Saturday, February 23, 2008

"No-kill" vs. "Open-door" animal rescues

Holly is a foster kitten. She is several months old and I got her just before Christmas. A nice young man had found her alone, far from any houses and brought her in to the local humane society. Turns out she was in the jurisdiction of the local pound. When his plea reached our organization, her five days of mandatory hold was coming to an end and she would be put to sleep. Her behavior was unpredictable. She would allow herself to be held one minute and then be bouncing off the walls like a feral cat the next. Since she was young and I was willing to make the trip to get her and take her in as a foster, our organization agreed to take her.

Now might be a good time to open the discussion about "no-kill" shelters and "open-door" shelters. Notice the use of dramatically positive descriptors for organizations with largely similar missions, but with a very significant difference. I often compare it to the abortion debate which is characterized as "pro-choice" and "pro-life".

"No-kill" shelters typically will not euthanize the animals they take into their system unless they are beyond medical treatment or unable to be socialized safely for placement in a home. That's good. "Open door" organizations will take in all animals brought to them. Also good.

However, both have a dark side. "No kill" organizations often carefully screen which animals they will take and are often full, so many animals are turned away. "Open door" organizations euthanize around 50% of the animals brought to them -- adoptable or not.

Space constraints are the problems for both types of organizations. You might think this problem would be insoluable, but it really isn't. If all organizations focused a larger portion of their operations on prevention and education, we could eliminate the overage unwanted animals through spay and neuter of pets. I say "overage" because there will always be unwanted pets, but there will also be a large number of people willing to rescue them and another large group willing to adopt them. We already know that.

More about this another day. Remember, it has taken me some years working with all kinds of organizations to really get this clear in my mind. I shouldn't be surprised that most people don't understand the system. I hope to speed up the learning curve for just a few.

Back to Holly. She is a tiny bean of a kitty, several months old and very frightened. She had started playing well with my other fosters in her two months in my home, but still wanted nothing to do with people so we decided to move her and one of her foster kitten friends to another foster home with a couple who is home more and has had good luck with shy kitties.

Unfortunately, Holly started to walk funny and eventually they took her to the vet. No problem was found, but within 24 hours of the vet visit Holly became sick with a raging upper respiratory infection. She had a fever, crackly sounds in her lungs, and her inner eyelids were terribly swollen and red. She returned to the vet both of the next two days and now she is back at my house because I can handle her better to give her her medicine -- or so we thought. Holly surprised me by biting my hand on her first morning here when I went to pick her up, so this morning I was at Urgent Care getting a prescription for antibiotics.

Always take a cat bite seriously! Because it is a set of puncture wounds, infection is not uncommon and infection in a joint can land you in the hospital. Mine should be fine; I think it is already better tonight than it was this morning.

I've got Holly in my bathroom with a small warm humidifier running. Her crackly lungs have improved, but she was not eating or drinking anything that I gave her, so I started giving her food and water with a syringe this afternoon. She still feels warm and her eyes are still very swollen. I've been covering them with warm moist compresses every few hours and she seems to like that. She relaxes just a little.

Everyone who meets Holly loves her and feels so badly that she is so frightened. Please send good thoughts her way.


Katie said...

I'm sorry to hear about your bite! I hope you're feeling better today. I hope little Holly feels better, too. It will probably greatly help her socialization to have her back confined in the bathroom where she is getting regular contact.

Celayne said...

Holly is a doll -- even if she bites. ;)