HSUS Lobbies for Animals to Die

March 3, 2014 by  

Violating Commitment to the No Kill Advocacy Center That It Would No Longer Do So


Part two in a three-part series on the No Kill Advocacy Center’s Companion Animal Protection Act (by Nathan & Jennifer Winograd).

For Part I, click here.

This week, a committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives will vote on HF 391, the Minnesota Companion Animal Protection Act. The bill would ban the use of the cruel gas chamber, ban the excruciatingly painful method of killing by heart sticking, prohibit shelters from killing animals when there are empty cages, make it illegal to kill animals when rescue groups are willing to save them, and end the practice of killing “owner surrendered” animals within minutes of arrival without ever giving them a chance at adoption.

Introduced at the behest of Minnesota’s oldest No Kill Shelter, Animal Ark, this bill provides legal protections for animals that are already saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals in two states where similar provisions have already been put into place. In California, just one provision of the shelter reform law saves the lives of over 46,000 animals in that state every year, while the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act, passed in 2010, has reduced killing in that state by 78%. (HSUS did not support either of these efforts.) Yet despite its vast lifesaving potential and support from the most progressive animal protection groups in Minnesota, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) asked the legislative sponsor to table the bill. Why? For one reason and one reason only: their relationship with the regressive Minnesota-based Animal Humane Society which does not want a bill regulating shelters to pass in their state.

In doing so, HSUS has once again shown that when it comes to animals in shelters, they are first and foremost lobbyists for the directors of kill shelters and not advocates for the animals those shelters kill. Although the opposition in Minnesota is tragic, it is still somewhat surprising in light of recent assurances to me by HSUS that it would no longer seek to curtail shelter reform legislation. Despite the fact that HSUS had worked to kill similar bills in Texas, New York, Florida, and elsewhere, I was more optimistic about shelter reform legislation succeeding in Minnesota because two HSUS representatives—a Board member and Jennifer Fearing, the person in charge of sheltering policies for HSUS—personally assured me at a meeting in San Francisco just over a month ago that the days of HSUS claiming “neutrality” (a sham in and of itself given it benefits the status quo) but then working to kill shelter reform legislation were over. They shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and promised it would come to an end, only to violate that promise a few weeks later at the first opportunity, stabbing the animals straight in the back.

Under direct orders from Fearing and in violation of the agreement she made with the No Kill Advocacy Center, Howard Goldman, senior director for HSUS in Minnesota, urged the sponsoring legislator to drop the bill. In hopes of getting some relief for the animals being systematically killed in Minnesota shelters, the House legislative sponsor asked for a meeting with HSUS to better understand the source of HSUS’ opposition. HSUS entered the meeting side by side with a representative of the Animal Humane Society, a kill shelter committed to defeating CAPA. Representative Benson asked HSUS for suggested amendments to the language to get their support. They declined. He asked them to pick any parts of the bill they could support, such as the gas chamber and heart sticking ban, and he would strike the rest of the provisions and proceed with those sections only. Again, HSUS declined. Instead, they asked that the bill be tabled.

Publicly, HSUS has stated that it is against the gas chamber, against heart sticking, for rescue rights, believes in transparency, supports bifurcated holding periods, and that all animals should be held for a period of time. Collectively, these are the very changes mandated by Minnesota CAPA, which they oppose. Of course, those public statements are designed for just that: public consumption. And public consumption means donation dollars. But when it comes to its private actions, when it comes to meetings behind closed doors with legislators where taking a stand has a life and death difference, HSUS sides with those who want to continue killing with impunity. And if they get their way in Minnesota, that is exactly what will continue to happen: animals will continue to die and die cruelly. They will continue to be killed when there are empty cages and despite rescue groups willing to save them. And they will continue to be marched from the front counter where they are surrendered straight to the kill room and then into garbage bags to await transport to a landfill.

Read my letter written on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center in support of Minnesota CAPA by clicking here.

For a copy of CAPA, click here.

For a guide on how to pass humane legislation, click here.

Next Up, Part III: Delaware is on the verge of ending the systematic killing of animals in all its shelters. But not everyone is happy. Delaware Naysayers are claiming CAPA is a failure despite the massive reduction in the kill rate. Why? One of their primary arguments is that shelters are no longer able to round up and kill cats. Yes, you read that right. I will explain why this and other criticisms of CAPA misrepresent the provisions of the bill and its outcomes.


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Holding Period Legislation

December 17, 2013 by  

From the No Kill Advocacy Center:


In September 2013, the No Kill Advocacy Center issued a position paper in response to the California Sheltering Report written by the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and other shelter lobbying organizations and shelters, warning of the dangers associated with many of those recommendations: http://bit.ly/184Rlm9. That report, while at long last finally admitting to the efficacy of various lifesaving programs which these organizations opposed for many years, stated that whether or not shelters chose to implement alternatives to killing should be left up to the discretion of the individual shelters; in their own words: they “remain at the discretion of each community to choose whether and how to implement.”

At the same time, these groups made several recommended changes to current, widespread shelter policies such as the reduction and, in some cases, elimination of holding periods which, without the lifesaving infrastructure and philosophical reorientation of shelters away from killing in favor of lifesaving, would prove deadly. We predicted that many shelters would cherry pick which recommendations issued in the report to follow, choosing to implement those which expand their powers and discretion to kill while entirely ignoring those which would save lives. Specifically, we wrote,

Communities are not free to cherry pick some while ignoring others, as to do so leaves particular groups of animals entering shelters with no protections or alternatives to killing… As a result, regressive shelters are likely to adopt only those provisions, like the licensing scheme, which empower them to impound even more animals. After being told they need not also implement the programs that provide an alternative to killing for the additional impounded animals, this proposal has the potential to exacerbate, rather than lessen, shelter killing; while shielding shelters from public scrutiny as they acted within the guidelines of the stakeholder group.

Tragically, this dire prediction has come to pass.

Right now, and as a direct result of the California Sheltering Report, shelters nationwide are seeking to eliminate or reduce holding periods for cats, one of the report’s recommendations, even though holding periods are often the one and only protection cats have in shelters. Ignoring those parts of the report which suggest the implementation of lifesaving policies and procedures, shelters are seeking not to include them, as we describe in a subsequent report: http://bit.ly/1kgJNxK.

Although billed as an effort to get cats adopted faster, experience proves it would have the opposite effect: allowing more cats to be killed and to be killed quicker. In fact, cats would be killed before their families actually begin looking for them; in some cases, before a family even knows he/she is missing. Nothing in the proposal requires shelters to make cats available for adoption after the shortened (and in some cases eliminated) holding period, but it will give the shelters full authority to kill them and that is what it will do. How do we know they will do this? Because that is what these shelters are already doing to animals who are not subject or no longer are on holding periods such as cats surrendered by their families and stray cats after their holding periods expire. Eliminating this protection would not only seriously limit and even eliminate the opportunity for people to reclaim their lost animals, for many animals, it would mean quicker and often immediate killing the moment they enter a shelter. This is not only a betrayal to animals, but to their families and to the taxpayers who fund these institutions in order to provide a safety net of care for stray and lost animals.

Holding periods are important. They allow people the opportunity to reclaim their missing animals, one of the primary purposes of shelters. Nationwide, animal lovers are seeking to lengthen, not reduce, their state’s mandated holding periods, on the understanding that doing so is vitally important to protect lost pets. Indeed, it is a fundamental precept that holding periods should never be shortened. To the contrary, they need to be longer in many states. However, we can address the professed rationale of quicker adoptions by making holding periods more flexible without simultaneously placing cats in greater mortal peril. By bifurcating holding periods, cats can be adopted out more quickly, without eviscerating the minimal protections cats and their human families have in holding periods.

We also suggest additional language that would give shelters the discretion to transfer animals to a rescue group immediately upon impound, with the same rights of reclamation for the “owner” as if the animal was still in the shelter. This frees up scarce kennel space, without giving pounds a “quick kill” provision as current proposals do. It also shifts the cost of care from taxpayer to private philanthropy. In other words, the animals would remain in the “constructive” custody of the pound while being held in a foster home, private shelter, or rescue group during the reclaim portion of the state mandated holding period; but taxpayers would incur none of the cost. Finally, we suggest that the holding period not come into play in cases where cats are taken in for purposes of sterilization and are then returned.

Excluding laws imposed by health departments regarding the use of controlled substances, the disposition of rabid and potentially aggressive animals and mandated holding periods, shelter directors in this country have essentially unlimited discretion as to how they operate their facilities. If a shelter director decides to kill each and every animal even if there are empty cages, it is legal for him to do so. If a non-profit rescue organization wants to save an animal on death row at a shelter, the shelter director has the authority to deny the group the ability to do so, and they frequently do. Likewise, shelter directors can kill orphaned kittens and puppies rather than work with volunteers who want to provide foster care. They can ban volunteers from walking dogs and socializing cats. And they can limit the number of hours they are open to the public for adoptions, or have hours that make it difficult for working people to reclaim their lost animals or adopt new ones. In short, there are very few checks and balances to ensure that our shelters are run in line with the most up-to-date sheltering policies and procedures. Instead, our shelters are run on the honor system, and it is a discretion shelter directors abuse time and again by failing to implement readily available lifesaving alternatives or to work cooperatively with those who want to help them save lives. To shorten holding periods in this environment is a death sentence. In many shelters, holding periods are often the only thing standing between life and death for an animal.

A mandated, bifurcated holding period, by contrast, will help increase reclaims, rescues, and adoptions. Combined with a very narrow exception for irremediably suffering animals, rigorously defined, it will accomplish the stated goals, without also imperiling the lives of animals. In fact, it would save lives and it would save money—a “win” for taxpayers and a “win” for the animals. In other words, it would solve problems rather than just create new ones.

That these shelters are rejecting these compromises suggests that they are not sincere in their desire to save more cats. Without protective language, these proposals should be opposed.


The required holding period for stray animals shall be five business days, not including the day of impoundment: animals shall be held for owner redemption during the first two days of the holding period and shall be available for owner redemption, transfer, and adoption for the remainder of the holding period. The holding period expires once the animal is redeemed, transferred or adopted, except as follows:
(a) The requirements of this provision do not apply to cats who are impounded for purposes of sterilization and are then returned.
(b) Shelters may transfer animals at any time after impound to a non-profit rescue group, a private shelter, or an organization formed for the prevention of cruelty to animals as long as potential owners are afforded the same rights of reclamation as if the animal was still in the shelter.

The required holding period for an owner relinquished animal impounded by public or private sheltering agencies shall be the same as that for stray animals. The holding period expires once the animal is redeemed, transferred or adopted as follows:
(a) The animals shall be available for owner redemption, transfer, and adoption for the entirety of the holding period.
(b) The requirements of this provision do not apply to cats who are impounded for purposes of sterilization and are then returned.

To download a copy, click here.


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Legislating a Double Standard

December 6, 2013 by  

To some animal protection groups our relationships with our animals don’t matter; only theirs do.

This is our cat, Kenny. He is the Mayor of Kenny Town, our home:


He was found on the streets of Oakland as a 10-day old kitten and we bottle fed him:

I’m his mama. In fact, all I have to do is say “come to mama” and he starts purring, wraps his paws around my neck, and sticks his little face into my chin. I love him. I love him. I. Love. Him.

Many of you have your own Kenny, too. A cat who means the world to you. Now imagine that through carelessness or accident or a small child, a door to the home or yard where you live is left open and your cat gets out and somehow ends up in the shelter. Now imagine that you get home from work and immediately go to the shelter to look for him, only to find out that she or he has been adopted to someone else and you can never get him back. In fact, you will never be allowed to see him again. Why? Because the law in the state where you live has been changed to allow shelters to adopt them out right away, with no redemption period whatsoever to allow you the time to notice your animal is missing, and to go to the shelter to get him safely back home.

Think about it, before you are even afforded the opportunity to realize that your cat is missing, indeed before you even got home from work that day, your cat is no longer yours. That is what Maddie’s Fund, HSUS, the ASPCA, shelters across California, and even some rescue groups are proposing in this state. That is what Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program is proposing for a Florida community. That is what Dr. Kate Hurley of the UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program is advocating. And other shelters are picking up the call to deny you the right to reclaim your animal from the local shelter, as well.

That this is an obvious threat to the deep and meaningful relationship between people and their cats must be pointed out to groups which have grown astronomically wealthy trumpeting the value of the “human-animal bond” adds another layer of absurdity to the already bewildering necessity of this discussion. Yet here we are.

David Duffield started Maddie’s Fund as a way to honor the love and companionship of his little dog, Maddie. If you asked the head of the other organizations, they would also offer similar stories about their own animal companions. We all have our Maddie’s. Animals who mean the world to us. Animals who help us through difficult or challenging times. Animals who teach us the meaning of unconditional love and who’s passing will leave us with an empty hole we can never fill. But to them, our relationships with our animals don’t matter; only theirs do.

HSUS, Maddie’s Fund, the ASPCA, UC Davis, the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, and other cat “protection” groups and cat “advocates” believe your love and your relationship with your cat are meaningless and are not worth even a single day to find him/her if she gets lost. It is obscene, tragic, and wrong.

There is a parallel effort to shorten holding periods to kill them quicker. Here are their proposals: http://bit.ly/1kgJNxK


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

The “Deeply Superficial” Views of HSUS

September 27, 2013 by  


After opposing many of the programs of the No Kill Equation for decades, the Humane Society of the United States finally admits that those programs are necessary to save lives. But they then turn around and tell shelters they don’t have to implement them if they do not want to. And they tell activists not to seek laws that will force shelters to do so. In effect, they are telling shelters to go ahead and kill animals if that is what they want to do.

Read “HSUS Tells Animal Shelters: Go Ahead and Kill Animals if You Want,” my latest article in The Huffington Post by clicking here.

Photo: The “feral cat” pen at a GA shelter. HSUS now says that programs like TNR are vital, but they should “remain at the discretion of each community to choose whether and how to implement.” This shelter “chose” not to implement TNR and killed these cats.


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Pacelle: Open Admission is Inhumane

September 24, 2013 by  


For the second time this month, HSUS admits that “open admission” is inhumane for healthy cats when the end result is killing. In a blog about community cats by Wayne Pacelle, it is claimed that if shelters are going to take in healthy cats and kill them, it is better not to take them in. The truth is that there is no such thing as an “open admission” kill shelter as they are CLOSED to people who love animals, CLOSED to people who might have lost their job or lost their home but do not want their animals to die, CLOSED to Good Samaritans who find animals but do not want them killed, and CLOSED to animal lovers who want to help save lives but will not be silent in the face of needless killing. And so they turn these people and their animals away. Nonetheless, it is an important step forward because, at least for healthy cats, one of the great lies of the kill shelter industry, that “open admission is more humane” even when it results in killing, has fallen. The change in rhetoric is more evidence that the No Kill movement has so successfully changed the terms of the debate, HSUS is finally starting to admit that the problem lies with the shelters themselves—a literal about-face from the positions HSUS has unequivocally and historically advocated. If the current blog is a shot across the bow to killing shelters that HSUS is moving away from defending shelters that kill animals to defending animals who shelters kill, I welcome it. Unfortunately, it is too soon to say that it is. And Pacelle’s blog is still wrapped in some antiquated dogma about cats, still far behind where the No Kill movement is today, and is notable as much for what it refuses to say, as it is for what it has no choice but to finally admit. I review and comment on his blog below, a copy of which was mailed to Pacelle.

Are We Herding and Hurting Cats?
Wayne Pacelle
September 12, 2013

Every now and then our movement has an “aha” moment – when new information emerges or new thinking causes us to question long-held assumptions, or even how we approach the complex challenges facing animals in our society.

Wayne, since nothing here is “new information,” you are either being dishonest or admitting that you have failed to keep pace with 20 years of dynamic and exciting changes that have occurred in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement. As I do not believe you will ever admit you have chosen to sacrifice the lives of animals while remaining willfully ignorant, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the former. The truth of the matter is that while your shift in positions is welcome, it is not the result of “new” information. These are views and arguments No Kill advocates have been making for decades and imploring you to adopt for just as long. What has changed is that the position you have historically taken on this issue is no longer tenable in light of the fact that the grassroots rescue community and hundreds of shelters nationwide have moved ahead without HSUS, embracing these views in spite of your opposition and therefore no longer regarding HSUS as an “expert” who should be deferred to for guidance. Claiming to be an organization that represents the best interest of animals while tenaciously supporting a century-old form of animal sheltering entrenched in killing cannot be reconciled with an American public that rejects that killing. With three out of four Americans already believing it should be illegal to kill animals in shelters unless those animals are suffering or dangerous (and the fourth likely confused by the claim you have historically made that killing is both necessary and proper), any organization hoping to maintain a “leadership” position on this issue must, by sheer economic necessity, evolve their position.


The issue is not complex. Killing a healthy or treatable cat has never been an act of love, kindness or necessity. It has always been an act of violence.

We had one such moment at The HSUS a few years ago, when during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, we saw so many intact dogs and cats in the Gulf Coast states. Rather than presume “pet owner irresponsibility,” we instead dug in to find out why – deploying researchers to conduct surveys and focus groups and to gather and examine data. What we learned from that research – notably that socioeconomics, resources and access to services were at the heart of the problem – ultimately formed the core principles behind our pioneering Pets for Life program. People in neighborhoods with high numbers of stray animals are as receptive as anyone else to responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering. Giving them the tools to act on their beliefs is the key to better outcomes.

Since the 1970s, when the City of Los Angeles established the first municipally funded spay/neuter program in the U.S., we have known that the biggest barriers to sterilization are cost and convenience. In fact, despite four municipal clinics running full time due to overwhelming demand, private vets were still performing 87% of all neutering in the City because the clinics were being used by poor people who could not otherwise afford to sterilize their animals. Since that time, numerous studies have come to the same conclusion: cutting the cost of sterilization increases the number of people who sterilize their animals. Are you seriously suggesting that you only figured this out in 2005? That would be an admission that HSUS only pretended to be an “expert” all those years. Or, as I suspect, are you simply employing a sophomoric rhetorical device to introduce a change in your historically regressive positions, rewriting history without an admission of wrong doing?

Our movement may be at the front-end of another “aha” moment with regard to how we respond to the un-owned outdoor cat population. When these so-called “community cats” arrive in shelters – whether brought there by nuisanced or well-meaning neighbors – their fate is often predetermined, and it’s not a good one. What’s more, the volume of cats coming into shelters isn’t enough to reduce the size of the cat population, and the only conclusion is that we aren’t doing much to help curb nuisances (You should not legitimize human intolerance by ascribing ill-motives to cats), cruelty (non sequitur), or predation on wildlife. The notion that cats are decimating wildlife populations has been thoroughly debunked for decades. Do we have to wait another 40 years until HSUS has an “aha” moment about this? When you ignore the data and continue to unfairly blame cats for predation on wildlife, you validate the ends of various anti-animal agendas which already exist, including those interest groups which currently scapegoat and call for mass extermination of community cats by unfairly blaming them for the environmental degradation caused by humans. The only time you should mention predation and cats at the same time is to debunk that agenda.

Dr. Kate Hurley, a veterinarian and the director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, joined me and several other sheltering leaders on stage at this year’s Animal Care Expo to take a deeper look at this situation – questioning whether the goals of animal shelters are met by the intake of otherwise healthy stray cats (Dr. Hurley penned the cover story in the current edition of Animal Sheltering magazine and recorded a Maddie’s Fund webinar on the same topic, which I recommend to you for further investigation).

I asked Dr. Hurley and her colleague, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, veterinarian and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA, to help me answer a few of the most common questions that have come up as we navigate toward a new paradigm for community cats – one that holds the potential to be better for cats, wildlife, and people.

Wayne Pacelle: Though total numbers have gone down over the last 40 years pretty dramatically, we are still euthanizing too many healthy and treatable dogs and cats in our country. Euthanasia rates vary by region, but increasingly, there is a widening gap between dogs and cats, in terms of outcomes for them. Cats are dying in shelters in big numbers, and especially so as a percentage of intake of cats. What’s behind this phenomenon?

Jennifer Scarlett: When we look at statewide data in California from 1998 to 2010, we see a trend of dog intake going down and dog adoption and transfer to rescue going up. The result is a 22 percent drop in dog euthanasia over that period. For cats, their intake was slightly higher in 2010 with negligible change in adoption or transfer to rescue. So with more coming in and fewer leaving, and a euthanasia rate of around 70 percent, the situation has not improved. We’ve applied the same techniques for dogs and cats in shelters and what we’re learning is that not only do we need to treat them very differently once they enter a shelter, but we also need to look at different methods for keeping healthy cats out of the shelter in the first place.

It is no coincidence that it was higher right after the Governor suspended the 1998 Animal Shelter Law that increased holding periods for cats so that they could be reclaimed and adopted before they were killed. Now, largely thanks to HSUS and its partnership with regressive California shelters, cats are killed within 72 hours of impound.

Kate Hurley: A lot of it likely has to do with ownership. The population of un-owned cats in the United States is estimated to be approximately the same size as the population of owned cats, yet historically shelter programs such as low-cost spay/neuter, public education and adoption programs have targeted animals with owners or those that could be placed into homes. Because the un-owned population of dogs is relatively small in the U.S., this strategy has been quite successful in many communities. However, for feral and un-owned cats, we need a different strategy.

Statements are not evidence. Admittedly, I used to believe this also, but the truth is that this is made up, like the HSUS statement that two unaltered cats results in 420,000 in seven years. The best data we have is that the number is probably closer to 15,000,000, a far cry from the 90 million companion cat population.

We have HSUS to blame for this as you have historically argued, and in fact continue to argue, that shelters should not be regulated and that they have a right to kill animals even in the face of readily-available, common-sense lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement.

WP: What shelter policies need to be revamped to turn this around? 

JS: The vision for shelters must be to provide a temporary safe haven for animals in need. The policy to get there is to balance our optional intake of animals (owner surrenders, healthy stray cats) with our ability to provide them with good care and positive outcomes.

While we agree that shelters should not take in healthy cats only to kill them and so we embrace the view that “open admission” is not better when the end result is killing, this view, while an improvement, is also based on outdated thinking. The fundamental lesson from the experiences of the now hundreds of cities and towns across the nation is that the choices made by shelter managers are the most significant variables in determining whether animals live or die. Several communities are more than doubling, and in some cases tripling, adoptions and cutting killing by as much as 75 percent and more—and it isn’t taking them five years or more to do it. They are doing it virtually overnight (the vast majority of communities with save rates between 90% and 99% achieved it in six months or less). They are proving that communities can quickly save the vast majority of animals once they commit to do so. In other words, shelters do not have to choose between killing cats or not taking them in as you suggest. They can take in cats and also save them. But since many prefer killing in the face of readily-available lifesaving alternatives, a “right” to kill you yourself have said shelters have, we’d rather they not take them in. Let’s not, however, continue to pretend they have no choice but to kill if they do. It’s as dishonest as your “aha” moments. 

KH: For years, shelters have struggled to control the un-owned cat population primarily through euthanasia. Now that we have better estimates of the size of the un-owned cat population, we realize that shelters have only been impacting a tiny fraction of the total population through euthanasia, not nearly enough to reduce the overall population size, not enough to protect public health, wildlife, reduce the cat population or serve any of the other goals we might have hoped to realize through this practice. Now that we understand this, shelters can set euthanasia aside as a tool to control cat populations and focus on other alternatives – most notably, shelter/neuter/return – where healthy un-owned cats that would not be candidates for adoption are sterilized, vaccinated for rabies, ear-tipped and returned to the same location where they were found. Shelters can also help community members find strategies to co-exist with cats peaceably, just as we do with other creatures such as raccoons and opossums that might make an unwanted appearance in somebody’s back yard.

WP: Where do we start in making these changes, and what obstacles do you expect in trying to implement these ideas?

JS: There isn’t a ‘one-size fits all’ solution. (This is not true. Every community that has ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals has done so by implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. Once again, please do not make us wait several decades while animals continue to die needlessly for you to have an “aha” moment about this.) To begin, each shelter has to take an objective look at their capacity to provide positive outcomes for the animals that enter their facility. The common thread is to reduce intake, but the tactics for change can run the spectrum from managed intake to diverting all healthy cat intake to neuter and re-release, depending on the community. I believe the first obstacle to tackle is within our profession. Making the shift to control shelter populations at the front door may be a huge cultural change for some communities. Leaders who decide this is the best solution for their community have to be ready to invest a lot of work and communication to get their staff’s buy-in, respond to the public’s concern, and be willing to work with local wildlife advocates. The good news is that results will be worth it.

See note above. While I agree that responsibly reducing intakes, such as through a pet retention program and TNR for community cats, is important, it should be implemented as part of a comprehensive embrace of the No Kill Equation. In other words, this is just one part of the total picture. You cannot continue to ignore what shelters can but are not doing to save cats once they are in their custody. Specifically, you fail to focus on three of the most important programs to save lives: increasing adoptions, getting more lost animals home (through proactive reclaim efforts), and keeping cats alive long enough to do both.

KH: I agree with Dr. Scarlett. One of the biggest obstacles for me, and I suspect for many others – both within the sheltering profession and for animal lovers and advocates in general – will be getting past the idea that admission to a shelter is always the best option for a cat who is homeless or whose owner can no longer keep him or her. For so long, it was commonly felt that shelters had to take every cat presented, as soon as it was presented, regardless of the shelter’s ability to provide humane care or ensure a good outcome. Anyone who has worked a summer in a shelter can tell you this is stressful for staff and volunteers, as well as cats! Instead, we need to consider each cat’s unique circumstances and balance these with what is happening at each shelter on any given day. When admission of a cat would cause over-crowding, poor conditions for cats in the shelter, or result in euthanasia of the newly admitted cat or another already in the shelter, then cats, shelters and communities are better served by finding alternative solutions. This could range from simply scheduling an appointment rather than immediately admitting the cat; to admitting the cat for sterilization, vaccination, and return to its habitat; to offering a community member or owner other alternatives to shelter intake, such as utilizing low-cost spay/neuter resources in the community, using non-lethal deterrents to resolve nuisance problems, behavioral counseling, neighbor mediation, or any number of solutions we can offer when systems are not overwhelmed. 

Wayne, I welcome the philosophical orientation away from the notion that in order to reduce shelter killing, we must reform the public rather than those who are actually doing the killing. I also welcome the admission that “open admission” is not better when the end result is the killing of cats. Better late than never. However, you are claiming that your thinking has changed based on “new” information and since you know that isn’t true, it continues a pattern of duplicity.

Second, you are still speaking from both sides of your mouth: on the one hand saying outdoor cats should be left alone rather than impounded and killed, and, on the other, implicating outdoor cats as a “nuisance,” suggesting that it is cruel for community cats to live outside, and blaming cats for impacting wildlife populations, none of which is true or based on evidence.

Third, you are making the claim that it is better for shelters not to take in healthy community cats because if they do, they will have no choice but to kill them. That is not the choice presented. Shelters can take them in and also save them, as hundreds of communities across the country have proved.

Fourth, you need to stop pretending that a solution to shelter killing does not already exist. It does. See the No Kill 101: http://bit.ly/13EOPQU

Finally, it isn’t enough to quote others who say these things as a means of insulating yourself from any backlash by your regressive shelter colleagues. We need to hear it from your mouth. Say it Wayne: “shelters should never kill healthy and treatable cats.” Let it be your words, not just Kate Hurley’s.

Despite all these shortcomings, if this, and the companion California Sheltering Report (see http://bit.ly/184Rlm9), are a shot across the bow to killing shelters that HSUS is moving away from defending shelters that kill animals to defending animals who shelters kill, I welcome it. I would just ask that you not make us wait 40 years to do so, like your Katrina “aha” moment about spay/neuter, because the longer you wait, the higher the body count.

Wayne, the truth is that the No Kill movement has moved beyond the superficial and defeatist hand-wringing of HSUS to recognizing that shelter killing is not an inevitability imposed onto helpless shelters, but a problem with a real solution. And we also recognize that if you were truly sincere and willing to take a principled stand, you’d stop speaking from both sides of your mouth. In other words, this isn’t the blog you would have written. What would you and HSUS do differently?

For one, you would report to the public and shelter administrators that No Kill has been achieved, require full implementation of the No Kill Equation nationwide, and demand the removal of shelter managers who refuse to do so. You would celebrate the communities that have achieved levels of No Kill success so that others could emulate their achievements. You would argue that No Kill is the only legitimate standard for animal sheltering and must be immediately embraced by all shelters. You would assist activists trying to reform their shelters rather than fighting them–even when doing so means confronting a shelter director who may be your friend or colleague. You would stop rewarding failing shelter directors with speaking engagements, with features in their magazines, with national awards, or with hundreds of thousands of dollars to be squandered. And you would invest some of your huge resources in lobbying for codification of No Kill into law, rather than fighting those efforts as you currently do.

That is how a leader, truly committed to the cause he is supposed to be championing, would behave. Instead, we get a modicum of progress swathed in a blanket of antiquated dogma that is still far behind where the No Kill movement is today: a statement that is notable as much for what it refuses to say, as it is for what it has no choice but to admit.

For further reading:

The Life of a Wild Cat

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

What if We Just Gave Them Away?


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

September 9, 2013 by  


The times they are a-changing. A stakeholder group made up largely of kill shelters throughout California and national groups like HSUS and the ASPCA which have long defended them (and continue to do so in many states) have written a white paper where they concede that,

  • “Open admission” is not better: That shelters should not take in healthy cats only to kill them. If they are going to kill them, it is better not to take them in. That shelters should switch to an appointment-based surrender system, rather than make surrendering animals a free-for-all.
  • That shelters should provide humane care and treatment, an admission that this is not the norm. In other words, the stakeholder group implicitly acknowledges that shelters do not treat animals kindly and they should.
  • That shelters should work with rescue groups rather than kill those animals.
  • That shelters should provide necessary medical care so that animals are not left in their facilities to suffer.
  • That shelters should embrace of neuter and release for cats as an alternative to catch and kill.

Overall, what is most encouraging about this paper is its philosophical orientation away from the notion that in order to reduce shelter killing, we must reform the public rather than those who are actually doing the killing. Because the No Kill movement has so successfully changed the terms of the debate, these groups are finally admitting that the problem lies with the shelters themselves—a literal about-face from the positions that these groups have unequivocally and historically advocated.

The white paper can be found by clicking here.

While we should celebrate this change in rhetoric as evidence of the incredible pressure these groups are now under as a result of our efforts, these proposals are rendered paper tigers. As has been historically been the case, these groups continue to act as lobbying organizations for shelter directors, rather than for the animals. Though the will and desire to end shelter killing already exists among the California public, a love and compassion that HSUS and the ASPCA should be harnessing to codify No Kill into law and thereby save the lives of millions of animals every year, these groups continue to ignore that potential and its inherent mandate, choosing instead to perpetuate the fiction that the way we reform our shelters is not through the force of law as every other movement for social justice has done, but by merely suggesting to those who are harming animals that they stop doing so.

In fact, the group turns around and tells shelters they are free to ignore their program recommendations; that they “remain at the discretion of each community to choose whether and how to implement.” Our shelters are already run on the honor system: these alternatives to killing are already available and are being widely ignored by most shelter directors in California. To save lives, we must work to remove the discretion that allows shelter directors to avoid doing what is in the best interest of animals and to kill them needlessly, not allow that discretion to continue. In addition, the groups continue to ignore the hundreds of No Kill communities across the county and the model they use to achieve it. Pretending otherwise, the groups cherry pick which programs they like and ignore others, even though No Kill success, their alleged goal, is not possible without comprehensive implementation of the missing programs.

A critical assessment of this issue and the other ways in which their white paper falls short written by the No Kill Advocacy Center can be found by clicking here.

Moreover, while they advocate working with rescue groups, neuter and release, and public disclosure of kill rates for California, HSUS and the ASPCA continue to fight similar provisions in other states. Why? HSUS and the ASPCA have local reps in different parts of the country who are given free rein to pursue their personal, regressive agendas while receiving little to no oversight from their organizational leaders. Wayne Pacelle and Mike Markarian of HSUS continue to be absentee landlords, at best (in reality, they are harmful empty suits).

Finally, the report focuses almost exclusively on limiting intakes. Except for neuter and release for community cats and working with rescue groups (which is already the law in California), they ignore what to do with the animals once they are in their custody. Specifically, they fail to focus on two of the most important programs to save lives: increasing adoptions and getting more lost animals home, through proactive reclaim efforts.

Ironically, in one area, they swing the pendulum too far. While I have long advocated for a bifurcated holding period for stray animals—where animals are held for reclaim during a short period of time, and then reclaim, adoption or transfer for the remainder, during which period they cannot be killed—the group called for allowing shelters to skip a reclaim period altogether and allow shelters to adopt or transfer even stray animals right away. In other words, if a dog or cat comes in as a stray, and he does not have identification, he can’t be killed which is good, but he can be adopted to someone else immediately without giving his family any time to reclaim him. This is unfair to families who deeply love and will lose their animal companions. Coupled with the fact that California’s holding period is already among the lowest in the nation, there is no reason why families cannot be given a reasonable period of time to reclaim an animal during the first part of the holding period, before the animal is then held for reclaim, adoption and/or transfer. Accidents happen; animals get lost and end up at shelters. Since the choice presented—immediate adoption or sickness/death—is a false one, breaking up families by having them lose all rights in their animal with no reclaim period of any kind is draconian.

But to pro-killing holdouts like PETA, to shelter directors who still peddle clichés to justify the killing while refusing to implement readily-available lifesaving alternatives, and to those who put their allegiance to these groups even when they betray the animals, the change in rhetoric is a harbinger of things to come. The veneer is peeling off the edifice of shelter killing as never before.  As such, the white paper is an important step in the right direction.

That it is still too many step backs from what the No Kill movement has already achieved simply means they still have a long, long way to go to catch up. But the message this paper sends to all of us in the No Kill movement is crystal clear: we are winning and must continue to mount the pressure that has so obviously left these groups with no choice but to try and evolve.

Read the California Shelter Report by clicking here.

Read the No Kill Advocacy Center’s response and alternative by clicking here.


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Shelter Killing Benefits Puppy Mills

May 14, 2013 by  

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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 PETAWayne Pacelle of HSUSMatt 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.

For further reading:

The Lie at the Heart of the Killing

The Enemy of Your Enemy

What’s In a Name?

Ethical Consistency for True Dog Lovers

Adopting Your Way Out of Killing

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Wayne Pacelle: PETA’s Puppet

April 11, 2013 by  

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.

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By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd

April 10, 2013

Wayne Pacelle
Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037

Dear Wayne,

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.

Peta death kit

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

And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902

Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.


The Myth of “Animal Welfare”

March 19, 2013 by  

“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.

For further reading:

ASPCA Donates to Kill Chickens

Is It All Its Cracked Up to Be?


Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.

What’s In A Name?

March 5, 2013 by  


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.


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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

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