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Rockwall County leads nation in animal welfare

Michael and Pam Kitkoski of No Kill Solutions meet cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy following Michael’s presentation at the conference.

ROCKWALL COUNTY, TX (Nov. 17, 2o14) Rockwall County continues to be a national leader in animal welfare and shelter reform. With No Kill shelters in Rockwall and Royse City, the county is an inspiration to many communities across the United States. Rockwall County’s positive influence was on full display in Las Vegas during last month’s Best Friends National Conference.

Eight communities were invited to present case studies at the conference, illustrating their methods of creating No Kill animal shelters. Along with Rockwall County, presenters included Austin, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Portland, Oregon and the state of Utah.

Over 1,700 conference attendees represented 48 states and six foreign nations. Guest speakers included cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy and Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise.

Pam Kitkoski, a co-founder of Rockwall Pets, poses with the organization’s display just outside the convention center.

Conference attendees learned about the influence of the Rockwall City Council, which voted to set a 90% minimum lifesaving goal at the Rockwall shelter in August 2011. “That’s such an inspiration,” said Susan Manning of Jackson, California. “That’s what we need to do.”

Another highlight of the conference was a profile of Carl Alsabrook, the city manager in Royse City, who stopped the killing of healthy and treatable pets in his city’s shelter in 2012. Conference attendees burst into applause upon hearing Alsabrook’s story.

Rockwall was one of the first 50 No Kill communities in the United States. Only three years later, that number has ballooned to nearly 300 communities, with many more approaching that level. Cities as diverse as San Antonio and Arlington in Texas, Washington, D.C., Pima County, Arizona and the states of Colorado and Michigan are poised to gain No Kill status in the near future.

Shelter killing is the number one cause of death for healthy and treatable dogs and cats in the United States, according to the American Humane Society. The ASPCA estimates 2.7 million pets were killed in shelters last year, which means an average of 285 healthy or treatable pets die every hour in shelters across the country.

Why are animals still at risk at some shelters? Animal control began in the late 1800s when America was an agrarian society. We used animals as working stock in those days. Many animals were worked literally to death while others were routinely rounded up and killed. Following World War II, Americans began keeping pets in our new suburban backyards. Then, in the most recent development, many of us began inviting our dogs and cats to sleep with us. During those 150 years, pets went from our barnyards to our backyards then into our bedrooms, yet most of our municipal animal control departments never changed their business model.

The flip side of the Rockwall Pets sign warned against listening to people who say it can’t be done.

In short, organizations like Best Friends are working to bring animal sheltering into the 21st century to match the values of a great majority of Americans. A recent AP-Petside.com poll found that nearly 75% of Americans didn’t want their tax dollars going toward killing healthy and treatable pets in their shelters

The Best Friends National Conference is designed to spread the word about the proven methods that are in place to stop the killing of those shelter pets. “Some of it is age-old wisdom and knowledge,” said Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “But so many of the presenters this year are people who’ve done something unconventional, something that has never been tried before.” One of those examples is Rockwall County, represented at the conference by No Kill Solutions.

Find out more about No Kill Solutions at http://nokillsolutions.org.
Find out more about Best Friends Animal Society at http://bestfriends.org.
Find out more about the conference presenters at http://bit.ly/1wJaLUx.

Story and photos by Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Michael Kitkoski, an award-winning animal shelter reform advocate and co-founder of Rockwall Pets and No Kill Solutions.

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