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Tears, laughter, applause and ultimately, a standing ovation, proved speaker Nathan Winograd's words to be true - Americans do love their pets.
Winograd's "Building a No Kill Kentucky" presentation at Shelby Christian Church on Saturday night was aimed at educating the public on the plight that animal shelters face with the euthanatizing animals.
Representatives of animal organizations in at least 30 Kentucky counties attended the event, as well as people from at least seven states, and of course, several prominent Shelby County animal groups, such as Lifebridge for Animals, Operation Cat Snip and the Shelby County Humane Society. Winograd said the event was as well attended as any he had ever hosted.
"It shows how people in this community feel about their pets," he said.
A short video put together by the Shelby County Animal Shelter, which was shown after Winograd's presentation, echoed his observation, by proclaiming that Shelby was the first county in the state to be recognized as having a "No Kill" animal shelter.
Shelter Director James Collins said he is proud of that distinction, and although the shelter lost that status when three dogs had to be put down last fall, he is continually striving to regain and keep the shelter's No Kill reputation.
"We are always striving for that, and I have some new ideas that I think will help a lot," Collins said. "I am going to talk to [Deputy County Judge-Executive] Rusty [Newton] next week and see about setting up some pet adoption sites at certain businesses. I think that will make us more visible, and that always helps."
Collins' positive attitude was one thing that Winograd stressed during his speech.
"We need dedicated shelter directors who really care in order to make a difference," he said. "It's my goal to promote a 90-plus save rate in all the nation's shelters,"
That may seem an undoubtedly daunting task, but Winograd, a noted author and animal champion, seems up to the challenge.
He has been in various leadership positions, including director of operations for the San Francisco SPCA and was instrumental in advancing some of the most progressive shelter programs in the nation.
As executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA in New York, he achieved unprecedented results in adoptions services. He is currently the executive director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center.
His enthusiasm spilled over to those in attendance, who already possessed a passion for keeping animals from a tragic fate at shelters.
Kelly Jedlicki, president of No Kill Kentucky, held her collie-mix, Deacon, as she spoke to the crowd.
"Working to make our shelter a No Kill facility hasn't been easy, and there have been many tears along the way," she said. "But we will never give up."
Newton, also the county's animal control director, said he's glad that Winograd decided to bring his presentation to Shelbyville, because he stands behind his message of striving to avoid euthanatizing animals.
"He endorses the No Kill philosophy, and he's working hard to get that word out across American," he said. "And this large turnout here tonight is proof that a lot of people around here are willing to step up and support this."
Shelby County No Kill Mission Info • Est. 2008 • Goal: to save all adoptable animals in the county • Shelter went 15 months without having to euthanatize • Spay/neuter clinic opened in May 2009 In one year, the Spay/Neuter clinic did the following: • 241 dogs altered • 277 cats altered • 1 leg amputation • 1 toe amputation • 1 tail amputation • 1 eye removal • 3 tumor resections
• Paid for alterations of 89 dogs and 103 cats locally and 57 from Middletown
• 240 animal received antibiotics • 10 dogs treated for ringworm • 59 dogs and cats treated for skin conditions • 6 dogs and 2 cats had orthopedic procedures • 6 emergency abdominal surgeries