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.
For Further Reading:
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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.
For further reading:
Learn how you can fight back and win by clicking 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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February 22, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
When animal lovers learn about the tragic reality of cruelty and killing that is endemic at our nation’s “shelters,” and that the national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the ASPCA defend the killing and thwart reform efforts, the first—and the most logical—question that inevitably follows is: Why?
Why would organizations which were supposed to have been founded on the highest ideals of compassion become the biggest defenders of the animal abuse and killing which occurs daily in our nation’s so-called “shelters”? Exploring the historical, sociological and financial motivations behind the unlikely support these shelters receive from HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA, among others, Friendly Fire answers this often confounding question while telling the stories of animals who have become catalysts for change: Oreo, Ace, Patrick, Kapone, Hope, Scruffy, Jeri & Murray, and others.
Coming this Summer.
Friendly Fire is Nathan’s fourth book and Jennifer’s second. Learn more by clicking here.
January 30, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
There is no question that the effects of hoarding are tragic: animals wallow in their own waste, are denied food and water for long periods of time, do not get necessary veterinary care, are sometimes crammed into cages and do not receive walks or regular exercise, all of which results in tremendous suffering and death. Hoarding is cruel, painful, and abhorrent. But what does it have to do with rescue access laws and the No Kill movement? The answer is, not much. Nonetheless, it is a card those that are opposed to such laws like to play, as part of their fear mongering to defeat them. Their real concern is not the animals (if it was, they wouldn’t be neglecting and abusing the animals themselves or putting them under the constant threat of a death sentence). Instead, they are opposed to empowering rescuers who would be protected as whistle blowers if the laws are passed. Without such laws, rescue groups are afraid to complain about inhumane conditions or practices at shelters because if they did complain, they would not be allowed to rescue animals, thus allowing those inhumane conditions to continue.
Unfortunately, when hoarding cases are brought to the attention of authorities and these cases make the news, some hoarders claim to be “No Kill shelters” or “animal rescuers” as a means of escaping culpability. And the groups opposed to rescue rights laws exploit that. In reality, however, hoarders have nothing in common with true animal rescuers, individuals who have founded non-profit organizations, who must report annually to the Internal Revenue Service, their state’s Attorney General, and often a State Department of Charities bureau. They have a Board of Directors which oversees them, they maintain a network of volunteer foster homes, and make animals available for adoption to the public, unlike hoarders who refuse to let their animals go. Non-profit rescue organizations seek to provide animals with care that is the opposite of that inflicted on animals by hoarders; and often inflicted by shelters themselves, which are rife with neglect, abuse, and killing as well. (Imagine a place where animals do not get fed. Imagine a place where animals with painful injuries do not get the veterinary care they need. Imagine a place where animals are stuck in cages and forced to wallow in their own waste. Imagine a place where the animals’ food is dirtied by cat litter and even fecal material. Imagine a place filled with dead and dying animals simply discarded in the garbage. These behaviors are the textbook definition of hoarding, but they also adequately describe conditions animals across this nation must endure when they enter their local “shelter.”)
But that has not stopped organizations such as PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and others from protecting these shelters by making the argument that rescue groups are nothing more than hoarders in disguise in order to oppose the rescue rights laws currently pending in states across the country, which would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescue groups have offered to save them. They propose continued killing (the final solution) to a problem (rescuers might be hoarders) which, it turns out, isn’t really the problem.
Animal hoarding is the result of mental illness and is not as common as many animal protection organizations would have us believe. Psychologists estimate that only 2% of the population suffers from hoarding, and of those, not all of them “collect” animals—many collect inanimate objects. By contrast, killing is endemic to animal shelters in the U.S. In fact, killing is the number one cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States. At your “average” shelter, an animal has a 50% chance of being killed, compared to the rare chance of ending up with a hoarder. Of course, in places like Memphis, Tennessee, the odds are more extreme: as high as 80%. And when it comes to animals which are sent to rescue, they all have a 100% guarantee of being killed because rescue groups are only empowered to save those animals scheduled to be killed. So, there is a 100% chance the animal is killed vs. a slim to none possibility, they’ll end up with a hoarder. Is it really a difficult decision?
To suggest that we must protect animals from rescuers is backward thinking. If we care about saving animals, we must save them FROM shelters by putting them in the hands of RESCUERS. Moreover, logic and fairness—both to rescuers and the animals—demand that altruistic people who devote their time and energy to helping the animals who end up in our nation’s shelters stop being equated with mentally ill people who cause them harm. Animal rescuers seek to deliver animals from the type of cruelty and abuse that characterizes not only the care or lack thereof given to animals by hoarders, but, in reality, by many of our nation’s shelters as well.
Despite such fear mongering over a decade ago when California was the first state in the nation to consider such legislation, that provision has been an unqualified success, increasing the number of animals saved, without the downsides opponents claimed. Indeed, coupled with other modest shelter reforms, the number of dogs and cats killed in California shelters dropped from over 570,000 animals the year before the law was passed to roughly 328,000 the year after, a decline of almost 250,000 dogs and cats. And, the number of small animals saved, such as rabbits, also spiked according to an analysis by one of the largest law firms in the world. Indeed, that analysis not only concluded rescue rights in California was incredibly successful, it concluded such laws were necessary in other states.
Despite the fact that killing in shelters is so common and hoarding so rare, nonetheless the various bills and laws that make it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescuers are willing to save them have plenty of safe guards. These laws often exclude organizations with a volunteer, staff member, director, and/or officer with a conviction for animal neglect, cruelty, and/or dog fighting, and suspends the organization while such charges are pending. In addition, the bills pending in the U.S. this year require the rescue organization to be a not-for-profit organization, recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). As a result, they must register with the federal government, and with several state agencies, including in some cases, the Department of State, the Attorney General’s Office, and Department of Agriculture Division of Consumer Services, providing a number of oversight and checks and balances.
In fact, statewide surveys have found that over 90% of survey respondents who rescued animals but were not 501(c)(3) organizations would become so if this law passes, effectively increasing oversight of rescue organizations if these laws passed. Moreover, some of these laws specifically allow shelters to charge an adoption fee for animals they send to rescue organizations, which would further protect animals from being placed in hoarding situations. And, in New York, the bill would empower shelters to investigate these groups if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that there is neglect or cruelty going on. Finally, nothing in these laws require shelters to work with specific rescue groups. They are free to work with other rescue organizations if they choose and they are also free to adopt the animals themselves. What they cannot do, what they should not be permitted to do, is to kill animals when those animals have a place to go.
It is simply unethical to condone animals having a 100% guarantee of being killed because there is a rare possibility they might end up with hoarders. No one who cares about the lives of animals would believe that to be otherwise. So the conclusion is inescapable: the organizations that fight these bills are led by individuals who, quite simply, do not care. But if they do not care about animals, they should care about money. In the City and County of San Francisco, the cost savings associated with less killing and more live outcomes by partnering with rescue groups topped $450,000 in just one year. And that should appeal to even the small-minded, hard-hearted bureaucrats who run animal protection organizations for what appears to be one purpose and one purpose only: to make as much money as possible by hoarding the money meant to save animals. Or, as Captain Jack Sparrow says, to take what they can and give nothing back.
Not all pirates sail the seven seas.
January 18, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
A vital law to protect animals in California shelters is under siege. If the Governor succeeds in repealing parts of the Hayden Law, animals will be sentenced to certain death in shelters. But we can do something about it. We succeeded once before when the former Governor tried to repeal the law and we can do so again. Please contact the Governor’s Office and tell him, that as a California taxpayer and animal lover, you do not want the Hayden Law provisions to be repealed. (Contact information at the bottom of the post.)
If there was any doubt that the Humane Society of the United States has a singular mission when it comes to animals shelters, the Governor’s proposal to repeal part of California’s Hayden Law, shelter reform provisions to orient shelters toward lifesaving, should bring that doubt to an end. Its position on the Governor’s proposal is merely a continuation of a decades-long effort to defend poorly performing shelters and make the task of killing easier.
Whether it was helping shelters “construct and use a simple and inexpensive cabinet for [killing] dogs and cats with carbon monoxide,” telling shelters not to work with rescue groups, arguing that “being dead is not cruelty to animals,” fighting shelter reform in communities across the country, calling for the killing of two-week old puppies, legitimizing the killing of animals in “shelters,” lobbying to have the victims of abuse killed, or coordinating the defeat of state legislation that would have banned the gas chamber and outlawed discrimination against pit bulls and older animals, HSUS has been no friend to animals in shelters. And given that they opposed the initial enactment of the Hayden Law in 1998, it is no surprise that they are celebrating the repeal of some of its provisions.
When Governor Brown recently announced his intent to do so, he claimed that the provisions designed to protect animals from quick killing were no longer needed since shelters are doing everything they can to save animals already and would continue to do so even if the law mandating some of these things were repealed. And while he was offering that false rationale, there was HSUS, as they always are, applauding in agreement, embracing the Governor’s effort to set the clock back for California’s shelter animals 15 years.
Specifically, the Governor is asking the Legislature to repeal several provisions of the Hayden Law including the increase of California’s holding period from 72 hours to four days; the requirement that other species such as rabbits and guinea pigs be given the same protections as cats and dogs; the posting of lost and found lists so that more animals get home to their families; and the mandate to provide prompt and necessary veterinary care for sick and injured animals.
According to Jennifer Fearing, California coordinator for HSUS, these laws are not needed. She told the Sacramento Bee that, “The vast majority of shelters have adjusted to the new, longer holding periods, and they added space. Most of them are going to do those things anyway, because the paradigm has shifted.” Anyone who has ever visited the shelter in, say, Devore, California, the Central Valley which boasts some of the highest killing rates in the nation, or any of the other California shelters that kill animals before they can be reclaimed by their families or adopted into new homes, would know this is nonsense. And, I suspect, so does Fearing. But, in the end, whether she does or she doesn’t matters little. Regardless of whether her motivation is uncaring or ignorance, the fact remains that she has offered the Governor the political cover he needs to ensure that progress for shelter animals will never occur in California. By contrast, when former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to repeal the provisions in 2004, animal lovers across the state flooded his office with telephone calls, shutting down the switchboard until he relented.
Perhaps Fearing is trying to win him over for her own California bill, AB 1279, which would do nothing more than change California’s animal shelter laws to replace the word “pound” to “animal shelter,” “poundkeeper” to “animal shelter director,” and “destroy” to “humanely euthanize.” She is fighting for that law even though it wasn’t designed to help animals at all. In fact, it has the opposite intent: to excuse and exonerate those who harm them by codifying euphemisms that are designed to obscure the gravity of what we are doing to animals as a society, and thus make the task of killing easier. That bill has been held since last year. Whether that figures into her calculations or not, her position on the Hayden Law is unconscionable. And, once again, where HSUS refuses to protect shelter animals, California’s animal lovers must step up to the plate in their place. (See the call to action below.)
Here is what is at stake: Over ten years ago, then-Senator Tom Hayden, from the greater Los Angeles area, wanted to reform animal control shelters around the state, particularly those shelters in his home district of Los Angeles. His legislation had the potential to become the most significant piece of companion animal protection legislation in years. As one of its supporters noted:
With some notable exceptions, shelters have failed to provide hours the working public can visit the shelters for adoptions or redemptions of their companion animals. They have failed to provide adequate lost/found services. They have failed to keep records adequate to find pets within the system. They have failed to use freely offered microchip scanning services. They have failed to provide adequate veterinary health care for many animals. They have resisted working with the rescue/adoption community. They have failed to raise funds aggressively to promote lifesaving methods to spare the lives of placeable companion animals. They have used tax dollars to kill animals they didn’t have to accept in the first place (“owner-relinquished” pets) and to kill animals whose companion humans never even had a chance to locate them.
Our shelters have a very bad track record when it comes to adoption. In California in 1997 with a statewide human population of close to 33 million, only 142,385 cats and dogs were adopted from our shelters. The vast majority—576,097—were killed.
The legislation required, among other things, that animal control shelters in California give animals to rescue groups and No Kill shelters instead of killing them; provided incentives for shelters to remain open at least some evening or weekend hours so that working people and families with children in school could get to the shelters to reclaim lost pets or adopt new ones; set a statewide preference for adoption rather than killing; and sought to end the practice where animals surrendered by their “owners,” including healthy and highly adoptable kittens and puppies, were killed within minutes of arriving. It also modestly increased the time shelters were required to hold stray animals before killing them so that lost animals had an opportunity to be reunited with their families.
Shelters mired in killing, afraid of public scrutiny, and unwilling to work with rescue groups predictably opposed the measure. In addition to their desire to avoid being held accountable, their main objection was that the law made it illegal to kill an animal if a rescue group or No Kill shelter was willing to guarantee that animal a home through its own adoption program. This threatened to open up shelter killing and other atrocities to public scrutiny. As frequent visitors to the shelters, rescuers saw systemic problems and inhumane treatment of animals, but their access to animals was tenuous and many times hinged on not publicly disclosing concerns. Under the 1998 Animal Shelter Law, their right to take these animals is no longer legally premised on silence as to shelter practices and violations of the law.
Despite the opposition of shelters and their allies like HSUS, it made no sense to state legislators that taxpayers were spending money on killing animals when No Kill shelters and other private rescue agencies were willing to spend their own money to save them. Legislators also found that public shelters did not reflect the humane values of their constituents. And with holding periods among the lowest in the nation, too many animals were needlessly being killed before their families had a chance to reclaim them. Not surprisingly, the proposed bill passed the legislature with overwhelmingly bipartisan support—ninety-six to twelve—and the state’s Republican governor signed the measure into law.
The reaction was strong and swift. The County of Los Angeles fought the measure through a regulatory challenge, replete with bloated figures and misleading claims. The County claimed the law would be too expensive to implement, a claim debunked by the California Department of Finance. In fact, financial analyses by the California State Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and the California Department of Finance showed that implementation of the Hayden Law would reduce sheltering costs because of cost-savings attributable to increased adoption and reduced killing.
Nonetheless, kill shelters claimed that the “longer” holding periods, which would give people a chance to find their lost pets or for the pets to be adopted into new homes, would lead to the increased killing of other animals. That argument was also a red herring: the law did increase the holding period from a paltry seventy-two hours from the time of impound to four days if the shelter was open one evening a week or one weekend day.
When California’s holding period was 72 hours, there was only one state with a shorter holding period—Hawaii—with a 48-hour holding period. When California increased the holding period, it joined the bottom six states in the country in terms of holding period. By national standards, California’s new holding period was far from generous. Nonetheless, HSUS joined the chorus of killing shelters against the longer periods, even though the four day holding period was less than their own recommendation of five days it had long suggested shelters voluntary follow.
Tragically and illegally, some shelters simply refused to implement either the letter or spirit of the new law. Kern County’s municipal animal control shelter, an agency tasked with enforcing animal-related laws, for example, chose to ignore and violate the law. There, killing illegally continued until a local activist filed a lawsuit to stop it in 2004, six years after passage of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law. Unfortunately, Kern County does not appear to be an isolated incident. Sacramento County animal control was also the target of a lawsuit for illegally killing animals before their caretakers could find them, for not making them available for adoption, and for failing to keep records on thousands of others. And the County of Los Angeles signed a stipulation in a lawsuit against it that it would no longer thwart it. Since some shelters had to be sued to follow the provisions when they had the force of law, how can HSUS claim that shelters will continue to follow them even if they are repealed?
But it was the regulatory challenge filed by Los Angeles that may prove the law’s death knell. In California, the State Legislature cannot impose an unfunded mandate. Despite the analyses by the Legislature, Governor, and Department of Finance, the Commission on State Mandates ruled that some provisions of the law were not enforceable unless the State paid for them. While some of the provisions of Hayden survived the challenge (the provision making it illegal to kill animals if rescue groups are willing to save them is not at risk because it was found to be revenue-positive), other provisions did not.
And until the recent budget crisis, those provisions have been funded by the state, even though local shelters have been submitting bloated figures as part of a feeding frenzy of the public treasury for years. In 2009, the State suspended payments, making the provisions unenforceable during the current budget crisis. Citing a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommending repeal, those are the provisions which the Governor now seeks to actually repeal, and do so with HSUS’ blessing.
But the LAO analysis favoring repeal is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. It says the provisions relating to the increased holding period are not necessary because holding animals longer does not lead to increased adoption because of pet overpopulation. Specifically, it says “Throughout the United States, there are many more animals in shelters than there are households looking to adopt pets. Partly because of this imbalance between supply and demand, roughly one–half of the animals entering shelters are euthanized.” Why hold animals if there are no homes available to adopt them?
The problem, of course, is that the opposite is true. Over 23 million people are looking to adopt pets, while three million are killed but for a home. If there is a supply-demand imbalance, it runs in the other direction. Moreover, even if the LAO analysis was right, the longer holding periods were designed for other reasons as well. The modest increases would increase the number of owned animals reclaimed by their families since, for example, some cat owners do not start looking for their cats for several days and arrive at the shelter too late under the 72 hour rule. The lost and found lists would do the same. They also give rescue groups more time to find foster homes for their animals so they can take them into their own adoption programs. And, in practice, the LAO analysis is wrong notwithstanding their erroneous assumption. Longer holding periods do lead to more adoptions, as evidenced by a sample of over 1,000 shelters nationwide. (Moreover, medical care for sick and injured animals is basic decency for suffering animals and meet a shelter’s obligation to return animals to their families in reasonable condition. In fact, California shelters have been required to provide basic medical care to animals since 1969.) Nonetheless, there was HSUS again citing the analysis as incontrovertible proof that the law is not needed. Fearing also told the Sacramento Bee, “That LAO analysis, it’s hard to overcome, because I agree.” She could not be more wrong.
But what does it matter if the provisions are repealed, if they have been suspended since 2010 and are unenforceable? Quite simply, as Professor Taimie L. Byrant of UCLA Law School stated, “permanently removing the ability for animals to share in future brighter economic times in California is unconscionable.” In other words, suspension is temporary, repeal is permanent. The latter would remove any chance that California’s sheltered animals would ever have of improved care and conditions even when the economy improves. When things do get better, shouldn’t animals share in that? Why should the blood bath continue indefinitely?
If the Governor succeeds, he will rob these animals of any hope for a brighter future. That would be unconscionable. That HSUS is nodding in agreement on the sidelines is also unconscionable. But we can do something about it. While HSUS champions the demise of Hayden, we can stand up and be the animals’ voice they now only pretend to be. We succeeded once before when the former Governor tried to do it and we can do so again.
In 2004, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to repeal the provision, but was forced to relent. When the Los Angeles Times reported in 2004 that “The hectoring barks of animal lovers convinced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reverse himself … and keep California’s law protecting stray dogs and cats at shelters,” they were reporting on the power of the people. We must teach the current Governor the same lesson. This is our state, these are our shelters, these are our values, and this is our will.
Rise, Californians. Rise and be heard before it is too late. Because if you don’t, the animals won’t stand a chance.
CALL Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841 (9 am to 5 pm)
FAX your letter of opposition (916) 558-3177
EMAIL the governor’s office at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php (choose BUDGET as subject).
POST to his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/jerrybrown
CONTACT him through his Twitter page at @JerryBrownGov
December 19, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
While the No Kill Advocacy Center celebrates the recipients of its Henry Bergh Leadership Award, given annually to a handful of individuals with an unwavering commitment to ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters, I am giving my own “award.”
Named for the late-Phyllis Wright of the Humane Society of the United States, the matriarch of today’s “catch and kill” paradigm, Wright once famously wrote, “I’ve put 70,000 dogs and cats to sleep… But I tell you one thing: I don’t worry about one of those animals that were put to sleep.”
She then described how she does worry about the animals she found homes for. From that disturbing view, HSUS coined a maxim that says we should worry about saving lives but not about ending them and successfully propagated this viewpoint to shelters across the country. The essay created an emotionally acceptable pretext for killing animals: shelter workers “were now ‘putting animals to sleep’” and the charade that “killing is kindness” became a national fixture.
The “award” is given to those who epitomize everything that is wrong with our broken animal “shelter” system: the pound directors who kill in the face of readily available alternatives they simply refuse to implement, the bureaucrats who excuse neglect and abuse in the pounds they “oversee,” or those who run organizations that fight lifesaving reforms, protecting and defending the killing and championing the killers.
The pound in Marlboro County, SC.
There were many, many contenders. In Waycross, GA, dogs were allowed to die of heatstroke because the shelter has no electricity for fans. Marlboro County, SC officials call it a “shelter,”but it looks more like a medieval dungeon. Not to be outdone, Janelle Dixon of the Animal Humane Society appears committed to raising more and more money but saving fewer and fewer animals, even killing animals in violation of law and holding the remains of a cat they killed hostage. The Michigan Humane Society told supporters it was saving all “adoptable” animals even while killing 68% of kittens and puppies and over 70% overall. It also took in animals from outside its jurisdiction from rescuers and other shelters as part of its “rescue” program, animals who in some cases were not in danger, only to put some of the poor creatures to death. And there are new allegations of widespread torture in the Calhoun County, AL pound. I could have also easily given the award to the uncaring bureaucrat who runs the Carroll County, GA “shelter” or any of the others across the country who find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it and who look the other way at widespread neglect and even abuse in their facilities. Chances are that such a person running such a “shelter” exists in your community. Such is the tragic state of animal sheltering in the U.S.
Nontheless, ten recipients will share the dishonor in 2011. Each represents a different ugly side of our broken animal “shelter” system. They are:
1. Ingrid Newkirk of PETA for seeking out and killing roughly 2,000 animals a year; for promoting the killing of animals based on arbitrary criteria, such as perceived breed; for defending poorly performing and even abusive “shelters;” for being the No Kill movement’s most vociferous enemy; and for convincing a generation of “animal rights” activists to embrace the “right”of people like her to kill animals.
One of many dogs found dumped in a trash can after being killed and thrown away by PETA several years ago. Some of the animals were healthy and in no danger of being killed, but PETA claimed they would find them homes only to put them to death within minutes. In 2011, all indications are that PETA’s deadly reign of killing continued unabated. Thanks to PETA, animal rights activists argue that it is wrong to kill cows and chickens, but it is perfectly acceptable–even necessary–to kill dogs and cats. Ridiculous.
2. Wayne Pacelle of HSUS for working with pro-killing organizations in Texas to help coordinate the defeat of legislation which would have mandated lifesaving collaboration and ended the cruel gas chamber; for being a cheerleader for killing shelters when he’s been tasked with being their watchdog; for embracing the most notorious dog abuser of our generation while calling for his canine victims to be killed (in 2011, Pacelle stated that Michael Vick would make a “good pet owner” and thus should be allowed to have access to dogs again); for preying on the emotions of animal lovers who are being misled into supporting his organization; and for betraying the cause he’s pledged to protect.
A spokesman for HSUS, Michael Vick shot dogs, drowned dogs, electrocuted dogs, hanged dogs, and beat dogs to death. He has never expressed remorse. Wayne Pacelle has championed Vick, said he would make a good dog owner, fraudulently fundraised off of Vick’s victims while calling for them to be killed.
3. Ed Sayres of the ASPCA for killing animals who have a place to go; fighting shelter reform legislation thus ensuring the deaths of tens of thousands of animals who also have a place to go; for claiming to “save” animals, then fundraising off of them before shipping them off to kill shelters; for fighting No Kill reform efforts in communities across the country such as Austin and referring to those working to fix our abusive shelter system as “extremists;” and also for defending and even promoting killing shelters and preying on the emotions of animal lovers who are being misled into supporting his organization.
The number of animals put to death who rescue groups could and would have saved since Sayres and his team at the ASPCA killed legislation which would have made it illegal for New York shelters to kill animals who have a place to go would fill every seat at Fenway Park.
4. Sam Parker, Sheriff of Chesterfield County, SC for overseeing a pound where dogs were alleged to have been used for target practice and cats were alleged to have been beaten to death with pipes. He has also allowed animals to languish in cruel conditions.
Sheriff Parker’s team used dogs as target practice, beat cats to death with pipes, and allow cruel conditions to continue. From the standpoint of the animals who depend on him, he may just be the worst sheriff in America.
5. AC Wharton, Mayor of Memphis, TN for overseeing a pound rife with neglect, abuse, staffed by felons and those with ties to dog fighting rings. And rather than reform the shelter, he violates the constitutional rights of critics and removes the cameras which were the only form of external oversight that kept animals from being more viciously neglected and abused. From the standpoint of the animals, he may just be the worst mayor in America.
Under Mayor Wharton, the pound is a badly mismanaged house of horrors where roughly eight out of every 10 animals are put to death; where known felons have committed animal cruelty; and where animals have been neglected and abused by those who were supposed to protect them.
6. Roseann Trezza of the Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey for overseeing a shelter with horrendous conditions, as documented over the years by state inspectors; for refusing to implement lifesaving programs such as foster care; and in 2011, for betraying “Patrick,” the abused pit bull who captured the heart of a nation, by referring to him as a “a very valuable brand for commercial exploitation and fundraising” and suing those who want to give him the life and love he deserves.
A dead dog, teeming with blood and maggots, at the Associated Humane Societies “shelter.” Although this photograph was taken by state inspectors in 2009, the “shelter” has a history of neglect and corruption dating back years. In 2011, they sued those who want to give the abused dog Patrick the life he so richly deserves, arguing that he is not a dog, but a “trademark” who is a “very valuable brand for commercial exploitation and fundraising.”
7. Dawn Blackmar of Harris County TX Animal Control for overseeing a pound that allows animals to suffer and die, despite lifesaving alternatives, kills animals cruelly, and kills animals in front of other animals, including puppies in front of their mother. Hope’s Law, which would have protected animals from Blackmar’s abusive brand of sheltering, was named after an injured dog Blackmar allowed to suffer and die, despite rescue group offers to rescue him and/or pay for his medical care. In another case, a live dog was thrown in the trash and chewed his way out of several garbage bags he was tied up in. Despite offers to save him, Blackmar put him to death.
There was no hope of saving “Hope” because of Blackmar’s uncaring and medieval brand of sheltering.
8. Patty Mercer of the Houston SPCA for overseeing a shelter that kills animals based on arbitrary criteria; “rescues” animals for fundraising purposes from disasters outside her jurisdiction only to put some of them to death or kill local animals to make room; and for an inexcusable commitment to killing in the face of alternatives. Hope’s Law, the Texas Companion Animal Protection Act, would have stopped her from killing dogs because she claims they look like “pit bulls,” killing animals when rescue groups are willing to save them, and would have required her to make her killing statistics public, which she refuses to do. In 2011, the Houston SPCA was part of a group of killing organizations which successfully defeated this vital lifesaving legislation (the law would have also ended the use of the cruel gas chamber in Texas).
Under Mercer’s leadership, any dog who “looks” like a pit bull is summarily executed.
9. Monica Hardy, on behalf of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, of which she serves as Executive Director. THLN was the primary force behind the defeat of Hope’s Law in Texas which would have mandated collaboration (Texas pounds would not have been able to kill animals if rescue groups were willing to save them), transparency (taxpayers and donors would have had a right to know how the shelters they fund are doing by requiring them to post their statistics), fairness (it would have been illegal to kill animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, color, and age) and would have ended horrendous suffering (it would have been illegal to kill animals using the cruel gas chamber). Thanks to THLN, the bill died, and the animals continue to die along with it, often cruelly.
Thanks to THLN, where Hardy serves as Executive Director, Texas shelters are allowed to use cruel methods of killing. A bill which would have made it illegal, and also made it illegal for them to kill animals based on arbitrary criteria such as how they look or when rescue groups were willing to save them, was defeated by Hardy’s organization.
10. Bruce King who oversees the horrendous shelter in Detroit, MI. In 2011, an abused dog named “Ace” was rescued by a good Samaritan who thought he was doing the right thing by calling the local shelter. Despite the fact that Ace had a place to go, with rescue groups offering to save him, and despite a court order prohibiting King and his team from killing Ace, the dog was put to death anyway. King claimed that if he allowed Ace to be rescued, rescuers would want to save other dogs and he could not allow that to happen. King appears to be a hard-hearted, small-minded bureaucrat who finds killing easier than doing the minimum amount necessary to stop it, including letting others save dogs he simply refuses to.
Ace was put to death despite rescue group offers to save him and a court order which demanded that King not do so. King stated that if Ace is allowed to be rescued, rescuers would expect to be allowed to save other dogs, too and he could not allow that to happen.
Someday soon, as the No Kill movement becomes more successful, the number of recipients of the Henry Bergh Leadership Award will balloon, while those who receive the Phyllis Wright Award will plummet. Sadly today, we have the inverse. And there were many more contenders.
Conditions in New York City’s abusive pound. While this continues, pound director Julie Bank fires volunteers who speak out.
Killing is the norm. And as long as those like the recipients above hold the regressive views that they hold, champion the draconian policies that they champion, and defend the needless slaughter they defend, animals will continue to pay the price with their very lives, long past the time we discovered the keys to ending their plight.