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  • Writer's pictureNo Kill Movement

Lessons from First Boots on the Ground Documentary

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

On January 23, 2918, Mike Fry from No Kill Learning debuted his new mini documentary series Boots on the Ground, in which he is touring the country to tell the stories of how successful No Kill communities achieved their No Kill status. The first episode is The Lake County, Florida No Kill Story.. It is inspiring, uplifting, heart-felt and something everyone interested in animal sheltering should watch, whether they are a volunteer, staff person or an elected official who oversees their animal shelter. There is something in it for everyone. The reviews and feedback about the film have been overwhelmingly positive.

"They fought about getting to No Kill for 5 years," wrote one reviewer. "But when they decided to do it, the killing stopped immediately."

Another viewer wrote, "This film could literally save the lives of millions of animals."

And, another said:

Perfection! It is compelling, emotional, empowering and wonderfully edited. What a wonderful way to inspire others. I admit I cried. Couldn't help it.

Another put it simply, "That was F#%^*ING FANTASTIC!"

Basically, what we are saying is that if you have not already watched it (it is available on Facebook and YouTube ad-free), watch it now, and then share it with your animal-loving family and friends, and, maybe more importantly, with your elected officials who oversee your local animal control.

The message is simple: If Lake County, Florida can achieve No Kill, you can too.

Lake County has a per-capita intake rate that is significantly higher than the national average. It is a small, rural community. The County seat, Tavares, has a population of only 17,000 people. Yet the animal shelter takes in 7,000 animals a year, including a lot of farm animals. The fact that they flipped the No Kill switch to the "on" position in one day (January 15, 2017) is proof that any community anywhere can do the same.

At the end of the film, Fry gives a handful of important lessons learned from the story. He got them right. They are really good lessons. However, there is an important one he left out: Organizations like Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie's Fund and others, who have described advocates like those in Lake County, who have demanded change at their shelters, as "divisive" and worse, are part of the problem. Best Friends has gone so far as to say they have "weaponized" the term "No Kill" (in a bad way). Maddie's Fund has referred to their kind of advocacy as "bashing and trashing" the animal shelter. And, the ASPCA even likened No Kill advocates to "terrorists." The fact of the matter is, however, (and the Lake County story proves it) that it is the killing of healthy and treatable animals that is divisive. The people who stand up and demand change are the heroes who are making No Kill happen boots on the ground while these multi-million dollar agencies fund-raise off their successes.

In fact, now that the killing has stopped in Lake County, the advocates who screamed the loudest are honored and thanked by elected officials for helping them make killing a thing of the past. Criticizing advocates for exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to demand reforms in their tax-funded animal shelters is enabling the killing of animals to continue. Lake County Commissioners have said publicly that they would not have become No Kill were it not for these advocates pushing the killing in the shelter onto their radar. Advocates like the Shank and Webber families (see them in the film) are true heroes and we all owe them a heart-felt thank you for their tireless work.

Part of the magic that Boots on the Ground brings is letting these heroes tell their own stories in their own words. Their passion, intellect and dedication comes through powerfully. Go watch it to get inspired!

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