Monday, August 17, 2009 7:11 PM

A Shelter's "No Kill" Mission

The Saturday edition of the Daily Hampshire Gazette featured a front-page article about the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, a local animal shelter that has grown by leaps and bounds since being founded in 1995 with a modest bequest by the late Janet Dakin of Amherst.

This entity has been in the news quite a bit lately. When the MSPCA closed its long-time shelter in Springfield, the Dakin stepped up this past spring, buying the premises and bringing its excellent work into Hampden County. Dakin has always strove to be a no-kill shelter, placing animals in homes all over Hampshire and Franklin Counties. If a pet could be treated and rehabilitated, the Dakin shelter would find it a home. When they had only the Leverett and Greenfield locations, this task was much easier; they could send those animals that they felt were unadoptable to the MSPCA. Recent events have changed this aspect of their philosophy, however, and this was the major focus of the article.

Before they moved into the Springfield area, the organization destroyed only about 4% of the animals it took in. Now that they have changed from a limited adoption center to one that is open admission, they are unable to place nearly all the animals that come through its doors. Realizing this, the Executive Director has unveiled a plan to change all that within three years, becoming a true "no-kill" shelter.

While Dakin is planning to guarantee adoption of all healthy dogs it receives right away, cats are another issue. Unfortunately, there seems to be a prevalent attitude that cats are disposable. Everyone has heard of people drowning unwanted kittens (rather than neutering the parents); I personally have never heard of anyone drowning puppies. Not to say that this has never happened, but I'll bet it is not as common a practice as destroying kittens! To their credit, the Dakin plans to be able to place all healthy cats, even adults, in three years' time.

How do they plan to do this? Dakin has always had an excellent matching program, interviewing people who want to adopt to be sure that they will find an animal that they will want to keep (the shelter requires adopters to bring the animal back to them, however, if the match doesn't work). Additionally, they are creating programs for low-cost neutering, counseling of persons who want to surrender their pet in order to find a way to keep the animal in the home, animal training and increasing the number of foster homes.

Despite the seemingly short time-frame for the implementation of these goals, I feel confident that the Dakin will achieve them. The article goes on to point out that fund-raising will be a necessary part of this endeavor. Check out the Dakin's website and be as generous as you can--they're good people with a great mission.

Unbelievable: I read the other day that a former football player, Micheal Vicks, was recently released from prison after serving time for running a dog-fighting ring (and making millions of dollars into the bargain). Despite being supposedly banned from professional sports for some indefinite period of time, he was recently given special dispensation (or something!) so that he could be signed by the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only that, but I heard this morning that this move is supported by the Humane Society, who have tapped this guy as a spokesman against dog fighting! Is this a crazy world or what?!
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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