By Audrey Lodato, Adoption Center Manager
I am a minimalist. That sounds like an extreme thing, but it’s not. Minimalism, in a nutshell, is getting rid of (or not having in the first place) the things that don’t add value to your life, so that you can make room for the things that do. This means that I’m always in the process of examining my environment, my relationships, and my possessions. When something isn’t working for me, I’m ruthless. It goes because there’s no reason to keep it. What is around me is continually curated, and because of this, my life is full of valuable, meaningful relationships and things. My environment is just how I like it. I don’t have what I don’t need, and I don’t want what I don’t have. I’m happy and I think most people would tell you that I am also focused, grounded, and consistently achieve my goals.
I’m the Adoption Center Manager here at Brother Wolf, and I apply these same principals to our work here every day. Are the people on this team serving the organization as best as they can? Do we have the right tools to do our jobs? Is anything hindering our ability to do our jobs? Is there anything we can get rid of to make our work more efficient? Can I refine something to make it simpler and more functional?
Is what we have what we need now?
When the decision was made to transition our work to a new facility, I was ecstatic — and the reason was simple. The adoption center served us really well at one point in time, but it’s no longer a place that helps us do our best work. We need to move on.
Many people have asked why we wouldn’t choose to keep our current adoption center, and I want to answer this as best as I can, from the insider’s perspective of someone who is there every day.
When Brother Wolf was founded ten years ago, things were dire for companion animals in this community. The county shelter was killing for space, every day. The adoption center was originally created for triage — to get the animals out the county shelter and into a space where we could adopt them quickly to loving homes or transport them north to partnered facilities. It was made for mass intake and mass output. Most animals never spent more than two weeks in the building.
As Brother Wolf, our community, and our county shelter have evolved, we have come to a place where we are no longer killing animals for space. We have created the infrastructure to save almost all of the lives in Buncombe County.
Through high-volume and low-cost spay/neuter programs, adoption counseling, community education, pet retention, massive foster home programs, extensive transport programs, dedicated people on all sides of the problem, and hundreds of volunteers, we — our community and the rescues within it — are saving the majority of companion animals.
There’s a misconception that an animal shelter is sort of like a glass of water. It fills up and when it overflows, animals are killed. But that’s not true. The reality is, when it fills up in a committed community, the rescue community works harder. More animals go on transports north. More animals go into foster homes. We host more adoption events. We write articles and press releases and hold our community accountable. We partner with each other, we talk, we work it out.
You see, killing is a choice, and our community is no longer making that choice.
So why isn’t everyone getting saved?
There’s something called the No-Kill curve, and what it looks like is this. Say you have a community with thousands of animals entering the shelter system each year, and you want to stop killing them. This is what you do:
- First, you save all of the healthy animals.
- Next you save all of the healthy animals AND animals that are just a little bit sick but cheaply treatable. Kittens with colds, ringworm, kennel cough.
- Then, you save those two categories, AND you start saving all of the animals that are really, seriously injured or sick. Broken legs, parvo, panleukopenia, intestinal blockages. Hit by a car.
- Then, all of the above, but you also start rehabilitating animals with severe emotional or behavioral issues. Lived on a chain his whole life. Only ever knew one person. Beaten daily. Rescued from a hoarder. Bites from fear.
- And eventually, when you begin saving all of these categories, there is no more abundance of homeless pets. There’s just a community resource center that helps people with their pets — rehoming, spay and neuter, medical care, training, behavior, education — whatever the community needs.
Brother Wolf didn’t invent the No-Kill curve — it’s the map No-Kill organizations have been using for years. We’re just following it. So where is our community in the curve? Well, to answer that question, let’s talk about what we consider “our community”. Brother Wolf serves several communities – that’s why we have chapter Brother Wolf locations. Our chapters are set up to implement the No-Kill curve in those communities, because just taking all the animals and bringing them someplace else doesn’t solve the problem. We have to teach the process. (As a side note, if this is an area you are interested in helping with, we need your help and would love to talk. Please email me! firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Asheville location serves Buncombe county, and we call that our community. Sometimes we do some national work as an organization in times of crisis, (which is a whole other part of No-Kill, for completely different reasons) but for the most part, the animals we accept into our Asheville location are from Buncombe county. And in Buncombe county, we are at the point where we are rehabilitating animals with severe emotional problems (Step 4 in the outline above). We’re saving everything else, but sometimes these animals don’t make it out of the shelter system because we’re still in the process of developing the resources to save them.
Here is where the adoption center doesn’t fit our needs any longer. Ten years ago, the animals coming into our building were in the top three categories. Essentially, once we got them fixed up, they’d find a new home in a matter of days. We still help many of those animals, but it’s less, because we’ve given our community resources to stop those animals from entering the shelter system to begin with. We still see puppies with broken legs, and sick kittens – but it’s easy for us to help them. They come in, we fix them up, they leave. The community sees a dog with a broken leg and they can relate, they can help with that. The adoption center works okay for that. Not great, but okay.
But now, the KIND of animals we are helping has changed. While there has always been cruelty cases and animals with special needs, in the past we haven’t been able to help them to our best ability (or sometimes at all). That’s because if we did, we’d have to say no to dozens of other animals that could have benefited briefly from our resources before moving on to new homes. Now, we are in a place to say yes to them. Now, we have the infrastructure, and skill set, and talent, and community resources, to make those animals whole. We can stop all killing here — but we need to make a change.
Our adoption center is a retrofitted warehouse. A loud, hot, warehouse. Did I mention loud?
Our length of stay has increased for many dogs while we work to rehabilitate them, and we need a better facility to give them the specialized care they need. Imagine you have been through a traumatic experience. You’re in a very bad place, emotionally or physically. And you’re forced to spend five months in Walmart. Maybe all your needs are met at Walmart — you get food, you have friends who visit, you get to take breaks for hiking and classes, and you have a nice soft bed…but it’s still Walmart. It’s loud, it’s bright, and it’s just not conducive to recovery.
Some people will say “Why not put all these traumatized animals in foster homes?” and that’s a good question. The answer to that is because sometimes, that’s not the best thing for the animal, or the safest thing for the foster. While animals are getting better, they are going through a range of emotions and changes. Sometimes they require constant engagement that foster homes can’t provide, and sometimes there’s a very real potential that that dog or cat may bite someone or continually try and escape a foster home because they are so afraid. We need to keep the animals and our fosters safe, which is why we have specially trained people working with these animals every day. We’re experts. People often need professional help after a traumatic experience; the same is true for animals.
Here are some of the things our current facility does not have:
Quiet spaces to rest for any animal. Our building has huge, vaulted ceilings. Everything echos. Our dog runs are concrete. There aren’t any drains in our floors so it’s hard to keep them completely dry. Sometimes, animals are actually TRAUMATIZED by the volume, which halts recovery. And while we can ask for them to go to foster, sometimes what they need is extensive work with behaviorists. Our cats live in the lobby in cages, where they also hear and become stressed by noise from the dog kennel.
Appropriate quarantine space. We have one room for quarantine and it doesn’t even have a ceiling. We have to treat parvo, panleukopenia, and ringworm with only one space. It’s not safe.
An appropriate medical wing. We don’t have a place for a surgery suite, so we can’t even hire a vet. We’re paying retail prices for vet care. Having a staff vet would save thousands of dollars a year and allow us to provide many more surgical options for our animals. Our medical room doesn’t even have a SINK.
Natural light. At all. Not even a little.
Places to do training. There are no places to train animals on our campus without a lot of distractions. We don’t even have one extra room. Ever see us doing classes in the parking lot? It happens.
I could go on, but anyone who has seen Brother Wolf will immediately understand why we need more. And so, we made a choice to step away from the thing that isn’t providing us what we need, while creating the thing that does. While it’s a hard path, it’s an easy choice. It’s about what’s the most valuable to our community and the animals in it.
Our sanctuary will encompass all of the same life saving work that we do now, but will add two crucial components: We will be able to save more animals from severe emotional and physical abuse, and we will be working toward a community resource center which promotes not just adoption, but pet health, pet help, and compassion for all living beings.
Our large kennels will have individual yards for dogs to play in, and ample soundproofing. Imagine quiet kennels! There will be no more than 12 dogs in each wing. There will be hiking trails on the land. Free range cat rooms with “catios” so those who are medically-able can safely enjoy the outdoors. The surgery suite in our onsite clinic can offer immediate help to those who need it. There will be space to walk, to roam, and most importantly, to heal. That’s the thing we are creating. We hope that you will see the value in it and work to create it with us, so that all beings in our community may live.
If you’d like to meet some of the animals that would benefit from this environment, or ask questions, I’m happy to schedule a time to meet with you! Just send me an email, to email@example.com.
Click here to learn more about Brother Wolf’s Animal Sanctuary! We know that when you see the vision, you’ll be just as excited as we are about this new phase of our life-saving work.
HERE ARE 3 EASY WAYS TO HELP HOMELESS ANIMALS:
DONATE – Monthly donors help keep us best prepared year-round for animal rescue. With your help, we can continue to save and care for the animals who need us most. Recurring donations provide a consistent, reliable revenue stream, allowing us to focus more resources on our lifesaving programs, and less on fundraising. For our 10 year anniversary, help us grow our circle of compassion by welcoming 1,000 new members! Click here to join the Compassionate Circle today!
VOLUNTEER or FOSTER – Volunteers and fosters are Brother Wolf’s backbone. Do you have an hour to walk dogs or fold laundry? Do you want to learn to trap feral cats with our Community Cat Program? Are you a social butterfly who can help at one of our weekly adoption events? Do you have space in your home and heart for a temporary foster animal? Click here to learn more about volunteering and fostering!
SHARE – Share this story with your friends and family on social media to help spread Brother Wolf’s message of uncompromised compassion.