EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY WORKS!
In September 2014, several women saw the need to bridge the gap in the county shelter system and decided to embark on a mission that no one has ever undertaken before. Fort Bend Pets Alive! (FBPA!) was incorporated as a 501(c)3 in October 2014 and was initially tasked with increasing the county shelter’s save rate of 35%.
Open records received from other municipalities showed that killing over 50%-60% of intake was the county average at that time. This norm was horrifying and the efforts to protect the status quo was even more damaging to the community. Recognizing that more and more communities have successfully rejected the decades old animal control method of killing healthy and treatable animals, the Board of FPBA! subsequently set an unprecedented goal to become the first animal welfare advocacy organization to make Fort Bend County a No Kill community.
Our vision is to catch up with the national humane standards and be the first No Kill county in the region. This would require all five public shelters (Fort Bend County Animal Services, Missouri City Animal Control, Rosenberg Animal Control/Shelter, Sugar Land Animal Services and Katy Animal Control) to stop the needless killing of healthy and treatable animals. Ideally a shelter should exist as it is defined by Merriam-Webster; that is to provide protection and an umbrella of services to their audience. In our case, animal shelters should ensure life-affirming options to every animal, every time. That is No Kill.
Our past and current board members are excited about the idea of change management and transformation. As we know, advocacy is a long-term process with a vision of a community in the future, and changes will take a long time to accomplish. We’ve embraced the No Kill Equation and taken risks in search of the next big thing for the animals in Fort Bend County.
After five years of persistent communal and political advocacy, we are proud to bring you good news! Between 2015-2019, two area shelters where we put forth the most effort have saved an additional 8,234 dogs and cats in total! During those years, the board members and volunteers of FBPA! have worked a total of 174 events that were mostly created, hosted and paid for by us. 56 pet adoption events, 31 forums/symposiums, 48 speaking engagements, 4 free microchip events and 30 local legislative appearances that have resulted in 5 legislative advancements in order to reform shelter operations from the top. Spending long hours outdoors and late nights in city hall chambers to raise awareness has paid off! The result is astounding, impactful and largely appreciated by the community.
From killing over half of intakes, now both shelters are saving 9 out of 10 animals that pass through their systems. It is astounding to see the community gradually but steadily start to extend the safety net of care and financial contributions to help homeless animals in our shelters.
Our low expenditures during this period of time are proof of our effective advocacy work. FBPA! has only spent $65,236 with 50% of that dedicated to community outreach and marketing, and the rest spent on life saving programs (TNR & free microchips), or given to shelters as subsidies. This is a much smaller amount spent per animal saved, compared to the alternative of raising at least $1.2 million if we had operated as a rescue organization. Our unit cost per animal saved was $8 vs. at least $150 if we were to provide basic veterinary care as a rescue.
In the beginning, we started with a plan to try to influence just 1% of the population in Fort Bend County, the amount needed to stop the killing. After we dove in and applied proven No Kill methods such as bringing adoptable pets to people in high traffic areas, we started to see excitement in saving lives from the public. Not only did more adopters show up at local shelters and events, but more people opened up their hearts and homes to become fosters. A 200% increase in the two shelters’ save rates is indicative of how awareness of the issues has shifted the community toward a desired direction. This visible success has resulted in more donations, volunteers, foster homes and national recognition.
The Board Members and Advisers of Fort Bend Pets Alive! are overjoyed to see both shelters making steady improvements in life saving results, even though progress was slow at first. We have created partnerships, insisted on quality of care in shelters, and empowered the community to make adopting from shelters their first choice.
It takes a village to get this far, and many peoples’ help and dedication are needed to achieve this goal. There are many individuals and animal rescue organizations that are the drivers behind the scenes who deserve a lot of credit. Along with our current board members Laura Knizner, Michele Barnes and Claudine Vass, several of our former Board Members, Cynthia Walsh, Lorene Lindsey, Ingrid Otero, Cheri Armstrong, Charles Sweeney, Cheslee Escobedo, Renee Yaeger and Isaac Meyer have all made remarkable contributions to our cause. They donated their expertise, time, money and hearts to make this mission a success. We also want to recognize the rescue organizations that have made an impact. It could not be done without their efforts and dedication. We also have to thank the two shelters, their staff members and public officials who responded to the community’s needs and requests.
In conclusion, maintaining the status quo is not a reason to stop growing and changing. No Kill should be the new norm. FBPA! has proven it to be true in the first five years of our efforts. We intend to keep doing what we set out to do and expand our efforts to cement our accomplishments and to affect more change. The next step is to codify the community success into law so that things do not backslide when leadership changes again. We need laws to give animals rights and protections afforded by the law. Laws that make it illegal for shelters to kill if there are empty cages, that require shelters to work with rescue groups, and that increase opportunities for lifesaving and adoption regardless of who is running the shelter.
Thank you to our people in Fort Bend County!
Join us to move forward and make our entire county a No Kill community.
The Board of Directors of Fort Bend Pets Alive!