Home Podcast TOP #63: The ‘No-Kill Initiative’ and How to Help Dogs in Shelters

TOP #63: The ‘No-Kill Initiative’ and How to Help Dogs in Shelters

More than 4,100 animals are euthanized every day in shelters across the United States. Dogs at an animal shelter that do not get adopted within 30 to 90 days will be euthanized, and hundreds of establishments in our country are following this practice. Best Friends' “No-Kill Initiative” has already saved countless pets and they hope to make this a country-wide reality.

In this podcast episode, I spoke with Terran Tull, a Dogtown Behavior Consultant for Best Friends Animal Society. We discussed their progress and plans for “No-Kill Initiative” and Terran also provided tips for potential owners on dog adoption and buying dogs, as well as a few things people who cannot adopt/buy a dog can still do to help their local animal shelters.

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

The ‘No-Kill Initiative‘ and How to Help Dogs in Shelters
(podcast transcript)

The No-Kill Initiative and How to Help Dogs in Shelters

Samantha: According to Best Friends Animal Society, every day more than 4,100 dogs and cats are killed in America's shelters. And it's just because they don't have a home, they didn't get adopted. So they really focus on trying to save every animal. They have a no kill movement that basically it started in 1984 when Best Friends became the flagship for the no kill movement and their goal at the end of all of this is that they will have shelters across America, a no kill initiative, there are no more kill shelters. You probably have heard of people trying to rescue animals, certain rescue organizations, all they do is take pets out of kill shelters so that they don't get euthanized before they find a home and they try and find a foster or rescue that will take them as a long as it takes to find them a home.

Best Friends is really focused, obviously on this initiative and today I was able to talk with Terran Tull. Terran is a Dogtown behavior consultant for Best Friends Animal Society, and today she spoke with me a little bit about herself and what she does and Best Friends and this no kill initiative. She also answered some really important questions that I feel everybody that is thinking about getting a new pet should consider the differences between adoption and purchasing from a breeder or pet shop. So she spoke a little bit about that. I'm going to let her introduce herself and then we'll get into the interview.

Interview with Terran Tull

Terran Tull: My name is Terran Tull and I work at Best Friends Animal Society. I'm one of the Dogtown behavior consultants and I've only been in this position for a few months, but I've been involved in animal welfare for quite some time. I moved here from Indianapolis last year where I was working at a animal shelter there on their canine behavior team. I worked with a lot of the dogs who had some behavioral challenges and needed a little bit of help before going into their forever home. And I worked really hard with involving our volunteers and adopters in their training as well. So it wasn't just a one man show, takes a lot of consistency from a lot of different people and we're able to help prepare them for their homes.

I went through the Karen Pryor Academy and I'm a certified dog trainer through that course. And my interest in dog behavior started with my own personal dog who had pretty much every behavior challenge known to mankind and I figured out very quickly that I did not have the skills to work with him and wanted to do the best I could for him. So I started shadowing a local trainer in the area and just learned quite a bit from her and was able to really jump head first into helping dogs. And that's kind of going backwards with the kind of story that brought me out here.

Samantha: That's awesome, it sounds like it's so fulfilling to be able to do, it's obviously something you love, but be able to give back at the same time.

Terran Tull: Right. Absolutely. It was something that a lot of people really are looking for.

Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And I know that Best Friends really advocates for adopting versus purchasing a pup from a breeder. Can you talk a little bit about that and what the benefits would be of choosing adoption over a purchase?

Terran Tull: Absolutely. So when coming in to adopt a dog, you have the added benefit of already knowing who that individual is going to be. So you know a puppy, you can do everything in the world right and unfortunately there are genetics at play as well, so you're not exactly sure what that puppy is going to grow up to be. You can do the best you can and you can have quite an influence on a puppy's upbringing, but choosing an adult dog, you already know exactly who they're going to be. You're going to know what they like, their dislikes, their personality, their energy level, you've kind of got a good idea of the whole picture essentially. And it really is wonderful because you get to choose a pet companion, a family member, however you want to look at it, I'm on the family member side. But you get to choose someone who is a great match for your lifestyle, which is wonderful. Of course, you also get to save a life in the process and by shelter math we generally say adopting one dog is saving two, because you're making room for another dog to come into the system.

Samantha: Yeah, I think that's something that a lot of people overlook, they think that adopting is saving that one dog, which of course it is, but they don't realize that you're opening up that shelter spot in that shelter to save somebody else.

Terran Tull: Absolutely.

Samantha: So if pet owners…

Terran Tull: A lot of adult dogs that are in shelters are very lovely dogs that may be there through no fault of their own, they're not all dogs that do have behavioral challenges or that have had issues in the past. Some are just in shelters due to their owner moving and not being able to have a dog or their financial situation changing. There are a lot of very lovely, lovely dogs in shelters and rescues across the nation.

Samantha: Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. That is really important. I think a lot of people assume that dogs that are surrendered at a shelter because they have behavior issues for whatever reason the person couldn't handle that. So I think that's important to know. And I know you said that you worked with dogs with behavior issues in a shelter in the past, so I'm sure you saw firsthand that a lot of those dogs that do come in with behavior issues, you're able to help them adjust and work through those behaviors before they go into a new home.

Terran Tull: Absolutely. And the important part of that as well is being very open about any issues that the dog may have had. So shelters, especially the majority of them — and good ones all of them really should — be very open about anything in the dogs background that we already know. So it's not a surprise when you're taking the dog home, we're very open, we share what has happened in their past or any challenges that they may be facing, but we also help set everyone up for success. So we work with the dog really hard, but we also let the new owner, the new adopter know how to work on those as well, that way they've got support from the very beginning and continued support after bringing the dog home as well.

Samantha: Yeah, that's fantastic. And speaking of that, there are some things to consider obviously when you're choosing a shelter or rescue organization to work with and you just touched on one of those, but what else would you recommend to people who are looking for a shelter or rescue?

Terran Tull: Yeah. So one of the best things you can do is actually physically go in and visit, walk through, see the animals. A lot of people have a really negative image of animal shelters. It's portrayed as something that's very sad, that can be heartbreaking or upsetting, but the people in shelters, they love and care for those animals so much, they are being in a shelter, while it's not ideal, it's not a home, they still have a safe place, it's a place where we're looking to find them a new home. Even shelters where unfortunate decisions are still being made, the staff members really do love and care for those dogs and they're trying everything they can to help them find a home. But going in and talking to whether it's one of their kennel techs, someone from their adoption team, they can look online and see if they've got a media presence. Sometimes you can look through Facebook or Petfinder without ever having to go into the shelter if that's something that's too difficult for someone to do initially in order to set up some kind of a meeting or introduction or just to learn a little bit more about the shelter or rescue in general and see if there is a good match for them.

Samantha: And how could someone, because obviously we all can adopt a pet whether you already have pets and you're at your limit or you can't financially afford one, that's of course the responsible thing to do would be to not adopt a pet if you can't care for them properly. But how if you wanted to help a shelter but you can't adopt a dog, how could you go about doing that?

Terran Tull: Yeah, so there are a lot of different ways to help shelters and rescues that's kind of gone by the wayside a little bit. There's always fostering — a lot of shelters and rescue groups are looking for foster homes where the majority of them, not all of them will also make sure you talk to the individuals shelter and rescue, but a lot of them will pay for the animal's basic care, like food, materials that you may need, medical care just for the animal to have a chance to be out of the shelter and experience life in a home. It's also a wonderful way to learn more about what the animal will be like in a home. So a lot of groups are looking for foster parents in order to do that. It's also a great way to see how a dog gets into your life as well.

Of course, you'd want to make sure that you are definitely interested and willing to put in whatever that may be. Some animals need foster homes just to make more space in the shelter. Some need foster homes to work on behavioral challenges they have. Some may just be healing from a medical procedure, some could be puppies or kittens that just need a little bit of time before they're able to be adopted and being in a home is a lot safer for their health than in a shelter, since puppies and kittens get sick very easily. So that's always a really big great way to help.

If people have extra time, a lot of them are looking for volunteers and you can volunteer in a lot of different ways with rescues and shelters. Some of it is caring for the animals and cleaning up after the animals. Some are taking them to adoption events, doing basic housekeeping such as laundry, washing dishes. Some could be just greeting volunteers or potential adopters when they come in, helping with meet and greets, just depending on what their skill level is. There's also like photography options, lots of different options. If someone has a skill that they're willing to share, I would just recommend reaching out and seeing if the local shelter or rescue would be able to use that skill.

Samantha: Yeah that's interesting, especially like photography, you don't really think about that when you think about giving back to an animal shelter, but absolutely. I think that's great. If you have a skill reach out and see if they could use that. That's fantastic.

Terran Tull: Yeah, photography is something that is like a wonderful way to help get a dog adopted. Having a cute picture of the dog that they can share either on their website or to have on their little kennel card, they can use it for social media, then people can see the picture and share it with their friends. And especially for the dogs who may be a little bit shy or uncomfortable or nervous in their kennel when you're walking past and looking in, then maybe the animal's hiding back on their bed or if they're barking at the gate, but maybe they just really want attention. So being able to see a little bit of what their personality is like through a photograph is also a big help in getting dogs adopted.

Samantha: Absolutely. And I know Best Friends and I'm going to actually link to your website as well, so anybody that wants more information about your organization can check that out. But you guys have what's called a “no-kill initiative,” which it definitely and I think for a lot of pet lovers out there and for me too, it really pulls on your heartstrings thinking about the animals that are in high kill shelters and what we can do about that. Can you talk a little bit about the no-kill initiative and what that is?

Terran Tull: Yeah. So what our goal is with that in mind is by 2025 being able to have all of our communities working as one in order to have all of them become no-kill shelters. Right now we have a majority of those decisions being made in just a few states. And I know you said you'd be linking that our website with a no kill initiative and we do have an interactive map on there where you can click on your state on your city and see where you and your local area or at and potentially be able to help in that sense. But we do that in a lot of different ways.

So we actually send staff out to a lot of shelters that are struggling, into areas that are struggling. We have a team working on legislation. We have people with boots on the ground going in and making as many changes as possible. We're trying to implement staff in that sense as well into some of the shelters for continued help, because we know it's a giant battle to undertake.

Samantha: It sure is.

Terran Tull: Yeah, it definitely takes everyone being on the same page and we're working really hard on making a lot of changes in order to have that happen.

Samantha: Yeah and again, I think there's so many of us out there and we're not all really banded together at this time and there's so many cat lovers and you know whether you can adopt or you can't, people that don't want to see these animals in high kill shelter. So, I have very high hopes for it, for sure. And I know your goal is 2025, hopefully it can be sooner than that.

Terran Tull: Hopefully. We're definitely well on our way, that's for sure.

Samantha: Absolutely. And again, the link to your site is there, so people that want more information or you want to check out your area or anything, it's right underneath this interview, if you're listening, whether you're on social media or YouTube or anywhere like that, they can check that out.

Terran Tull: And there's also a part on our website to0 where they can enter in their information and any bills getting voted in, things like that, that could benefit or also harm what our goal is, it will like them know when there's something in their area so that they can go and vote and be a voice and be able to help.

Samantha: Definitely. So finally, for anybody that might be thinking, now that they've listened to this, that they think, I really want to help a shelter dog or a cat and I want to go and adopt, what are some tips that you can give people? Obviously you shouldn't just go out and grab the first pet that you see. What are some tips you can give for those people that might be wanting to do that?

Terran Tull: Yeah, so before even going in and looking for a new pet or looking to adopt definitely look at your lifestyle. Look at what you currently are able to provide for a pet. Some people work really long hours, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't adopt, but it means that they should look at the right kind of pet to adopt. So if you work 12 hours a day and you come home and just want to hang out on the couch, you're probably going to want a more laid back pet, whether that's a cat who just wants to hang out and do their own thing, whether it's a dog may be a little bit older or just doesn't have a lot of excess energy. Or if you go hiking all the time and you want a partner companion for that, making sure that you're finding a dog who is able to keep up with that and would enjoy that kind of life as well. So just really looking at what you're able to provide before even going into the shelter.

Once you do go into a shelter or rescue and look to adopt, I recommended speaking with their adoption team or speaking with some of the volunteers that are there working with the animals, letting them know kind of what would fit into your life and helping to choose a dog that would fit into that or a cat that would fit into your life. So looking at their personality, if you've got a lot of people coming over all the time, a very busy household, you're probably not going to want to choose a shy dog who that could be really difficult for. You'd want a more outgoing dogs who's got a lot of personality and would be fine with a lot of people visiting. And just kind of depends on your lifestyle really. Kind of the biggest part of it is matching a good personality with your lifestyle, so it's a good fit for both. And being prepared for bringing a dog home.

It can be a wonderful, wonderful thing to do, but it requires a lot of patience at first, they typically need a little bit of time to settle in, whether it's a dog or cat, just to decompress from the shelter. A home is much better obviously, but it's still new for the animal, so there can sometimes be a bit of an adjustment period. So to be prepared for that and to be prepared to just go slowly, not overdo it as exciting as adopting an animal will be not having your entire neighborhood come over to meet them on day one. Letting them kind of settle in a bit and making sure that if you are choosing a dog that may have any medical or behavioral challenges that you're able to continue working on those. If it's something medical that you're able to provide the required care, or if it's something behavioral that you're on board with continuing any kind of training that they've started or to even start the process yourself if it's someone who may not have had a chance to begin yet.

Samantha: This is so wonderful there. I know that this is great information for anybody that's thinking about adopting and anybody that wanted more information on your no-kill initiative. Is there anything else before I stop recording that you want to mention?

Terran Tull: I would like to mention that since you're already linking our website, that we do also have a wonderful group of resources on our web page for a wide variety of topics. So we have some topics on bringing a new pet home, on a lot of common behavioral challenges, on common training challenges. So that if anyone is currently having issues with a pet they may have, or if they do choose to go adopt a pet and they're starting to have any issues, feel free to check out our website. We have so many resources and we want to share those with everyone.

Samantha: Absolutely and it's so important to whether you have a dog and you're feeling a little overwhelmed with a problem or you're going to be getting a new dog to do your research, because there is so much involved. And your website's really great at kind of covering all of it in a very general way. A lot of websites focus just on training or just adoption or something like that. But yeah, I agree. Definitely check out the site if you have questions, chances are you're going to find a resource on there. So that's fantastic, thank you.

Terran Tull: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Samantha: My thanks again to Terran for coming on the podcast. This was such a wonderful interview. I really enjoyed speaking with her and learning more about the no-kill initiative. We do our part by adopting pets and also working with the shelters in our area. And I would encourage you guys to do the same, like she said to you don't have to just take a pet into your home, you can donate, you can help out, volunteer hours, you might have a special skill like photography that can be of use. So stop into your local shelter or see what you can do, definitely help out there. Again, big thanks to Terran.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.