ARL’s Commitment to No-Kill Initiative

The Board of Directors of the Animal Rescue League of Berks county unanimously voted Monday night to authorize its Executive Director to aggressively pursue the feasibility of the organization becoming a no-kill shelter.

2017 proved to be a very challenging year for the Animal Rescue League of Berks County.  As a result, the Board of Directors retained the services of local business consultant, Thomas J. Hubric, who specializes in senior leadership roles and change management in the not-for-profit sector.  While also serving as the Interim Executive Director, Hubric, is evaluating all aspects of the organization to identify opportunities for improvement as well as making the Animal Rescue League of Berks County a no-kill shelter.

Hubric explains: “The Animal Rescue League of Berks County has already dramatically reduced its euthanasia rate for cats by over 75% and by 19% for dogs for the months of November and December 2017 compared to November and December of the previous three years.  In addition, we have already taken several steps that will enable the ARL to become a no-kill facility.

I have conducted extensive research including touring other no-kill facilities, and the Board and I have determined that the no-kill movement is something that the Animal Rescue League and Berks County needs to be a part of.  It will take a tremendous amount of time, money and the full support of the community, but I am very confident that it can be done. If the community gets behind us, it’s really not a matter of if it can be done but a matter of how quickly it can be done. 

It’s just the right thing to do, and we need to do our best to make this happen sooner versus later.”   

What is a No-Kill Shelter?

Although the concept of no-kill has many definitions and is often debated by those in the field, the ARL considers a no-kill shelter to be an animal shelter that does not euthanize healthy or treatable animals even when the shelter is full, reserving euthanasia for terminally ill animals or those considered highly dangerous to public safety.

What Percentage of Animals Must Live to be Considered No-Kill?

To be considered a no-kill shelter, the live release rate must be 90% or greater.

Why are the Animal Rescue League’s Rates Lower than No-Kill Shelters?

There are several reasons why our live release rates are below that of no-kill shelters.  First, we are an open admission shelter, which means that we don’t turn any cats or dogs away, ever. We take them all, regardless of health, age, temperament, or the financial ability of the owner’s relinquishing animals. We also have the only after hours drop in the county where many animals are often just dumped, many of which we are given no explanation or history on the animals and are given no money for their care.  Many no-kill shelters only take animals that meet specific criteria and turn animals away when they are full. The Animal Rescue League will never do that.

Board President Jessica Prutzman explains: “The Animal Rescue League will always be an open admissions shelter.  Mr. Hubric was given the full support of the Board to determine how the ARL can become no-kill with one condition- that we remain an open admission shelter. We are the only open admissions shelter in the County, and the animals need us.”

 In addition, the Animal Rescue League is the only organization that provides Animal Control Services for Berks County.  This means that it picks up any and all animals that need our help. These include animal cruelty issues, animal hording, extremely ill animals, dangerous animals, etc.

The bottom line is that we have an “open-door” policy and take in thousands of unwanted animals of Berks County each year.  As a result, our live release rates are lower than that of no-kill shelters but that doesn’t mean that we can’t become a no-kill shelter.  Other shelters with a similar mission and scope of services to the ARL have become no-kill.  If they can do it, so can we!

Again, it will be a huge effort and the community really needs to want it.  It will take a lot of hard work, money and community support, but it can be done and we owe it to the animals to try to make this happen.

What does the Animal Rescue League have to do to become a No-Kill Shelter?

In order to become a no-kill shelter, we need to have a live release rate of at least 90%.  This requires us to adopt what is commonly known as a “no-kill equation” which typically would be comprised of the following elements:

  • A Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for free-living or feral cats, which allows us to return animals to where they live once neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped.  This initiative is already in progress.
  • Significantly growing our no and low-cost, high volume spay/neuter programs to reduce the number of unwanted animals in the community.
  • Enhanced cooperation with other rescue groups locally, regionally and even nationally. We have already started working toward this goal, which has played a significant role in reducing our numbers over the past two months.
  • Growing our Foster Care program so that as many animals as possible can be accommodated in a home-like environment. An animal living in a home is in a much better environment versus a shelter and we need other options when we are full. With the spring rapidly approaching, we will fill up quickly, and we need a place for animals to go. Fosters give us the ability to exceed our capacity during peaks in animal reproduction cycles.  In short, fosters save lives.
  • Tripling the size of our volunteer pool to assist us with a wide variety of functions to keep our labor costs as low as possible and to make our animals as adoptable as possible.  Volunteers will play a critical role toward our becoming no-kill.
  • A pet retention program to help people who are not able to keep their pets. This includes financial assistance for food and veterinary care and other support so that people can keep their pets.
  • Working with animals with behavioral issues.  This includes hiring animal behaviorists to work with animals with negative behaviors to assist them in becoming adoptable and safe for the community.
  • Adding and remodeling our facilities to increase our capacity to house more animals in times of peak demand (typically late spring, summer and fall).
  • Renegotiate our animal control contracts with the City of Reading and municipalities.  Currently, the fees the Animal Rescue League receives to provide animal control services only cover about 50% of the actual cost to provide these services to the community.  We simply can’t provide these services at such a loss to the organization and expect our donors to cover these expenses.  Remember: approximately 85% of our revenue comes from donations.
  • Enhance our Community Outreach and Education programs to better educate the community on how to reduce the population of unwanted animals.  In many cases, the public does not understand the impact of not neutering their animals, allowing unneutered cats to roam freely, buying a pet from pet stores, puppy mills, etc.

Live Release Rate Already Improving!

As stated, we are happy to report that we have already begun to make significant progress to improve our live release rates.   We have renewed relationships with other rescues and sanctuaries, and we have set up additional cages in our lobby, offices and other common areas, as-needed, to accommodate more animals during times of peak demand.  As a result, we are very happy to report that our euthanasia rates for cats (where the overwhelming majority of animals are put down due to sheer numbers) for the months of November and December of 2017 were reduced by over 75 percent as compared to the previous three years.  Dog numbers are down 19 percent for the same time period.

This has not been easy to accomplish and has pushed our staff to the limit but shows that we can radically improve our live release rate if we think differently and try harder.

Community Meetings

Over the next two months, we will be hosting meetings with the community to solicit feedback on the Animal Rescue League of Berks County’s plans to become a no-kill shelter and how the community can help to make this happen.  Additional information will also be published on our website and social media sites.

Hubric notes: “We are a community resource, and we need to hear from the people of Berks County in regards to the no-kill concept and their desire to support the ARL on its journey to become a no-kill shelter.  We can save literally thousands of more lives, but it will take the collective time, talents and treasures from the community to make this happen.  

 I’ve read hundreds of social media posts and comments from people in the community demanding that we become a no-kill shelter.  Please know, I heard you and I agree!  Now we need to see if we have enough community support to make it happen.   

 We are up for the challenge if the citizens of Berks County will join us in this initiative to save as many animals as we can humanely save!”

How You Can Help Immediately

Most people don’t realize that 85% of our funding comes from donations.  In order for us to continue with the positive momentum that we have experienced over the past two months, we need additional financial support. Some of the primary reasons for our need for additional revenue are to pay for increased veterinary care for sick animals, to add staff to care for more animals and to hire a behaviorist to work with dogs that have behavioral issues. We also need more volunteers to help at the shelter and additional foster parents to keep as many animals out of the shelter as possible to make space, especially in the summer months.

Saving more animals means more costs, plain and simple.  More animals require more staff to care for them, more space to house them, more vet care, more food, more vaccines, etc.

The Board of Directors, the Executive Director and the staff of the Animal Rescue League of Berks County are fully committed to the no-kill concept and are aggressively exploring how it can become a no-kill shelter as soon as possible.

If you are interested in helping financially, becoming a foster parent or volunteering, we can use your help!  Whether your time, your talent or your treasure, we need your help to make this happen.

To learn more about the no-kill concept and how animal shelters are making the switch to no-kill, please click on the video link below and plan to attend one of upcoming community meetings, which will be announced in the next few days.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important message and for your support of the Animal Rescue League of Berks County!

Watch the film, “Redemption” about the No Kill revolution.