As WAIF enters its 24th year, we realize that our longevity is due to the heart and soul of our organization-our donors and volunteers. Back in 1990, a small and passionate group saw the need for a community asset that reflected the island’s desire to see the humane treatment of our companion animals. No longer could they watch as healthy and adoptable dogs and cats, both stray and unclaimed, be euthanized simply for lack of space or resources. This committed group knew there were other options readily available to provide homes for the island’s displaced homeless pet population.
Nearly 24 years later, WAIF has become a leader in its humane treatment of dogs and cats. Beyond its mission of finding permanent, loving homes for the stray pet population, WAIF also helps people. Through our Pet Food Banks, Prevent-a-Litter Coupon Program and Crisis Care Assistance, we understand the importance and value of the human-animal bond. It is what drives our dedicated staff to find perfect matches between available shelter animals and prospective pet families. Sadly, our work is never done. However, we happily accept the challenges that face us on a daily basis. Each animal that comes to WAIF has a unique story. Though we can never fully ascertain what the background may be on an incoming animal, we use established shelter and animal welfare practices that allow us to evaluate an animal’s personality to ensure a fit within a permanent loving home.
WAIF’s shelter model is a rare one within the industry. Typically, you will find open admission shelters that may euthanize for purposes of space. You will also find no-kill (or limited admission) shelters that sharply limit the number and type of animals they will take. Many no-kill shelters will never accept animals that will be difficult to adopt, such as older or injured animals. WAIF is a hybrid of both of these models, based on its own life-saving philosophies. We do not turn away any animal that is brought to us by local Animal Control, including the difficult, hard to place animals. If limited space keeps us from taking owner surrenders, we may place the family on a waiting list, or direct them to a carefully scrutinized and approved WAIF partner or foster home until space is available. If an owner brings us an aggressive animal we may choose to refer them to another organization depending on the nature of the animal’s issue.
A third and less common type of shelter claims to be no-kill under any and all circumstances, while not really having the practical experience, skills, capacity or facilities to deal with the realities of terminally ill animals or those with behavior problems so severe that release into the public is not possible. WAIF does not euthanize for space but does make the humane decision should an incoming shelter animal have severe health issues or demonstrates untreatable behavior deemed unsafe for placement in the community. This meets the standard industry definition of a no-kill shelter, even though through our contracts, we do not have a choice on what animals we can accept.
Even with these challenges, WAIF has one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the country. With over half a century of collective shelter management experience on staff, great compassion and care go into making WAIF a humane and safe environment for our shelter animals. And while our euthanasia rate is considerably low with our percentage in the single digits, we understand why people are frustrated. We are too. However, we believe this frustration should be properly channeled toward educating the public about the need to sterilize and properly care for animals in the first place. In cases where WAIF receives terminally sick or injured animals, we are ethically bound to euthanize humanely. In cases where euthanasia is the only option, WAIF adheres to strict State recordkeeping. We are actively working to improve the transparency of our shelter operations and look forward to sharing more information in a meaningful and respectful manner soon.
Is WAIF a no-kill shelter? Yes, by industry standards we meet the definition. However, for accountability and transparency, we continue to state “minimum kill” because it’s an honest reflection of a responsible animal welfare organization that accepts all animals into its network, regardless of circumstances. Euthanasia is undoubtedly the hardest part of the job, but as an organization that is in part responsible for the well-being of a community, it is a responsibility that we must accept. Housing untreatable, aggressive animals for their remaining years in cages and kennels is not a preferable, realistic, or humane alternative to euthanasia.
WAIF is one of the larger, older nonprofits on Whidbey Island and one of the few that serves the entire island. We understand that as a successful organization based on community trust, we will receive requests about operations. That’s natural, and we’re happy to accommodate reasonable inquiries. However, when we are forced to repeatedly confront or respond to misleading or malicious information, we become distracted from focusing on caring for shelter animals and serving the community.
Through the commitment of our staff and leadership of our Board of Directors, the generous dollars and time that are donated to WAIF largely go directly to the animals and the community through programs that provide shelter, veterinary care, food, socialization, medicine and outreach. When we’re forced to allocate valuable resources to respond to continued and senseless attacks in the media and in coordinated mass mailings, or in cases where we must resort to legal defense of baseless or misdirected accusations, it’s the animals and community who ultimately pay.
Any time we receive word of a new attack, we do our best to exercise temperance and judgment. Based on the many calls and letters we receive from supporters and community members, we know that you see through the relentless efforts of those who seek to do WAIF harm as being nothing more than a campaign to promote their own personal agendas, to inflate their egos or to simply cause mischief. While we would love to defend ourselves every time another distraction surfaces, the best we can do is continue to demonstrate that we use the best shelter and animal welfare practices at our disposal, and are constantly working to evolve and improve them. Continuing to stay the course of helping shelter animals, we would like to think that the attacks and false information will eventually fade away. With your continued support, and rejection of false and misleading information, we hope that day comes very soon.
WAIF is not an organization that is self-congratulatory or boastful. We derive our satisfaction by the number of animals that we serve and the people we help. WAIF has helped many thousands of animals and families and will continue to do so. Supported by increasing levels of support, donations, and volunteer hours; we are reminded that whether you are a donor, volunteer or member of the community you care as much as we do. On behalf of the thousands of animals and people we have helped, thank you for your continued support.