May 14, 2013 by Nathan J. Winograd
The myth of pet overpopulation is the lie at the heart of shelter killing in America. It is the excuse that every shelter director who kills animals uses to rationalize that killing as a necessity, in spite of the fact that it is unsupported by both the data and the experiences of those communities that have achieved what was once regarded as impossible: an end to their killing of animals. And yet as self-evident as this truth is to me today, there was a time when I, too, believed in pet overpopulation and would have been both stunned and confused to learn that I would someday argue against its existence. Indeed, it is not as though I woke up one day and thought “Hey, I think pet overpopulation is a myth!” Nor did I think that someday I would champion the notion that it was. I did not even set out to prove it. It unfolded as part of my journey in the humane movement and the facts began to compel further analysis. In fact, at one time, I too drank of the pet overpopulation Kool Aid. The dedication of my book, Redemption, says it all:
To my wife, Jennifer. Who believed long before I did.
Once, on a date before we were married, we debated the issue. I insisted that, “There were too many animals and not enough homes” and asked her, “What were shelters supposed to do with them?” She correctly argued that even if it were true, killing animals was still unethical and that as animal activists, it was our job to find alternatives, not to blindly accept that the killing was a fait accompli about which we could do nothing to change. She argued that if we took killing off the table, human ingenuity and human compassion would find a way to make it work. But, more importantly, she asked me how I knew it was true that pet overpopulation was real and that killing animals was therefore inevitable.
How did I know? Because I had heard it repeated a thousand times. Because I took the fact of killing in shelters and then rationalized the reason backward. But I was too embarrassed to admit so. Here I was: a Stanford Law student who wore my 4.0 department GPA, my highest honors in Political Science, my Phi Beta Kappa, and my Summa Cum Laude, as a badge of my smarts and I came face to face with my own sloppy logic and slipshod thinking about the issue. “It just is,” I said (lamely).
But therein began a journey that started in San Francisco, then Tompkins County (NY), then visiting hundreds of shelters across the country only to find animals being killed in the face of alternatives, only to find animals being killed despite empty cages, sometimes banks and banks of them. And so I began reviewing data. I reviewed statistics on animal intakes and studies on available homes. I studied the data reported by over 1,000 shelters nationwide. I reviewed the data from the states that mandate shelter reporting. And the conclusion became not just inescapable, but unassailable: pet overpopulation does not exist not only because the number of homes in America vastly exceed the number of shelter animals in need of a home; but also because my experience creating a No Kill community and now the hundreds of cities and towns which have also done so since prove it. In those communities which have ended the killing, they did so through adoptions and the vast majority did so in six months or less. In my case, it was literally overnight.
And since that time, other studies have not only proved I was right, they show I was conservative. To be sure, millions of animals are being killed in our nation’s shelters every year, and that is nothing short of a national tragedy. But they are not being killed because of the reasons we have been historically given to blame. They are not dying because of a lack of homes. They are dying because of a lack of innovation, a failure to embrace of proven methods of lifesaving. As I state at the end of Redemption, animals are dying in shelters for primarily one reason: because the people in shelters choose to kill them in the face of readily-available lifesaving alternatives.
Yet simply because I say pet overpopulation is a myth, I’m continually accused by champions of shelter killing of having nefarious intent: of being in league with puppy mills and commercial breeders. But understanding that the facts do not support the notion of pet overpopulation and saying so publicly has nothing whatsoever to do with supporting breeding or being in league with puppy or kitten mills. In fact, advocacy for animals requires that we expose the lie that is the primary excuse shelters use to kill for the same reason we should oppose puppy and kitten mills: both harm animals. Puppy mills, like poorly performing shelters, provide minimal to no veterinary care, lack of adequate food and shelter, lack of human socialization, and cause neglect, abuse, and the killing of animals when they are no longer profitable.
And that is why my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center, has held workshops on closing down puppy mills and has supported laws banning the sale of commercially bred animals in pet stores. And it is why I believe that regardless of why animals are being killed, they are being killed, and as long as they are, it is incumbent on everyone seeking to bring an animal into their life to either rescue or adopt from a shelter. Adoption and rescue are ethical imperatives. In short, one does not have to believe in or perpetuate the lie of pet overpopulation to want to close down puppy mills. Nor does recognizing that pet overpopulation is a myth somehow grant a license to commercially or purposely breed animals. Before I ever suggested that pet overpopulation did not exist, the puppy mill industry was alive and thriving. Given the lack of concern those who operate such mills show for animals, what does it matter to them if there is pet overpopulation or not? They couldn’t care less what happens to the animals they sell. But I do. In fact, I am opposed to the commodification of animals, of having the law regard them as property to produce, buy and sell. Animals are not property; they are autonomous individuals, individuals who should be given legal rights, chief among them the right to live.
Acknowledging the truth—that both the data and experience disprove the existence of pet overpopulation—does not mean a person therefore subscribes to a whole host of anti-animal positions. Quite the opposite. It means, simply and thankfully, that we do not have to kill the animals entering our shelters under the disproven notion that there are too few homes. There are not; in fact, there are plenty. To save rather than end the lives of half of all animals who currently enter shelters only to die, we do not have to reform the 310,000,000 Americans apologists for shelter killing consider “irresponsible” and to blame for that killing. We just have to reform those who are truly at fault: the 3,000 irresponsible shelter directors who kill when they don’t have to and the four individuals running the national organizations which defend and protect them: Ingrid Newkirk of PETA, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS, Matt Bershadker of the ASPCA and Robin Ganzert of the American Humane Association. U.S. shelters kill not only because killing is easier, but because, historically, they have enjoyed the political cover of pet overpopulation which allowed them to continue doing so, political cover that comes courtesy of the animal protection movement itself.
To save lives, shelters must begin doing a better job of competing for the market share of the abundantly available homes in America, and, just as important, they must begin keeping animals alive long enough for them to get into those homes. And when I realized this for the first time, rather than bury it, ignore it or downplay it, I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done. I celebrated it. Why? Because it meant that we had the power to end the killing, today. And that is what I wanted to happen because I love animals.
And yet here’s the irony: the very supporters of the very groups who have made these spurious allegations against me are actually the ones who benefit puppy mills, not me. As my colleague Ryan Clinton recently wrote,
By fighting lifesaving shelter reform, PETA and other regressive animal organizations are effectively aiding and abetting the commercial breeding of animals. By arguing that all pit bulls in shelters should be killed, PETA and others are necessarily driving those who aim to adopt a pit bull to breeders who will gladly meet the demand. By killing nearly every animal that comes in its front door (and lobbying against No Kill reforms throughout the country), PETA is, in reality, aiding and abetting the continuation of the large-scale animal-production industry.
He’s right. But there’s actually more to it than that. By fighting shelter reform and both defending and promoting killing—which groups like HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA do—they discourage the adoption of shelter animals. By embracing draconian adoption policies, they drive good homes to breeders and pet stores. When they fight efforts to increase rescue partnerships, they lessen the supply of available shelter/rescue animals, again, driving people into the arms of breeders. Moreover, traditional kill shelters discourage adopters by the very fact that they kill.
Many people do not want to visit a shelter where they have to meet animals who face possible execution. This hit home for me one day when I answered the telephone at the shelter. The person who called asked me when our next offsite adoption was. After I gave her the information, I told her she should come down to the shelter because we had hundreds of animals, compared to the ten or so who would be at the offsite. Not knowing we were No Kill, she replied she could never do so and explained why: she couldn’t bear to see the hundreds of animals who might be killed if she didn’t choose them.
As No Kill advocates, we may not like the fact that people won’t face such a discomforting scenario to save a life, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is true. Kill shelters are disturbing, unsettling places to visit for those who care about animals, not to mention the fact that the more a shelter kills, the more dirty and neglectful it is likely to be, and the more hostile and poor its customer service—all driving the public away from shelters and into the arms of the commercial pet trade.
On the other hand, when we reform shelters, we not only make them safe for animal lovers to work at, but we make them safe for adopters, too. During the height of the San Francisco SPCA’s lifesaving success in the late-1990s, when we had seven offsite adoption venues every day throughout the city in addition to our main shelter, there was not a single store selling dogs left in the city. We had out-competed them and they all went out of the animal selling business. When I was running the Tompkins County SPCA, potential adopters in our community faced two main choices: they could buy a kitten at a pet store for $50 or they could adopt one from us (in the same mall) for $30.
Unlike the pet store, our adoptions included sterilization, vaccinations, a free bag of cat food, a free visit to the veterinarian of the adopter’s choice, a free identification tag, a discount at the local pet supply, free grooming, a free guide to caring for their new kitten, free behavior advice for life, a discount on their next cup of coffee, the satisfaction of knowing they saved a life, and, during Christmas, Santa would deliver the kitten to their door. The pet store eventually approached us about working together by having us do cat adoptions in their store. Instead of selling animals, they began helping us find homes for ours.
The same thing is beginning to happen in central Texas, where No Kill reform efforts in various shelters are reducing the demand for purposely bred animals, as Ryan Clinton further explains:
If more Americans adopt dogs and cats from shelters rather than acquiring them from alternative sources like pet stores and on-line sellers, demand for commercially bred animals will necessarily decline. In fact, we’ve seen this come true in Central Texas: at least one large-scale breeder gave up in the face of increased competition from progressive area animal shelters and turned over his keys to a shelter to find homes for his animals… By saving shelter pets’ lives, No Kill policies and programs eat into commercial breeders’ profits.
If we reform our shelters, this could also be the story of every American community. Widespread No Kill success in our nation’s shelters would not only save the lives of almost four million animals every year, it—combined with legislative efforts to regulate, reform, close down, and eliminate their markets—would drive a dagger to the heart of the puppy and kitten mill industries. And yet HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA fight our efforts to reform shelters.
Worse, groups like HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA act like puppy and kitten mills themselves. True animal lovers embrace the No Kill philosophy because they want to prevent harm to animals, such as their systematic slaughter in shelters. True animal lovers also want to shut down the commercial mill trade in animals because they want to prevent harm to these animals, such as their systematic abuse. That is ethically consistent. But PETA, HSUS, the ASPCA and their defenders ignore or fight reform efforts to stop shelter neglect, abuse, and killing which is the same type of harm that animals face in large-scale, commercial breeding operations for the pet store market.
PETA claims to want to stop puppy mill abuse but will defend the exact conduct if it occurs in a shelter. HSUS claims to want to stop puppy mill abuse but will give awards to shelters that sadistically abuse animals. The ASPCA not only fights shelter reform that would eliminate some of the worst abuses of the draconian shelter system we now have, but sends animals to be killed in those shelters. Neglect is neglect, abuse is abuse, killing is killing regardless of by whose hand that neglect, abuse, and killing is done. To look the other way at one because that neglect, abuse, and killing is done by “friends,” “colleagues,” or simply because the perpetrators call themselves a “humane society” is indefensible.
In the final analysis, it is HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA which benefit puppy and kitten mills and the commercial breeding of animals, not No Kill advocates who refuse to subscribe to the lie of pet overpopulation which enables systematic killing. It is HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA which benefit commercial breeding when they fight efforts to reform shelters and make them safe for animal lovers to both work at and adopt from. It is HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA who act like puppy and kitten mills when they defend abuse and killing in shelters. And by extension, the people who defend these actions by HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA also benefit puppy and kitten mills, in spite of whatever disproven dogma—such as the myth of pet overpopulation—they may cling to in order to defend such a deadly and unethical position.
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April 11, 2013 by Nathan J. Winograd
It is one of the most common questions I get whenever I post about PETA’s killing and their efforts to undermine shelter reform efforts nationwide: How are they allowed to get away with it? The answer is two-fold. First, although killing healthy animals is morally reprehensible, killing healthy animals is not illegal. Whenever animal advocates attempt to introduce laws such as the Companion Animal Protection Act that would eliminate the ability of people to kill animals in the face of readily-available lifesaving alternatives, PETA works to defeat them, by manipulating not only the public’s false perception and therefore misplaced trust in PETA, but by harnessing their equally naïve membership to write legislators in opposition. Second, in the absence of laws prohibiting such behavior, the other force that should be working to stop PETA’s killing—the animal protection movement—has instead chosen to willfully ignore it and even embrace PETA, in spite of their actions which harm animals.
HSUS has not only historically walked in lock step with PETA’s anti-No Kill crusade—allowing PETA to equate the movement to stop shelter killing with hoarding and animal abuse at HSUS’ own animal sheltering conference—but they are the “voice of authority” on sheltering that PETA uses to legitimize their reactionary, pro-killing views to legislators, the media and the public. If you oppose PETA’s campaign of extermination and their efforts to derail shelter reform, you should oppose the groups that give PETA their blessing and a helping hand to do so, as well.
Following is my letter to Wayne Pacelle, President of HSUS, exposing how PETA’s nationwide effort to harass and vilify No Kill reformers and their systematic program to defend and even perpetuate an antiquated and cruel sheltering model based on killing, are a reflection of many of the regressive and cruel policies likewise promoted by HSUS itself.
By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd
April 10, 2013
Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
It is time for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to stop legitimizing the deadly actions of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Over the last two decades, PETA has willfully and systematically worked to undermine the welfare and rights of our nation’s companion animals. In addition to seeking out thousands of animals every year to poison with an overdose of barbiturates, PETA is one of the most vocal opponents of efforts to end the neglect, abuse and killing occurring at animal shelters across the country.
PETA undermines the efforts of animal lovers to reform their local shelters, even when those local shelters horrifically abuse animals. They campaign to expand killing, urging shelters not to work with rescue groups, not to foster animals in need, to ban the adoption of many animals, and to round up and kill community cats. They defeat desperately needed shelter reform laws which have been introduced in states across the nation—laws that have been proven to save hundreds of thousands of lives in those states which have passed them. And by continually perpetuating the myth that No Kill animal control shelters do not and cannot exist, PETA is one of the greatest barriers to building a kinder, gentler America for our nation’s companion animals.
Although over 80% of Americans believe that shelters should not round up and kill community cats and even your organization was forced to recant your long held position in favor of mass killing, PETA calls on local governments to reject TNR in favor of trapping and killing such animals. While many Americans share their homes with “Pit Bull” dogs whom they consider cherished members of their family and while activists are working to reform the unfair stereotypes that lead to the mass killing of dogs classified as “Pit Bulls,” once again forcing HSUS to no longer seek their mass killing, PETA remains defiant, calling for a ban on their “adoption/release,” irrespective of their temperament.
When animal lovers have criticized their local shelters for killing full-term pregnant animals (even animals in active labor), rather than sending those animals into foster care or transferring them to rescue groups to give birth, PETA has written public officials encouraging them to continue this practice. When animal lovers have complained of sadistic abuse and systematic neglect of animals in shelters, PETA has written public officials encouraging them to ignore reformers and maintain the status quo.
In several instances when PETA has written in opposition to greater lifesaving in shelters, to promote more killing, and to defend abusive staff, PETA staff attributes their reactionary views to your organization. In February of 2012, for example, PETA wrote the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia, to oppose shelter reform, stating:
The dangerous, unrealistic policies and procedures pushed on the council by this small but fanatical constituency is part of a national movement to target, harass, and vilify open admission shelters and their staff in an effort to mislead the public into believing that ‘no kill’ is as easy as simply not euthanizing animals… [Quoting HSUS:] ‘There are no municipal shelters in the country that operate as ‘no-kill.’ A few have tried, but have quickly turned back due to overcrowding, inability to manage services, and staff outcry. It is the municipality’s job to accept all animals and conduct responsible adoptions. The reality is there are not enough homes for all animals…’ The goals of reducing overpopulation and euthanasia do not get accomplished by limiting yourself to the category of ‘no-kill.’ It is an unattainable goal that will set you up for failure.
There are many factual inaccuracies in the statement that PETA attributes to your organization, chief among them is that when the original statement by HSUS was made and as you are no doubt aware, Tompkins County, New York was in its fourth No Kill year. By the time PETA released the letter, there were dozens of communities across the nation that had achieved the same level of No Kill success using the Tompkins model, which was also being proposed for Norfolk. And though over a decade has passed since the seminal achievement of the nation’s first No Kill community, neither your organization nor PETA has publicly acknowledged that this success occurred, nor that it has been replicated in economically, geographically and demographically diverse communities across the nation. And to this day, PETA is using inaccurate information released by your organization to willfully mislead government entities on the viability of No Kill alternatives.
In 2001, Tompkins County, NY became the first No Kill community, a fact which neither HSUS nor PETA has acknowledged so that they can continue lying to public officials that it is impossible.
To defend the killing, PETA further quotes your organization as having stated that “The reality is that there are not enough homes for all animals,” a fact not only contradicted by the then-success of Tompkins County and the success of numerous communities which have since follow its lead, but by your own study that proves that the demand for animals in the United States outstrips the supply in shelters by over eight-fold. By your own calculations, when shelters compete for the market share of adopters and when they keep animals alive long enough to find those homes, animals live instead of die.
Spayed while in the process of giving birth by the Williamson County, TN, pound, her 11 puppies were individually poisoned. She died a few days later as a result of complications from the surgery. A rescue group offered to save her and her puppies. The shelter refused and all 12 of them are now dead. PETA applauded the move.
In March of this year, PETA also wrote a letter to the Mayor of Williamson County, Tennessee, to advocate for greater killing after the shelter killed puppies by spaying a dog in active labor. The puppies, full term and viable, were each individually killed through an overdose of barbiturates during her spay. Although the procedure was risky given the late term of the dog’s pregnancy, the shelter director ordered her to be operated on regardless, causing the mother to also die as a result of complications. Prior to the surgery, rescuers and volunteers had offered to save this dog and her puppies only to be refused the ability to do so. Understandably upset, they were further sickened by their needless deaths and went public with concerns. The shelter director retaliated by instituting a “Volunteer Code of Conduct” that threatens to fire volunteers for exercising their First Amendment rights.
In response, the No Kill Advocacy Center sent a letter to the Mayor informing him that this policy violates the constitutional rights of volunteers, citing both laws protecting the right to free speech and the precedent of similar cases settled in favor of shelter volunteers. PETA, on the other hand, wrote a letter to the Mayor praising the pound director’s decision, thanking him for refusing the volunteer’s request to save the mother and her puppies, and arguing in favor of a shelter policy mandating the continued killing of these animals: “We … urge you to maintain the county’s policy of spaying pregnant animals before release.” To substantiate their call for more killing, PETA, once again, quoted your agency, stating:
Thankfully, national animal control and sheltering experts have proposed guidelines for handling these issues…The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has these uncompromising recommendations for choosing animals for foster/transfer programs: ‘Don’t place pregnant animals in foster care unless special circumstances demand it… Spay the animal and abort the litter, if you can’ [emphasis added].
Whether it is ethical to spay a pregnant dog is not an “abstract” discussion. It has life and death consequences. If the kittens or puppies are viable, they must be individually killed, usually through an injection of sodium pentobarbital. Even when they are not, when a mother is spayed, the kittens or puppies die from anoxia (oxygen deprivation) due to lack of blood supply from the uterus once the vessels are clamped. They suffocate. That is not consistent with the welfare and rights of animals. Nor is this an “either-or” proposition: either unborn puppies and kittens must die or those already born must. Such an argument condones the atrocity committed against animals who are thrown away as if they are nothing more than garbage. Moreover, your own study proves that both groups can be saved.
Aborted puppies are individually killed and then thrown in the trash, a course of conduct both PETA and HSUS encourage.
PETA, unfortunately, did not stop there. Even though the mother in this case was a Lab-mix, they also recommended a ban on the adoption of all dogs who look like “Pit Bulls,” a policy that will lead to the killing of animals based solely on the way they look. Studies confirm that shelters misidentify breed over 70% of the time, and that, in fact, “Pit Bull” is no longer even a recognizable breed of dog. It is, instead what a national advocacy organization correctly called,
A catch-all term used to describe a continually expanding incoherent group of dogs, including pure-bred dogs and mixed-breed dogs. A ‘Pit Bull’ is any dog an animal control officer, shelter worker, dog trainer, politician, dog owner, police officer, newspaper reporter or anyone else says is a ‘Pit Bull.’
So not only are shelters mislabeling dogs, they are killing them as a result, with the full blessing and encouragement of PETA. To PETA, young puppies and friendly dogs should be systematically put to death as long as someone claims they are a “Pit Bull.”
PETA has called on animal shelters to ban the “adoption/release” of “Pit Bulls,” and to put them to death instead.
Once again, PETA did not stop there. It also urged the shelter not to transfer sick or injured animals to rescue groups or foster homes, either, but to kill them instead. PETA writes:
HSUS is clear in its recommendations regarding sick and injured animals: ‘Animals needing extensive care should not be fostered because their medical needs can drain limited resources and because few foster parents are trained to provide intensive nursing. Also, avoid placing an animal with a contagious disease in a foster home that already has pets.’
PETA cites HSUS for the proposition that animals with medical needs should be killed, not fostered.
To the extent that the County embraces PETA/HSUS positions, animals will continue losing their lives needlessly. If the County carries out its threats of retribution, the animals will also lose their most ardent champions. As the volunteers who were threatened wrote,
Prior to this incident, we knew very little about PETA. What we have learned is that PETA is an organization quick to personally attack local shelter volunteers and rescues who they know nothing about. The author of this letter has never been to our county shelter, or to our county for that matter. She knows nothing about us personally, nor does she know of the countless hours that we devote to our county shelter. But, what is even harder to accept, is our County Mayor circulating this letter as a form of praise for the good works of shelter management under his supervision.
Rather that work alongside animal lovers ready, willing and able to help their local shelter save more lives and who want their tax dollars used in a manner that reflects, rather than hinders, their values, PETA fights them, providing regressive shelter directors political cover and encouraging them to kill even more than they already do.
Puppies killed by PETA in the back of a van, a donor-funded mobile slaughterhouse stocked with syringes and lethal drugs.
Tragically, they also practice what they preach. PETA consistently kills over 90% of the animals that are entrusted to their care. State inspection reports detail that the facilities PETA has to house the approximately 2,000 animals they take in annually are inadequate for the volume of intake and were designed merely to house animals for no more than 24 hours before killing them, precluding the effective adoption efforts for these animals even if PETA wanted to find them homes, which, by both PETA’s own admission and the individuals who have entrusted healthy animals to their care only to find out that those animals were killed reveal, they are not interested in doing. PETA has no adoption hours, does no adoption promotion, has no adoption floor, and doesn’t keep animals alive long enough to be adopted. Ingrid Newkirk herself has admitted that they are “not in the home finding business,” but in the killing one: “Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death…”
Garbage bags containing the bodies of animals killed by PETA, animals they themselves called “adorable” and “perfect,” and many who they promised they would find homes for.
As anyone who has witnessed shelter killing can attest, it is often not peaceful and not painless and it is no less violent even if it was, especially when it is inflicted on animals who PETA has admitted were “healthy,” “adoptable,” “adorable,” and “perfect.” Indeed, in 2005, PETA employees were the subject of an undercover investigation by the police department in Ahoskie, North Carolina after many garbage bags full of dead bodies were discovered in a supermarket dumpster. The sting operation resulted in the arrest of PETA employees who admitted to having killed the animals. Among the dead were many young, healthy animals, including several puppies, as well as a mother cat and her kittens who had been given to PETA by a local veterinarian after PETA employees promised to find those animals homes, only to kill them immediately in the back of a PETA van—a mobile slaughterhouse on wheels stocked with a tackle box full of syringes and poison. Since this incident, PETA’s killing has continued unabated, with PETA reporting an annual death toll of roughly 90% or greater for the past 11 years, 29,426 animals in all.
A tackle box filled with syringes and poison in the back of the PETA death van confiscated by police during a sting operation.
In interviews and articles that she has written, PETA’s founder Ingrid Newkirk has expressed views on the killing of companion animals that are not only the antithesis of those one would expect from an organization claiming to be dedicated to promoting the rights of animals, but views that are perversely outside the norm of how most animal-loving Americans feel about animals as well. While three out of four Americans believe shelters should not be allowed to kill healthy or treatable animals (and most of the remainder falsely believe shelters have no choice because of PETA and HSUS propaganda to that effect), PETA argues that these animals want to die and killing them is a “gift.” PETA has also argued that the movement to save their lives is nothing more than “slow-kill hoarding” and “fanatical,” views they once expressed at your invitation to sheltering officials across the country at Expo, HSUS’ annual sheltering conference.
HSUS has given PETA a forum to equate No Kill with mental illness to animal control officers and shelter staff from across the nation, urging those officers/staff to maintain a policy of killing.
Unfortunately, using the common public perception of PETA as an organization dedicated to the “ethical treatment” of animals and trumpeting the statements of your organization, Newkirk and her acolytes veil their reactionary views under a cloak of legitimacy to ensure the continued killing of companion animals in shelters across the nation. Disguised as an animal rights organization but perpetuating an agenda that seeks death and defends the continued neglect and abuse of animals in American shelters, PETA is a powerful force for harm working to subvert animal protection in the United States.
As an equally powerful and influential organization that claims to be dedicated to animals and one that is being used by PETA to perpetuate their deadly agenda, you have a moral obligation to speak out against them. Will you? Will you continue to stand idly by while PETA kills thousands of animals a year, undermines the work of animal lovers, defends cruel and abusive shelters, bullies animal lovers and promotes harmful and deadly sheltering protocols using HSUS as a weapon and shield? Or will you do what so many animal lovers across the nation have done: stand up and speak out against them?
Wayne, I call on you to publicly condemn PETA for their continued killing and embrace of killing in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives. I call on you to publicly condemn PETA for using HSUS to perpetuate neglect, abuse and killing in shelters. I call on you to publicly reject the policies PETA attributes to HSUS in defense of killing. And I call on you to issue an unequivocal public guarantee that you will never again give PETA a forum to share such views at your animal sheltering conference or in any of your publications.
And should you do none of these things, but choose to continue looking the other way while your organization is used as a tool to kill animals, am I to assume that you agree with PETA and support their campaign of extermination?
Very truly yours,
Nathan J. Winograd
Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902
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March 19, 2013 by Nathan J. Winograd
“Humane” Meat, Shelter Killing and How HSUS, the ASPCA, PETA, and AHA Enable Abuse & Killing of All Animals
By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd
To Vegans & Animal Rights Activists Who Support the Killing of Companion Animals:
Animal shelters in this country exist for primarily one purpose: to provide a safety-net of care for our nation’s homeless animals. With half of all animals entering our shelters being killed rather than given the new beginning that they not only deserve, but which the No Kill movement has proven unequivocally is possible, to say that most of our animal shelters are failing in their mission is a gross understatement. But the betrayal goes even deeper than the killing, although by far that is the greatest harm. Because in addition to taking the lives of four million animals a year, animal shelters in this country are rife with abuse and neglect as well. Why? Because they kill.
Studies of slaughterhouse workers have found that in order to cope with the fact that they are paid to kill day in and day out, self-preservation motivates those workers to devalue animals in order to make what they are doing less morally reprehensible. In other words, the workers make the animals unworthy of any consideration on their behalf. The two most common methods of achieving this are indifference to animal suffering and even intensifying it, becoming sadistic toward the animals. In too many communities, the implications for shelters are frightening: American shelters are themselves frequently little more than slaughterhouses. By its very nature, therefore, shelter killing breeds a lack of compassion and caring for animals.
And not only do people in shelters work at a place that commits this ultimate form of violence, they have, in fact, been hired to do exactly that. Can we really be surprised when they don’t clean thoroughly, don’t feed the animals, handle them too roughly, or neglect and abuse them? How does shoddy cleaning or rough handling or failing to feed the animals compare with putting an animal to death? Because shelter workers understand that they have the power to kill shelter animals, and will in fact kill many of them, every interaction they have with those animals is influenced by their perception that the animals do not matter, that their lives are cheap and expendable and that they are destined for the garbage heap.
The tragic state of American animal shelters proves that when the harm of killing animals is permissible, other kinds of harm are fostered as well. And that is why the historical distinction between “animal rights” and “animal welfare” is a false one. Where there is no respect for life, there is no regard for welfare.
Indeed, the right to life should be the bedrock of any movement that claims to be rights-based, as the animal rights movement by its very name, does. Not only because each animal, like each of us, has an inalienable right to life, but because all the other things the animal protection movement claims to be seeking on behalf of animals are impossible without that first and most essential right. Without the right to life, no other “rights” can be guaranteed. How can we ensure animals the right to food, water, shelter and kind treatment, when those things can be taken away by killing?
Yet tragically, there is not a single, large national animal protection organization that represents a consistent moral philosophy for animals, one that advocates that animals have both a right to be free from suffering and a right to live. The ASPCA doesn’t. The Humane Society of the United States doesn’t. PETA doesn’t. And the American Humane Association doesn’t. And so their philosophy and actions on behalf of animals are inconsistent, sloppy, harmful and ultimately deadly.
With one hand, PETA passes out literature encouraging people to go vegan while the other hand injects thousands of animals, even species of animals raised for food, with a fatal dose of poison. HSUS claims to oppose the clubbing of baby seals in front of their mother, but gives a “Shelter We Love” award to a shelter where employees placed a mother cat and her kitten into a gas chamber with a raccoon so that they could watch the animals fight before turning on the gas, killing those animals slowly and painfully and laughing while they did so. The ASPCA’s makes millions on their now infamous commercials promising to protect abused and neglected animals in need even as they send the neediest of animals dropped on their doorstep down the street to be killed at one of the most abusive and filthy shelters in the nation and have allowed dogs to starve to death all over New York City. And last but by no means least, the American Humane Association, an organization that claims to be the “the nation’s voice for the protection of animals,” not only trains people to kill healthy companion animals with their “Euthanasia by Injection” workshops (“hands-on” workshops where living animals are killed) but condones, encourages and enables the suffering of millions of animals raised for food with their sham “Certified Humane” label which perpetuates the myth of humane meat.
Which of these harms would be permissible were these organizations to authentically represent a true animal rights philosophy, one that recognizes the inherent right to live of every animal? None of them. How could they justify their actions which lead to animal suffering and death in light of a concomitant belief that animals, like people, have an unalienable right to live? They couldn’t. And yet, paradoxically, because I criticize these groups for moral inconsistency that sabotages our cause and for actions that they take which undermine rather than further the rights and well-being of animals, I am constantly attacked by the very people who should share my concerns: my fellow animal rights activists and vegans.
And so while I normally post vegan-related blogs on allamericanvegan.com, my website devoted to vegan advocacy, I wanted to post this article on the page that my detractors continually monitor—this one—so I can be sure that they will see it. I want those who claim to be vegan—who claim to care about the plight of animals raised for food—but who constantly condemn me for criticizing the large, national groups they love for the actions they take which brutally harm companion animals to see what, exactly, they are enabling when they defend groups which claim to speak for animals but do not promote their right to live. I want them to see how they don’t just hurt dogs and cats whose lives and rights they so casually discard, but how they enable the suffering and killing of animals they do claim to care about—chickens, cows and pigs. I want them to see the crimes against animals which a belief in the myth of a “humane death” enables and which they, in turn, further enable by promoting the groups that champion such a myth.
Like HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA, the American Humane Association defends animal shelters that kill animals despite readily available lifesaving alternatives. AHA in fact, teaches people how to kill healthy and treatable animals and provides them with animals to kill. And so it should come as no surprise that when Foster Farms slits the throats of millions of chickens every year or when other factory farms put live, baby male chicks into a giant grinder because they don’t lay eggs or grow fast enough to provide maximum profitability to the industry. AHA does not condemn it. Instead, they give it a seal of approval.
Recently, Foster Farms announced that they were awarded the American Humane Association’s “Humane Certified” label which now appears on the package of every dead Foster Farms chicken sold in America. Thanks to AHA, American consumers will be lulled into a false sense of complacency that eating animals is consistent with being humane, that supporting a company that kills millions of animals a year is consistent with a belief in animal protection. Like HSUS and the ASPCA which likewise promote the myth that raising and killing animals for food can be “humane”–and like PETA which, in Ingrid Newkirk’s own words, does “not support right to life for animals” and who told the New York Times that when it comes to people eating animals, “screw the principles”–when AHA condones and enables harm to animals, when they call cooking the bodies of dead animals a “joy” and recipes which call for those bodies “scrumptious,” they do so on behalf of the entire animal protection movement.
According to AHA, Foster Farms raises its chickens in a humane manner. But, what, exactly, do they mean by “humane?”
Does it prevent animals from being kept in crowded indoor cages in warehouses? No.
Does it require chickens to be allowed to go outside, to get fresh air and sunlight, to be able to act in accordance with all of their instincts to ensure their happiness and psychological as well as physical well-being? No.
Does it mean you cannot cut the beaks of chicks? No.
Does it mean that you cannot place live, newborn male chicks into a grinder to be killed? No.
Does it prevent chickens from being hung upside down by the feet, electrically stunned, and then have their throats slit? No.
Does it mean you cannot cut the teeth of piglets? No.
Does it mean you cannot cut the tails off pigs? No.
Does it mean you cannot use an electric prod on cows? No.
Does it mean that you cannot use restraints to forcibly inseminate a cow or a pig? No.
Does it prevent castration of newborn calves by placing a rubber band around their scrotum to cut off blood supply? No.
And, like chickens, does it mean that these cows and pigs are not ultimately slaughtered? No.
Under what warped definition of “humane” can a process that ends with animals having their throats slit possibly qualify? The kind where Foster Farms pays AHA a royalty/certification fee to say so.* Whether by selling out companion animals or those raised and then killed for food, it is evident that AHA and the other national organizations do not speak for the animals, but for the people and industries which harm them. That much is evident. The question becomes: why do those who should be their most ardent critics—vegans and animal rights activists—defend them?
The simple answer is that they have been taught to. With the lie that killing companion animals is a “necessity” and that the system of animal agriculture based on exploitation and killing can be “humane;” with the philosophy that no one within the animal protection movement is allowed to stand up for principles if it means speaking out against powerful organizations; in a movement in which cults of personality are everything and names like Newkirk, Pacelle and others demand unquestioned allegiance even when they consistently betray the cause they have pledged to protect; and by selling a model of dependency where activism means donating and deferring to large organizations rather than empowering the grassroots to effect local, and by extension, national change, these groups not only shield themselves from scrutiny and accountability for their harmful actions, but they have taught legions of activists to regard the most sincere and authentic voices within the animal protection movement—those who question the prevailing dogma and who argue that all animals have an inalienable right to live—as dangerous and threatening instead.
Whether it packaged as “humane meat” or “pet overpopulation,” the idea that killing animals is acceptable if done for the right reasons, by the right people or under the right circumstances are merely different manifestations of the same insidious lie that permeates and hinders the animal protection movement at the beginning of the 21st century: that killing animals who are not suffering can be humane. It can’t. It isn’t. And if you are a person who is going to claim to speak on behalf of animals, then authenticity, morality, and integrity compel you to challenge and stand up to this pernicious idea and the groups that perpetuate it.
* AHA does not say how much its “royalty” or “certification fee” amounts to. In the past, companies have paid tens of thousands of dollars for an AHA humane seal.
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March 5, 2013 by Nathan J. Winograd
This year, we have shelter reform legislation pending in several states with more to come. In Minnesota, for example, there’s a bill pending that would ban the use of the cruel gas chamber, end the practice of convenience killing (killing when there are empty cages), end the practice of retribution killing (killing when rescue groups are willing to save them), end the practice of allowing animals to languish without prompt and necessary care, and end the practice of killing healthy “owner surrendered” animals within minutes of arrival. As always, we are going to fight an uphill battle because the very groups—HSUS, the ASPCA, PETA, and state animal control/humane groups—that should be leading the charge do not support our efforts and, in fact, historically fight us. But this year, we are coming prepared and intend to educate legislators that the groups they defer to as the undisputed sheltering “experts” are in fact the primary roadblock to a No Kill nation. What’s in a Name? from the No Kill Advocacy Center will allow legislators and policy makers to understand why groups like HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA oppose badly needed shelter reform legislation.
To download or print your free copy and send to your legislators, click here.
For other shelter reform guides, including How Does Your Community’s Shelter Measure Up?, No Kill 101, Dollars & Sense, and more, visit the No Kill Advocate’s Toolkit by clicking here.
In 2012, over one new community per week achieved a save rate of at least 90% and as high as 99%. The No Kill revolution is ON THE MARCH. Join me as we celebrate that achievement and teach you how to do the same: nokillconference.org
December 28, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
Excerpted from Friendly Fire:
Animal lovers call Davidson County, North Carolina’s shelter “savage,” a “disgrace,” “disgusting” and “horrific.” What does HSUS call it? A “shelter we love.”
In 2010, 3,984 of the 4,133 cats taken in by the Davidson County, North Carolina shelter—96 percent—were put to death. While dogs fared a little better, eight out of 10 were still killed: 2,846 of the 3,625 they took in, including every dog they deemed a “Pit Bull” or “Pit Bull”-mix as a matter of policy. With an adoption rate of only six percent, they don’t even really try to save lives, choosing to kill them instead. But it gets worse. Not only does the shelter do little more than kill animals, they kill them in one of the cruelest ways possible: the gas chamber.
Although the gas chamber is legal in North Carolina, it is illegal to use it for animals that appear to be 16 weeks or younger, pregnant or near death because it takes sick, younger or older animals longer to absorb the gas, resulting in a slower and more agonizing death. The state also prohibits animals of different species from being put in the gas chamber together. But the employees of the Davidson County shelter do not care. And neither does the Sheriff who was supposed to oversee them, but chose to turn a blind eye to the illegal and sadistic killing of animals occurring under his neglectful watch.
Davidson County has a history of killing kittens and puppies using the gas chamber in violation of North Carolina law. It has a history of killing elderly and sick animals in that manner, which is also illegal. And, according to an eyewitness, shelter employees put a raccoon in the gas chamber with a mother cat and her kitten in order to sadistically watch them fight before they died: “The gas chamber has two windows, one on either side. The raccoon and the adult cat started fighting. Then they turned the gas on. The adult cat got on one corner and the raccoon got on the other, and as soon as they turned on the gas, the kitten started shaking and going into convulsions.”
A contractor who was working at the shelter told the County Board that he heard the employees laugh when they did it. He said he was sickened by the incident, as were animal lovers nationwide who condemned the shelter for its cruelty and barbarity. But it did not sicken the Sheriff. Rather than condemn the staff, the Sheriff defended them, saying the staff are doing a good job (“shelter employees don’t want to euthanize animals”) and claiming they gas animals because that is “the most humane way to deal” with the animals. And it did not sicken the Humane Society of the United States. Instead, HSUS gave them an award at a public ceremony, calling the Davidson County facility “A Shelter We Love.”
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My Facebook page is facebook.com/nathanwinograd. The Facebook page of my organization is facebook.com/nokilladvocacycenter. Many people mistakenly believe that the Facebook pages at No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution are my pages. They are not.
November 2, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
Go on the website or Facebook page of HumaneWatch or the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and you’ll find a litany of articles and postings attacking the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for their hypocrisy and corruption. Not only do they attack HSUS generally, they attack HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, specifically. Read Wayne Pacelle’s blog and you’ll see plenty of articles attacking CCF, Humane Watch and their founder, Rick Berman. At first glance, you would think that they are mortal enemies. You’d be wrong. Scratch beneath the superficial surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll see that in fact Wayne Pacelle “loves” and needs Rick Berman. Why? Berman provides him the political cover he needs to avoid accountability and continue to mislead supporters.
Today, the number one cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the U.S. is the local animal shelter. In spite of this, HSUS will readily admit it is the nation’s biggest cheerleader for these very shelters and it has proven that by defending them publicly even when they abuse and kill animals. They recently gave an award to a shelter which kills 9 out of ten animals and illegally and sadistically puts different species of animals in the gas chamber together to watch them fight before turning on the gas, calling it “A Shelter We Love.”
HSUS also fights reform efforts nationwide, including legislation introduced by animal lovers in several states mandating simple, common sense procedures which would protect shelter animals. HSUS successfully defeated animal protection legislation that would have banned the gas chamber, banned breed discrimination, mandated that shelters not kill animals when non-profit rescue groups are willing to save those animals, and which would have prohibited the common practice of killing animals when there are empty cages, a thoroughly reprehensible sheltering protocol which HSUS endorses unequivocally, while simultaneously disparaging the motives of anyone who questions these actions.
HSUS has a history of referring to people who want to reform deplorable sheltering practices as “divisive” and even “crazy” and asserting that such people hurt animals by creating strife and fostering discontent within the animal protection movement. They also tell their followers that people who criticize them are not animal lovers, but people with a secret agenda to destroy the animal rights movement.
When an animal lover recently wrote HSUS upset that they had betrayed the dogs abused by Michael Vick by lobbying to have them killed and then later embracing their abuser (even urging him to adopt a dog from a shelter), HSUS did not respond to the issue. Instead, they hid behind the CCF, stating,
The misinformation spread by those who oppose our animal protection work is astounding—and the same things you post are ones that our opponents at the so called center for consumer freedom spread. These are people that defend the seal hunt, don’t see puppy mills as a big issue, and while they say it’s good to support your local shelter, back in 08′ over 92% of their funds went to one man, and his PR firm – a man that is also the founder of CCF. An issue like animal protection is bound to have people who disagree, who have conflicts, and that is important as sometimes different perspectives lead to great changes being made. That should not however, mean siding on the side of people trying to defend the very cruelty we are trying to stop.
In other words, while animal lovers were angry that HSUS was given a $50,000 grant by the Philadelphia Eagles for providing political cover for their star quarterback—a sadist who enjoyed beating dogs to death, hanging dogs, drowning dogs in buckets, shooting dogs, repeatedly slamming them to the ground, burying them alive, and attaching jumper cables connected to car batteries to their ears and then throwing them in a swimming pool—HSUS responded by arguing that those who criticized HSUS for their cozy and financially beneficial relationship with Vick are not concerned animal lovers, but people who support puppy mills and seal killers.
In fact, no matter what the issue, HSUS invariably responds to criticism in the same way—by creating a diversion. First they defame those who are holding HSUS accountable for their actions, stating but never giving proof how the concerns are “misinformation” or how, exactly, being concerned that HSUS did something which harmed animals translates into supporting puppy mills or wanting baby seals to be clubbed to death, and then they simply change the subject. They sent a similar statement to someone who complained to them after HSUS sent dogs they claimed to have “rescued” to a shelter which killed them by gassing. Ignore the issue, smear the messenger, then change the subject. It’s an effective sleight of hand used by HSUS over and over again, and is a shield that comes courtesy of the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Providing Pacelle the political cover to deflect criticism is not the only way Pacelle and HSUS manipulate CCF attacks to their own advantage. Playing the wounded innocent whenever the CCF goes on the attack with newspaper or television ads exposing HSUS corruption, HSUS asks their supporters to dig a little deeper to show their support. And invariably they do, not only by donating plenty of money, but often coming to their defense publicly as well. Through blogs, twitter and Facebook, so-called animal lovers duped by HSUS troll the social media, disparaging the motives of anyone—myself included—who criticizes the large national groups such as HSUS, thereby creating unwarranted suspicion of No Kill and those working to create an authentic and uncorrupted animal protection movement.
WHO DO YOU LOVE?
Like every social justice movement that has come before it, the cause of animal protection should be—first and foremost—a movement not of organizations and personalities, but of ideals—a belief in the right of animals to be free of suffering and abuse, and most importantly, to be free to live their lives. These values are the heart of our cause, the reason we exist. Animal protection organizations and the people who work at them are means to this greater end, not the end itself. As I have written so many times before, it is not who is right, but what is right that should dictate our behavior and our allegiance. When individuals and organizations authentically represent the goals of our movement, we should stand by them. When individuals and organizations fail to do so—as HSUS has done over and over again—not only should we expose them for the frauds that they are, our duty to animals dictates that we must.
While I do not embrace or support the Center for Consumer Freedom or what it stands for, that doesn’t change the fact that when it comes to their criticism of HSUS and PETA’s support for shelter killing and in the case of PETA, their own killing of thousands of animals every year, the CCF is correct in their criticism. While the motivations may be entirely base, what they are saying is in fact true, even though on everything else they are entirely wrong: we should ban the Canadian seal slaughter, we should close down puppy mills, we should eliminate the killing of animals for food, and we should ban hunting. To borrow an old saying, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Moreover, it is not the Center for Consumer Freedom which is thwarting our effort to achieve a No Kill nation or build a better world for companion animals; rather, it is the leaders of organizations who are supposed to protect animals but instead betray them. It is also the legions of gullible grassroots activists who mindlessly come to their defense and eagerly dismiss all criticism of these organizations as a vast conspiracy of animal exploiters, thus allowing those betrayals to continue.
Every time the Center for Consumer Freedom places an ad in a newspaper that exposes the grisly and disturbing truth about PETA’s killing or the truth about HSUS’ fraudulent fundraising, our response should be to address the hypocrisy and corruption being reported. Why? Because, tragically, they are true, and because those actions hurt animals: in the case of PETA because they literally inject thousands of animals a year with a fatal dose of poison and, in the case of HSUS, because they divert money donated with the best of intentions into their bloated coffers where it will be used to undermine, rather than further, the welfare of animals.
Ignoring the corruption within our movement will not make that corruption go away, nor will it ever stop it from causing real harm to animals. Only by refusing to tolerate that corruption and demanding change can we ever hope to do that. Moreover, it is naïve to ignore that it is already well within the power of HSUS (and, for that matter, PETA) to stop the ads that expose their hypocrisy and misdeeds if the leadership of those groups truly wanted to—by simply bringing their corruption to an end. Instead, HSUS has found a clever way to deflect all criticism for their actions so they don’t have to change, so they can continue to fraudulently fundraise, continue to undermine the effort to save the lives of dogs and cats in shelters, and even continue to get those who should be their most vocals critics—grassroots animal activists—to defend them while they do so. Pacelle knowingly serves up ammunition against himself to CCF on a silver platter then uses that same silver platter as a shield to defend himself against valid criticism by arguing that any censure of HSUS is simply part of a vast conspiracy by animal exploiters. That is why—although I am a vegan who believes in animal rights, who believes in an end to the killing of animals for any reason, and who believes in everything that the CCF exists to oppose—I believe defending HSUS (and PETA) for their hypocrisy and corruption hurts animals. The animal protection movement is hypocritical and it is inauthentic in its embrace of the killing of dogs and cats. And too many people who claim to love animals defend these groups anyway, putting their allegiance to organizations and the people who work at them before the very lives of animals.
Indeed, in promoting the corruption of our movement, the CCF has placed themselves in a Catch-22. Were the CCF to actually succeed in forcing reform, the animal protection movement as a whole would grow stronger. Should CCF succeed in reforming those practices of HSUS and PETA of which they are most critical, their success would also be their own loss and the animals’ unequivocal gain. And that is why, in reality, Berman and CCF do not want HSUS or PETA to reform. If they did, they could no longer attack them or the movement for hypocrisy and they would be forced to start fighting on the merits of the cause alone. And as the history of our country demonstrates, we are on the winning side of that debate. Those who work to eliminate the suffering and death of others—to build a kinder, gentler, and more just world—eventually triumph. But how can we get to that point if those in positions of leadership within our own movement are inauthentic, promote killing, and time and again sell out those they are supposed to be protecting? As long as there people in positions of leadership whose actions demonstrate that they do not really care about animals and who continue to sully the reputation and authenticity of the movement that they are supposed to represent, we are hobbled, and the longer animals will continue to suffer and die.
And so my plea to every animal activist who has been schooled to reject any criticism of HSUS as a vast conspiracy by the Center for Consumer Freedom, HumaneWatch, agribusiness or the pharmaceutical industry, is this: do your homework. Decide for yourself if you really want to defend HSUS once you learn about the many ways this group has truly harmed animals, undermined the efforts of those of us who want to bring killing to an end and defended those who systematically kill thousands of animals every year. Educate yourself about the tremendous success the No Kill movement is having in its efforts to protect the lives and well-being of millions of animals every year. And give yourself permission to entertain the notion that you have been misled, and that, like so many movements for social justice that have come before ours, it is in the voices of dissent—in this case, the voices of No Kill advocates—where you find truth and authenticity, and not the halls of power.
With genuine animal lovers at the helm of our nation’s large animal protection groups instead of pretenders like Wayne Pacelle, we could begin to exploit the vast, untapped potential in our society which would allow us to build a better, kinder and gentler world for all animals. Americans deeply love dogs and cats, and consider them cherished members of their families who deserve legal protection. They are ready and willing to give this group of animals their legal rights. And not only will doing so save the lives of millions of dogs, cats and other shelter animals every year, but, just as significant, it will create an important legal foundation which can be leveraged for the benefit of all animals, no matter the species, whatever the manner of exploitation. Right now, Wayne Pacelle is standing in the way of us saving those lives and creating that valuable precedent.
And every time you defend him, you are, too.
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My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/nathanwinograd. Many people mistakenly believe that the Facebook pages at No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution are my pages. They are not.
October 30, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
November 4 is the official kick off of “National Animal Shelter Reform Week.” It is a week dedicated to educating the American public about the rampant neglect and abuse in U.S. “shelters,” the systematic killing that goes on in them, and what we can do to bring this tragedy to an end. It is also a week dedicated to celebrating the many animal advocates across the country who are fighting to reform our shelters and winning, so that others can be inspired to emulate their success.
The week is sponsored by the No Kill Advocacy Center in response to the call by the Humane Society of the United States to “celebrate” those shelters and turn a blind eye to the neglect, abuse, and killing of animals in their custody. In a Memphis shelter, for example, abusive workers recently allowed a puppy to starve to death, and his littermate consumed his body to keep from starving himself. Animals lovers in Memphis and nationwide are expressing their outrage, but , as usual, there is no word of concern from HSUS, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the ASPCA and the individuals who act as shelter killing apologists.
In its call to celebrate shelters, HSUS claims to be the nation’s top cheerleader for shelters, rather than the animals’ top advocate. And PETA has vilified those working to reform our broken shelter system, promoting and defending some of the worst abusers in the country. It is this very mentality of celebrating shelters and fighting reformers in the face of epidemic cruelty and killing that has allowed shelters to remain unregulated. Although HSUS admits, “there is actually very little oversight of sheltering organizations,” they are working to keep it that way: fighting legislative reform efforts, defending abusive shelters, arguing that shelters should not be regulated, and even defending a shelter’s “right” to kill animals in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives. The lack of government oversight, combined with the support of groups like HSUS, has given shelters the hubris and the ability to neglect, abuse, and systematically put to death roughly four million animals a year without a hint of remorse. The No Kill Advocacy Center seeks to right this wrong.
This is also why my wife and I wrote Friendly Fire, exposing not only the war on shelter animals by these large national organizations, but the motivations behind their opposition to No Kill. Friendly Fire will go on sale this Thursday, November 1, just as HSUS ramps up its celebration of those abusive shelters.
From the No Kill Advocacy Center:
No Kill Advocacy Center Launches “National Animal Shelter Reform Week”
For over a decade, HSUS has promoted a campaign they call “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week” which occurs the first full week in November. According to HSUS, which describes itself as the nation’s “strongest advocate” for shelters, we owe a debt of gratitude to the “dedicated people” who work at them. They claim that leadership and staff at every one of these agencies “have a passion for and are dedicated to the mutual goal of saving animals’ lives.” They tell us, “We are all on the same side,” “We all want the same thing,” “We are all animal lovers,” and criticism of shelters and staff is unfair and callous because “No one wants to kill.” The fact, however, tragically and frequently tell a very different story: roughly four million animals are needlessly killed at these institutions every year, while an epidemic of neglect and abuse goes largely unacknowledged and unchecked by the very organization that has the power and resources to do something about it: HSUS. That is why we are launching “National Animal Shelter Reform Week.”
Over the years, we’ve received reports of shelter workers burying animals alive, starving animals to death, animals cannibalizing other animals for food, shelter employees beating animals to death, using them for target practice, drowning them, and putting different species into the gas chamber to sadistically watch them fight before turning on the gas.
These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely a day goes by that another incident of shelter mismanagement, killing, neglect, and/or abuse isn’t brought to our attention, highlighting and substantiating an epidemic crisis of neglect and cruelty, followed by systematic killing, in our nation’s so-called animal “shelters.” In fact, the first time many animals experience abuse and neglect is in the very institutions which are supposed to protect them from it.
National Animal Shelter Reform Week is designed to confront the tragic truth about how most shelters in this country operate and to increase public awareness about how animal lovers can fight back and reform them. Despite the uphill battle many shelter reformers face, they are succeeding through ingenuity, perseverance, and because the American public, which loves animals, is on their side. The No Kill Advocacy Center would like to support their reform campaigns and honor their tireless effort.
Every day during National Animal Shelter Reform Week, the first full week of every November, the No Kill Advocacy Center will confront poor and neglectful conditions at shelters around the country and contrast them with progressive and innovative No Kill shelters. We will also honor No Kill activists working to end the systematic killing of animals, so that others can be inspired by their efforts. Finally, we will strive to give animal advocates the tools they need to succeed.
For more information and to join the week-long discussion from November 4-10, 2012, click here.
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My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/nathanwinograd. Many people mistakenly believe that the Facebook pages at No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution are my pages. They are not.
October 12, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
[click image for a larger view]
For years, the Humane Society of the United States accused No Kill advocates of lowering the quality of adoptive homes. Although we did no such thing, quantity and quality can go hand in hand, the truth is that no one can reduce the quality more than HSUS President Wayne Pacelle. How low can he go? To the very bottom.
Michael Vick beat dogs to death. He drowned them. He electrocuted them. He stomped on them. He hung them. He shot them. He buried them alive. And when some of his co-conspirators wanted to give away dogs who would not fight rather than kill them, Vick refused. In one case, a dog Vick tried to hang by placing a nylon cord over a board that was nailed to two trees refused to die. Wearing a pair of overalls he donned so he would not get blood from the dogs on his expensive, tailored suits, Vick took the dog down and drowned him. In the annals of history, Michael Vick will be remembered as the most notorious dog abuser and dog killer of our generation. But he didn’t stop doing those things because he realized they were wrong. In fact, he has never apologized for his crimes, claiming at one point that his “is a different kind of love” for dogs than most, and that he expressed that love in his own way—by hanging, drowning, electrocuting, beating to death and shooting them.
After the depths of Vick’s depravity and the extent of his crimes were fully revealed, he was convicted by the federal courts, sent to prison, banned from the National Football League (NFL), bankrupted and despised by the American people. His public image in tatters, nothing but a miracle could bring him back.
Against reason, compassion and decency, that miracle was delivered to him by a person who should have remained his most vocal and outspoken critic: Wayne Pacelle, head of the nation’s largest animal protection organization. Pacelle would embrace the person he simply calls “Mike” and fight to rehabilitate his image by arguing publicly that he deserved a second chance, even as he fought to have each and every one of “Mike’s” victims, the dogs who were still alive, killed. For Pacelle, Vick’s victims did not deserve the second chance their abuser did. And after Pacelle lobbied the court to kill the dogs, he then began lobbying everyone else to forgive the monster who abused them.
“We’re all sinners when it comes to animals,” explained Pacelle. Pacelle agreed with Vick’s statement that dog fighters express “a different kind of love” for dogs. And when Vick said he wanted to get another dog, Pacelle agreed, offering up the most stunning in a long line of stunning comments, “I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner.”
Michael Vick just revealed that he acquired a dog.
For further reading, “In Bed With Monsters”
Update: HSUS has issued a statement saying that Wayne Pacelle did speak with Vick about getting a dog, and “urged him” to adopt from a shelter or rescue group. Pacelle would go on to say publicly that he felt “confident [Vick] would do a good job as a pet owner.” They also claimed that a dog in the hands of a sadist who enjoys torturing and brutally killing dogs is not really “a major animal welfare issue.” In short, no big deal.
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October 3, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
This year’s national No Kill Conference in Washington D.C. drew over 800 people from 44 states and 10 countries. But beyond the numbers—an almost tripling of attendance from last year—two key demographics demonstrate how far we’ve come. The first is that almost half—46 percent—of all attendees came from shelters, including some of the largest municipal shelters in the nation. Traditional shelters are increasingly looking to the No Kill movement, generally, and the No Kill Advocacy Center, more specifically, and not traditional national organizations, because while we offer condemnation when it is deserved, we also offer solutions and assistance. If shelters want to save lives, they do not want antiquated dogmas which represent the past. That can only mean good things as we collectively move toward our inevitable No Kill future.
Groups like the Humane Society of the United States know this, which takes us to the second demographic: the large national groups also sent people to the No Kill Conference, including HSUS itself. I can only imagine how it felt to attend workshop after workshop from some of the most successful and innovative shelter directors, shelter veterinarians, shelter reformers, and animal lawyers in the country and hear a consistent theme: to save lives, not only must you ignore the advice from groups like HSUS, but you must fight them. To hear that the leaders of the most successful shelters and organizations consider your organization both irrelevant in terms of practical information and the enemy in terms of obstacles to success had to be a wake-up call to these groups to either get involved, get out of the way or get pushed aside.
It is no coincidence that fast on the heels of the conference, HSUS published a hastily created, non-formatted group of low-budget Microsoft Word documents they call a “Shelter Advocate Toolkit.“ It purports to show reformers what programs are necessary to save lives in shelters, why shelter directors do not innovate, how to communicate with them to encourage change, and what to do if they won’t. Progress? It sure sounds like it. But after reading the Toolkit, it would all depend on what your definition of “progress” is. If it means anything substantive, you’ll be disappointed.
The Toolkit amounts to little more than an attempt to remain relevant and nothing more. The documents themselves only play lip service to reform, while ensuring shelter directors they still have their back; that they still are (in their own words) the “strongest advocate” for shelters and the “dedicated people” who work at them. Not a single one of the resources listed, nor anywhere within the various documents that HSUS created do they mention the existence of No Kill communities or highlight the important fact that shelters in 63 communities representing hundreds of cities and towns throughout the United States have 90+ percent save rates. In fact, 11 years after the creation of the first No Kill community, it is a milestone they have yet to publicly announce. They do not offer substantive guidelines for reformers or advocates, nor do they offer goals for lifesaving, referring to the No Kill movement’s call for 90+ percent save rates, as useless.
Moreover, the Toolkit fails to address the crisis of killing in our nation’s shelters, regurgitates antiquated dogma, equates saving lives with animal hoarding, blames No Kill advocates for the very killing they are trying to bring to an end, and reaffirms the necessity of one of the most deadly sheltering practices that cause animals to be killed out of sheer convenience: the thoroughly unethical practice of keeping available cages empty.
From the very first paragraph, HSUS gets it wrong, telling us that,
Most sheltering professionals and volunteers are highly committed to the animals they serve; however, when faced with too many animals in need and not enough resources to care for them all, even the most dedicated caretakers can struggle.
Our shelters are in crisis: neglect is rampant, cruelty is endemic and killing is the norm. Why? There is a culture of uncaring in shelters. Hard work, dedication to the animals and a desire to improve conditions is not rewarded. In fact, it is often punished. In Philadelphia a number of years ago, a whistleblower not only had his car vandalized, but was threatened with physical violence by a union-protected thug. Who outed him? Philadelphia’s then-Health Commissioner, who oversaw the shelter and wanted to silence critics. In King County, Washington, a whistleblower was transferred to another department for her own safety. In Miami, the whistleblower that stood up to cruel methods of killing was simply fired. In Indianapolis, a shelter director who tried to transform the local animal control facility had his car vandalized and was subject to threats of violence. Shelters today are places where the normal rules of compassion and decency toward animals to which the vast majority of people subscribe simply do not apply.
But HSUS wants shelter reformers to believe that they do care, even when shelter workers take turn shooting animals in the head for target practice, when they hold dogs down with a control pole and then repeatedly kick them, when they put cats and raccoons in the gas chamber to watch them fight before turning on the gas, when they allow a cat to starve to death, or when they do this:
On Feb. 11 this year, a small, timid Chow dog was scheduled to die at the Memphis Animal Shelter with a sedative injection followed by a lethal solution injected into the heart…
“Now you want to act stupid?” [an MAS employee] said to the Chow as he pulled the uncooperative leashed animal into the euthanizing room. “I know how to take care of this. This is my sedation.”
[The employee] then lifted the dog off the ground and held the choking animal over a sink as it urinated and defecated while gasping for air…
Why are they doing these things? According to HSUS, they are “dedicated caretakers” “faced with too many animals in need and not enough resources to care for them all.” In other words, there are too many animals not to neglect, abuse and then kill them.
Although HSUS finally admits that problems in shelters exist and even cites a few key programs of the No Kill Equation which shelters should be doing but aren’t, admitting to problems is not the same as working to fix them, especially while you simultaneously offer excuses that perpetuate and condone them. It also begs the question, if activists working to reform their local shelter actually turned to HSUS for assistance, would they do what they have always done and fight them and defend the shelter instead?
Will they do what they did in San Francisco when reformers were trying to pass a law requiring the shelters there to save rather than kill that community’s neediest animals and HSUS wrote the legislative body considering the legislation, asserting the right of shelters to kill and urging a “No” vote? Will they do what they did in Davidson County, North Carolina where they recently gave the shelter in that community a “Shelter We Love” award when it was revealed that not only were animals there killed by the gassing, but that shelter employees violated the law by placing animals of different species in the gas chamber together so they could watch them fight before turning on the gas? Or in spite of their admission that “there is actually very little oversight of sheltering organizations,” will HSUS continue to oppose the efforts of No Kill advocates to pass the Companion Animal Protection Act in states across the country to bring some desperately needed accountability to a field that has historically lacked it as they did in Texas and Florida?
Moreover, what will they do if shelter directors turn to them for guidance? Will they do what they did in Kentucky and dismiss reformers as “crazy”? I recently spent some time with a Kentucky animal control director who wanted to talk about how we could work together to improve the animal welfare landscape in Kentucky. She told me how last year, an advocate in her community gave her a copy of my book Redemption. But every time the advocate asked her if she read it, she said “No.” She told the advocate she started to do so, but that I was “angry,” so she stopped. The advocate would not relent. Finally, she read it.
She told me when she finished reading the book; she was the one who was angry. She was angry at herself for spending the last 15 years as an animal control director doing it wrong. She was angry at HSUS because they defended her when they should have been challenging her to do better. And she was angry that they chose to sacrifice the animals in order to do so because when she approached them about the kinds of reforms I advocate, they told her not to listen because I was “crazy.” The county shelter is now doing offsite adoptions, adoption promotions, and is instituting the other programs of the No Kill Equation and the save rate has climbed to around 80%. Normally closed on Saturdays, she wants to push into the 90s by staying open until 8 pm for adoptions.
If the “Toolkit” is any indication, we can expect more of the same. For in it, HSUS tells advocates what they have always told advocates: to ignore statistics, that No Kill equals hoarding, to defer to shelter directors, and not to criticize those who neglect and kill animals because it isn’t their fault when they do so. In fact, it is the fault of No Kill advocates for questioning the dedication of those directors.
HSUS once defended the New York City pound, despite seven out of 10 animals being put to death, calling those statistics “useless.” In the Toolkit, HSUS tells reformers the same thing. According to HSUS,
Statistics can be made to paint just about any picture, good or bad. Before jumping to conclusions that your shelter’s euthanasia numbers are ‘bad,’ ask what the real story behind those numbers is. You may find the background paints a much different picture of how the shelter is operating and its overall commitment to the animals.
Save rates do not lie. Those shelters that have achieved No Kill consistently prove—no matter what the particular demographics of a community—that upwards of 95% of all animals entering shelters can and should be saved. Experience bears this out. No matter how hard HSUS tries to pretend otherwise, those shelters that do not have 90th percentile-level save rates are killing animals who can and should be saved and reform advocates across the country are using this as a reliable gauge of a shelter’s performance, as well as a goal for their efforts.
Instead, HSUS promotes what they call the “Five Freedoms”:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury, and disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior, and
- Freedom from fear and distress.
Not only are there no standards as to how reformers should apply these in holding their shelters accountable, but HSUS ignores the most important freedom of them all: the freedom from being killed. Once dead, the other freedoms are irrelevant. For how can one be guaranteed food, water, comfort, medical care, socialization and safety when all those things can be taken away through an overdose of poison? As the rest of us are dedicated to the ending the tragic killing and needless killing of some four million animals a year, HSUS refuses to recognize the killing as a problem at all.
It Isn’t the Shelters Fault
“If they had fewer animals brought to their doors and more animals being quickly adopted,” HSUS writes in the Toolkit, “your shelter would certainly have more time and resources to spend on the more challenging individual cases.”
In other words, there are “too many animals, not enough homes.” Shelter killing is not something that is imposed from the outside. It is a choice. It is a choice made by the person who runs a shelter to take the easy, uncaring and inhumane way out. In fact, HSUS’ own study has proved that pet overpopulation is a myth. Moreover, the number of “open admission” No Kill shelters, some with per capita intake rates 20-times that of New York City, prove that shelters can adopt their way out of killing, can spend time and resources on the “more challenging” cases, and can do so despite large numbers of animals “brought to their doors,” despite HSUS claims to the contrary.
No Kill Equals Warehousing
According to HSUS,
Quality of life matters! Animals are not goods that can be warehoused indefinitely–they need lots of individual attention each day, not just for cleaning and feeding but for physical and mental stimulation. Sitting in a tiny cage for weeks and months on end hoping for a new home may not be in that animal’s best interest.
To begin with, there is not a single animal who would choose death over a few weeks or even a few months inside a cage if that is what it would take to guarantee that animals’ life. Every single person, including the staff at HSUS, would also choose life rather than death if they were in the same situation and given that choice, and yet for years HSUS and other kill shelter advocates have repeated the opposite as if it were an obvious truth. It is not. What they advocate for animals, no one—including the animals—would advocate for themselves.
And who said anything about warehousing animals? HSUS staff who attended the No Kill Conference watched successful shelter directors provide guidance about increasing adoptions and keeping animals moving quickly and efficiently though the shelter and into loving, new homes. They did not—nor do other No Kill advocates—promote “warehousing” of animals. Yet, HSUS continues to parrot this fiction by insisting that No Kill means just that. When I ran an open admission No Kill shelter, our average length of stay was eight days and no animal ever celebrated an anniversary there. Despite a per capita intake rate five times that of Los Angeles, in Reno, Nevada it has been roughly 14 days, about the length of stay for a dog in a boarding facility while that dog’s family is on vacation. Moreover, in neither case were they simply sitting in cages with no individual attention. They were/are being walked, groomed, socialized and played with.
It Isn’t the Shelter Director’s Fault They Neglect and Abuse Animals; it is Yours.
While HSUS does—perhaps for the first time ever—“admonish” shelter directors for failing to keep pace with innovations in sheltering, HSUS then turns around and tells reformers that they “need to trust that animal control professionals really do care about animals, and don’t enjoy having to kill them—in fact, quite the opposite is true; sheltering professionals suffer tremendous psychological impacts from the difficult burdens they carry. They need to be seen as partners in bringing an end to euthanasia, rather than the cause of the problem.”
Moreover, HSUS says,
As with any profession, the inner workings of a shelter are more complex than they may appear from the outside. There may be valid reasons why, for example, some cages at your local shelter are empty (a few cages may need to be kept open to animal control to drop off strays that are picked up in the community at any given time, or filling every cage may put the shelter over its humane capacity for care of animals)…
For years, we have been told that we must trust and defer to the “experts” in animal sheltering—that they have knowledge and expertise that is beyond the layperson’s understanding, best expressed in HSUS assurance that “the inner workings of a shelter are more complex than they may appear from the outside.” It is this notion that for decades meant that almost no one dared to question those in positions of authority within the animal sheltering industry or their archaic, cruel policies which promote and lead to killing. And it is the very reason why our shelters are in the crisis they are in today.
In truth, there is no special knowledge that would make the common practice of convenience killing—killing animals when there are empty cages or when animals can be cohoused—ever morally acceptable. To assert so is to reveal a stunning lack of regard for the value of animal life. Those who espouse this deadly and disturbing idea are the ones lacking the qualities necessary to humanely oversee an animal shelter, not those of us who recognize that to kill an animal despite empty cages or to create empty cages is nothing short of obscene. And when we say so, when we seek legislation to prevent the killing of animals even when the shelter has a ready place for them to go to, HSUS can’t help but attack advocates for doing so.
As the communication gap widens, and people who care about animals find themselves working in opposition to each other, rather than with each other, it is the animals who suffer. Shelters become frustrated with what are, from their perspective, unproductive diversions (like social media smear campaigns, attacks on their personal and professional reputations, etc.), and become more unwilling to work with the public on any level. This distancing in turn reinforces the public’s mistrust of the shelter, making them wonder what the shelter is “hiding,” and convincing them that the shelter does not deserve their support. This vicious circle of mistrust ultimately diverts everyone’s precious time and resources, and drives us further from our goal of ending euthanasia.
Smear campaigns? Smearing implies dishonesty. Educating the public about the needless killing of animals occurring in their local shelter and asking for change is not a smear campaign. It is democracy. HSUS is, in effect, arguing that in demanding alternatives to killing, No Kill activists are to blame for that killing, even when our concerns have been brought to the attention of shelter directors, only to be met by hostile, defiant ears and be subject to retaliation.
In truth, campaigns for reform mounted by local animal lovers are doing the work HSUS has been entrusted to do but has failed to do for decades. They are demanding the accountability HSUS has never demanded from shelters, and it is that continuing failure—refusing to acknowledge that No Kill has been achieved and that every shelter can and should save roughly 95% of the animals entering their facilities—that perpetuates killing and drives “us further from our goal of ending” killing.
Like HSUS itself, the Toolkit is schizophrenic. By failing to offer substantive guidelines, by failing to set substantive standards, by assuring reformers that shelter directors and staff really do care even as neglect and abuse is rampant, by fighting reform locally while playing lip service for the need for reform, by telling shelter directors that they should do better while they tell reformers it isn’t the directors’ fault, the Toolkit offers very little beyond a repackaging of the same-old same-old; dogmas that condone and excuse the killing and which pretend that we can’t do better for animals even when community after community has already proved otherwise. More importantly, it reaffirms what we’ve already known for a very long time: if we are going to wait for HSUS to join the No Kill revolution, we’ll be waiting—and the animals will continue dying—for a very, very long time.
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July 22, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
A gas chamber is one of the cruelest methods of legally killing an animal. Animals are often crammed into the small chambers, piled one on top of the other. When the chamber is then filled with poisonous carbon monoxide gas, the animals inside gasp for breath, feel searing pain in their lungs and often claw at the chamber door or throw themselves against the sides in a desperate attempt to escape.
The practice is still legal in 32 states for dogs and cats. In many states which ban it for dogs and cats—like New York and California—they allow it for other species. Indeed, if you wanted to build a gas chamber to kill animals slowly and cruelly, there was a time when HSUS was happy to show you how—their homemade gas barrels are still in use in some U.S. shelters today.
And though national groups like HSUS have since criticized gas chambers for their notorious cruelty, their professed “opposition” to gassing did not stop them from sending dogs they claimed to have rescued to a shelter that used a gas chamber to kill them. It did not stop them from coordinating the defeat of a 2011 Texas law which would have banned it. Nor did it stop them from giving the pound in Davidson County, North Carolina, an award this month as a “Shelter We Love” that also uses one, killing roughly nine out of 10 animals they take in that way including every “Pit Bull” and “Pit Bull-mix” as a matter of policy.
In fact, Davidson County not only gasses animals, they gas young and sick animals in violation of law. The N.C. Animal Welfare Administrative Code prohibits use of the gas chamber for animals that appear to be 16 weeks or younger, pregnant or near death because it takes sick, younger or older animals longer to absorb the gas, resulting in a slower death.
According to an eyewitness, shelter employees also put animals of different species in the chamber, which is also illegal. Staff put a raccoon in the gas chamber with a mother cat and her kitten in order to sadistically watch them fight before killing them:
The gas chamber has two windows, one on either side. The raccoon and the adult cat started fighting. Then they turned the gas on. The adult cat got on one corner and the raccoon got on the other, and as soon as they turned on the gas, the kitten started shaking and going into convulsions.
For further reading:
What you can do:
This week, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives condemning the use of the gas chamber and calling for its abolition:
I am pleased to introduce this resolution with the support of several of my constituents to bring more attention to this unnecessarily gruesome practice of using gas chambers to kill shelter animals. I am hopeful that with the continued advocacy of compassionate citizens, we can put an end to this outdated practice.
Though welcome, H.R. 736 is not binding on the states. We must outlaw the gas chamber either locally or statewide. Learn more at Rescue Five-O where you will find a model law that includes language banning the gas chamber, a guide to local political lobbying, as well as a guide to introducing, lobbying for and passing statewide legislation to get such a law passed.
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