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Confessions Of A Cat Rescuer #8 - Confessions Interupted
I Confess: I have been very, very, busy.
Now you may wonder, what could be so important that it would keep me from writing about the thing I am most passionate about? Well, for one, I started working again, which has taken out a huge chunk of my writing time, but on the good side has made it possible for me to keep my 28 fur-balls well-fed. Then, there have been the weekly doctor visits, lab appointments, and tests to see if my cancer is staying under control. So far, so good. Except for still being fatigued, everything looks good on that front.
But the thing that has kept me the most occupied may actually save more animal lives than I could ever save on my own.
About two months ago, the news media reported that our local shelter had been holding stray animals for three days instead of five days as required by state law. For those who may not know how the system works, let me explain why this was such a big issue - any animal that is not personally surrendered at an animal shelter is classified as a stray. This means that “strays” not only include unowned animals, but also include lost or wandering pets. So essentially, if your dog or cat got lost, you only had three days to find out (1) that it was at the shelter (2) find proof to show that the animal is yours, and (3) get the animal out before it is killed.
Most people do not even realize that a pet is missing until one day goes by, leaving only 48 hours to find and redeem the pet. So you can see that a three-day stray hold left very little chance that pets could be found and reclaimed. I can’t help but wonder how many family pets died because their owner could not find them in time.
Now, in all fairness, County law stated that the shelter follow a three-day hold, and it took a decision by the state Attorney General to say that county law could not do less than the state law required, so the shelter would have to hold strays for five days.
The situation blew up from there. The shelter, ran by a humane society, had already raised the rates they wanted to charge the county, which the county was refusing to pay because they had already budgeted what they could afford. Using the five-day hold as leverage, the shelter now asked for even more money, and then refused to take in any more strays until the money was paid.
In the midst of all this mess, the Lord put me in a position to do something unique. I am the Leader and Spokesperson of the South Carolina No-Kill Alliance, a social movement to stop the killing of healthy and treatable in animal shelters. I had been in contact with our shelter over some other issues and was hoping that we could work together to find a solution to the 80% combined kill-rate at the shelter.
But God had other plans. I spoke to my County Council representative and asked for a chance to address the Council at the next monthly council meeting. I was given three minutes to speak on the animal care issue in our county.
What could I possibly say in three minutes that could make any difference at all?
That’s when it hit me. I decided to go for all the marbles. Using the text of the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), and a huge portion of information on feral cats that has been published by Alley Cat Allies, I crafted a proposal called The Animal Care and Protection Act (ACPA). ACPA would speak to the need for reform far better than I could in three minutes.
Now, I may need to stop here and explain. Last year our shelter killed 68% of all dogs and 90% of all cats that entered the shelter - over 14000 animals died. The CAPA bill is a series of mandated laws that require shelters to engage in life-saving alternatives to killing, to work with private rescue groups, to not kill if there are empty cages at the shelter, and to make the intake and kill numbers available to the public.
There are other things CAPA does as well, but the point is that anywhere a CAPA-based bill has become law, up to 90% of all animals entering a shelter system have come out alive! That’s a drastic difference to killing 80% of those who go in.
The ACPA is a CAPA-based bill that will save lives, save taxpayer money, improve public health and safety, and improve our citizen’s satisfaction with our county government and sheltering system.
In addition, ACPA sets the stage for a county-wide Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for feral cats. TNR would save the lives of three thousand cats a year, allowing these cats to return their colonies and serve the public as free rodent control.
So, on October 17, my group made history as we introduced the first no-kill measure anywhere in South Carolina - The Animal Care and Protection Act. I used my three minutes of fame to speak on how ACPA will benefit not only the animals, but the county as well. The ACPA is now before Spartanburg County Council, and we are working to push Council to bring ACPA to a vote and pass it.
I have just finished an interview with Critter Magazine, and am trying to get one-on-one appointments with the members of County Council. So as you can see, I have indeed been busy. But I am thankful that this opportunity came up, for if ACPA passes in Spartanburg County, I will have been a part of a movement that will save thousands of animals, even long after I leave this world.
So, I ask you pray for me and for all the animals here in Spartanburg County. The greatest pain about all this is knowing that there will be animals who will die before this bill becomes law. If you live in Spartanburg County, please contact your County Council representative and ask them to pass the ACPA and institute a TNR program for feral cats.
I will keep you posted as our fight to save lives continues.
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