After many years of intense efforts by the animal welfare community, animal rescues, veterinarians, and all animal advocates, leadership of two Coachella Valley-based, open-admission shelters – the Coachella Valley Animal Campus (CVAC), operated by the Riverside County Department of Animal Services (RCDAS) and the Palm Springs Animal Shelter (PSAS) – has decided that the time is now to become a no-kill community.
A shelter following the “no-kill” philosophy is one that does not euthanize healthy or treatable animals, even when the shelter is full; euthanasia is reserved for terminally ill animals or those considered dangerous to public safety. The target date for the Coachella Valley to be fully no kill is 2022.
Riverside County Animal Services Director Rob Miller praised the Coachella Valley as having great animal advocacy. “The Coachella Valley has a healthy and active community of animal rescues and compassionate animal lovers and we are pleased to have the opportunity to help lead this initiative.” Miller said. “No one will be more pleased to become a no-kill community than me and my staff.”
Miller has been studying the no-kill movement for years and has heard from many advocates. But embracing the philosophy was sidelined as he dealt with the struggles of budget woes, finite resources, and the challenges of overseeing one of the biggest animal control and sheltering organizations nationally, handling 45,000 pet impounds annually in a coverage area larger than the state of Hawaii. There are also challenges of fostering contractual relationships with more than a dozen cities. Nonetheless, making a no-kill push in the desert is overdue, he said.
Palm Springs’ shelter officials are already familiar with no-kill efforts. “We have been running our city shelter under the no-kill philosophy since Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter began operating the shelter in 2012, and are very happy to see our entire community move in this direction,” said Tamara Hedges, vice president of the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. “The Palm Springs Animal Shelter is thrilled to be partnering and collaborating with RCDAS, bringing our experience and resources to the effort.
" Both Miller and Hedges emphasized the need for strong collaboration and partnerships with rescues and the community, and said they are very optimistic that this is an achievable goal if those relationships are truly supportive. Both shelters will be working closely with key stakeholders to launch cross organizational, programs and initiatives that target priorities in life saving.
Leigh Kirk, president of ForeverMeow, is part of the collaboration. “We’ve had a very strong and productive partnership with the Coachella Valley Animal Campus for more than two years and when you really get down to people who care first about animals, good things happen,” Kirk said. “In the past two years, we have rescued almost 700 cats – mostly from the Coachella Valley Animal Campus – and we consider the team to include our volunteers and the staff at CVAC.”
Christine Madruga, president of The Pet Rescue Center, Inc. – an organization that has been saving animals in the Coachella Valley for more than 18 years, is also on board. “I am pleased to support CVAC and Palm Springs in the effort to become a No-Kill Coachella Valley by the year 2022,” Madruga said. “Together everybody achieves more. We can do this with community support one tail at a time.”
Dr. Lori Kirshner, president and founder of Advancing the Interests of Animals, said she is confident in the announced commitments. “Our organization has worked closely with CVAC for many years,” Dr. Kirshner said. “We are confident that great things are ahead for the animals of the Coachella Valley.” Miller said he hopes the Coachella Valley model can be expanded to include the entire county.