups to take animals from the shelter to get them adopted. The Florida Animal Control Association has taken a stand against that possible law. How backward is that? Unfortunately, the Association is stuck in its own history—stuck defending its practice of killing the majority of dogs and cats that come into their clutches. Guilt can breed anger, defensiveness, and attack.
Thank goodness our Animal Services people chose the path of learning and new vision instead. And thank goodness for the leadership of Carol Whitmore (County Commissioner) and Bill Hutchison (Manatee County Public Safety Director). They set the vision and provided the leadership that inspired Animal Services.
But guess what? It is the community that is bringing it home. The rescue groups, the shelters, the foster parents, the photographers, the big-dog walkers, the spay/neuter clinics, the feral cat caregivers, the vets who lower their prices for rescues, businesses like Walgreen’s, the media: all have a part in making this work. And it is working.
What a joy to be part of this collective effort.
And the joy is spreading. I think that Hillsborough County soon will follow in our footsteps to become no-kill. Last weekend they hosted an afternoon with Nathan Winograd, the founder of the no-kill movement. It seems to have inspired at least one of the County Commissioners to introduce it to their County Commission. I’ll just bet their Animal Services people are nervous! Change is drastic and difficult. I know our Animal Services will support theirs on their way to no-kill.
Kudos to everyone – the effort continues.