Fundamentally, the root problem is the animal overpopulation problem, which can only be addressed by making spay/neuter mandatory and affordable, and implementing laws that support TNR. Thus the website some of us from TCS got together and created: http://www.StrayPetAdvocacy.org
In 1984 in New Jersey, the State implemented a program to subsidize the cost of spay/neuter. It was called the Animal Populatin Control Program. At first it was available to just public shelters, and vets that wanted to participate were reimbursed 80% of the spay/neuter (and all related care, pre-aneasthesia testing, etc.), and people wanting to spay/neuter their dog or cat were only charged $10.00. In 1990 they opened it up to private, non-profit shelters, and in 1991 they opened it up to non-profit rescue organizations that had no facilities but were just fostering/adoption referral rescues.
For the past number of years, the budget for this, paid quarterly, is used up within the first 4 weeks of each quarter.
BUT - despite the obvious great need for the program as it is being used - since 1984, a survey of all 564 municipalities in NJ show that there have been over 145,000 surgeries conducted on dogs and cats since the inception of the program. There has been a 27% decrease in the number of dogs and cats impounded, a reduction of 45% in the number of animals euthanized, and the adoption rate has increased from 20% to 39%.
The main stumbling block that keeps coming up in this thread is the idea that the number of foster homes would have to be HUGE - and anyone that works at a shelter or rescues thinks to how really difficult it is to find foster homes.
But the idea is that much of the money currently being deployed on maintaining a shelter would be put into developing a foster network instead of a shelter. With actual funds to develop a network as opposed to posters or word-of-mouth currently used, I'm still thinking it would be possible to create a large network.
The basic question to ask is not how do you get foster families. Shelters right now basically do it word-of-mouth, right? The question is, if you had money to inform people of a foster network, if you had money to prospect for a foster network - are there enough people out there that would want to foster?
I think Gary and I are perfect examples. Until the stray kittens turned up in our yard, I never thought about the fact that there are animals out there that need to be rescued. I didn't even know fostering programs existed. Of course I knew there were animals shelters - but that was something that didn't affect me and just went on somewhere. If, however, I'd received some sort of mailer about foster families being needed - you know, informative but salesy - we probably would have become fosters long before we actually started rescuing. It's a great way for someone who wants a pet but wants to try it out temporarily first. I'm sure there would be a pretty large turnover in the foster network. But all anyone so far has pointed out is how difficult it is NOW to find fosters. But if your shelter had the money to develop a foster network, wouldn't that change things?
However - I do agree that without TNR and spay/neuter programs in place, changing the way the shelter system works doesn't address the fundamental problem of animal overpopulation. It doesn't now - I don't see why just changing the nature of the shelter system business model would help with that.
And I totally agree that animal control, cruelty investigation, and education programs are all still needed. The basic question I'm asking is - is there a way to get the animals out of cages and into homes?
Hubby and I were just thinking that the current shelter-rescue model is such a sad situation for so many cats and dogs, and what we were wondering is if money were put into developing a foster network instead of maintaining animals in a shelter - is it possible?
I assume that there would be too many animals for any system - just like there are now. Again - TNR and spay/neuter programs are ESSENTIAL for any long term reduction in the homeless animal population. Changing the "shelter model" won't change the rate at which animals are in need of rescue and therefore wouldn't (in all likelihood) change the rate at which they are euthanized. But by its very nature it also functions as an educational program as well! Further it seems like it would be a far more humane system for the animals that are rescued. And it may increase adoptions, because the animals that are in the system are so much better socialized.
Report after report after report show that when there is low-cost spay/neutering programs available, people use them, and shelter admissions go down, and euthanization rates go down. So it's not the shelter system that affects these aspects of animal overpopulation - it's programs that educate and support spay/neuter that affect animal overpopulation rates.
But in this thread I wasn't trying to address the total problem so much as figure out if an alternative to the existing shelter model could be implemented in an effective way.
to all for helping me think it through! Opinions, problems, and ideas still appreciated.