Tenet #1 – Establish a Rescue Program

Metro Animal Care & Control (MACC) claims to work with many nonprofit rescue partners, though there has never been a written policy pertaining to rescue partnerships. A mere 1% of animals impounded at MACC in 2012 were transferred to rescues, evidence which suggests rescues are an underutilized avenue to save animals. For several weeks we have submitted feedback on the draft rescue partner policy, as well as provided national and local data regarding successful policies implemented by shelters with low kill rates. Yesterday via press release, MACC unveiled its new policy and procedure for the certification of nonprofit rescue partners, in effort to reduce their kill rate.We are ecstatic to see this monumental step in the right direction.  The good news is that the application process seems relatively simple.  However, the rescue partner program, as debuted, unfortunately does not include all the components for which we’ve advocated.  The major barriers to the program’s success are detailed below.ADOPTION/TRANSFER FEE
Best practice:
Rescues are not required to pay an adoption/transfer fee.

MACC’s policy: Rescues must pay a reduced adoption/transfer fee.

The problems:

  • This practice deters rescues from becoming partners with MACC because they can do business at no charge with many shelters in neighboring counties.
  • It costs more to kill an animal than to send an animal to a rescue.

VETTING & STERILIZATION
Best practice: 
The animal control facility entrusts all needed medical care to the rescue partner, freeing up the time and resources of the shelter’s staff and enabling them to prepare more animals to move into the adoption area.

MACC’s policy: All animals must be minimally vetted and spayed/neutered before leaving MACC, unless the rescue  partner has a physical shelter equipped for surgical procedures (e.g. Nashville Humane).

The problems:

  • This practice creates a backlog for MACC’s on-site veterinarian, thereby preventing animals from being moved into adoption efficiently.
  • Most rescues across the country utilize several foster homes, not one physical shelter.  Most rescues are not equipped to perform surgical procedures; rather, they use the services of a local veterinarian.

ANIMALS AVAILABLE TO RESCUE PARTNERS
Best practice:
Rescue partners are permitted to pull any animal that has fulfilled the 3-day stray hold mandated under Tennessee state law (with the exception of animals that have been temperament tested using proper protocols and deemed too aggressive to be rehabilitated OR animals that are deemed medically unfit).  There is no additional waiting period to pull any animal.

MACC’s policy: According to the press release, rescue partners are permitted to pull animals that have been available for adoption for a minimum of two weeks.  (This is contrary to the information provided by Dr. Paul in the health department’s Council budget hearing.)

The problems:

  • This practice is fiscally irresponsible.  During that two week waiting period, MACC absorbs the cost to feed and house each animal, as well as the cost to perform euthanasia if it is not adopted.
  • This unnecessarily lengthens the time an adoptable animal is in shelter.  In shelter, an animal is more susceptible to stress, lack of socialization, increased aggression, and death or illness.
  • The longer each kennel in the adoption area remains occupied, animals in quarantine and impound are more likely to die due to time and space constraints inside MACC.
  • Not all adoptable animals make it to the adoption area at MACC.  In fact, most are never seen by the public or given a chance to be adopted.

No reputable animal welfare organization or veterinary professional would argue that shelter is a better environment than a foster home.  Rescues remove animals from the less than optimal shelter environment and agree to take full responsibility for their care, eliminating a piece of the burden shouldered by the shelter (and tax payers) – an act most would consider a public service.

These facets of MACC’s policy defy the industry standard for best practice, which is to move all healthy animals out of shelter as quickly as possible, thus lowering the kill rate at the facility.

We’re happy to see some of the bricks loosened, but we must keep pushing if we want to knock down the wall!

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