This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the American Pets Alive! conference in Austin. It was three days full of amazing sessions focusing on everything from starting a bottle-baby feeding program and building a foster network to political advocacy and fundraising. The underlying theme of the weekend was how to get started saving animals’ lives in your community TODAY.
I learned a lot of great things and came away with some phenomenal tips on how we all can help Houston’s homeless animals, and I will be sharing these specifics with you all over the next few weeks. But first, I wanted to share the takeaways from the closing session. The immense scope of a project like “saving Houston’s animals” can be easily overwhelming. As I’ve been digesting all the info from the conference, I keep finding myself returning to these 5 takeaways:
5. Your situation is not unique.
Yes, Houston has a huge animal problem. Based on the most recent data available, Houston area shelters kill on average more than 200 animals every day, not to mention the problem of the thousands and thousands of strays on our streets. Just look at the work that amazing groups like Forgotten Dogs of the Fifth Ward and Corridor Rescue are doing. But even still, we’re not unique. Sure, Houston doesn’t have freezing winters to control the stray population. We also have a number of area residents who don’t understand the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. San Antonio, Reno, NV, and Los Angeles all have these problems, too, and yet they’re well on their way to becoming no-kill communities. (In fact, Reno is no-kill. Check it out.) If they can do it, so can we.
4. Just start. Like, yesterday.
This is something I struggle with. I’m a planner. I can see all of these great programs coming together sometime in the future. Once we get 35 committed foster families, then we can start a foster program, right? Or when we’re able to buy a building to house a no-kill shelter, then we can start saving animals. Sure, these are both great things. But in the meantime, animals are dying. Start small if you have to, but start today. The goal isn’t to be saving 90% of Houston’s animals in 5-7 years. The goal is to be saving these animals as soon as possible. Do something today towards that end.
3. The wheel has already been invented.
According to the No Kill Advocacy Center (www.nokilladvocacycenter.org), “in 2013, over 90 communities representing about 300 cities and towns across America have save rates better than 90%.” By learning from these programs, we can save more animals in our area. If it works somewhere else, it might just work here, too.
2. Perfection is the enemy of life-saving.
This is another one that’s hard for me. As long as an idea is still in my mind, it’s perfect. As soon as I start to implement something, things inevitably go wrong. That’s just the way that it is. Someone said something in one of the sessions that hit me personally. Like, instant tears in my eyes. She said, “You will make mistakes, sometimes at the cost of a life. Please don’t give up.” If I get out of the planning stage and start implementing ideas, I will do something wrong and an animal may die because of it. But if I don’t do anything, animals are guaranteed to die. It’s time to start doing something about it.
1. No Kill begins with you.
If you have a desire to help Houston’s homeless animals, you can make a difference. Find what fits you. Maybe you can foster, maybe you can plan adoption events or do some fundraising. Not everyone can walk the halls of a high-kill shelter to see who they can save. But everyone can do something. If you’ve read this far, you’re interested in helping. Start today. Houston may have an overwhelming number of unwanted animals, but we also have some of the most amazing rescue groups you could find. Start by going to our Facebook page and looking at some of the rescue groups we have listed under our “likes.” Contact one and tell them you want to help. Do it today. An animal’s life depends on it.
Huge THANK YOU and shout out to the amazing people at American Pets Alive! and Austin Pets Alive! for the fabulous conference. I can’t wait to go again next year and share all of the great things Houston accomplished in 2013.