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Engaging the Public



One thing is absolutely certain. No community can achieve No Kill without the support of its citizens. Therefore, engaging the public is a crucial part of the No Kill Equation. It is the public that volunteers, fosters, adopts and donates. You simply cannot do it without them. Unfortunately, many animal shelters do the opposite. They push the public away. For years, the tune that killing in animal shelters is the "fault" of "the irresponsible public" has been sung by many shelters. This, naturally, only tends to push people away from shelters. Rather than helping to educate, shelters turn their citizens into their enemies, which is a set up for continued killing.

Furthermore, many shelters have hours that are not friendly to the public, and their overall messaging is unpleasant and off-putting.

Take a look at these two photos found the same day on the Internet of two different dogs available for adoption at two different shelters in the United States.


Take a look at the dog on the left. It is being restrained in front of what looks like a police line up marker, while being held by a double leash. Not exactly a welcoming photo of this poor dog. The caption starts out as many do. "URGENT" in all caps. It should probably not have to be said, but threatening to kill an animal if someone does not take it soon is not a good way to win the support of your community.

Compare that image to the one on the right. Most shelters would consider this a difficult dog to "sell". It is black. It is a powerful "bully breed". Yet, look how friendly and inviting the photo is?

In far too many ways, the messages coming out of animal shelters are like the photo on the left and not enough like the photo on the right. And, I mean all kinds of messages. The pictures they take. The words they choose. The policies they have in place.

To really achieve No Kill, shelters need to stop blaming the public. They, instead, need to embrace them. Note: the photo on the left was taken, likely, by animal control officers. The photo on the right was taken at a shelter that embraces the public. The photo was taken by a photographer who volunteers her time to help capture to beauty of each of the pets. That sort of thing is only possible when the shelter embraces and engages their public.

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