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Clarifying Marin Humane policies

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Now that the Petaluma City Council has voted to select the newly-formed North Bay Animal Services (NBAS) for the contract to provide animal services, we’d like to share a few thoughts with the community.

Marin Humane is a nonprofit organization that serves as Marin County’s only full-service animal shelter. For more than 40 years, the County of Marin has contracted with Marin Humane to provide all animal services, like reuniting lost pets with their guardians, accepting surrendered animals, investigating cruelty and neglect, bringing stray animals to safety and rescuing wildlife. We also provide humane education, animal-assisted therapy, low-cost spay/neuter, behavior and training, and advocate on behalf of animals across the nation.

We’re grateful that the City Manager recognized our leadership in the field of animal welfare and we appreciate being asked to submit a proposal. We were heartened to see how seriously the city of Petaluma takes animal services and how many citizens became involved in the process.

We were disappointed, however, to see the two other groups who submitted proposals — Petaluma Animal Services Foundation (PASF) and NBAS — disparage each other and then, Marin Humane via social media and the press. We were, frankly, shocked to read some of the incendiary messages and misleading information disseminated, especially by PASF staff and board members. It’s unconscionable to take advantage of people’s passion for animals and use it to spread misinformation.

One of the buzzwords used during this process was “no-kill.” Both groups label themselves as such, but doing so implies that no animal is ever euthanized. The fact is, all animal shelters have to occasionally make this very difficult decision. Just like how PASF currently operates, and how NBAS says it will operate, Marin Humane does not euthanize animals for space or time. Only in cases where there is great suffering or when we’re unable to modify behavior that is a threat to public safety may euthanasia be considered. At Marin Humane, this is conducted with strict protocols and only after all other avenues have been exhausted. We also offer this service to pet guardians when it’s time to say goodbye to their beloved friend.

There is no official designation or universal standard for “no-kill.” While Marin Humane could use this label, based on our statistics, we’ve chosen not to, as we consider it misleading and divisive.

The most effective animal services begin in the community. Through accessible spay/neuter surgeries, free resources like dog and cat behavior advice, assistance with payment for urgent veterinary care: Marin Humane provides a holistic approach to this complex issue. Our newly-formed “pet safety net” will support pet guardians who are between jobs or struggle financially, and a free private rehoming service is an opportunity for animals to never enter the shelter in the first place.

PASF leadership now has a chance to encourage its “Army of Kindness” to support NBAS or other local animal welfare causes.

Their supporters clearly care deeply, and they deserve acknowledgment as well as information on how to continue to apply their passion for animals.

We congratulate NBAS on this unique opportunity. They may have a challenging road ahead of them, but if they implement the programs as outlined in their plan, and do so with integrity, the animals of Petaluma (and the people who love them) will be well taken care of. We’ve already extended an offer of help should they ever need it.

Finally, we invite anyone who’s interested in learning more about Marin Humane to contact us or better yet, visit our campus in Novato. We are not some faceless, “big box” entity. We are a devoted community of animal lovers—some of whom live in Petaluma—who come to work or to volunteer every day trying to make a difference in the lives of animals and people. We think you’ll find it’s truly a place where lives are made happy.

(Nancy McKenney, MNPL, CAWA is the CEO of Marin Humane.)