December 1, 2010

A True No-Kill Animal Shelter: Is that even possible?

“Don’t breed or buy while homeless pets die.”

MaxFund No-Kill Animal Shelter is Denver’s only true one.

The first time I heard of MaxFund I was headed out of one of my favorite boutiques in Denver and spotted (honestly hard to miss though) the MaxFund Adoption Van—vibrantly decorated with cats and dogs on the inside and out. I couldn’t resist the urge and waltzed up to the parked van just as a few MaxFund-ers were leading dogs out for a meet and greet. To my (ashamed) surprise, these were some of the cutest, sweetest dogs I had ever met. As I had walked up, I had been fighting back images in my head of injured, deranged beasts that were at one point friendly but now ruined. I was very, very wrong.

MaxFund is a non-profit no-kill Animal Adoption and Care Center that was established in 1988 by Nanci and Bill Suro. Animals find their way to MaxFund by many roads, some more tragic than others, some simply victims of circumstance. Whatever road they take, MaxFund strives to perform all basic care for animals committed to its stewardship, including medical needs, rehabilitation, training, socialization and then finding them good homes with responsible pet parents. The organization provides crucial services including orthopedic surgery and other veterinary care for injured dogs and cats. More importantly, MaxFund has placed over 18,000 animals in new forever homes where they are safe and loved.

I was lucky enough to interview MaxFund and learn more about their humane practices. I really wanted to do this interview because I am not of their “choir”—I own a pure bred intact male Boxer. And a rescue cat, but elephant journal ed-in-chief Waylon Lewis loves to point out that’s still 50 percent, so I fail. I was most interested in learning if it’s possible for “no-kill” shelters to not kill—since most people think they don’t really exist. And while it seems that MaxFund is doing their best, and a darn good job at it, there are still so many animals out there without homes that will be euthanized.

It is estimated as many as 250,000,000 companion animals were slaughtered in American ‘shelters’ during the last decade. That figure is equivalent to the entire U.S. human population in 1991. The ASPCA reports that between five and seven million companion animals enter shelters every year, and between three and four million of those animals are euthanized. In terms of dogs, that means that five out of ten dogs in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.

The holidays are a very popular time to buy new pets, so please research and make an educated decision—buying from a shelter is best, but make sure it’s right so they won’t have to be back.

Lindsey: What is your policy when it comes to too many dogs or cats in the shelter? Do you have to work extra hard to get them adopted? Or do you send overflow to humane societies? I read on the Foster Care page of your website that Maxfund accepts all animals. How is this possible?

MaxFund: Because Maxfund does not euthanize for space, there is a limit on the number of animals that can be accepted.  Maxfund can hold up to 85 dogs and 120 cats in the shelter itself, we are always desperate (and so grateful) for foster homes that create more space at the shelter and provide a better environment for the pet. Maxfund animals are home at Maxfund as long as they need, or as many times as they need (in the case of returns).  We do not work with other rescues or transfers because we care so much about where our animals are placed into forever homes.

L: How many animals come in each week? How many are adopted each week? How many animals do you have at the shelter at the moment?

M: We have seen a serious increase in the number of animal’s being placed in shelters this year; most likely due to the economic changes and significant loss of jobs/homes.  For that matter, the shelter gets an average of 50 calls a day of pets being relinquished but we can only intake about 2-5 a day (20-30 a week).   The average number for pets adopted in a week is about 20 per week (including cats & dogs).  Most often the shelter is always full, holding approximately 85 dogs and 120 cats (this does not include the number of animals in foster care).

L: Should everyone spay or neuter their pet and why?

M: Absolutely! Please spay and neuter! Every day shelter animals are euthanized because of overcrowding.  You may have heard the saying, “Don’t breed or buy while homeless pets die” which holds true and stems from animals that are not spayed and neutered.

MaxFund knows there is a need and has a clinic open to the public that makes preventative care affordable.  This includes low cost spays and neuters.

ASPCA gives 10 great reasons why it is so important:

1. Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases.

2. Neutering provides major health benefits for your male. Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age.

3. Your spayed female won’t go into heat. While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!

4. Your male dog won’t want to roam away from home. An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate! That includes digging his way under the fence and making like Houdini to escape from the house. And once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other males.

5. Your neutered male will be much better behaved. Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs and cats may mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering.

6. Spaying or neutering will NOT make your pet fat. Don’t use that old excuse! Lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to pack on the extra pounds—not neutering. Your pet will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor food intake.

7. It is highly cost-effective. The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter surgery is a lot less than the cost of having and caring for a litter. It also beats the cost of treatment when your unneutered tom escapes and gets into fights with the neighborhood stray!

8. Spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community. Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, damage the local fauna and frighten children. Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.

9. Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth. Letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping is not a good lesson for your children—especially when so many unwanted animals end up in shelters. There are tons of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more responsible way.

10. Spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation. Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays. These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.

L: How many animals come in that need medical attention?

M: The mission of Maxfund is to accept animals with no known owner that are injured, ill, or abandoned; so in most cases the animals that are accepted need some form of medical attention to treat open wounds, broken bones, dentals, spay/neuters or other services.

L: How much money raised each year in donations and fundraisers is necessary to keep the animals alive and well?

M: Maxfund is supported by donations from the community and fundraisers throughout the year. Each and every dollar or item that Maxfund animals receive is important. It takes just over 1 million dollars for Maxfund to keep animals comfortable and sustain the shelter needs.

L: Which types of animals are hardest to place? (I’ve heard darker colored animals are harder to find homes. Is this a myth?)

M: The myth is true, black or dark-coated animals spend more time in shelters and are at a higher euthanasia rate.  The idea behind this is that most shelters have poor lighting and darker animals do not stand out, or that their features are not distinct—meaning that their personalities can be “dull.” Older animals are harder to place because they have more specific needs and most people feel that they will not be around much longer. Old dogs need love too and are usually more easygoing, perfectly trained, and oh-so loving.  Animals with a bite history or aggression tend to be harder to adopt as well, especially when he/she has human aggression.

L: Where do you see other humane societies in the next few years? Next 10 years? Do you think their practices will be more…well, humane? Is it possible for humane societies to move toward a no-kill approach?

M: It is amazing to think that more shelters may take on the no-kill approach although it is very difficult and costly. With the constant increase of pet population it is most likely that shelters will continue to euthanize or maybe move to the “low kill” idea of euthanizing at a minimal rate. Any way we consider changes, sadly, there will always be animals that are euthanized.

L: What do you think the most important thing to say to everyone looking to adopt? In what ways do you think society will understand No-Kill Animal Shelters?

M: Adopting an animal means that you are truly saving a life. Even at a no-kill shelter you have created space for another animal to be saved from a local high kill shelter or from the dangerous streets. Many animals that are placed in shelters are placed because of people who cannot care for them rather than a behavior issue with the animal. The number one reason of animals being relinquished is because of moving. It is important to remember that when you committed to that animal by taking it in, you committed for life. We keep our children through any lifestyle change, move, or behavior issue, right?!

If you are having difficulty with your pet, please consider some options to make it work. Maxfund is always willing to help and direct you in the right direction for your pets needs.

If you’re in the Denver area,  join MaxFund for their Annual Holiday Open House and A Holiday Affair for Paws.

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