Karen McMeekin, president of AT4P, said that in 2004, the county and city shelters were killing 85 to 90 percent of the dogs and cats they brought in. In order to reduce these numbers, she often transported large numbers of animals to out-of-state no-kill rescue organizations.
McMeekin discovered the book “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America” (2009). Nathan Winograd, the director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, presents a researched-based plan that can change shelters across the U.S. to increase their save rates to 90 percent or better. He has also produced a movie based on “Redemption” that will be shown in theaters this summer.
Winograd’s text gave McMeekin hope for a new plan for Cumberland County, and, at her own expense, she visited successful no-kill programs in Utah, Texas and Florida to learn how to implement the same initiative in Tennessee.
Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in Kanab, Utah, has been a prominent model for no-kill animal programs since 1984. Founders committed themselves to sheltering homeless animals until they were adopted and educating the public about the routine and unnecessary euthanasia protocols in U.S. shelters.
Board member Gregory Castle has served as BFAS’s CEO since 2010. However, as a co-founder of BFAS, he has been advocating for no kill animal programs for 30 years. He believes that communities can eliminate unnecessary euthanasia of homeless animals with organized programs. Through No More Homeless Pets in Utah, another organization he founded, his team developed programs for animal care education, low-cost spaying and neutering and pet adoptions.
Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, Texas, is managed by Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson. She has led Austin to be “the largest No Kill city in the United States.” APA! has a 91 percent save rate, which translates to more than 6,000 animals annually. The center regularly plans broad, creative programs to save at-risk companion animals.
Since 1988, the Animal Refuge Center (ARC) in Ft. Myers, Fla., has provided an alternative to euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats. They ensure that all animals are treated, rehabilitated and given an opportunity to be adopted. For dogs and cats that are never adopted, ARC is committed to providing them with lifetime sanctuary.
Closer to Crossville, the Blount County Humane Society in Maryville, Tenn., has established itself as a no-kill program in Tennessee with a verified save rate of 99 percent in 2014. The group offers a variety of leadership and supporting volunteer opportunities and is very active in promoting its philosophy through social media. Citizens can offer support as on -the-ground members of the Friends of the Animals Advisory Team and financially through the Bark-N-Purr Club.
For board members and other volunteers with AT4P, the goal for a true no-kill animal facility with the Cumberland County government is very realistic. However, they know that they must continue educating the community about the statistics and the proven successes of other programs to counteract the long-standing mindset of pet overpopulation that must be controlled with euthanasia.