February 22, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
When animal lovers learn about the tragic reality of cruelty and killing that is endemic at our nation’s “shelters,” and that the national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the ASPCA defend the killing and thwart reform efforts, the first—and the most logical—question that inevitably follows is: Why?
Why would organizations which were supposed to have been founded on the highest ideals of compassion become the biggest defenders of the animal abuse and killing which occurs daily in our nation’s so-called “shelters”? Exploring the historical, sociological and financial motivations behind the unlikely support these shelters receive from HSUS, the ASPCA and PETA, among others, Friendly Fire answers this often confounding question while telling the stories of animals who have become catalysts for change: Oreo, Ace, Patrick, Kapone, Hope, Scruffy, Jeri & Murray, and others.
Coming this Summer.
Friendly Fire is Nathan’s fourth book and Jennifer’s second. Learn more by clicking here.
January 30, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
There is no question that the effects of hoarding are tragic: animals wallow in their own waste, are denied food and water for long periods of time, do not get necessary veterinary care, are sometimes crammed into cages and do not receive walks or regular exercise, all of which results in tremendous suffering and death. Hoarding is cruel, painful, and abhorrent. But what does it have to do with rescue access laws and the No Kill movement? The answer is, not much. Nonetheless, it is a card those that are opposed to such laws like to play, as part of their fear mongering to defeat them. Their real concern is not the animals (if it was, they wouldn’t be neglecting and abusing the animals themselves or putting them under the constant threat of a death sentence). Instead, they are opposed to empowering rescuers who would be protected as whistle blowers if the laws are passed. Without such laws, rescue groups are afraid to complain about inhumane conditions or practices at shelters because if they did complain, they would not be allowed to rescue animals, thus allowing those inhumane conditions to continue.
Unfortunately, when hoarding cases are brought to the attention of authorities and these cases make the news, some hoarders claim to be “No Kill shelters” or “animal rescuers” as a means of escaping culpability. And the groups opposed to rescue rights laws exploit that. In reality, however, hoarders have nothing in common with true animal rescuers, individuals who have founded non-profit organizations, who must report annually to the Internal Revenue Service, their state’s Attorney General, and often a State Department of Charities bureau. They have a Board of Directors which oversees them, they maintain a network of volunteer foster homes, and make animals available for adoption to the public, unlike hoarders who refuse to let their animals go. Non-profit rescue organizations seek to provide animals with care that is the opposite of that inflicted on animals by hoarders; and often inflicted by shelters themselves, which are rife with neglect, abuse, and killing as well. (Imagine a place where animals do not get fed. Imagine a place where animals with painful injuries do not get the veterinary care they need. Imagine a place where animals are stuck in cages and forced to wallow in their own waste. Imagine a place where the animals’ food is dirtied by cat litter and even fecal material. Imagine a place filled with dead and dying animals simply discarded in the garbage. These behaviors are the textbook definition of hoarding, but they also adequately describe conditions animals across this nation must endure when they enter their local “shelter.”)
But that has not stopped organizations such as PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, and others from protecting these shelters by making the argument that rescue groups are nothing more than hoarders in disguise in order to oppose the rescue rights laws currently pending in states across the country, which would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescue groups have offered to save them. They propose continued killing (the final solution) to a problem (rescuers might be hoarders) which, it turns out, isn’t really the problem.
Animal hoarding is the result of mental illness and is not as common as many animal protection organizations would have us believe. Psychologists estimate that only 2% of the population suffers from hoarding, and of those, not all of them “collect” animals—many collect inanimate objects. By contrast, killing is endemic to animal shelters in the U.S. In fact, killing is the number one cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States. At your “average” shelter, an animal has a 50% chance of being killed, compared to the rare chance of ending up with a hoarder. Of course, in places like Memphis, Tennessee, the odds are more extreme: as high as 80%. And when it comes to animals which are sent to rescue, they all have a 100% guarantee of being killed because rescue groups are only empowered to save those animals scheduled to be killed. So, there is a 100% chance the animal is killed vs. a slim to none possibility, they’ll end up with a hoarder. Is it really a difficult decision?
To suggest that we must protect animals from rescuers is backward thinking. If we care about saving animals, we must save them FROM shelters by putting them in the hands of RESCUERS. Moreover, logic and fairness—both to rescuers and the animals—demand that altruistic people who devote their time and energy to helping the animals who end up in our nation’s shelters stop being equated with mentally ill people who cause them harm. Animal rescuers seek to deliver animals from the type of cruelty and abuse that characterizes not only the care or lack thereof given to animals by hoarders, but, in reality, by many of our nation’s shelters as well.
Despite such fear mongering over a decade ago when California was the first state in the nation to consider such legislation, that provision has been an unqualified success, increasing the number of animals saved, without the downsides opponents claimed. Indeed, coupled with other modest shelter reforms, the number of dogs and cats killed in California shelters dropped from over 570,000 animals the year before the law was passed to roughly 328,000 the year after, a decline of almost 250,000 dogs and cats. And, the number of small animals saved, such as rabbits, also spiked according to an analysis by one of the largest law firms in the world. Indeed, that analysis not only concluded rescue rights in California was incredibly successful, it concluded such laws were necessary in other states.
Despite the fact that killing in shelters is so common and hoarding so rare, nonetheless the various bills and laws that make it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescuers are willing to save them have plenty of safe guards. These laws often exclude organizations with a volunteer, staff member, director, and/or officer with a conviction for animal neglect, cruelty, and/or dog fighting, and suspends the organization while such charges are pending. In addition, the bills pending in the U.S. this year require the rescue organization to be a not-for-profit organization, recognized under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). As a result, they must register with the federal government, and with several state agencies, including in some cases, the Department of State, the Attorney General’s Office, and Department of Agriculture Division of Consumer Services, providing a number of oversight and checks and balances.
In fact, statewide surveys have found that over 90% of survey respondents who rescued animals but were not 501(c)(3) organizations would become so if this law passes, effectively increasing oversight of rescue organizations if these laws passed. Moreover, some of these laws specifically allow shelters to charge an adoption fee for animals they send to rescue organizations, which would further protect animals from being placed in hoarding situations. And, in New York, the bill would empower shelters to investigate these groups if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that there is neglect or cruelty going on. Finally, nothing in these laws require shelters to work with specific rescue groups. They are free to work with other rescue organizations if they choose and they are also free to adopt the animals themselves. What they cannot do, what they should not be permitted to do, is to kill animals when those animals have a place to go.
It is simply unethical to condone animals having a 100% guarantee of being killed because there is a rare possibility they might end up with hoarders. No one who cares about the lives of animals would believe that to be otherwise. So the conclusion is inescapable: the organizations that fight these bills are led by individuals who, quite simply, do not care. But if they do not care about animals, they should care about money. In the City and County of San Francisco, the cost savings associated with less killing and more live outcomes by partnering with rescue groups topped $450,000 in just one year. And that should appeal to even the small-minded, hard-hearted bureaucrats who run animal protection organizations for what appears to be one purpose and one purpose only: to make as much money as possible by hoarding the money meant to save animals. Or, as Captain Jack Sparrow says, to take what they can and give nothing back.
Not all pirates sail the seven seas.
January 18, 2012 by Nathan J. Winograd
A vital law to protect animals in California shelters is under siege. If the Governor succeeds in repealing parts of the Hayden Law, animals will be sentenced to certain death in shelters. But we can do something about it. We succeeded once before when the former Governor tried to repeal the law and we can do so again. Please contact the Governor’s Office and tell him, that as a California taxpayer and animal lover, you do not want the Hayden Law provisions to be repealed. (Contact information at the bottom of the post.)
If there was any doubt that the Humane Society of the United States has a singular mission when it comes to animals shelters, the Governor’s proposal to repeal part of California’s Hayden Law, shelter reform provisions to orient shelters toward lifesaving, should bring that doubt to an end. Its position on the Governor’s proposal is merely a continuation of a decades-long effort to defend poorly performing shelters and make the task of killing easier.
Whether it was helping shelters “construct and use a simple and inexpensive cabinet for [killing] dogs and cats with carbon monoxide,” telling shelters not to work with rescue groups, arguing that “being dead is not cruelty to animals,” fighting shelter reform in communities across the country, calling for the killing of two-week old puppies, legitimizing the killing of animals in “shelters,” lobbying to have the victims of abuse killed, or coordinating the defeat of state legislation that would have banned the gas chamber and outlawed discrimination against pit bulls and older animals, HSUS has been no friend to animals in shelters. And given that they opposed the initial enactment of the Hayden Law in 1998, it is no surprise that they are celebrating the repeal of some of its provisions.
When Governor Brown recently announced his intent to do so, he claimed that the provisions designed to protect animals from quick killing were no longer needed since shelters are doing everything they can to save animals already and would continue to do so even if the law mandating some of these things were repealed. And while he was offering that false rationale, there was HSUS, as they always are, applauding in agreement, embracing the Governor’s effort to set the clock back for California’s shelter animals 15 years.
Specifically, the Governor is asking the Legislature to repeal several provisions of the Hayden Law including the increase of California’s holding period from 72 hours to four days; the requirement that other species such as rabbits and guinea pigs be given the same protections as cats and dogs; the posting of lost and found lists so that more animals get home to their families; and the mandate to provide prompt and necessary veterinary care for sick and injured animals.
According to Jennifer Fearing, California coordinator for HSUS, these laws are not needed. She told the Sacramento Bee that, “The vast majority of shelters have adjusted to the new, longer holding periods, and they added space. Most of them are going to do those things anyway, because the paradigm has shifted.” Anyone who has ever visited the shelter in, say, Devore, California, the Central Valley which boasts some of the highest killing rates in the nation, or any of the other California shelters that kill animals before they can be reclaimed by their families or adopted into new homes, would know this is nonsense. And, I suspect, so does Fearing. But, in the end, whether she does or she doesn’t matters little. Regardless of whether her motivation is uncaring or ignorance, the fact remains that she has offered the Governor the political cover he needs to ensure that progress for shelter animals will never occur in California. By contrast, when former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to repeal the provisions in 2004, animal lovers across the state flooded his office with telephone calls, shutting down the switchboard until he relented.
Perhaps Fearing is trying to win him over for her own California bill, AB 1279, which would do nothing more than change California’s animal shelter laws to replace the word “pound” to “animal shelter,” “poundkeeper” to “animal shelter director,” and “destroy” to “humanely euthanize.” She is fighting for that law even though it wasn’t designed to help animals at all. In fact, it has the opposite intent: to excuse and exonerate those who harm them by codifying euphemisms that are designed to obscure the gravity of what we are doing to animals as a society, and thus make the task of killing easier. That bill has been held since last year. Whether that figures into her calculations or not, her position on the Hayden Law is unconscionable. And, once again, where HSUS refuses to protect shelter animals, California’s animal lovers must step up to the plate in their place. (See the call to action below.)
Here is what is at stake: Over ten years ago, then-Senator Tom Hayden, from the greater Los Angeles area, wanted to reform animal control shelters around the state, particularly those shelters in his home district of Los Angeles. His legislation had the potential to become the most significant piece of companion animal protection legislation in years. As one of its supporters noted:
With some notable exceptions, shelters have failed to provide hours the working public can visit the shelters for adoptions or redemptions of their companion animals. They have failed to provide adequate lost/found services. They have failed to keep records adequate to find pets within the system. They have failed to use freely offered microchip scanning services. They have failed to provide adequate veterinary health care for many animals. They have resisted working with the rescue/adoption community. They have failed to raise funds aggressively to promote lifesaving methods to spare the lives of placeable companion animals. They have used tax dollars to kill animals they didn’t have to accept in the first place (“owner-relinquished” pets) and to kill animals whose companion humans never even had a chance to locate them.
Our shelters have a very bad track record when it comes to adoption. In California in 1997 with a statewide human population of close to 33 million, only 142,385 cats and dogs were adopted from our shelters. The vast majority—576,097—were killed.
The legislation required, among other things, that animal control shelters in California give animals to rescue groups and No Kill shelters instead of killing them; provided incentives for shelters to remain open at least some evening or weekend hours so that working people and families with children in school could get to the shelters to reclaim lost pets or adopt new ones; set a statewide preference for adoption rather than killing; and sought to end the practice where animals surrendered by their “owners,” including healthy and highly adoptable kittens and puppies, were killed within minutes of arriving. It also modestly increased the time shelters were required to hold stray animals before killing them so that lost animals had an opportunity to be reunited with their families.
Shelters mired in killing, afraid of public scrutiny, and unwilling to work with rescue groups predictably opposed the measure. In addition to their desire to avoid being held accountable, their main objection was that the law made it illegal to kill an animal if a rescue group or No Kill shelter was willing to guarantee that animal a home through its own adoption program. This threatened to open up shelter killing and other atrocities to public scrutiny. As frequent visitors to the shelters, rescuers saw systemic problems and inhumane treatment of animals, but their access to animals was tenuous and many times hinged on not publicly disclosing concerns. Under the 1998 Animal Shelter Law, their right to take these animals is no longer legally premised on silence as to shelter practices and violations of the law.
Despite the opposition of shelters and their allies like HSUS, it made no sense to state legislators that taxpayers were spending money on killing animals when No Kill shelters and other private rescue agencies were willing to spend their own money to save them. Legislators also found that public shelters did not reflect the humane values of their constituents. And with holding periods among the lowest in the nation, too many animals were needlessly being killed before their families had a chance to reclaim them. Not surprisingly, the proposed bill passed the legislature with overwhelmingly bipartisan support—ninety-six to twelve—and the state’s Republican governor signed the measure into law.
The reaction was strong and swift. The County of Los Angeles fought the measure through a regulatory challenge, replete with bloated figures and misleading claims. The County claimed the law would be too expensive to implement, a claim debunked by the California Department of Finance. In fact, financial analyses by the California State Legislature, the Governor’s Office, and the California Department of Finance showed that implementation of the Hayden Law would reduce sheltering costs because of cost-savings attributable to increased adoption and reduced killing.
Nonetheless, kill shelters claimed that the “longer” holding periods, which would give people a chance to find their lost pets or for the pets to be adopted into new homes, would lead to the increased killing of other animals. That argument was also a red herring: the law did increase the holding period from a paltry seventy-two hours from the time of impound to four days if the shelter was open one evening a week or one weekend day.
When California’s holding period was 72 hours, there was only one state with a shorter holding period—Hawaii—with a 48-hour holding period. When California increased the holding period, it joined the bottom six states in the country in terms of holding period. By national standards, California’s new holding period was far from generous. Nonetheless, HSUS joined the chorus of killing shelters against the longer periods, even though the four day holding period was less than their own recommendation of five days it had long suggested shelters voluntary follow.
Tragically and illegally, some shelters simply refused to implement either the letter or spirit of the new law. Kern County’s municipal animal control shelter, an agency tasked with enforcing animal-related laws, for example, chose to ignore and violate the law. There, killing illegally continued until a local activist filed a lawsuit to stop it in 2004, six years after passage of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law. Unfortunately, Kern County does not appear to be an isolated incident. Sacramento County animal control was also the target of a lawsuit for illegally killing animals before their caretakers could find them, for not making them available for adoption, and for failing to keep records on thousands of others. And the County of Los Angeles signed a stipulation in a lawsuit against it that it would no longer thwart it. Since some shelters had to be sued to follow the provisions when they had the force of law, how can HSUS claim that shelters will continue to follow them even if they are repealed?
But it was the regulatory challenge filed by Los Angeles that may prove the law’s death knell. In California, the State Legislature cannot impose an unfunded mandate. Despite the analyses by the Legislature, Governor, and Department of Finance, the Commission on State Mandates ruled that some provisions of the law were not enforceable unless the State paid for them. While some of the provisions of Hayden survived the challenge (the provision making it illegal to kill animals if rescue groups are willing to save them is not at risk because it was found to be revenue-positive), other provisions did not.
And until the recent budget crisis, those provisions have been funded by the state, even though local shelters have been submitting bloated figures as part of a feeding frenzy of the public treasury for years. In 2009, the State suspended payments, making the provisions unenforceable during the current budget crisis. Citing a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommending repeal, those are the provisions which the Governor now seeks to actually repeal, and do so with HSUS’ blessing.
But the LAO analysis favoring repeal is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. It says the provisions relating to the increased holding period are not necessary because holding animals longer does not lead to increased adoption because of pet overpopulation. Specifically, it says “Throughout the United States, there are many more animals in shelters than there are households looking to adopt pets. Partly because of this imbalance between supply and demand, roughly one–half of the animals entering shelters are euthanized.” Why hold animals if there are no homes available to adopt them?
The problem, of course, is that the opposite is true. Over 23 million people are looking to adopt pets, while three million are killed but for a home. If there is a supply-demand imbalance, it runs in the other direction. Moreover, even if the LAO analysis was right, the longer holding periods were designed for other reasons as well. The modest increases would increase the number of owned animals reclaimed by their families since, for example, some cat owners do not start looking for their cats for several days and arrive at the shelter too late under the 72 hour rule. The lost and found lists would do the same. They also give rescue groups more time to find foster homes for their animals so they can take them into their own adoption programs. And, in practice, the LAO analysis is wrong notwithstanding their erroneous assumption. Longer holding periods do lead to more adoptions, as evidenced by a sample of over 1,000 shelters nationwide. (Moreover, medical care for sick and injured animals is basic decency for suffering animals and meet a shelter’s obligation to return animals to their families in reasonable condition. In fact, California shelters have been required to provide basic medical care to animals since 1969.) Nonetheless, there was HSUS again citing the analysis as incontrovertible proof that the law is not needed. Fearing also told the Sacramento Bee, “That LAO analysis, it’s hard to overcome, because I agree.” She could not be more wrong.
But what does it matter if the provisions are repealed, if they have been suspended since 2010 and are unenforceable? Quite simply, as Professor Taimie L. Byrant of UCLA Law School stated, “permanently removing the ability for animals to share in future brighter economic times in California is unconscionable.” In other words, suspension is temporary, repeal is permanent. The latter would remove any chance that California’s sheltered animals would ever have of improved care and conditions even when the economy improves. When things do get better, shouldn’t animals share in that? Why should the blood bath continue indefinitely?
If the Governor succeeds, he will rob these animals of any hope for a brighter future. That would be unconscionable. That HSUS is nodding in agreement on the sidelines is also unconscionable. But we can do something about it. While HSUS champions the demise of Hayden, we can stand up and be the animals’ voice they now only pretend to be. We succeeded once before when the former Governor tried to do it and we can do so again.
In 2004, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to repeal the provision, but was forced to relent. When the Los Angeles Times reported in 2004 that “The hectoring barks of animal lovers convinced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reverse himself … and keep California’s law protecting stray dogs and cats at shelters,” they were reporting on the power of the people. We must teach the current Governor the same lesson. This is our state, these are our shelters, these are our values, and this is our will.
Rise, Californians. Rise and be heard before it is too late. Because if you don’t, the animals won’t stand a chance.
CALL Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841 (9 am to 5 pm)
FAX your letter of opposition (916) 558-3177
EMAIL the governor’s office at http://gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php (choose BUDGET as subject).
POST to his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/jerrybrown
CONTACT him through his Twitter page at @JerryBrownGov
December 19, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
While the No Kill Advocacy Center celebrates the recipients of its Henry Bergh Leadership Award, given annually to a handful of individuals with an unwavering commitment to ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters, I am giving my own “award.”
Named for the late-Phyllis Wright of the Humane Society of the United States, the matriarch of today’s “catch and kill” paradigm, Wright once famously wrote, “I’ve put 70,000 dogs and cats to sleep… But I tell you one thing: I don’t worry about one of those animals that were put to sleep.”
She then described how she does worry about the animals she found homes for. From that disturbing view, HSUS coined a maxim that says we should worry about saving lives but not about ending them and successfully propagated this viewpoint to shelters across the country. The essay created an emotionally acceptable pretext for killing animals: shelter workers “were now ‘putting animals to sleep’” and the charade that “killing is kindness” became a national fixture.
The “award” is given to those who epitomize everything that is wrong with our broken animal “shelter” system: the pound directors who kill in the face of readily available alternatives they simply refuse to implement, the bureaucrats who excuse neglect and abuse in the pounds they “oversee,” or those who run organizations that fight lifesaving reforms, protecting and defending the killing and championing the killers.
The pound in Marlboro County, SC.
There were many, many contenders. In Waycross, GA, dogs were allowed to die of heatstroke because the shelter has no electricity for fans. Marlboro County, SC officials call it a “shelter,”but it looks more like a medieval dungeon. Not to be outdone, Janelle Dixon of the Animal Humane Society appears committed to raising more and more money but saving fewer and fewer animals, even killing animals in violation of law and holding the remains of a cat they killed hostage. The Michigan Humane Society told supporters it was saving all “adoptable” animals even while killing 68% of kittens and puppies and over 70% overall. It also took in animals from outside its jurisdiction from rescuers and other shelters as part of its “rescue” program, animals who in some cases were not in danger, only to put some of the poor creatures to death. And there are new allegations of widespread torture in the Calhoun County, AL pound. I could have also easily given the award to the uncaring bureaucrat who runs the Carroll County, GA “shelter” or any of the others across the country who find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it and who look the other way at widespread neglect and even abuse in their facilities. Chances are that such a person running such a “shelter” exists in your community. Such is the tragic state of animal sheltering in the U.S.
Nontheless, ten recipients will share the dishonor in 2011. Each represents a different ugly side of our broken animal “shelter” system. They are:
1. Ingrid Newkirk of PETA for seeking out and killing roughly 2,000 animals a year; for promoting the killing of animals based on arbitrary criteria, such as perceived breed; for defending poorly performing and even abusive “shelters;” for being the No Kill movement’s most vociferous enemy; and for convincing a generation of “animal rights” activists to embrace the “right”of people like her to kill animals.
One of many dogs found dumped in a trash can after being killed and thrown away by PETA several years ago. Some of the animals were healthy and in no danger of being killed, but PETA claimed they would find them homes only to put them to death within minutes. In 2011, all indications are that PETA’s deadly reign of killing continued unabated. Thanks to PETA, animal rights activists argue that it is wrong to kill cows and chickens, but it is perfectly acceptable–even necessary–to kill dogs and cats. Ridiculous.
2. Wayne Pacelle of HSUS for working with pro-killing organizations in Texas to help coordinate the defeat of legislation which would have mandated lifesaving collaboration and ended the cruel gas chamber; for being a cheerleader for killing shelters when he’s been tasked with being their watchdog; for embracing the most notorious dog abuser of our generation while calling for his canine victims to be killed (in 2011, Pacelle stated that Michael Vick would make a “good pet owner” and thus should be allowed to have access to dogs again); for preying on the emotions of animal lovers who are being misled into supporting his organization; and for betraying the cause he’s pledged to protect.
A spokesman for HSUS, Michael Vick shot dogs, drowned dogs, electrocuted dogs, hanged dogs, and beat dogs to death. He has never expressed remorse. Wayne Pacelle has championed Vick, said he would make a good dog owner, fraudulently fundraised off of Vick’s victims while calling for them to be killed.
3. Ed Sayres of the ASPCA for killing animals who have a place to go; fighting shelter reform legislation thus ensuring the deaths of tens of thousands of animals who also have a place to go; for claiming to “save” animals, then fundraising off of them before shipping them off to kill shelters; for fighting No Kill reform efforts in communities across the country such as Austin and referring to those working to fix our abusive shelter system as “extremists;” and also for defending and even promoting killing shelters and preying on the emotions of animal lovers who are being misled into supporting his organization.
The number of animals put to death who rescue groups could and would have saved since Sayres and his team at the ASPCA killed legislation which would have made it illegal for New York shelters to kill animals who have a place to go would fill every seat at Fenway Park.
4. Sam Parker, Sheriff of Chesterfield County, SC for overseeing a pound where dogs were alleged to have been used for target practice and cats were alleged to have been beaten to death with pipes. He has also allowed animals to languish in cruel conditions.
Sheriff Parker’s team used dogs as target practice, beat cats to death with pipes, and allow cruel conditions to continue. From the standpoint of the animals who depend on him, he may just be the worst sheriff in America.
5. AC Wharton, Mayor of Memphis, TN for overseeing a pound rife with neglect, abuse, staffed by felons and those with ties to dog fighting rings. And rather than reform the shelter, he violates the constitutional rights of critics and removes the cameras which were the only form of external oversight that kept animals from being more viciously neglected and abused. From the standpoint of the animals, he may just be the worst mayor in America.
Under Mayor Wharton, the pound is a badly mismanaged house of horrors where roughly eight out of every 10 animals are put to death; where known felons have committed animal cruelty; and where animals have been neglected and abused by those who were supposed to protect them.
6. Roseann Trezza of the Associated Humane Societies of New Jersey for overseeing a shelter with horrendous conditions, as documented over the years by state inspectors; for refusing to implement lifesaving programs such as foster care; and in 2011, for betraying “Patrick,” the abused pit bull who captured the heart of a nation, by referring to him as a “a very valuable brand for commercial exploitation and fundraising” and suing those who want to give him the life and love he deserves.
A dead dog, teeming with blood and maggots, at the Associated Humane Societies “shelter.” Although this photograph was taken by state inspectors in 2009, the “shelter” has a history of neglect and corruption dating back years. In 2011, they sued those who want to give the abused dog Patrick the life he so richly deserves, arguing that he is not a dog, but a “trademark” who is a “very valuable brand for commercial exploitation and fundraising.”
7. Dawn Blackmar of Harris County TX Animal Control for overseeing a pound that allows animals to suffer and die, despite lifesaving alternatives, kills animals cruelly, and kills animals in front of other animals, including puppies in front of their mother. Hope’s Law, which would have protected animals from Blackmar’s abusive brand of sheltering, was named after an injured dog Blackmar allowed to suffer and die, despite rescue group offers to rescue him and/or pay for his medical care. In another case, a live dog was thrown in the trash and chewed his way out of several garbage bags he was tied up in. Despite offers to save him, Blackmar put him to death.
There was no hope of saving “Hope” because of Blackmar’s uncaring and medieval brand of sheltering.
8. Patty Mercer of the Houston SPCA for overseeing a shelter that kills animals based on arbitrary criteria; “rescues” animals for fundraising purposes from disasters outside her jurisdiction only to put some of them to death or kill local animals to make room; and for an inexcusable commitment to killing in the face of alternatives. Hope’s Law, the Texas Companion Animal Protection Act, would have stopped her from killing dogs because she claims they look like “pit bulls,” killing animals when rescue groups are willing to save them, and would have required her to make her killing statistics public, which she refuses to do. In 2011, the Houston SPCA was part of a group of killing organizations which successfully defeated this vital lifesaving legislation (the law would have also ended the use of the cruel gas chamber in Texas).
Under Mercer’s leadership, any dog who “looks” like a pit bull is summarily executed.
9. Monica Hardy, on behalf of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, of which she serves as Executive Director. THLN was the primary force behind the defeat of Hope’s Law in Texas which would have mandated collaboration (Texas pounds would not have been able to kill animals if rescue groups were willing to save them), transparency (taxpayers and donors would have had a right to know how the shelters they fund are doing by requiring them to post their statistics), fairness (it would have been illegal to kill animals based on arbitrary criteria such as breed, color, and age) and would have ended horrendous suffering (it would have been illegal to kill animals using the cruel gas chamber). Thanks to THLN, the bill died, and the animals continue to die along with it, often cruelly.
Thanks to THLN, where Hardy serves as Executive Director, Texas shelters are allowed to use cruel methods of killing. A bill which would have made it illegal, and also made it illegal for them to kill animals based on arbitrary criteria such as how they look or when rescue groups were willing to save them, was defeated by Hardy’s organization.
10. Bruce King who oversees the horrendous shelter in Detroit, MI. In 2011, an abused dog named “Ace” was rescued by a good Samaritan who thought he was doing the right thing by calling the local shelter. Despite the fact that Ace had a place to go, with rescue groups offering to save him, and despite a court order prohibiting King and his team from killing Ace, the dog was put to death anyway. King claimed that if he allowed Ace to be rescued, rescuers would want to save other dogs and he could not allow that to happen. King appears to be a hard-hearted, small-minded bureaucrat who finds killing easier than doing the minimum amount necessary to stop it, including letting others save dogs he simply refuses to.
Ace was put to death despite rescue group offers to save him and a court order which demanded that King not do so. King stated that if Ace is allowed to be rescued, rescuers would expect to be allowed to save other dogs, too and he could not allow that to happen.
Someday soon, as the No Kill movement becomes more successful, the number of recipients of the Henry Bergh Leadership Award will balloon, while those who receive the Phyllis Wright Award will plummet. Sadly today, we have the inverse. And there were many more contenders.
Conditions in New York City’s abusive pound. While this continues, pound director Julie Bank fires volunteers who speak out.
Killing is the norm. And as long as those like the recipients above hold the regressive views that they hold, champion the draconian policies that they champion, and defend the needless slaughter they defend, animals will continue to pay the price with their very lives, long past the time we discovered the keys to ending their plight.
November 19, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
When you point out that HSUS or the ASPCA or PETA or even Best Friends have done things to harm animals and have betrayed the cause they are pledged to protect, invariably someone responds with the claim that they should not be criticized because they do “so much good for animals.” The argument that we should ignore all the bad things organizations have done because they allegedly also do good things is disturbing. In effect, they are saying that, “HSUS/ASPCA/PETA/Best Friends do so much good, they should have carte blanche to do terrible, irreversible, life ending things, too.”
Even if it were true that these groups do “so many good things” for animals, it does not entitle them to a blank check to call for the killing of two-week old puppies or to fight a bill that would have ended the cruel, painful gas chamber as HSUS did. It does not entitle them to fight progressive legislation that would have saved 25,000 animals a year who had a rescue group ready, willing, and able to save them as Best Friends did. It does not entitle them to send kittens to their deaths because they have a cold as the ASPCA did, or to kill dogs like Oreo and Max who had a place to go. It does not entitle them to seek out and kill 2,000 animals a year as PETA does.
And yet that is the argument apologists are making on behalf of those organizations. Moreover, the paradigm of killing continues as long as we give it such legitimacy. So my questions to those who make these arguments:
- How much killing is acceptable to you?
- How many deaths are you willing to allow them before you draw the line?
I’ll start: zero. First, do no harm.
November 6, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
A dying and uncared for kitten at the New York City pound. The Humane Society of the United States says we should spend this week celebrating this and other similarly cruel and barbaric facilities.
November 6 is the official kick off of “National Animal Shelter Reform Week.” It is a week dedicated to educating the American public about neglect and abuse that is rampant in U.S. “shelters,” the systematic killing that goes on there, and what we can do to bring this tragedy to an end. It is also a week dedicated to celebrating the many animal advocates across the country who are fighting to reform our shelters and winning, so that others can be inspired to emulate their success.
The week is being launched by the No Kill Advocacy Center in response to the call by the Humane Society of the United States to “celebrate” those shelters and turn a blind eye to the neglect, abuse, and killing of animals in their custody. In a Georgia shelter, for example, abusive workers bury shelter animals alive. But there is no word of concern from HSUS, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and individual shelter killing apologists. In a Washington shelter, abusive workers drown a cat in a bucket of bleach as punishment for being skittish (and thus “difficult” to handle), but PETA and HSUS actually publicly defended the shelter, telling County Council members not to pass shelter reform legislation to mandate lifesaving improvements.
In its call to celebrate shelters, HSUS claims to be the nation’s top cheerleader for shelters, rather than the animals’ top advocate. And PETA has vilified me and others working to reform our broken shelter system, promoting and defending some of the worst abusers in the country. It is this very mentality of celebrating shelters and fighting reformers in the face of epidemic uncaring that has allowed shelters to remain unregulated and has given them the hubris to neglect, abuse, and systematically slaughter four million animals a year without a hint of remorse.
From the No Kill Advocacy Center:
No Kill Advocacy Center Launches “National Animal Shelter Reform Week”
Every day during National Animal Shelter Reform Week, the first full week of every November, the No Kill Advocacy Center will confront poor and neglectful conditions at shelters around the country and contrast them with progressive and innovative No Kill shelters. We will also honor No Kill activists working to end the systematic killing of animals, so that others can be inspired by their efforts. Finally, we will strive to give animal advocates the tools they need to succeed.
In Georgia, shelter workers bury animals alive.
In Mississippi, a shelter starves animals to death.
In North Carolina, an animal control officer shoots a beloved family dog because he did not want to spend the time trying to catch her after she got out of her yard.
In New York State, shelters refuse to work with rescue groups and then kill the very animals those groups offer to save.
In California, an animal control officer beats a puppy with a baton and is not fired, his manager then returns a dog set on fire back to the abuser to avoid the costs of boarding pending trial.
In Texas, puppies are drowned by being flushed down a trench drain.
In Washington, a shelter employee punishes a cat who is fearful of being handled by drowning her in a bucket of bleach, while the whistleblower who brought the incident to light must be transferred to another department fearing retributive violence by shelter employees.
In Pennsylvania, shelter workers neglect and abuse animals, but a whistleblower is outed by the Health Department, only to have his car vandalized and be threatened with violence by other employees.
In other shelters: Prison inmates who work at a shelter throw animals in the incinerator alive for amusement; Cats are left without food or water during a long holiday weekend; and, Rabbits are not fed and forced to cannibalize one another.
These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. Rarely a day goes by that another incident of shelter mismanagement, killing, neglect, and/or abuse isn’t brought to our attention, highlighting and substantiating an epidemic crisis of neglect and cruelty, followed by systematic killing, in our nation’s so-called animal “shelters.” In fact, the first time many animals experience abuse and neglect is in the very institution’s which are supposed to protect them from it.
These are your animal shelters; the ones that blame you for the killing.
The Nation’s Cheerleader Says We Should Celebrate Them
But rather than hold these “shelters” accountable, the Humane Society of the United States asks us to celebrate them. For the last several years, HSUS has promoted a campaign they call “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week” which occurs the first full week in November. According to HSUS, which describes itself as the nation’s “strongest advocate” for shelters, we owe a debt of gratitude to the “dedicated people” who work at them. They claim that leadership and staff at every one of these agencies “have a passion for and are dedicated to the mutual goal of saving animals’ lives.” They tell us, “We are all on the same side,” “We all want the same thing,” “We are all animal lovers,” and criticism of shelters and staff is unfair and callous because “No one wants to kill.” That is why groups like HSUS can boldly publish, without the slightest hint of sarcasm or irony, a picture of a puppy—a young, healthy, perfectly adoptable puppy—put to death with the accompanying caption: “This dog was one of the lucky ones who died in a humane shelter… Here caring shelter workers administer a fatal injection.”
The Nation’s Watchdog Says We Should Reform Them
Roughly four million animals are needlessly killed at these institutions every year, while an epidemic of neglect and abuse goes largely unacknowledged and unchecked by the very organization that has the power and resources to do something about it: HSUS. That is why we are launching “National Animal Shelter Reform Week.”
National Animal Shelter Reform Week is designed to confront the tragic truth about how most shelters in this country operate and to increase public awareness about how animal lovers can fight back. Despite the uphill battle many shelter reformers face, they are succeeding through ingenuity, perseverance, and because the American public loves animals. The No Kill Advocacy Center would like to support their reform campaigns and honor their tireless effort.
We Deserve Better
We are a nation of animal lovers. We spend $50 billion every year on our animals. We miss work when they are sick. We cut back on our own needs during difficult economic times because we can’t bear to cut back on theirs. And when it is time to say good-bye for the last time, we grieve. We deserve shelters that reflect our values. And we deserve large national organizations to fight for, not hinder, reform of our nation’s regressive and cruel animal shelter system.
Only when shelters stop neglecting, abusing, and killing animals in their care will we will have something to truly appreciate and celebrate. But until then, we can celebrate the many animal advocates working to make a lifesaving difference in their cities and, more importantly, give them the tools they need to succeed.
These are YOUR animal shelters, the ones that blame YOU for the killing:
A dead dog, atop a pile of dead animals, is teeming with maggots and blood at the Associated Humane Societies in Newark, NJ in 2009. The white specks on the floor are maggots in a pool of blood. The shelter takes in $8,000,000 a year but has a long, sordid history of animal neglect.
A puppy as he enters Memphis Animal Services. The same puppy near death from starvation after weeks in the shelter’s custody. They refused to feed him.
The “feral cats only” kennel in Collier County, FL’s animal shelter. Terrified cats were forced to watch other cats be killed and many of them defecated in fear as staff hunted them down with catchpoles. They were then lined up dead in neat piles after a mass kill. The director did not believe in TNR because cats “might” suffer on the street.
A kitten lies near death in a filthy carrier at Houston’s BARC. The shelter “lost” this kitten and found him a day or so later, near death.
This photograph is not “graphic” but it speaks volumes. An empty plate, a bone-dry water bowl, a filthy cage: A cat reaches out, begging for food and water. Staff at King County Animal Care & Control outside of Seattle, WA did not provide food or water over a three day weekend.
A 10-month old dog enters Los Angeles County’s animal shelter healthy, and slowly begins to die of pneumonia and starvation. She was subsequently found dead after a period of several weeks. Staff claimed no one noticed that she was not eating.
The feral cat pen in Henry County, GA. Aside from being filthy, cats were found poisoned with antifreeze. Only shelter staff had access to the pen and advocates believed it was retaliation for demanding better conditions for them.
A kitten before and a kitten after. Yet another animal who goes unfed and uncared for while in the “care” of a shelter mandated to protect animals from harm. Sad to say, I can’t even recall what shelter this was.
A rabbit furiously tries to drink water from an empty container in Los Angeles. This follows promised reforms after what has become known as “Spinal Monday.” Staff did not take care of the rabbits who began cannibalizing other rabbits in the face of starvation. When they were discovered on Monday, one of the rabbits had an exposed spine as other rabbits began eating him alive.
A dog owner cries as he recounts how his dog was kicked to death by an employee of the ASPCA in New York. The dog was in the ASPCA’s veterinary hospital getting care. It was not the first time the ASPCA abused an animal, which they tried to cover up.
Blood stains all over the kennel of a puppy who was beaten by an animal control officer with a baton in Devore, California. The officer was not fired or reprimanded.
A puppy left to die on her own, her body covered in urine, nothing soft to lay on, unable to hold up her head, in Houston, TX.
A dog found buried in Chesterfield, SC after staff of the shelter used him for target practice. They also used dogs for fighting and beat cats to death with pipes.
Dead animals thrown in garbage bags in Philadelphia, PA. Sometimes it took an hour for animals to die because of untrained staff and improper “euthanasia” techniques. And more than one staff member admitted that they have seen the bag still moving while en route to the landfill.
Sick puppies huddled just outside of Houston in a Texas shelter. They came in healthy, they were kept in filthy conditions right next to sick dogs, and would eventually die of or be killed for parvo caused by shelter neglect.
It looks like a nice picture: a cat in a spacious “showcase” room at the Shreveport, LA shelter. What made this so tragic is that despite killing 92% of cats and claiming to do so because of “pet overpopulation,” this was the only cat available for adoption when I visited. Every other cage was kept empty so staff did not have to clean them. Even this room could have easily held a half dozen cats.
A puppy languishes in Los Angeles County. Unable to hold his head up, he lays it on filthy and cold concrete. He would ultimately die, while indifferent staff walked by and ignored his plight. He was not the first in the litter to die without care.
A dilapidated, tiny kennel, some of the most inadequate I have seen, in Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation. The dogs could not even stand in them, turn around freely, or lie down comfortably. Many of the kennels had open drains and staff admitted that when the dogs get their legs caught in them, by the time staff finds them in the morning, their legs are so swollen, they cannot be extricated. The dogs are killed on the spot before the leg is sawed off.
A dog ate half of his tail because NYC’s animal shelter did not provide the care he needed for an injury.
A dog’s kennel and the dog covered with fecal matter at the Associated Humane Society in Newark. In 2009, state inspectors found, among other things, “severe fly and maggot infestation,” “overwhelming maladorous smell,” “large amount of blood … splattered on the floor, walls, and viewing window,” as well as sick and injured animals “not being treated.”
In our homes, our dogs and cats are part of the family. We are devoted to them. We give them food and fresh water, a safe, warm place to sleep, needed medical care, and our love and attention. In the “shelters” we fund with our tax-dollars and our philanthropic donations, animals are routinely denied the most basic of necessities. They are frequently the victims of neglect, and often, of cruelty. In fact, the first time many animals are neglected or abused is in the very shelter that is supposed to protect them from it.
It is time to take our shelters back. It is time to regulate them to ensure that not only are animals no longer needlessly killed at these facilities, but that they are also treated with compassion and decency. We have the right to expect that our shelters reflect our humane values.
But what we do not need are more promises that shelters will do better. We already have such promises and as the above photographs show, and as 4 million dead animals every year prove, those promises are not sincere. What we must demand are strict laws that regulate shelters; laws that force them to live up to their names and mission statements. In short, we must pass the Companion Animal Protection Act in all 50 states.
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October 31, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
The dead walk the Earth! I’m not talking about kids in Halloween costumes, I’m talking about half-baked schemes that are dead on arrival but won’t stay dead: Imagine Humane, Mission Orange, the Asilomar Accords, No Harm No Kill, Recipe for Lifesavin’, the Five Freedoms, “no-kill” with lower case letters, and now the National Federation of Humane Societies. They die and they rise again with a new name. But their zombie-like attributes are good news for the No Kill movement: they show we are winning.
What is more preposterous than Roland Emmerich’s hypothesis that the great William Shakespeare didn’t pen a single poem or play? Sure, there are the climate change deniers and Harold Camping’s end of the world predictions. But you’d be hard pressed to come up with much more. In terms of rewriting history with no regard for historical accuracy and untroubled by the little things we like to call facts, Emmerich’s Shakespeare-didn’t-do-it view is in a class by itself.
Not to be outdone, however, the people that want to give Michael Vick access to dogs, that think an abused dog who has raised all the money she can for them is better off dead than loved, and who think we need to adopt out 2.4 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) animals a year in order to end the killing are trying to give Emmerich a run for his money. I am, of course, talking about Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, Ed Sayres of the ASPCA, and Dori Villalon, formerly with the American Humane Association, the unholy trinity of killing apologists. Together with the uber-regressive SPCA of Cincinnati, Michigan Humane Society, and a whole host of other organizations—many of which hoard money, kill animals, fight reformers, and commit fraud on the public—they are proving that no lie is too big for them. Introducing: the National Federation of Humane Societies.
The National Federation of Humane Societies claims they are committed to creating a No Kill nation, they are leading the effort to create a No Kill nation, and—drum roll please—they will make it happen by 2020. None of them have actually succeeded in creating a No Kill community so they have no idea how to do so, but that is not the point. At least not for them. They don’t really care one way or the other. In fact, many of them actually kill the vast majority of animals in their facilities, while refusing to implement common sense alternatives to that killing. Moreover, they continue to preach the dead language of collaboration which is code for “you can’t criticize us, but we can attack you.”And, of course, they have no workable plan. In other words, their latest incarnation is just a renaming and rebranding of all their other failed and cynical (non-)efforts:
- Imagine Humane which lacked any imagination and failed to create a single No Kill community;
- Mission Orange which caused more harm than good and actually caused killing to go up in Austin when it was implemented;
- The Asilomar Accords which banned the term “No Kill” but allowed shelters to reject lifesaving programs like foster care, TNR, offsite adoptions, and even allowed them to continue killing based on breed, age, and color;
- No Harm No Kill which was a goofy redundancy (you might as well call it “No Kill No Kill” as the central tenet of the No Kill philosophy is to do no harm);
- Wayne Pacelle’s mind-numbing distinction between “no-kill” with lower case letters and “No Kill” with capital letters, which no one could figure out, including, I suspect, himself;
- The Five Freedoms which claim shelter animals are entitled to freedom from hunger/thirst, discomfort, distress, pain/disease, and freedom to express normal behavior, but conveniently ignored the most important freedom of all: Freedom from being killed (which they do not support); and,
- The recipe for lifesavin’ a thinly veiled attempt to distinguish it from the No Kill Equation, and a ham-fisted attempt to make it seem cool by dropping the “g” in lifesaving (I can hear Fonzie now, “Ayyyyyyyy!”).
In Redemption, I wrote,
By the early 2000s, with No Kill rhetoric sweeping the nation, shelter administrators who once openly attacked No Kill realized that it was becoming politically untenable to continue doing so publicly. With the pressure for change mounting, these directors needed a new public image. In a few communities where they dug in their heels, they were forcibly swept aside.
Most directors, however, found another way. They began to say one thing, while they did something else. In short, they learned the art of political double-speak. The supposed effort to save animals deemed “adoptable” began, even by those who were No Kill’s fiercest detractors. These old guard institutions began to use “new” language and promote “new” programs. Leaders who once pledged to stop what happened in San Francisco from spreading to their own hometowns were now seeking to save all “adoptable” animals. In reality, they did nothing of the kind. Instead, they narrowed the definition of “adoptable” to the point of meaninglessness.
The real race was not to save lives, but to end public scrutiny and criticism by co-opting the No Kill movement. Business would continue as usual, but it would come with new terminology. “There are three kinds of lies,” an old saying goes. “There are lies. There are damn lies. And there are statistics.” The move to co-opt the No Kill movement has encompassed all three.
None of those efforts was ever about ending the killing. Each of these efforts was and is about trying to regain control of the humane movement that is passing them by. It is about trying to restore their hegemony over the language and direction of a movement that is being transformed and dominated by the increasing success and spread of the No Kill movement they reject. In fact, they say so right in their mission statement, which argues that they must “[ret]ake ownership of shelter industry messaging.”
In fact, saving animals because it is the right thing to do and because it is the animal’s birthright doesn’t appear anywhere in the vision. To their credit, it says it is the “altruistic” thing to do, but mostly it talks about what it will mean to them, such as how the “Federation can be positioned as the Champion if we launch and promote it.” Why is this so important?
Imagine what it must be like to the be the head of HSUS, the ASPCA, or the American Humane Association, organizations which for the past 50 years have been considered the leaders in the field of companion animal protection, only to have the ground shift completely beneath their feet by a movement which they ridiculed and they opposed. Imagine what it must be like to be the head of these organizations and to once have been lionized, and now to be looked at by an increasing number of people, and the entire grassroots of this movement as cruel and irrelevant dinosaurs. Imagine what it must be like to once have commanded respect by virtue of your position within an organization and only to now have people see through your façade, people who are completely redefining the movement and succeeding without you, in spite of you, and in defiance of you. In short, the heads of HSUS, ASPCA, AHA, and others have glimpsed the future and they clearly see they do not have a place in it and they are scared. And driven by fear, they are desperately trying to reclaim their former glory—not by doing the right thing, but by co-opting the movement they tried to fight and lost. (Ironically, if they actually spent as much time trying to save lives as they now spend covering up their failure to do so, they could be the heroes they now only pretend to be).
The key to ending the killing has been known for 15 years and none of the organizations behind the Imagine Humane, Mission Orange, Asilomar Accords or any of the other half-baked schemes have been interested in it. In fact, each of these efforts specifically says kill shelters are not required to do much of anything. They do not have to have a foster care program, even though you need one to save the lives of underaged animals. They do not have to work with volunteers, even though they are key to socializing animals. They do not have to do offsite adoptions or any of the other programs and services of the No Kill Equation, even though ending the killing is impossible without them. All they say is that you can’t criticize them for not doing so and they will eventually end the killing at some time in the mythical future.
In fact, stalwart members of the National Federation like the Michigan Humane Society and the SPCA of Cincinnati which are tasked with “mentoring” other pounds to achieve success claim they are already saving all “adoptable” animals. The only problem is that it’s a lie. They kill roughly seven out of 10 animals. In other words, they are killing like they always have, only now they excuse it by calling the animals “unadoptable.”
And when reformers try to force lifesaving programs upon them, the leaders of the National Federation actively fight them. In San Francisco, Wayne Pacelle and Ed Sayres fought a No Kill campaign, calling No Kill “radical” and insisting on the right of the SPCA and city pound to kill animals even in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives those “shelters” refuse to implement. How can Pacelle fight No Kill in San Francisco or anywhere else HSUS is an active roadblock to lifesaving success, but claim to be committed to it at the same time? And how can Sayres who chooses to kill animals even when they have a place to go and who sends sick cats to the pound to be killed, claim the same? For them, and for all but a small handful of shelters duped into joining the Federation, it was never about ending the killing.
Aside from a couple of anomalies, the members of the National Federation of Humane Societies are a veritable “who’s who” of regressive, kill shelters who actively fight No Kill reform efforts in their communities. But again, while their vision states they will lead the way to No Kill by 2020, the date first coined by Wayne Pacelle in his own work of fiction, The Bond, getting to No Kill is not the point for them. Nor is it the point of this blog.
The point is that it means we are winning. The fact is that they are under so much pressure they have no choice but to “embrace” No Kill. They can no longer get away with disparaging it. In Dallas, Texas, for example, regressive leaders overseeing regressive shelters have just formed a task force ostensibly to create No Kill, complete with quotes from me. Of course, they aren’t sincere. Nor do they have any real desire to achieve success. But they can’t say so openly anymore. PETA aside because of Ingrid Newkirk’s mental illness, we’re no longer arguing about whether No Kill is or is not impossible, is or is not hoarding, or whether it is misleading, smoke and mirrors, a fundraising scam, not worthy of a passing day dream, or a cancer as these groups have long argued. Instead, we’re arguing over dates, percentages, how to get there, and, of course, their lack of integrity. But the fact that they are forming groups to achieve No Kill and setting a date (after the current crop of dinosaurs running these groups retire and they do not have to account for anything) is good news.
And the more we achieve success, and the more we reject their half-baked overtures, and the more we say NO to crumbs and demand the whole damn pie, the more pressure we put them under until it is just a matter of time and one of them breaks, joining us in earnest. At that point, whether it is a post-Pacelle HSUS, a post-Sayres ASPCA, or AHA trying to rescue itself from irrelevancy and bankruptcy, the rest will have no place to hide. And they know it.
So, even as we rejected Imagine Humane’s shortsightedness, Mission Agent Orange’s carpet bombing of reform activists, the pro-killing Asilomar Accords, the undecipherable no-kill with lower case letters, and all the rest of the dead-on-arrival schemes they put forth; and even as we reject the National Federation of inHumane Societies and its equally half-baked vision that asks us to wait another eight years so they can retire and leave the real work of saving lives to someone else, we should revel in the fact that we’ve pushed them into a corner and sooner or later, we’ll deliver the knock out punch.
Until then, we’ll keep up the pressure and keep succeeding around the country, without them and in spite of them and in defiance of them, knowing full well they will eventually have no choice but to embrace us. Because when we achieve a No Kill nation, they will tell us it was their idea and their vision all along. And knowing that the animals are safe, and that our fight is finished, we’ll just nod and smile and try to hold back the lunch we just had that is trying to make its way back up. But until then, we’ll continue the fight and as it is reeking with desperation, we’ll see the National Federation for what it is: a signpost to our certain, and hopefully not too distant, victory.
August 15, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
Last week, I wrote a blog called “The Indictment of Wayne Pacelle” where I laid out ten examples of how Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States has used his position in the animal protection movement to harm animals:
- In count one, I argued that Wayne Pacelle betrayed the victims of Michael Vick by lobbying to have them killed, even as he embraced their abuser, to the detriment of the animals and our cause.
- In count two, I showed how in 1993, Wayne Pacelle’s group, the Fund For Animals, sought legislation to round up and kill cats in California. Despite only a couple of cat rabies cases per year, and some years none, one of those bills would have empowered animal control officers to kill cats on sight in the field if they didn’t have proof of rabies.
- In count three, I discussed how in 2007, Wayne Pacelle lobbied to have Michael Vick’s victims killed, falsely claiming that “Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country.” In fact, following their actual assessment, only one dog was deemed too vicious to save. He thus lied, perjuring himself as an advocate for the mass slaughter of abuse victims. But he almost succeeded in having them killed.
- In count four, I wrote how in April of 2008, the town council of Randolph, Iowa announced a bounty, offering $5 to anyone who brought a cat to the pound. In most cases, those cats would be put to death. While cat lovers cried foul and tried to stop the initiative, Pacelle’s handpicked Vice-President of Companion Animals at HSUS, the man who himself killed animals as the director of a pound in Florida, defended the Randolph effort saying that HSUS doesn’t have a problem with killing stray cats.
- In count five, I demonstrated how in August of 2008, the pound in Tangipahoa Parish, LA ordered the killing of every animal in their facility. The culprit: a mild corona virus that caused diarrhea in just a handful of dogs, which is not contagious to cats, and is self-limiting, meaning it resolves on its own without any medical intervention. More than 170 dogs and cats were killed. HSUS came to the pound’s defense, blaming the killing on pet overpopulation and that people do not care enough about animals, thereby exonerating the pound.
- In count six, I showed how in February of 2009, over 150 Pit Bull-type dogs and puppies were seized from a dog fighter in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Each and every one was systematically put to death over the opposition of rescue groups, dog advocates, and others. Some of the puppies were born after the seizure. And a foster parent was even ordered to return two-week old puppies she had nursed back to health to be killed. As with the Vick case, HSUS staff perjured themselves before the court, testifying that all the dogs, including the two week old bottle feeders, were irremediably vicious and should be put to death. The court sided with Pacelle’s “experts.” 150 victims lay dead, not by a dog fighter, not by an abuser, but because of Wayne Pacelle’s insistence that they should be put to death.
- In count seven, I explained how in March 2009, a San Francisco, CA Commission took up the issue of a No Kill city by considering shelter reform legislation to mandate the types of lifesaving programs the pounds in that community were refusing to implement voluntarily, killing animals for being “too fat,” “too old,” “too playful,” and “too shy.” But the law, and the No Kill reform effort, was be tabled after Pacelle himself wrote a letter insisting on the right of “shelters” to kill animals in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement, arguing that pet overpopulation prevented more lifesaving, and arguing that “shelters” should not be regulated.
- In count eight, I showed how a 2010 survey of New York State rescue groups found that 71% of them were being turned away by at least one “shelter,” and those “shelters” then turned around and killed the very animals they offered to save. The end result is that tens of thousands of animals are being killed in New York State pounds even though they have an immediate place to go. Legislation to mandate collaboration which would have saved those lives at no cost to taxpayers, was not supported by HSUS. And when animal advocates tried to mandate shelter reform in Texas, including banning the cruel gas chamber, HSUS helped coordinate the opposition, which argued that shelters are the experts and should be left to decide how they operate.
- In count nine, I explained how every year, Wayne Pacelle’s organization calls for a celebration called “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week,” where we are asked to reward animal shelters and the “dedicated people” who work at them. According to the annual press release, HSUS is “the strongest advocate” for shelters. But at the same time as HSUS proclaims itself the Number 1 cheerleader for killing shelters in the country, there is an ever-increasing amount of nationwide media coverage revealing widespread animal neglect and outright abuse at these very institutions. And when it does come out, HSUS either is silent, looks the other way, or, more egregiously, defends the abusive and/or poorly performing “shelters,” as they did in King County, Washington, Miami-Dade, Florida, Eugene, Oregon, New York City, Rockland County, New York, Paige County, Virginia, and elsewhere.
- In count ten, I demonstrated a deliberate strategy of fraud in HSUS fundraising under Pacelle’s leadership. When Wayne Pacelle misled donors by asking for money for the care of the Michael Vick dogs even though HSUS not only wasn’t caring for the dogs, but was actively seeking to have them put to death, it wasn’t the first time he did so. Misrepresentation is a recurring pattern and deliberate part of Pacelle’s fundraising strategy: Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Gustav, deliberately confusing donors that they are the local humane society, and the “Faye” debacle, are just some of the scandals I discussed.
HSUS responded in part and self-proclaimed “animal rights” defenders of HSUS responded in part, in a combination of “explanatory” e-mails directly from HSUS and on “animal rights” list-serves and discussion groups. Not a single one of them, however, has responded to the allegations. How could they? They offer damning, irrefutable evidence that Pacelle and his acolytes at HSUS have engaged in a consistent pattern to kill animals or cause animals to be killed, to defraud donors, and to thwart reform efforts in local communities across the country designed to improve neglectful and abusive killing pounds. In fact, both HSUS and its supports have essentially conceded them. It is one thing to ignore the “indictment” altogether. It is quite another to issue a response and not mention why they committed fraud in fundraising, why they called for the killing of bottle feeding puppies, why they fight for the right of shelters to kill animals, and why they opposed legislation banning the cruel gas chamber. That is tantamount to an admission on all counts.
Instead, HSUS and its killing apologists argued that:
- Michael Vick deserves a second chance.
- HSUS does so much good.
- I’m anti-animal because in 2007, I answered some questions posed to me in an e-mail from an organization called the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is funded by agribusiness.
‘Michael Vick’s Victims Should be Killed; Their Abuser Deserves To Abuse Even More Dogs’
The argument that Michael Vick deserves a second chance, even as HSUS argued that his victims did not, speaks for itself. To this day, Vick claims that his beating dogs to death, electrocuting them, hanging them, shooting them, drowning them, and burying them alive was his way of expressing “a different kind of love” and Wayne Pacelle has agreed. Tragically, not only would Michael Vick still be doing those things if he could, Pacelle has tried to help him do it by claiming that “Mike,” as he calls the most notorious animal abuser of our generation and the newest spokesman for HSUS, would make a good dog owner and should be allowed to have dogs again. Indeed, by giving Vick his old life back, Pacelle has undone the lesson every kid in American learned: abuse a dog and you’ll lose everything. Instead, with the embrace of Vick, he gave them a very different lesson: if the lives of animals don’t matter much to the Humane Society of the United States, why should they matter to you.
‘HSUS Deserves a Blank Check to Harm Animals’
The argument that we should all ignore the “crimes” Pacelle has committed against animals, because HSUS does so many good things for animals would be ludicrous, if it wasn’t so disturbing. But it is an argument that appears to have resonated with some animal rights activists; arguments also being made both about the ASPCA’s pro-killing policies and PETA’s campaign not only to seek out and exterminate thousands of animals a year, but to give pounds the ability to slaughter even more than they already do. In short, they are saying that, “HSUS does so much good, they should have carte blanche to do terrible, irreversible, life ending things, too.”
Even if it were true that HSUS does “so many good things” for animals (and I am not so sure that they do), it does not entitle them to a blank check to call for the killing of two-week old puppies. It does not entitle them to thwart the efforts of animal lovers trying to end the killing of dogs and cats in their communities. It does not entitle them to perjure themselves in court so that 150 dogs, including bottle-feeding puppies, are put to death. It does not entitle them to defraud donors by misrepresenting the work of rescue groups as their own. Nor does it entitle them to excuse the mass killing of cats in response to diarrhea in a small handful of dogs. Yet that is HSUS’ argument, and that is the argument apologists for HSUS (and ASPCA and PETA) are making on behalf of the organization.
‘We Can’t Attack the Message So We Are Going to Attack the Messenger’
The final argument being made in defense of Wayne Pacelle was first made by a woman who defends pounds that savagely abuse animals, a woman named Pat Dunaway. Dunaway defended a shelter where a puppy was beaten with a baton by an animal control officer because he was too scared to go into a kennel, where the director returned a dog who was lit on fire back to his abuser because he didn’t want to pay for the dog’s medical care as required by state law while the criminal case was pending, a pound that killed animals rescue groups had requested as retribution for exposing inhumane conditions, and a pound that forced animals to remain in filthy conditions, including algae-covered water bowls. This is a woman who also allegedly has a history of neglecting or abusing dogs herself. Nonetheless, her absurd claim that I am a front for the Center for Consumer Freedom has been reiterated by “animal rights activists” who claim to be motivated by a love of animals.
As a fierce critic of the pro-killing policies of HSUS, PETA, and the ASPCA, I have been the target of many untrue allegations and rumors by Pat Dunaway, including that I am in league with puppy mills and that I work with and have accepted money from the Center for Consumer Freedom. In the past, I have written blogs refuting each of these allegations, explaining that I do not breed animals, that I have worked to expose and oppose puppy mills, and that I have hosted anti-puppy mill workshops at each No Kill Conference that my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center, has sponsored.
While my blogs refuting the puppy mill rumors has quieted those allegations, people continue to spread the rumor that I am a front for the Center for Consumer Freedom, that, in fact, my efforts to publicly expose the actions taken by HSUS and PETA that result in direct harm to animals are motivated not by a desire to stop that harm and reorient those organizations back to life-saving, but by a desire to harm the animal rights movement. Anyone who has read my books on sheltering (Redemption and Irreconcilable Differences) or any of the other extensive writings I have done would know how hollow these assertions are. These writings demonstrate that my goal is to end the unnecessary killing of four million animals in our nation’s pounds every year. They also reveal that the biggest roadblock standing in the way of that success is the animal protection movement itself: primarily the regressive kill-oriented directors of roughly 3,000 “shelters” across the country, and the leadership of the large, national organizations that protect and defend them and their “right to kill,” namely, Wayne Pacelle, Ingrid Newkirk at PETA, and Ed Sayres of the ASPCA, organizations and individuals I have no choice but to fight out of tragic and dire necessity.
The basis of their claim that I am a front for the Center for Consumer Freedom is that in 2007, I received an e-mail from one of their representatives relating to my book Redemption, asking me if I would answer roughly half a dozen questions about it. I agreed to answer their questions in an e-mail back to them on one condition. I told them that if I did answer their questions, they could not edit them for content. And they had to print them verbatim or send them to me for review, where I will exercise veto power over their right to publish them. They agreed. And I answered the questions. I have never met the Center for Consumer Freedom people, do not and have not ever received any money from them, and do not agree with their other views about animals. In fact, All American Vegan, my vegan cookbook coauthored with my wife, promotes a vision for society fundamentally at odds with the Center for Consumer Freedom mandate. They do not support the book and they’ve not promoted it.
Ironically, about the same time, HSUS asked if they could interview me about the No Kill movement, and I agreed with the same caveat, knowing that they have printed outright lies about the No Kill movement in their publications in the past. I told them they had to print my answers verbatim or send them to me for review and I would exercise veto power over their right to publish them. They refused. And I did not do the interview. But had they agreed, had they done so, no one could claim I was in league with HSUS. Such a claim would be absurd, given my vociferous opposition to their policies which favor killing.
And though I do not agree with the Center for Consumer Freedom on their larger platform, on the issue of HSUS and PETA hypocrisy over their embrace of killing, and in the case of PETA their actual killing, they are correct. It is not the Center for Consumer Freedom which is thwarting our effort to achieve a No Kill nation, it is Wayne Pacelle and Ingrid Newkirk. In fact, it is also those individuals who seek to shield HSUS and PETA from public accountability for their actions, or as in the current situation, who imply that those of us who expect that the people who staff those organizations have a duty to authentically represent our cause and not misuse or abuse their power, that are harmful to the animal protection movement.
Every time the Center for Consumer Freedom places an ad in a newspaper that exposes the grisly and deeply disturbing truth about PETA’s killing, or the truth about HSUS’ fraudulent fundraising claims, our anger should be directed at those committing the “crimes” being reported, not those reporting it. Our anger should be against Pacelle and Newkirk not only for harming animals, but for misrepresenting our movement. The longer we seek to shield Newkirk and Pacelle from their “crimes” and from a public accounting for their decisions which harm the well-being of animals, the more emboldened their corruption will become, and, in the case of PETA, the more animals they will continue to seek out to kill.
Were we to simply clean house as a movement, and expel from our ranks those who seek to subvert the very goals we exist to promote, we would eliminate one of the sharpest weapons anti-animal organizations have to fight the cause of animal protection: the hypocrisy of our so-called leaders. That the Center for Consumer Freedom has chosen to fight by working to expose the corruption of the animal rights movement is, in many ways, a Catch-22. Should they prevail in forcing reform of HSUS and PETA—a cause I fully endorse as should every true animal lover—they lose a powerful weapon, and the broader animal protection movement benefits as a result. By defending HSUS and PETA, self-proclaimed “animal rights” activists are also subverting our cause.
We are, and should be, first and foremost a movement of ideals, a belief in the right of animals to be free of suffering and abuse, and, most importantly, to be free to live their lives. These values are the heart of our cause, the reason we exist. Organizations and leaders exist to promote ideals. As I have written so many times before, it is not who is right, but what is right that should dictate our behavior and our allegiance. When individuals and organizations authentically represent the goals of our movement, we should stand by them. When individuals and organizations fail to do so, as HSUS and PETA have done over and over again, not only should we expose them for the frauds that they are, our duty to animals dictates that we do.
I wrote Redemption because my pleas to shelters and my pleas to the large national organizations that the key to ending the killing had been discovered was falling on deaf or defiant ears. The movement chose to ignore that success and continue killing, despite the lifesaving alternative represented by the No Kill philosophy and made a practical reality by the No Kill Equation. So I chose to go over their heads and take my message directly to the people.
To that end, I chose to speak—and will continue to speak—with anyone who wants to listen about how the organizations that are supposed to champion animals in reality cause them great harm. I believe that by talking to anyone and everyone about shelter killing and the hypocrisy of groups like HSUS and PETA, we will eventually reach a critical consensus against killing and in favor of No Kill and fix our nation’s cruel and dysfunctional animal shelter system.
Because if wait for those who claim to be motivated by a love of animals but who blindly follow Pacelle and Newkirk, animals will continue to be neglected, abused, and needlessly killed in perpetuity. We must reach a larger audience because our so-called “friends” refuse to educate themselves and learn the truth about who they’ve given their allegiance to (it is certainly not the animals). They are intellectually lazy and looking for a convenient excuse to ignore the No Kill message in favor of the status quo which is comfortable, familiar, and does not require re-orienting their world view. They’ve found their identity intertwined with their association with HSUS or PETA and the animals can be damned before they’ll give that up.
But I’ve got a message for them, for anyone who would dismiss me because I chose to answer some questions in an e-mail: As an activist, as someone who claims to care about animals, you have a choice as well. You can choose to listen to that message and help us end the unnecessary killing of millions of animals every year, or you can choose to believe untrue rumors and allegations that give you a convenient excuse not to, and become a roadblock to saving four million animals a year, a killing which is being supported by organizations you embrace. The choice is yours.
But if you continue to embrace Wayne Pacelle despite his own embrace of the most notorious animal abuser of our generation, even after he lobbied to have that abuser’s victims killed; If you embrace Wayne Pacelle despite all he has done to harm animals under the theory that his organization is entitled to a blank check because they do other “good things” for animals; If you give your allegiance to an organization because it claims to be for animals welfare or animal rights, even though they actively undermine the rights of animals and, in fact, work to kill them; you do not really care about or value animals. You certainly do not love them, because there is no way to torture the definition of “love” enough to encompass an embrace of someone who promotes killing, is an apologist for killers, an accomplice to killing, a defender of abusive pounds, a thief, a bully, and a liar, with “crimes” against animals going back over 15 years. If you support him despite that, you are a fake. And you know it.
August 9, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
In the past, I have written many blogs showing how Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, has betrayed the animals he is pledged to protect. From calling for the deaths of the victims of Michael Vick and then championing Michael Vick himself, from opposing No Kill in San Francisco and other communities and working to defeat progressive animal protection legislation in Texas, to publicly maligning and then calling for the death of cats, to his numerous fundraising scandals, time and again Pacelle has proven he is not fit to be head of the largest animal protection organization in the nation. Indeed, he is not fit to have any role in this movement.
With this blog, I set out to do something different. I have catalogued Pacelle’s misdeeds, one after another, so that there is a clear, thorough, and concise public record. While each of the sordid actions I have detailed are powerful enough in and of themselves to expose Pacelle as a dishonest and inauthentic advocate for animals, it is my hope that when considered as a whole, these incidents connect the dots to further reveal an unmistakable, deliberate, and consistent pattern to Pacelle’s behavior: one that shows a disregard for the animals welfare, a determination to undermine the work of progressive reformers, and the use of fraudulent and dishonest fundraising schemes.
I am a former Deputy District Attorney. As a DDA, I prosecuted all kinds of cases, either as the trial attorney, the motions deputy, the preliminary hearing deputy, or as the charging attorney. That includes rape, child sexual assault, domestic violence, animal cruelty, burglary, robbery, murder. Which is why I’ve chosen to lay out a case against Wayne Pacelle as if I was arguing before a judge or jury. I’ve written it with an opening statement, allegations and evidence, and a summation. Obviously, this is not a criminal complaint. And it is for the authorities to decide whether Pacelle’s actions amounts to legal fraud in, for example, the way Pacelle and his team intentionally mislead people to separate them from their money. Whether it is legal fraud or not, I believe it is unethical, irresponsible, and moreover, deliberate.
But as for the claims I make against him, you are the judge and jury, and I will leave it to each and every one of you to decide whether you believe, as I do, that he is guilty of the allegations I’ve laid out. This is my ten count “indictment” against Wayne Pacelle. And I am trying it in the court of public opinion.
I want to start by discussing, not Wayne Pacelle, but his associate, the notorious dog fighter Michael “Monster” Vick. Calling Michael Vick a dog fighter does not paint the picture adequately or accurately. Michael Vick took a dog and hung him by the neck “by placing a nylon cord over a 2 x 4 that was nailed to two trees located next to the big shed.” When the dog didn’t die, Vick put on the pair of overalls he wore when he did not want to get blood from the dogs on his expensive tailored suits, and drowned the dog in a 5 gallon bucket of water. He took a second dog that would not die from hanging and tossed the dog to the side, later hanging him again, this time until he did die. Even when some of his co-conspirators wanted to give away dogs who would not fight rather than kill them, Vick refused, stating “they got to go,” meaning the dogs needed to be killed. Vick beat dogs to death. He watched dogs drown in his swimming pool, he shot them, he electrocuted them, he buried them alive, he savagely abused them, he took great enjoyment in it, and he found it funny to watch family pets being torn apart.
Here is what one person involved wrote about her experience:
I just can’t get myself away from the swimming pool in Vick’s yard. I first learned about it while riding in the back seat of a federal agent’s car that sweltering Tuesday back in Sept 07. The agent was assigned with escorting us to the various Virginia shelters so we could evaluate “the evidence” otherwise known as 49 pit bulls – now known as cherished family pets: Hector, Georgia, Sweet Jasmine and the rest. I’m not sure if sharing insider information with us was kosher, but you know how driving down long country roads can get you talking. I imagine she just needed to get some things off her chest. She said she was having trouble sleeping since the day they exhumed the bodies on the Moonlight Road property. She said that when she watched the investigators uncover the shallow graves, she was compelled to want to climb in and pick up the decomposing dogs and comfort and cradle them. She knew that was crazy talk, and she was grappling with trying to understand such a surprising impulse.
Her candor set the tone for this entire saga. Everyone we worked with was deeply affected by the case. The details that got to me then and stay with me today involve the swimming pool that was used to kill some of the dogs. Jumper cables were clipped onto the ears of underperforming dogs, then, just like with a car, the cables were connected to the terminals of car batteries before lifting and tossing the shamed dogs into the water. Most of Vick’s dogs were small – 40lbs or so – so tossing them in would’ve been fast and easy work for thick athlete arms. We don’t know how many suffered this premeditated murder, but the damage to the pool walls tells a story. It seems that while they were scrambling to escape, they scratched and clawed at the pool liner and bit at the dented aluminum sides like a hungry dog on a tin can.
I wear some pretty thick skin during our work with dogs, but I can’t shake my minds-eye image of a little black dog splashing frantically in bloody water … screaming in pain and terror … brown eyes saucer wide and tiny black white-toed feet clawing at anything, desperate to get a hold. This death did not come quickly. The rescuer in me keeps trying to think of a way to go back in time and somehow stop this torture and pull the little dog to safety. I think I’ll be looking for ways to pull that dog out for the rest of my life.
And Michael Vick would still be doing those things if he could, but he can’t. Not because he knows better. Not because he has learned his lesson. Not because decency, and conscience, and compassion dictate that he can’t. But because he was caught. Michael Vick has never expressed any remorse for what he did. In fact, when he and Wayne Pacelle recently appeared together on a radio show, Vick said his was and is “a different kind of loving dogs.” And rather than condemn Vick for it, Wayne Pacelle, the head of the nation’s largest animal protection organization, agreed. He said: “obviously people who are involved in dog-fighting … they really do value the animals in certain ways.” And then, for the second time, he went on to suggest that we are all guilty. We are all “sinners.”
Michael Vick continues to avoid any responsibility for his crimes by claiming shooting dogs, drowning dogs, hanging dogs alive, electrocuting dogs, beating dogs to death and watching them tear each other to shreds is his way of expressing a “different kind” of love. And Wayne Pacelle has publicly stated that that man, that monster, would make a good pet owner and thus should be given the opportunity.
Over the years, Pacelle has shown how little he appears to care for animals. Time and time again, he has taken positions that are the antithesis of what you would expect from the head of the nation’s largest animal protection organization. Time and time again, he has sided with regressive and even cruel pound directors, championed the killing of dogs and cats, and worked to hinder the progress of the No Kill movement.
Given a history of anti-animal positions he has taken, it would seem unlikely that Pacelle could choose to do anything that would still have the power to shock us. But I must admit that Pacelle stunned me with how truly low and vile he has sunk with his embrace of Michael Vick. With his making Vick a spokesman for HSUS. With his claiming that Vick would make a good dog owner. And with his fighting to give Vick his old life back, thereby undoing the lesson every kid in American learned: abuse a dog and you’ll pay dearly. You’ll lose everything. Instead, he chose to give them a very different lesson: that if the lives of those animals don’t matter much to the Humane Society of the United States, why should they matter to you?
To Wayne Pacelle, Vick’s victims—the dogs who were still alive when he was arrested—did not deserve a second chance. He lobbied the court to have each and every one put to death. But the abuser, the killer, the man who shot and hung and electrocuted and drown and beat dogs to death, did and does. And to Wayne Pacelle, that’s valuing animals. That is love.
Can you imagine the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence embracing wife killer O.J. Simpson as a spokesman? Can anyone imagine the National Organization to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children embracing notorious pedophile John Geoghan as a spokesman? Can anyone imagine the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network embracing rapist Josef Fritzl as a spokesman? And yet the head of the nation’s largest animal protection organization did this very thing: embraced our version of Simpson, Geoghan, and Fritzl. It is beyond obscene. It is unthinkable. But that is what Wayne Pacelle did. And with Pacelle, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Count Two: In 1993, Wayne Pacelle’s group, the Fund For Animals, was seeking legislation to round up and kill cats in California. A coalition of TNR and rescue groups lined up in opposition to AB 302 and AB 1000. The latter was the most draconian of the two. Despite only a couple of cat rabies cases per year, and some years none, AB 1000 would have empowered animal control officers to kill cats on sight in the field if they didn’t have proof of rabies. Though tragic, it was unsurprising. In the Funds for Animals legislative wrap-up, they supported an ordinance that would have made it illegal to trap cats in Santa Cruz with two exceptions, one of which was “for proper disposal,” as if the cats were nothing more than yesterday’s trash. I wrote Pacelle and asked him to please stop the pro-killing advocacy. He failed to reply. His response, not to me but to a mutual friend, was that cats kill birds.
Count Three: In 2007, while Wayne Pacelle was lobbying to have the Vick dogs killed, he was fundraising off of them by telling donors that they were caring for them, when they were not. He falsely claimed that “Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country.” In fact, following their actual assessment, only one dog was deemed too vicious to save. He thus lied, perjuring himself as an advocate for the mass slaughter of abuse victims. But he almost succeeded in having them killed.
Shortly after the case broke, HSUS contacted the U.S. Attorney prosecuting Vick and asked if they could be “involved” and see the dogs (then being held at six animal control shelters in Virginia). The U.S. Attorney agreed but only on condition that they take no photographs and not publicly talk about the dogs (citing fears of compromising the case, sensitivities involved in the prosecution, and issues surrounding rules of evidence). HSUS agreed and then promptly violated that agreement. HSUS staffers took photographs of the dogs with people wearing “HSUS” shirts to make it appear that HSUS was directly involved in the case and their care and then used these photographs to fundraise. Not only was that a lie. Not only did they want the dogs dead. Not only were they not going to use the money for the Vick dogs, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office felt so betrayed that they did not want to work with any animal groups. If they hadn’t, if they were not convinced otherwise, Hector, Jasmine, and the other victims would be dead right now.
Count Four: In April of 2008, the town council of Randolph, Iowa announced a bounty, offering $5 to anyone who brought a cat to the pound. In most cases, those cats would be put to death. This is the kind of pro-killing public policy that started Henry Bergh’s fight with the dog catchers of New York City. In 19th Century New York City, children were paid 50 cents for every dog they brought to the pound to be killed, leading to a profitable trade in dogs. Dogs were stolen from people’s yards, from people’s homes, taken from the arms of their families, so that they could be taken to the pound and ultimately drowned in the East River. Roughly 150 years later, officials in Randolph wanted to reinstate a 19th Century policy that favored killing, this time for cats. While cat lovers cried foul and tried to stop the initiative, Pacelle’s handpicked Vice-President of Companion Animals at HSUS, the man who himself killed animals as the director of a pound in Florida, defended the Randolph killing, saying that HSUS doesn’t have a problem with killing stray cats, but said the money spent on the bounty would be better spent hiring someone who knows what he or she is doing.
Count Five: In August of 2008, the pound in Tangipahoa Parish, LA ordered the killing of every animal in their facility. The culprit: a mild corona virus that caused diarrhea in just a handful of dogs, which is not contagious to cats, and is self-limiting, meaning it resolves on its own without any medical intervention. More than 170 dogs and cats were killed. A former employee of the pound says she’ll never forget the image: “I did walk back there at one point and they were all piled on top of each other, just lying there dead.” HSUS came to the pound’s defense, blaming the killing on pet overpopulation and that people do not care enough about animals, thereby exonerating the pound.
Count Six: In February of 2009, over 150 Pit Bull-type dogs and puppies were seized from a dog fighter in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Each and every one was systematically put to death over the opposition of rescue groups, dog advocates, and others. Some of the puppies were born after the seizure. And a foster parent was even ordered to return two-week old puppies she had nursed back to health to be killed. As they did in the Michael Vick case, HSUS once again led the charge to have all the dogs, including the puppies, slaughtered. And like in the Vick case, they perjured themselves before the court, testifying that all the dogs, including the two week old bottle feeders, were irremediably vicious and should be put to death. The court sided with Pacelle’s “experts.” 150 victims lay dead, not by a dog fighter, not by an abuser, but because of Wayne Pacelle’s insistence that they should be put to death.
Count Seven: In March 2009, a San Francisco, CA Commission took up the issue of a No Kill city by considering shelter reform legislation to mandate the types of lifesaving programs the pounds in that community were refusing to implement voluntarily, killing animals for being “too fat,” “too old,” “too playful,” and “too shy.” San Francisco has the lowest intake rate of any major urban community in the U.S. but is still killing savable animals despite the fact that communities which have over five times the per capita intake rate have achieved No Kill success. Why? San Francisco pounds find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it. But the law, and the No Kill reform effort, was be tabled after Pacelle himself wrote a letter insisting on the right of “shelters” to kill animals in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement, arguing that pet overpopulation prevented more lifesaving, and arguing that “shelters” should not be regulated. The killing continues.
County Eight: A 2010 survey of New York State rescue groups found that 71% of them were being turned away by at least one “shelter,” and those “shelters” then turned around and killed the very animals they offered to save. The end result is that tens of thousands of animals are being killed in New York State pounds even though they have an immediate place to go. Legislation to mandate collaboration which would have saved those lives at no cost to taxpayers, was not supported by HSUS. And when animal advocates tried to mandate shelter reform in Texas, HSUS helped coordinate the opposition. In Texas, the law would have mandated:
- Collaboration: Texas pounds would not have been able to kill animals if rescue groups were willing to save them;
- Transparency: taxpayers and donors would have had a right to know how the shelters they fund are doing by requiring them to post their statistics;
- Decency: would have made it illegal to kill animals using the cruel gas chamber; and
- Fairness: would have made it illegal to kill animals based on arbitrary criteria (breed, color, age, etc.).
It is difficult, for example, to overstate just how abhorrent and revolting gassing is. The process can take as long as 30 minutes after multiple animals are placed or thrown into a metal box, sometimes piled on one another or on the dead bodies of those gassed before them. The gas is turned on, the animals gasp for breath, their insides burning. They claw at the floor and throw themselves against the walls of the chamber in an attempt to get out. Sometimes the process doesn’t work, and is repeated on animals who survived. The law would have also stopped pounds across the state that kill all dogs they claim are pit bulls. It would have made it illegal for “shelters” to kill animals when a rescue group was willing to save those animals. But HSUS brought all those cruel directors together for a meeting with the legislative sponsor in order to derail its passage.
So if Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS does not support that kind of lifesaving legislation, what kind of legislation does it support? One of HSUS’ legislative initiatives this year was California’s AB 1279. It will not save a single life. The law will not improve conditions in pounds and other killing shelters one iota. And not one animal will benefit from it. In fact, it isn’t designed for the animals at all. It has one purpose: to excuse and exonerate those who harm them. AB 1279 changes California’s animal shelter laws to replace the word “pound” to “animal shelter,” “poundkeeper” to “animal shelter director,” and “destroy” to “humanely euthanize.” In other words, it legislates doublespeak and codifies euphemisms that are designed to obscure the gravity of what we are doing to animals as a society, and thus make the task of killing easier.
Count Nine: Every year, Wayne Pacelle’s organization calls for a celebration called “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week,” where we are asked to reward animal shelters and the “dedicated people” who work at them. According to the annual press release, HSUS is “the strongest advocate” for shelters. But at the same time as HSUS proclaims itself the Number 1 cheerleader for killing shelters in the country, there is an ever-increasing amount of nationwide media coverage revealing widespread animal neglect and outright abuse at these very institutions. These exposes show a strikingly different reality than the fantastical and mythical description of these pounds portrayed by the very agency that is supposed to be their watchdog. And when it does come out, HSUS either is silent, looks the other way, or, more egregiously, defends the abusive and/or poorly performing “shelters.”
You would expect that the head of the nation’s largest and wealthiest animal protection group would condemn shelter atrocities like those occurring in Los Angeles county “shelters”:
- A staff member at Los Angeles County’s animal control shelter kicked a dog forcibly held upside down with a catch-all pole and a hard-wire noose wrapped around his neck; and,
- When another at this same shelter dragged a dog with a broken back; and,
- When another dragged two dogs across hot asphalt; and
- When others allowed a dog to starve and die in a filthy kennel; and
- When they allowed rabbits to go without food and water. In fact, in what has come to be known as “Spinal Monday,” rabbits were forced to cannibalize one another because they were starving. When staff finally checked in on the rabbits, one of them had his spine exposed as he was being eaten alive by the others; and,
- When a sick puppy was allowed to languish and die without any care; and,
- When 80% of cat cages were kept empty while the shelter killed 80% of all the cats it took in.
But not a word of concern, condemnation, or protest from Pacelle, who the director of the pound calls a friend. In fact, Pacelle rarely, if ever, condemns killing shelters for neglect and abuse. In fact, quite to the contrary, Pacelle even came to the defense of Miami-Dade’s regressive director (since forced to resign) even after video surfaced showing abusive killing, with cats screaming in terror as they were put to death cruelly.
Count Ten: When Wayne Pacelle misled donors by asking for money for the care of the Michael Vick dogs even though HSUS not only wasn’t caring for the dogs, but was actively seeking to have them put to death, it wasn’t the first time he did so. Misrepresentation is a recurring pattern and deliberate part of Pacelle’s fundraising strategy. In 2005, for example, after the most devastating Hurricane in modern history, HSUS raised roughly $30,000,000 to help the animals impacted by Hurricane Katrina. HSUS spent a paltry $4,000,000 of that money on Hurricane Katrina animals in the aftermath of the devastation. And after sending the animals “rescued” by HSUS to killing shelters around the country, he declared “Mission Accomplished” and left with tens of millions which he socked away in HSUS bank accounts, earning HSUS an investigation by the Attorneys General of Mississippi and Louisiana.
Adding insult to injury, in 2008, MuttShack Rescue completed a large-scale rescue of animals in New Orleans because of Hurricane Gustav. Instead of supporting the effort, HSUS claimed the rescue as their own. According to MuttShack:
[We] just completed the largest animal evacuation in the history of New Orleans. After its completion, HSUS drove their trucks up in front of the whole deal, shot some footage and has posted it [on their website] as their own rescue.
In 2009, HSUS set a goal of raising one million dollars in one month on the back of an abused dog rescued in the largest bust of a dog fighting ring in U.S. history. According to the HSUS fundraiser, ‘Faye’ was now safe, in a loving home, recovering thanks to HSUS. But none of it was true: HSUS was not involved in caring for Fay. HSUS, in fact, suggested that Fay should be killed. In further fact, they could not even get her name right. And while Fay was being cared for, and needed surgery, the costs and care were being provided by a small rescue group.
In response to the criticism and condemnation of this fraudulent fundraising appeal—on blogs, on twitter, including calls for a criminal investigation of HSUS—and with the memory of an investigation for fraud by the Louisiana and Mississippi Attorneys General for Hurricane Katrina fundraising still fresh, HSUS announced that they were going to give $5,000 for Fay’s surgery, ½ of 1% of what they hoped and expected to raise from the appeal.
To this day, HSUS has a strategy of deliberately confusing donors that HSUS is their local humane society and refusing to let local humane societies clarify it if they want any assistance from HSUS (HSUS spends roughly ½ of 1% of what they raise on actual care of animals in U.S. shelters). In fact, when the State Humane Association of California cried foul and asked the Attorney General to investigate the ASPCA’s fraudulent fundraising, ostensibly fearing that HSUS might be the next target, Wayne Pacelle sent them a bullying letter of condemnation.
There is more. While the World Health Organization was telling people cats did not pose a health risk during the heightened frenzy over bird flu, Pacelle’s organization was fanning the flames of misinformation and fear mongering by telling people not to help, feed, or touch stray cats but to call animal control when they see them, agencies with a history of mass slaughter. They lobbied to stop No Kill legislation in King County, Washington. They supported breed discriminatory legislation in Indianapolis, Indiana that would have led to the round up and killing of Pit Bulls. Pacelle told USA Today and Newsweek that killing in “shelters” is acceptable and that No Kill was warehousing. He and his team lied to the public, falsely claiming an epidemic of dog bites to convey the view that trying to save Pit Bulls was irresponsible and put children at risk.
His organization has falsely blamed cats for every conceivable social ill, including:
- Being a public rabies threat: “cats are now the most common domestic vectors of rabies”;
- Decimating wildlife: “free-roaming cats kill millions of wild animals each year”;
- Being invasive, non-native intruders: “cats are not a part of natural ecosystems, and their predation causes unnecessary suffering and death;” and,
- Causing neighborhood strife: “they also cause conflicts among neighbors.”
In Austin, HSUS supported the effort of former pound director Dorinda Pulliam (since forced to resign) who presided over 100,000 deaths, to move the facility from the vibrant community of downtown Austin which is the daily destination for thousands of Austinites to a more remote, industrial location where it would have led to decreased adoptions (and thus more killing), but would have meant bigger offices for shelter bureaucrats. In 2009, his group told people not to adopt animals during the holidays, effectively accepting the deaths of 1,000,000 animals as the alternative. Pacelle allowed PETA to give a presentation at his national conference equating a movement to save the lives of animals in “shelters” with the mental illness which leads to animal cruelty, despite the fact that PETA slaughters over 90% of the animals they take in and dumps the bodies in supermarket trash bins. In Oregon, his representative slammed No Kill and supported a pound which left all but six cat cages intentionally empty so that staff did not have to clean the cages or work hard, killing the remainder. And he continues to claim that killing is kindness.
When someone shows us, tells us who and what they really are, over and over and over and over again, we should believe them. Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is an embracer of killers, an apologist for killers, an accomplice to killing, a defender of abusive pounds, a thief, a bully, and a liar, with “crimes” against animals going back over 15 years.
June 30, 2011 by Nathan J. Winograd
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798.
The ASPCA runs one shelter in New York City. Despite an adopter base of about 8 million people, the largest in the nation, it adopts out less animals than the Nevada Humane Society with its 425,000 residents. It adopts out less animals than many shelters in communities with 100,000 residents. In fact, it adopts out less animals than some rescue groups. And yet it takes in over $100 million a year because people think that it is adopting out animals all over the country.
In fact, many people think they are donating to their local shelter when they donate to the ASPCA. And they think that way, in part, because that is what the ASPCA wants them to think. Not long ago, the ASPCA went door-to-door in Seattle, Washington, trolling for donations. ASPCA solicitors were told to bring a dog, and they were given an “Adopt Me” vest to put on the dog. The purpose was clear: confuse people into thinking the agency was local and its mission was to save lives locally. The volunteers were given a very specific script and they were told not to deviate from it. Like the dog with the “adopt me” vest, it was designed to obscure the fact that the ASPCA was not in Seattle, did not save lives in Seattle, but ran one shelter in New York City that saves very few animals given its $100,000,000 a year revenue stream. When one of those hired suggested it was misleading, she was asked to leave. The fundraising continued. The Seattle Humane Society, of course, objected, writing in the local newspaper,
Right now, solicitors hired by the American SPCA (ASPCA) located in New York are knocking on doors and approaching people on the streets of Seattle asking for donations to help save the lives of shelter pets. Some of these solicitors have been accompanied by dogs wearing jackets that say “adopt me.” The Seattle Humane Society is not affiliated with the ASPCA in any way. The ASPCA is a large organization located in New York City. The ASPCA does not provide any financial support to local agencies nor do they provide shelter or adoption services in our area… Every donation made to the ASPCA goes out of town.
But this type of duplicity isn’t limited to Seattle. Nor is it limited the ASPCA. And at least two large organizations—the California State Humane Association of California (SHAC) and the Massachusetts SPCA—have complained, with the former asking the Attorney General of their state to open an investigation. The ASPCA will likely weather the storm, as they are no strangers to investigations by attorneys general for fraud. It happened, for example, when the ASPCA and HSUS defrauded donors during their Katrina debacle, with HSUS being the worst offender, raising over $20,000,000, spending only $4,000,000 before Wayne Pacelle stood on his own version of an aircraft carrier, announced “Mission: Accomplished” and then headed out in his own Flyboy outfit, leaving behind thousands of animals in need and sticking the rest of the money in HSUS’ already bloated coffers. But even if they survive the investigations, even if nothing comes of it, even if the Attorneys General find that there is no law violation that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, make no mistake about it: the fraud and the deception are intentional. (It is no coincidence that HSUS has chosen the name “humanesociety” rather than “HSUS” for their twitter name.)
For a significant fee, HSUS sells its donor list for one time use by shelters, but the list comes with caveats. In addition to others (such as not mailing it out until HSUS sent their appeal to those same donors), the one primary stipulation is that: “In order to rent the list, you would need to submit the complete mail piece to the list owner for approval.”
Over the years, the Nevada Humane Society has learned that people are often confused by fundraising appeals from HSUS. Local residents think they are donating to the local humane society when they give money to HSUS. In fact, NHS has been told by local residents that they have already donated to them, when in fact they gave to HSUS. This confusion goes beyond fundraising: NHS was publicly criticized for “embracing Michael Vick”—which they did not—because people thought HSUS (“the humane society”) was NHS. In order to clarify the confusion and to help raise funds for local programs, they tried to buy a list from HSUS to do so. And they submitted their proposed mailing for HSUS approval which included the statement:
Nevada Humane Society is a nonprofit organization. We rely upon donations to make our lifesaving work possible. We do not receive funding from national groups or the government. Your contribution is tax-deductible. Please return this reply slip in the enclosed envelope to Nevada Humane Society. Thank you.
After doing so, HSUS denied the request, stating that unless NHS “remove[d] ‘national groups’ from this copy,” they could not use the list. In other words, HSUS did not want NHS informing these individuals that when they give to groups like HSUS, they are not giving money to local lifesaving efforts. Put simply, HSUS was committed to keeping its supporters in the dark as to where their money was going. (In fact, when SHAC sent a letter to legislators informing them that HSUS and ASPCA are not umbrella groups, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle sent SHAC a letter condemning them for it.)
Surprised, the leadership at NHS sent the following message to the HSUS representative:
Does HSUS really wish to use the sale of their mailing list to control the messages of smaller humane organizations—those that are doing the work on the ground and struggling under the public misperception that if they give to a large national group that they are helping animals locally?
The answer was “yes.” Notwithstanding the take it or leave it response, NHS decided to remove the offending message and resubmit the fundraising appeal. But that was not enough. It did not matter if it was just on the appeal being used with the HSUS list, HSUS was insistent that this factually clarifying language had to be removed from all NHS mailings, even to those not involving HSUS mailing lists. Furthermore, NHS was told they had to agree to refrain from using it in any future communications to anybody, something NHS would not agree to do: “Are you are asking us not to mail factual information that we are not funded by large national organizations to our own supporters?”
Once again, the answer was “yes.” Conferring with HSUS officials, the HSUS list manager replied that it did not matter if the appeal involved HSUS lists or not, or if the appeals were “going to our names or otherwise—because you are mailing language that we do not approve, [HSUS] will not approve you. For that reason, NVHS has been denied.”
NHS went ahead with its mailing and continues to let its donors know it is not affiliated with HSUS or its draconian policies. But some local humane societies don’t do themselves any favors financially, even if they themselves agree with and practice the same regressive, pro-killing policies as the ASPCA and HSUS. When I arrived to take over the Tompkins County SPCA in Ithaca, New York, it was a killing shelter with a shelter manager who fully embraced the ASPCA’s 19th Century policy orientation. In fact, the lobby was filled with literature from the ASPCA, which quickly found its way into the recycling bin the day I arrived. Why assist groups like HSUS and ASPCA steal money meant for their organization. They do a fine job themselves even without the help of local shelters.
HSUS did it during Muttshack’s Hurricane Gustav rescue. In 2008, MuttShack Rescue completed a large-scale rescue of animals in New Orleans because of Hurricane Gustav. Instead of supporting the effort, HSUS claimed the rescue as their own. According to MuttShack:
[We] just completed the largest animal evacuation in the history of New Orleans. After its completion, HSUS drove their trucks up in front of the whole deal, shot some footage and has posted it [on their website] as their own rescue.
HSUS then sent out another deceitful fundraiser asking people to donate to them because of another organization’s rescue.
They did it with the rescue of an abused dog named Fay in 2009. The goal was to raise one million dollars in one month on the back of an abused fighting dog rescued in the largest bust of a dog fighting ring in U.S. history. According to the HSUS fundraiser, ‘Faye’ was now safe, in a loving home, recovering thanks to HSUS. But none of it was true: HSUS was not involved in caring for Fay. HSUS, in fact, suggested that Fay should be killed. In further fact, they could not even get her name right. And while Fay was being cared for, and needed surgery, the costs and care were being provided by a small rescue group.
In response to the criticism and condemnation of HSUS fraudulent fundraising appeal—on blogs, on twitter, including calls for a criminal investigation of HSUS—and with the memory of an investigation for fraud by the Louisiana and Mississippi Attorneys General for Hurricane Katrina fundraising still fresh, HSUS announced that they were going to give $5,000 for Fay’s surgery, ½ of 1% of what they hoped and expected to raise from the appeal.
In fact, these two fraudulent appeals followed Wayne Pacelle’s lobbying to have all the surviving dogs abused by Michael Vick killed, despite the fact that he was fundraising off of them and lying to donors about it. Shortly after the case broke, HSUS contacted the U.S. Attorney prosecuting Vick and asked if they could be “involved” and see the dogs (then being held at six animal control shelters in Virginia). The U.S. Attorney agreed but only on condition that they take no photographs and not publicly talk about the dogs (citing fears of compromising the case, sensitivities involved in the prosecution, and issues surrounding rules of evidence). HSUS agreed and then promptly violated that agreement. HSUS staffers took photographs of the dogs with people wearing “HSUS” shirts to make it appear that HSUS was directly involved in the case and their care.
They then sent out an appeal for money containing a photograph of someone wearing an HSUS shirt with one of the dogs. In the appeal, HSUS asks for money “to help The Humane Society of the United States care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case” and promises to take the money and “put [it] to use right away to care for these dogs.” A caption underneath the photograph states: “This dog was one of 52 pit bulls seized from Michael Vick’s property—dogs now being cared for by The HSUS…”
Wayne Pacelle himself reiterated this in his July 18, 2007 blog in which he stated that HSUS was “working with federal authorities from the start, and assisting with the care of 52 dogs taken from Vick’s property.” It was a lie. HSUS was not caring for the dogs as they claimed, they were not going to use the money to care for the Vick dogs, in fact, they were lobbying to have them killed.
The fact is, the truth about the ASPCA and HSUS doesn’t sell, so in order to continue filling their already over bloated coffers, they must rely on fraudulent misrepresentation, on keeping the lie going that they are somehow affiliated with local humane societies and SPCAs and that when you give to HSUS or the ASPCA, you are saving lives locally. In a three year period, over $10,000,000 flowed from Massachusetts donors to the ASPCA’s bank account in New York City, with some donors complaining that they did not realize that the ASPCA was not the local SPCA. That, of course, was the intention.
And that is one reason why the Marquette, Michigan decided to do something about it. The Marquette, County Humane Society is a success story. And part of the reason is that it is no longer the Marquette County Humane Society. YesBiscuit describes the transition:
During the period from 1999-2006, the private open-admission shelter was killing 60% of the pets in their care. Their administrator had been in place for decades and was very resistant to change. The shelter operated under policies rooted in myths and fallacies. Numerous complaints were brought before the Board. In the summer of 2006, they were very close to ceasing operations when a longtime volunteer introduced the Board to Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption. The Board decided to implement some major changes to the shelter and things started to improve dramatically. From a recent letter sent by the Board President Reva Laituri to the No Kill Advocacy Center: “Although we were still fearful, the results spoke for themselves and we realized we could save lives and do it without condemning animals to fates ‘worse than death” as we had been routinely warned. As more animals went into homes instead of garbage bags, the direction we had chosen to take was validated and many of the fears and premises we had based our policies on were proven to be invalid.”
The letter outlines the changes at the shelter over a 2 year transition period (2006-2008). During that time, the Board began investigating complaints and made greater use of volunteers. The shelter torched their blame-the-public philosophy, replacing it with a let-us-help-you-find-the-right-pet, adopter friendly attitude. The administrator and some staff members who could not get on board with the changes were replaced by people dedicated to saving lives. A new manager expanded shelter hours as well as the foster program. Rescue groups were welcomed, Petfinder and social media sites were utilized, offsite adoption events were held and interactions with the public were significantly improved.
Today, the shelter is saving 93% of all animals. And the staff, volunteers, and community feel—and have the right to feel—very proud of what they have accomplished. But changing the way they operated wasn’t the only changes they implemented. They also changed their name. Good-bye Marquette County Humane Society. Hello Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter! Their Board President explains that there was a widespread misconception “that we are a part of, or in some way affiliated with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This leads to two problems. First, they think we receive funding from our ‘parent’ organization and second, they believe we subscribe to all the same views and stances taken by HSUS. Neither of which is true.”
Those views, of course, are the very practices UPAWS has rejected. While HSUS and the ASPCA continue to support killing, continue to fight progressive legislation to end the most egregious practices of local pounds (HSUS fought a law to end the gas chamber in Texas; the ASPCA killed a law to make it illegal to kill animals who a qualified rescue group was willing to save), UPAWS is now a member and supporter of the No Kill club. Indeed, their Board President will be speaking at this year’s No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C.
Too many shelters are afraid that if they give up the name “humane society” or “SPCA,” they will lose donations. In fact, UPAWS explains that they almost went bankrupt with the name “humane society” because donations meant for them were ending up in the coffers of HSUS. But legally, one can keep that name and not use it, or downplay it, or ad it as small print in their fundraising appeals. They can still cash the checks made out to “humane society” or “SPCA” by long-time donors.* The good news is that when people now write checks to support their local shelter, they write them to “UPAWS” because there is no confusion as to who it is meant for and what it should be used for. And that is something UPAWS can take to the bank.
* The albatross comes in other forms. Recently, Best Friends Animal Society put out an article highlighting the work of Austin advocates who succeeded in fighting off the ASPCA, who succeeded in fighting off the regressive-kill oriented pound director who was protected by the ASPCA, and who succeeded in getting the save rate up to about 90%. The timing of the article begs a whole host of questions: Why now? Where was Best Friends when the fight was on? When the animals were being killed and the ASPCA was trying to keep it that way and they needed national allies? Of course, they were nowhere to be found, an implicit endorsement of the ASPCA (which they do not mention at all in the article). But worse than the timing is the content. Aside from ignoring the fact that the success in Austin was a result of a fight against the ASPCA, at the beginning of the article they call the campaign in Austin a “No More Homeless Pets” campaign, creating the illusion that Best Friends was and is somehow involved, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
Precisely because the water is being siphoned off by the large, national organizations, diverting money meant for local shelters and local efforts to their already bloated coffers.