When we challenged ourselves and Waukesha County to embrace the no-kill philosophy, attaining those results as both a shelter and a community seemed like an impossibility. How could an open admission shelter, especially one that also has many municipal stray contracts, actually meet this goal? Most organizations that meet the no-kill standards have done so through selective sheltering methods, such as simply closing their doors when full and refusing to take animals. In many cases, animals that are older, medically challenged or have difficult behaviors are passed over or turned away. That type of action is against HAWS’ mission.

Collectively, we put our heads down and pushed through the excuses. If we put effort into the no-kill philosophy, more animals would get homes, so why not try? Rather than saying that it can’t be done, the questions instead became “Why can’t it be done? What’s stopping us from trying?” The road blocks were tackled one by one. We expanded successful programs; we wrote grants for funds to offer free trap/neuter/return services; we found partners in rescues, foster homes and other shelters. Sometimes the fear of failure looms greater than the steps to success.

We took a serious look at the road map others had used and found we were already taking many of the necessary steps. Our community and partners embraced the concept. Now, for over two years, HAWS has achieved the required no-kill marker of a 90% or greater live-release rate for our residents! This year, HAWS reached 92.21%, while still remaining an open admission shelter.

There was not just one HAWS’ program that made us successful; all contributed.Our veterinarians tackle what they can in our clinic. Animals with medical concerns receive a chance through Annie’s Fund, which is entirely donor-supported. Volunteers on our Mod Squad work with animals with behavior challenges. If our kennel fills up, foster volunteers open their homes to offer relief. Training classes, 1:1 behavior consult at ions, mobile adopt ion and community education programs all provide resources and assistance.

Our Waukesha Community, our Board of Directors, our volunteers and staff collaboratively moved the needle to reach our goal. Congratulations on a job well done!

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