Saving cats who enter shelters across America has proven to be a challenge for many communities. A number of factors contribute to the problem, but a clear one is the need to create programs that are cat-specific. Experience has shown that many municipal animal care and sheltering routines that can work quite well for dogs, do not work for cats. Cats and dogs are different, and how they should be viewed, as part of an overall sheltering methodology should be different.
In 2014, two leaders in the sheltering and no-kill movement stepped forward with a solution. The Million Cat Challenge, spearheaded by Dr. Julie Levy and Dr. Kate Hurley, was a bold initiative with a goal to save a million cats. The shelter based campaign pushed the nation’s shelters to sign up and then implement five key initiatives to reduce admissions, and increase lives saved:
- Alternatives to intake: Provide positive alternatives to keep cats in the home or community when admission to a shelter is not the best choice.
- Scheduled intake: Schedule admission of cats to match the shelter’s ability to assure humane care and safe movement through the shelter system to an appropriate outcome for every cat.
- Capacity for care: Match the number of cats cared for at any one time with the capacity required to assure the Five Freedoms of animal welfare for all cats in the shelter.
- Removing barriers to adoption: Expand the pool of adopters by removing barriers to adoption such as cost, process or location.
- Return-to-field: Sterilize, vaccinate and return healthy un-owned shelter cats to the location of origin as an alternative to euthanasia.
When the program was announced, we believed that the impacts could be far reaching with just these five simple steps if enough shelters agreed to take part. We’re happy to have been proven right – today at 3pm Eastern Time; the program will have saved their 500,000th cat thanks to the nearly 400 shelters that have signed on.
Just a few years ago (and sadly still true in far too many communities), shelters were deluged with cats and kittens, and the number of cats and kittens killed was depressingly high – but today, thanks to commonsense programs, and the support of organizations like the Million Cat Challenge, we’re seeing headlines like this one out of Michigan, “CATastrophe: Where have all the West Michigan kittens gone?”
The shelters participating in the Challenge hit every corner of the country – including West Michigan. Julie Levy and Kate Hurley should be applauded for not only conceptualizing a manageable set of programs to save lives, but also for executing it in such a successful way.
As part of their celebration of this incredible milestone, the group will be hosting a virtual party on their Facebook page today at 3pm Eastern Time – just in time to watch the counter roll over the 500,000 mark. You can join in the fun here.
Innovation, determination, and commitment are three required qualities we will all need to Save Them All™
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