The San Francisco SPCA has made a pact: Within a few months the city will try to live up to its namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and nature.
By then, no adoptable animal, healthy or with a treatable disease, will be euthanized, says Richard Avanzino, the SPCA president for the past 20 years.
“What is unconscionable, abominable and outrageous is that animals, healthy and well-behaved, are being killed because somebody says there are too many,” Avanzino says. “That is something we do not accept.”
For 101 of its 129 years, the San Francisco SPCA served as animal control for the city, picking up stray animals from the street.
The SPCA dropped the contract in 1989 to concentrate on saving animals’ lives, Avanzino said. In 1994, it signed an agreement pledging to take any adoptable animal that couldn’t find a home.
Many believed that San Francisco then became this country’s first “no-kill city,” but Avanzino is not willing to claim that title yet.
In fiscal year 1995-96, 6,720 animals were euthanized. With more time and resources, some of those animals labeled “unadoptable” because of medical or behavioral problems might have been good pets, says Carl Friedman, director of San Francisco’s animal control department.
The San Francisco SPCA, which has space for 450 dogs and cats now and is expanding, will take any animal for which other shelters can’t find a home. With the expansion, the SPCA also will promise to care for any animal with a treatable disease and find it a home, Avanzino says.
When San Francisco’s SPCA gave up euthanizing, it was able to raise more money - it now has a $9.6 million budget - and spend that money on low-cost sterilization, he says.
At least three other major U.S. cities - Milwaukee, St. Louis and New York - are taking steps toward becoming no-kill cities, says Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, a newspaper based in Clinton, Wash.