Sunday, December 09, 2007

Kratz covers the cats, MadNoKill meets up...

there have been a few developments on the No Kill front and this blog is frankly underused. the most major thing to happen in the last few days in the release of "Better off dead" - the December 7th cover-story in the Isthmus (that's how I say it, so deal). the story is penned by Vikki Kratz, Isthmus government reporter and volunteer cat-rescuer for DC Friends of Ferals. there is no obvious connection (outside of this piece). the story sort of fills in all the blanks for you.

the story was a doozie. i intend to pull it apart over a few blog-posts because there is a lot to unpack. the headline was that we are killing a surprisingly high number of cats for a community that prides itself on its compassionate concern of animals. the headline is backed up with some hard-hitting data (40% of cats taken in this year have been killed, most healthy or treatable) and some personal stories that help us get to know who some of these cats are. (more below)

did we publish something about this data a month a earlier on our blog? sure, but we aren't the damn Isthmus and we didn't include all the illuminating interviews with ex-volunteers and current shelter bigwigs. this is some hot stuff and if we had media awards to give out, Ms. Kratz would be on our short-list of 2007 nominees.

so read the piece, learn the facts, and get ready to organize around an alternative. there are alternatives out there and Vikki alludes to them in her piece. i am glad she offered us a look at what some of these solutions may look like (read: Nathan Winograd's No-Kill solution). getting involved in local cat-rescue at any level is going to help.

as far as organizing alternatives, we had another No-Kill Madison meet-up tonight at Escape Java Joint here on Willy Street and a handful of folks were able to brave the elements and join us. noteworthy guests included Lee Rayburn of 92.1 the mic, Dr. Laurie Peek of Maddie's Fund, and my favorite guest - Dr. Sandra Newbury. we also had Paul O'Leary on-hand (cat-rescue generalist), a visitor from Athens, Georgia, and a UW vet-student that supports spay-neuter work at DCHS. i'm delighted when anyone shows up to talk about saving cats, but this was a fun group dynamic, to say the least.

we ran well past the hour i had intended to go and our agenda was scrapped for more practical banter. we got down to how far we thought people were willing to go to change things. it was evident at the outset that nobody wanted to defend the past. perhaps it is best left at that for right now. we were all openly talking about the same goal, a very high save-rate for cats (i give it a name and a number: No Kill = 90%+). we were talking about the systemic reasons this we have been going in the wrong direction and at least identifying the areas we would need to focus on in order to affect a change - namely intake (admissions) and adoption-rate.

my central concern was that we organize around a clear goal, nothing fuzzy - and that we let the resource question come second. Sandra's concerns at times felt resource-centric and my resistance was probably obvious. i always imagine an army of compassionate check-writing individuals is waiting to descend on DCHS once they they start speaking their language - the language of No-Kill.

my idea to ride around with the animal-control officer responsible for the highest cat-intake numbers was met with some chuckles, but we really were trying to turn over every rock we could given the value of the audience. Sandra is working with DCHS on something that i can only say sounded very optimistic and a real departure from the past.

she has more confidence than i that we have the right leadership in place to achieve something approaching No-Kill here in Madison (or Dane County as a whole). i tend towards a changing of the guard and a fresh set of eyes, but i'm willing to talk it through. acknowledging that the policies of the past five years have failed the cats of Dane County and the residents who speak for them would be a terrific start. i could work with someone who could acknowledge that. Sandra Newbury is one of those people from what i heard tonight. i'm not saying she'll lead the next coup, but she's willing to say that the cat numbers stink and DCHS is the institution that produced them (in concert with an often oblivious community, thanks to an often oblivious media).

all that and more. i tell you this was a meeting i'm glad i didn't miss. stay tuned...


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