Who Loves PETA?

May 29, 2009 by  

If you can’t shoot the message, shoot the messenger.

PETA wants to discredit me. To PETA, I am a threat. Why?

Because I eat meat? No, that can’t be it. I’m an ethical vegan of 20 years living with a vegan wife, two vegan kids, and vegan dogs. I even have a vegan cookbook due out next year.


Because I experiment on animals? No, that can’t be it either. As an intern in law school, I worked with the Animal Legal Defense Fund on two lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce Animal Welfare Act standards. I even publicized violations of the Animal Welfare Act by Stanford University’s animal research lab while I was a student there which led to a federal investigation by both the National Institutes of Health and USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Because I think dogs and cats should be killed? No, that can’t be it. I’m a committed No Kill advocate. I created the nation’s first No Kill community. I am the director of an organization dedicated to ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters. And I’ve worked with communities nationwide to reduce rates of shelter killing.

According to Alicia Silverstone, the actress and PETA spokesperson, Ingrid Newkirk says I want to destroy the animal rights movement. Can that be it? No, I believe animals have a right to live. I have even called for animal rights activists and No Kill advocates to come together on the issue of companion animals.

Could it be that I am a threat precisely because of all of those things? Because I take issue with PETA’s slaughter and cannot be superficially dismissed as part of some group which just wants to exploit animals? That my positions reveal the hypocrisy of PETA’s kill-oriented policies? Because through my association with the No Kill movement, I am helping–along with many others–to strip PETA of the excuses they use to justify their nefarious actions against over 2,000 innocent animals every year? Because I am helping to prove that the anti-No Kill, pro-killing positions PETA advances are regressive, ethically bankrupt, and cruel?


They have threatened to sue me. They’ve taken out ads against me. They’ve written letters to the editor of newspapers lying about me. And they’ve come to the defense of regressive shelters against my reform efforts. But PETA’s latest salvo against me really takes the cake* : “Dog Breeders love Nathan.” That is what PETA recently posted on an internet list-serve devoted to animal rights which was debating the No Kill philosophy in order to undermine my credibility and to champion its policy which favors killing.

Dog breeders love Nathan. Wow—a non-sequitur. I…am…..speechless. And that little gem is supposed to discredit the No Kill philosophy? And that is supposed to absolve the Butcher of Norfolk of her wanton disregard for the value of animal life? And PETA’s lackeys are that gullible that they will accept that claim as a reason to continue supporting the PETA death squads?

Well then, here are mine in return:

Dog killers love PETA. So long as the dog killers call themselves “animal control,” “humane society,” or “SPCA.” Nationwide, animal control directors who would rather kill dogs then save them using readily available lifesaving alternatives and who are under scrutiny from No Kill advocates working to reform their shelters can count on PETA to come to their defense. It seems the worse the shelter, the more PETA rallies, as it did in King County, WA even after it was found that animals were not being fed, were allowed to suffer with untreated injuries and illness, and were neglected and even abused by the staff who was supposed to be their protectors.

Cat killers love PETA. Not only do shelter directors who kill cats despite readily available lifesaving alternatives love PETA for the same reason as those who needlessly kill dogs do, but those who want all feral cats rounded up and killed do too. In fact, Georgetown University cited PETA when it embraced an extermination campaign after I lobbied for them to follow the example of Stanford University, my alma mater, and set up a campus TNR program. In fact, unweaned kittens were found left to starve after the PETA-endorsed campaign rounded up their feral mothers to kill.

Vivisectors love PETA. While PETA claims to be against animal research, they championed a Pit Bull ban in Ontario, even though Ontario allows pound seizure. After 72 hours in a municipal pound, dogs are sold to any researcher from a registered research facility for $6. Its bad enough that PETA endorsed a Pit Bull ban in Ontario that causes people to surrender their animal companions under the threat of arrest. But now these family pets are being sold to laboratories for animal experimentation.

Who else loves PETA?

Vortech Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Fatal-Plus (the drug used to kill animals in shelters), loves PETA. PETA’s own use and PETA’s advocacy for increased use, despite readily available lifesaving alternatives, is increasing Vortech profits.

Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater loves PETA. PETA pays them to pick up the dead bodies of the animals they kill. And since they get paid by weight, and some estimates say that PETA delivers up to 30 tons of dead animals annually, that amounts to tens of thousands of dollars in profits thanks to PETA’s killing rampage.

The company PETA paid $9,370 of its members donations in order for them to install a large walk-in freezer to store all the bodies of dead animals PETA kills at its headquarters loves PETA.

People who want to scapegoat and kill all Pit Bulls love PETA. When anti-Pit Bull advocates introduced legislation in Indianapolis to make it easier to kill Pit Bulls, PETA urged them to go further and ban them outright. Just kill them all!

PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk loves PETA. PETA provides political cover for her dark impulses to seek out innocent animals to kill.

Hypocrites love PETA. PETA has long argued that feral cats are better dead than fed and has blasted people who feed feral animals, including cats. But do those rules apply to Ingrid Newkirk?

In the book, Pigeons: The fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird, the author tells people not to feed feral pigeons because it inflates their numbers, increases dependence on humans, and increases human-pigeon conflicts which lead to lethal campaigns against them. If you overfeed pigeons, he concludes, you are giving fodder to anti-Pigeon forces seeking to eradicate them. I am not sure I buy into that. I am an advocate for feeding feral cats. Why are pigeons different? Maybe they are. I’ve never seen a skinny Pigeon. I just don’t know enough about it to make the call. But PETA agrees. They’ll tell you not to feed them. They’ll tell you it’s wrong. They’ll agree that if you care about them, you should leave them alone. That is what they’ll tell you. But that is not what Ingrid Newkirk does herself. Here’s a tidbit from Pigeons on p. 239:

Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA. No matter how much she is educated about overfeeding the pigeons on her office balcony in Norfolk, Virginia, she apparently can’t quit the habit.

No surprise there. This comes from a woman who says she believes in animal rights and then demands the right to kill them. Apparently, there are rules for everyone else and then there are different rules for Newkirk. As head of the nation’s largest so-called “animal rights” organization, she’ll tell you that animals have intrinsic value independent of their relationship to humans and they should be treated with respect and compassion, but then she turns around and claims animals do not have a right to live. Her group kills over 2,000 every year. She champions policies, like Pit Bull bans, to kill even more of them. And she attacks those working to save animals who disagree with her.

It would be ludicrous, if it wasn’t so disturbing.


* Cake: flour, organic sugar, soy milk, egg replacer, baking powder, vanilla flavor, sea salt. Frosting: Organic powdered sugar, margarine, cocoa powder, water, vanilla powder, sea salt. Walla! Vegan cake.

In Bed with Monsters

May 25, 2009 by  

Over the years, Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, 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 animal shelter directors, championed the killing of dogs and cats, and worked to hinder the progress of the No Kill movement.

From Tangipahoa Parish, LA where he legitimized the unnecessary mass slaughter of shelter animals to Wilkes County, NC where he embraced the mass slaughter of dogs.

From San Francisco, CA where he fought shelter reform legislation which would have saved lives to the post-Katrina Gulf Coast, where he claimed “Mission Accomplished” and left with tens of millions in HSUS bank accounts which belonged to the animals who continued to suffer.

From legitimizing a round up and kill campaign for cats in Randolph, IA to fear mongering over the bird flu 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,  even as the World Health Organization was telling people cats posed no risk.

From New Orleans, LA after Hurricane Gustav where he fundraised off the largest evacuation of animals in U.S. history conducted by a rescue group by falsely claiming it was an HSUS effort, to Virginia where he demanded that the Vick dogs be killed only to fundraise off of them by telling donors that they were caring for them, when they were not.

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 latest scandal: helping Michael Vick—the most notorious animal abuser of our time—reform his image.

On hearing the news of Pacelle’s embrace of Vick, Bad Rap, one of the groups who helped care for Vick’s victims, responded:

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, Uba, Jhumpa, 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.

So that’s where I’m at. A second chance for Vick? An HSUS sponsored spokesman for ending torture? In my mind’s eye Vick is still in the shadows at the side of that pool. As many times as this scene plays out my head, he hasn’t yet moved towards that dog to pull him out. Not there yet.

Even PETA, a butcher of a different sort, finally got it right:

To clarify misleading stories regarding PETA and Michael Vick, PETA withdrew its offer to do a TV spot with Michael Vick last winter when a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report on Vick’s dog fighting activities revealed that he enjoyed placing family pets in the ring with fighting pit bulls and that he laughed as dogs ripped each other apart. PETA believes that this revelation, along with other factors in the report, fit the established profile for anti-social personality disorder (APD), and we called on Vick to have a brain scan to help confirm this. People diagnosed with APD are commonly referred to as “psychopaths.” They are usually male, prone to lying and manipulation, often take pleasure in cruelty, and cannot feel genuine remorse, which frequently leads to recidivism. PETA had previously been in talks with Vick’s management, public relations, and legal teams about shooting a public service announcement to help combat dog fighting, upon Vick’s release from prison. In December, after consulting with psychiatrists, PETA withdrew the offer for the TV spot, and in January, we called on NFL Commissioner Goodell to require that Vick undergo a brain scan and full psychological evaluation before any decisions were made about the future of his football career.

Everything to Lose

When the Vick case occurred, the entire nation was horrified. The public’s outrage was unequivocal. This was the correct response, and a symbol of just how much people love dogs. But Pacelle, the leader of the nation’s largest animal protection group, is asking people to question that outrage and response. His actions threaten to paint a sympathetic portrait of Vick, despite Vick’s true one-dimensional nature as a sadist who takes pleasure in torturing and killing dogs.

Ultimately, the lesson this embrace of Vick imparts is that the brutal abuse, torture, and killing of dogs is forgivable. That they are only dogs. That the public’s response to the Vick horror was misplaced and overblown. In the end, Pacelle is helping Vick create a false image of himself as “reformed” so he can play in the National Football League again; to avoid the consequences of his actions by getting back the most important thing he cares about—even as he took away from many dogs the thing that mattered most to them: their very lives.

After the depths of Vick’s depravity were fully revealed, the punishment was swift and severe, as it should have been. He was banned from the NFL. He was convicted by the federal courts. He was sent to prison. He was bankrupted. He was despised by the American public. Now, Wayne Pacelle is asking us to sacrifice this precedent. After all, if the head of HSUS is willing to forgive, why shouldn’t the public and the NFL?

Are we really willing to lower the bar on how our society should react to such blatant animal cruelty in order to help a vicious animal killer? What could we possibly stand to gain that would be worth undoing that? Are we really that gullible that we believe Vick can actually influence people not to fight dogs? Are we really going to believe that a PSA or neighborhood talk is going to make people who enjoy watching dogs tear each other apart suddenly have a change of heart? Even if there were a small chance that this was so, without integrity, the “lesson” he is supposed to impart will fail. And it is no surprise that Pacelle can’t anticipate this because he himself appears to lack sincerity for the cause.

So we are left with the question of whether we are really going to accept a few meaningless PSAs and public appearances for an end to the permanent, righteous consequences that Vick must endure by remaining reviled as a monster; by never being reinstated in the NFL; by remaining bankrupt so he cannot afford to rebuild the “Bad Newz Kennels.”

Working to dissipate the righteous anger, working to remove the consequences of Vick’s actions, Pacelle is opening a new chapter to a story that already had the best of possible endings our movement could have hoped for: When Vick was caught torturing innocent animals for sadistic enjoyment, he received a permanent and lasting punishment. He lost his freedom, he lost his career, he lost his money, he lost his reputation, he lost virtually everything. That is exactly how the story should stay ended. And Pacelle’s actions threaten to undo it all.

Nothing to Gain

In the process, Pacelle is helping undermine that which we achieved—showing dog fighters the high cost of punishment; sending the message that dog fighting is unforgiveable and will be met with swift, complete, and permanent recrimination.

To embrace Pacelle’s position, we have to believe that Vick has become a repentant animal abuser who now wants to help dogs. To justify all that we stand to lose as a movement—all the dogs stand to lose—we have to believe that Vick holds the key to ending the scourge of dog fighting. It would be foolish and naïve to do so.

Vick could not care less about stopping or preventing dog fighting. Vick did not have a cathartic realization he was wrong. This isn’t some soul searching effort to make amends. He got caught, pure and simple. Even his guilty plea was not a sincere admission of guilt but a strategic decision (given the overwhelming evidence and a certain conviction) to avoid federal sentencing guidelines which would have locked him away for far longer if he did not plead guilty. And even while he was pleading guilty, he denied killing dogs. Had he not been caught, Vick would be torturing and killing dogs, and taking great amusement in it, to this very day. Our work is about protecting animals, not embracing their abusers. And because our movement stands to gain nothing by this association, Pacelle is asking us to sacrifice the former for the latter. And in so doing, he is undermining our movement. Tragically, it is not the first time.

Finding Our Voice

Through HSUS, Pacelle has:

  • Participated in the slaughter of some 150 dogs, including puppies, in Wilkes County;
  • Lobbied to stop No Kill legislation in San Francisco;
  • Lobbied to stop No Kill legislation in King County, WA;
  • Supported breed discriminatory legislation in Indianapolis, IN;
  • Told USA Today and Newsweek that killing in shelters is acceptable and that No Kill was warehousing;
  • Misled the public about an epidemic of dog bites to convey the view that trying to save Pit Bulls was irresponsible and put children at risk;
  • Told the court to kill Vick’s victims even as he was asking people to give HSUS money so he could “care” for them;
  • Left New Orleans with tens of millions given to HSUS for the victims of Hurricane Katrina even while those animals were still suffering;
  • Legitimized the slaughter of virtually every animal at Tangipahoa Parish animal control;
  • Told people not to adopt animals during the holidays, effectively accepting the deaths of 1,000,000 animals as the alternative;
  • Told the Randolph, IA community that he did not have a problem killing stray cats.

And now this. This unconscionable, abhorrent, and vile embrace of a sadist who takes pleasure in the torture and killing of dogs.

This movement has been too forgiving of Pacelle. Time and time again he has acted in a way that is the antithesis of what the leader of an animal protection movement is supposed to do. Still, activists in this movement fail to condemn him, even as he now asks us to embrace the most notorious animal abuser of our time. To be equally forgiving of that monster, as we have been of him.

Can anyone 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 pedophile John Geoghan as a spokesman? Can anyone imagine the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network embracing rapist Josef Fritzl as a spokesman? It is unthinkable. And yet we in the animal movement, under Pacelle’s direction, are threatening to do this very thing, to having our movement embrace our version of Simpson, Geoghan, and Fritzl as a spokesman. It is beyond obscene. It is unthinkable.

When someone tells and shows us over and over who they are and what they stand for, we should believe them. No one can doubt that Vick is a monster. But sadly, despite the heartfelt pain expressed so eloquently about the dogs drowning in Vick’s backyard while he sadistically enjoyed himself, even Bad Rap, who deserves nothing less than unbridled accolades over their role in saving some of those poor dogs, refuses to see and condemn Pacelle for who and what he is. That is our movement’s own myopia. Just because Pacelle claims to value animals and he works for an organization with “humane” in its name doesn’t mean either is true. His actions time and again belie both claims. Which is why Bad Rap’s conclusion about Pacelle’s decision to embrace Vick as a spokesman that they are “not there yet” is not enough. None of us should ever be there. Ever.

If the dogs Vick tortured and Pacelle lobbied to have killed by the court could speak on their own behalf, their condemnation would be unequivocal. As they cannot, it is our solemn duty to do it on their behalf. And it is a trust we must not betray in deference to the power and position of those in our movement who abuse that power and betray our cause. As with any social justice movement, progress requires us to courageously defend what is right, even when doing so places us at odds with those in positions of power. We must put our allegiances to our ideals above allegiance to personalities and institutions. And this compels us to expose, reject, and condemn those in our midst who masquerade as leaders, such as Wayne Pacelle, but who use that power to willfully undermine our goals.

It is time for Pacelle to resign. It is time for him to leave us, and the animals, alone.

For further reading:

  1. Rejecting the Consensus of Killing
  2. Same as it Ever Was
  3. Fear Mongering at HSUS
  4. Saving Pit Bulls from HSUS, PETA, and Michael Vick
  5. Will the Real Wayne Pacelle Please Stand Up?
  6. The Real Wayne Pacelle Legacy
  7. The Real Wayne Pacelle Legacy Part II
  8. Desperately Seeking Wayne Pacelle
  9. You’re Doin’ a Heckuva Job Wayney
  10. Long Day’s Journey into Night
  11. “Getting Away with Murder” at Tangipahoa
  12. Dubious Deals at HSUS
  13. HSUS Says No to Holiday Adoptions
  14. The Death of Hope at HSUS
  15. HSUS Defends Wilkes County Massacre
  16. Wayne Pacelle Under Siege
  17. Its Déjà vu All Over Again
  18. Las Vegas, Round 3
  19. HSUS Supports Breed Discriminatory Legislation in Indianapolis

All of them are available by clicking here. Read them as an indictment against Pacelle. And then decide for yourself. My verdict: Guilty, as charged. Pacelle must go.

The Animals of Los Angeles Are Looking toward Sacramento

May 22, 2009 by  

The animals of Los Angeles are looking toward state legislators in Sacramento, our state’s capitol, to help lead them out of a quagmire of systematic killing, neglect, and abuse. The California Legislature has taken the first step toward a bold and powerful statement that rejects the failed paradigm of shelter killing. Assembly Concurrent Resolution 74 states that:

That the Legislature encourages No Kill animal shelter policies and procedures as the foundation for animal sheltering; and be it further Resolved, That the Legislature urges all local animal services agencies, local animal shelters, agencies under contract to provide animal services, societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and humane societies to embrace the philosophy of the No Kill movement, and to immediately begin implementing programs and services to reject failed kill-oriented policies and end the mass killing of sheltered animals…

Sadly, the resolution is just that: a resolution, which does not have the same binding authority of a state mandate. Nor is it perfect. But it is start and worthy of support. And it could not come at a more appropriate time in California for three reasons: 1. The State’s largest shelter system (in the County of Los Angeles) continues policies that allow, indeed cause, mass killing. It also continues to neglect and abuse animals in its care; 2. The state’s largest city (the City of Los Angeles) is increasing the number of animals it kills thanks to legislation passed last year which gave them greater powers to do so; and 3. Los Angeles area activists who embrace death are seeking state legislation to give all shelters in California this power.

Channel 2 News in Los Angeles recently did a story about abuse of animals in the Los Angeles County shelters by staff members who are supposed to be the animal’s protectors. Undercover video shows officers throwing animals, kicking animals, and choking animals. See the expose by clicking here.

In addition, the No Kill Advocacy Center, which filed a lawsuit against the County shelter in 2007, is telling members of the Board of Supervisors that if they don’t take immediate steps to end inhumane conditions at County shelters, they’ll be headed back to court:

By way of introduction, our agency was one of the plaintiffs in the December 2007 lawsuit against Los Angeles County and its Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) for illegal and inhumane treatment of animals at its six facilities. You are aware that a Stipulated Order was entered in settlement on this case on October 20, 2008.

Since the Order went into effect, we have investigated numerous complaints about continued illegal and inhumane treatment of animals. One of the complaints involved a two-year-old poodle mix. Despite showing symptoms of illness, she was never treated and found dead in her kennel on March 1, 2009, over two weeks after she was impounded. These facts are remarkably similar to those of the dog posthumously named “Zephyr” for which the Board of Supervisors held hearings in February, 2008. In that case, a ten-month-old puppy named Zephyr died while in the custody of DACC. A subsequent necropsy revealed the cause of death to be pneumonia, with marked emaciation (“starvation”). Administration of the antibiotics does not appear in the original Shelter Management Software records. Staff did not respond to her failure to eat. The dog died in her filthy kennel, without intervention by DACC staff, and without treatment or release from her suffering. The only difference between the prior case that occurred before the lawsuit was filed and the case of the above poodle-mix is that DACC does not have a rescuer to blame for their own failure, as the Department tried to do in the former case.

Another complaint involved five Persian cats. None of the cats were vaccinated, nor were they provided veterinary care on impound. Because of filthy conditions, one of the cats contracted Panleukopenia and died a week later, another died thereafter, and an additional cat died after adoption. The cats were finally given an examination and treatment, but not until a week after they were impounded.

A further complaint involved a litter of highly adoptable Pug puppies killed by DACC despite DACC’s awareness that there was a rescue group willing and able to save them, a clear violation of state law.

These do not appear to be isolated incidents. Complaints also include a stray dog not scanned for microchip on intake in violation of state law, only to be scanned when adopted and forced to be held an additional ten days, putting further pressure on available kennel space. We have a complaint involving a cat classified as “male” with “gastro” issues only to be found to be a female who was pregnant after she gave birth to a litter of kittens in the shelter. We have other cases of animals receiving no veterinary care, adequate food, or clean water; of dogs fighting in the shelter and left with torn ears and gouged eyes; of killing animals who were not irremediably suffering before the statutory holding period; and of keeping animals in filthy conditions.

We have subsequently demanded that DACC abate those conditions pursuant to the Stipulated Order. Because of DACC’s unsatisfactory responses, we have also sought mediation with DACC of some of those complaints. Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that conditions continue to fall short of legal minimums, the requirements of the Order, and the mandates of compassion and decency.

Despite our efforts to work with DACC, we are left with no choice but to conclude that DACC is not making substantial progress and/or good faith attempts to hold its staff accountable to either state law or the Stipulated Order.

We are, therefore, demanding that the Board of Supervisors take immediate steps to ensure that DACC ceases violating the law. Otherwise, you will leave us no choice but to ask the Court to hold the defendants in contempt of the Stipulated Order.

Tragically, animals in Los Angeles City shelters are fairing little better. Despite the Mayor’s promise that the City of Los Angeles would become the “most humane city in America,” his administration has done very little beyond empty rhetoric and photo ops to make it a reality. Indeed, the agency has been rocked by controversy during his administration involving mismanagement, poor care and unnecessary killing. And last year, it passed a punitive law that gave officers the power to impound and kill animals who are not sterilized. While other communities are seeing death rates plummet and lifesaving at all-time highs, during the past 12 months, 3,029 more cats were intentionally killed in Los Angeles city shelters compared to the year before, an increase of almost 33%. Dog killing has also increased significantly. And more animals are dying in their kennels than ever before.

Meanwhile, some Los Angeles activists don’t appear to care that they helped cause this killing and are intent on passing related state legislation. SB 250 is a reworded mandatory sterilization law under the guise of differential licensing. This comes after they failed last year to pass the original version. Sadly, this year—as occurred last year—they continue to refuse to add common-sense protections for animals. These would include, at a minimum,

  • A “no-impound/no-kill” provision, meaning an animal can never be impounded based on a violation of this law and if an animal is surrendered because a person received or was threatened with a citation, that animal cannot be killed;
  • An exemption for feral and free roaming strays, as they have no “owners”; and,
  • A provision for “free spay/neuter” in lieu of a citation based on a legislative approved income schedule. In other words, if someone falls below a threshold on income (e.g., is on any type of local, state, or federal welfare benefit or subsidy), they can demand free sterilization instead of a citation; or the citation cannot be written or the law enforced against them.

I’ve long argued that giving animal control the power to impound and kill more animals is no way to reduce shelter killing. Even the bean counters in the Senate seem to agree. SB 250 has been sent to the suspense file after a committee analysis found that,

costs could increase to the extent that irresponsible pet owners would surrender their animals to a shelter rather than pay for a surgical sterilization procedure, which would somewhat increase shelter populations and related costs.

As much as proponents try to paint all opposition as that of greedy breeders (I’ve never bred an animal in my life), this is the analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee whose staff actually don’t seem very sympathetic to animals. They call people “irresponsible” without concern about the deaths of animals or how spay/neuter is out of reach financially for those in the bottom rungs of the economic latter. They conveniently ignore that roughly seven out of ten low income pet owners would sterilize their animals if it was free. And they ignore that the communities with the highest rates of lifesaving don’t have these kinds of laws. In fact, they ignore that shelters in communities which take in higher per capita rates of animals than Los Angeles are still saving nine out of ten because shelter leadership embraced the programs of ACR 74. Senate Appropriations staff seem concerned only about costs. But their concern is not speculative.

Since the City of Los Angeles passed its version of the mandatory spay/neuter law one year ago, impounds and deaths—and therefore associated costs—have skyrocketed. The law has led to the only increase in cat and dog impounds and killing at Los Angeles Animal Services in nearly a decade, and the reversal of a decade long trend of declines in both. While the Mayor claims he wants Los Angeles to be the most humane city in America, it appears he is seeking “number one” status of a different sort. The direction Los Angeles is going, he actually seems intent on catching up to Lake County, CA which has the dubious honor of being the pet killing capitol of California. In 2007, Lake County veterinarian Jeff Smith and the President of the California Veterinary Medical Association encouraged Los Angeles to pass its mandatory sterilization law saying he supported such legislation. “It’s worked in our county,” he said. Working? Lake County has the highest per capita rate of killing in California.

The death champions in L.A. conveniently ignore this. In fact, they perpetuate it. It is truly time for change.

Let’s hope the California Legislature agrees by killing SB 250 and passing ACR 74. And then while they’re at it, how about passing the Companion Animal Protection Act?

Read the text of ACR 74 by clicking here.

Read the Companion Animal Protection Act by clicking here.

Find out why some activists embrace death by clicking here.

Read a “New Hope for Los Angeles” by clicking here.

Is More Killing On the Way to the Twin Cities?

May 17, 2009 by  

Protests erupted in front of the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Minneapolis and a petition by animal lovers is calling for the ouster of their director. This followed the mass killing of some 120 cats, despite pleas from rescuers and local shelters willing to help save them.

But this does not seem to have made an impact on the AHS Board of Directors. Not only did AHS sanction the action of AHS in a letter parroting staff arguments about the “need” to kill the cats, but according to a subsequent letter from Nic Pifer, Chair of the Board of Directors, the AHS is not only already doing a good job but has hired Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Sandra Newbury from the UC Davis Veterinary School to guide them into the future. “No doubt you are familiar with their work and reputation,” Mr. Pifer writes.

Yes, Mr. Pifer, I am “familiar with their work and reputation.” They are the ones who came into Las Vegas guns blazing and suggested that the shelter kill animals after a paltry 72 hours. They are the ones responsible for a 2007 increase in the number of cats killed in Dane County Humane Society by eviscerating the foster care program and recommending that the shelter keep every other cat cage empty (thereby cutting capacity in half and forcing the killing of cats already on the adoption floor). They are the ones who go into communities which are embracing No Kill to peddle the defunct “No Kill equals hoarding” argument designed to thwart those reform efforts by painting the lifesaving alternative to their 19th Century brand of catch and kill animal sheltering as even darker. They are the ones who equate No Kill with every known social evil, including “poor record keeping,” a laughable proposition if the outcome (the deaths of animals) weren’t the tragic result.

To make her point, Dr. Hurley even shows policy makers slides of messy cereal box aisles in a supermarket to “show” what happens when you put too many animals/cereal boxes on a shelf arguing that we have to “respect our animals just like we respect our cereal.” She also uses the feeble analogy to impart the apparent importance of limiting consumer choice. While showing shelves jammed with cereal boxes, she explained why offering people too many choices resulted in no sales at all, although I think Kellogg’s would take umbrage at her point.

According to a No Kill advocate, “I like my cereal, but I don’t respect it. I do, however, respect precious lives enough not to reduce them to merchandise.” But apparently, Dr. Hurley believes that if you have too many animals/cereal boxes, you should just throw them away. Only, you don’t have to kill cereal before doing so, and that is the crucial difference.

In one case, after seeing Kate Hurley speak, the former director of the Animal Welfare Association of New Jersey followed her advice by reducing the number of cages in the cat adoption room by half. She noted an increase in the number of cats adopted. Animal Sheltering, HSUS’ flagship magazine for the “catch and kill” establishment, promoted the success of this “less is more” approach. When a new director abandoned the approach and began following the No Kill Equation model of sheltering, cat adoptions nearly doubled and the agency became the most successful adoption agency in the entire state of New Jersey. Although the new director followed up with a letter to the editor, the subsequent and outstanding success was ignored.

And so you too will become familiar with their work and reputation, I am rerunning a December 2007 blog called “Can You Kill Your Way to No Kill?” about the team you claim so “eager to begin our work with…”

Once again, a Board of Directors abdicates its responsibility, a shelter director finds killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it, Dr. Hurley will likely provide the legitimacy to do so, and animals will continue to needlessly lose their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can You Kill Your Way to No Kill?

Dr. Hurley, Dr. Newbury, Dr. Semmelweis, and Death at a Midwest Humane Society
In February 2007, the Lied Animal Shelter in Las Vegas was forcibly closed down due to filthy conditions and dreadful treatment of animals. According to reports, sick animals were left to die in their cages, disease was rampant, and dogs were starving because of lack of food. The animals were not vaccinated on intake, sick animals were not treated, healthy animals were subsequently made sick, there was no isolation for sick animals, and there was a complete breakdown of basic principles of animal care and husbandry. The Lied Animal Shelter is a story of incompetent leadership, uncaring staff, a board of directors which failed to meet its oversight mandate, and a system which refused to put in place the programs and services that save the lives of animals. What happened at Lied Animal Shelter is one side of the worst kinds of animal sheltering.

The other side of the same coin (uncaring, incompetent shelter directors who oversee an equally uncaring and incompetent staff) are shelters that recklessly kill the vast majority of animals in their care in the face of responsible, proven lifesaving alternatives which they refuse to implement—In other words, run-of-the-mill high kill shelters such as those that can be found in many cities and towns across America. While the mechanics are different—Lied didn’t kill but left the animals to suffer and die on their own, the others simply kill them out of expediency—the underlying dynamic is the same: both shelters are outdated relics that refuse to modernize and put into place progressive programs and services which allow sheltering to be done humanely, responsibly, while saving the vast majority of dogs and cats. That the Lied Animal Shelter claimed it was “No Kill” is irrelevant. In the final analysis, it had more in common with high kill shelters and the leadership and staff who run them.

The Lied Animal Shelter—comprised of starving dogs, rampant disease, filth, animals suffering with no care—is not what the No Kill movement represents. In fact, No Kill is the opposite of hoarding, filth, and lack of veterinary care. The philosophical underpinning of the No Kill movement is to put actions behind the words of every shelter’s mission statement: “All life is precious.” No Kill is about valuing animals, which not only means saving their lives, but means good quality care. It means vaccination on intake, nutritious food, daily socialization and exercise, fresh and clean water, medical care, and a system built to find them all loving, new homes as soon as possible.

No Kill does not mean business as usual (poor care, hostile and abusive treatment of animals, warehousing) minus the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and keep moving through the system efficiently and effectively and into loving, new homes. At the open admission No Kill shelter I ran, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of approximately 2%, we reduced the disease rate by nearly 90% from the prior administration, we reduced the intentional killing rate by 75%, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and we saved 93% of all impounded animals. In short, from 2001-2004, we brought sheltering into the 21st Century.

Personal Agendas
But there are those who have seized upon the Lied Animal Shelter fiasco to promote their own agenda of defending an antiquated model of sheltering developed in the 19th Century which is based on killing, sweeping animals under the rug (more accurately, into the back room to be killed), based on archaic notions of “adoptability,” turning volunteers away and other regressive and obsolete practices. They are using the Lied Animal Shelter to denounce the No Kill paradigm by intimating—sometimes directly, more often indirectly—that Lied is the natural outcome of trying to end the killing of savable dogs and cats in shelters today. And two of the leading voices of this point of view are Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Sandra Newbury, veterinarians for the University of California at Davis Shelter Medicine program.

This is a betrayal of the worst kind. Even the Humane Society of the United States called Lied “one of the worst its ever seen.” It was extreme even in the eyes of an agency which accepts staggering high levels of killing as the norm. Therefore, using such an extreme situation as an example of No Kill, of what the natural alternative to ending the killing today would be, is egregious.

By denigrating No Kill as akin to warehousing and ignoring the protocols of shelters which have truly achieved No Kill, Drs. Hurley and Newbury appear to be arguing for nothing more than a nation of shelters firmly grounded in killing—a defeatist mentality that is inherently unethical and antithetical to animal welfare. To imply that No Kill means warehousing, therefore, is a cynicism which has only one purpose: to defend those who are failing at saving lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting a picture of the alternative as even darker.

At the Las Vegas shelter, a wholly incompetent and uncaring shelter director refused to vaccinate animals on intake, failed to practice basic husbandry, refused to treat sick animals, failed to isolate sick from healthy animals, failed to clean and sanitize, allowed animals to languish with illnesses and injuries, and failed to put in place the programs and procedures which vastly increase adoptions and lifesaving. This is not No Kill. This is animal cruelty, but HSUS—with Drs. Hurley and Newbury in tow—came in with needles blazing and oversaw the killing of 1,000 animals. (The Lied Animal Shelter is now killing dogs and cats after only 72 hours and officials there claim they are doing so based on the recommendation of the HSUS team. This not only replaces one “evil” with another, it even violates HSUS’ own longstanding recommendation that shelters should hold animals for at least five days.)

But if the No Kill model should be rejected, what do they recommend? For Dr. Newbury, the answer is simple and can be found right in the shelter of her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin—at the Dane County Humane Society (where both she and Dr. Hurley used to work, a shelter she currently consults with, and where her own model of sheltering is currently being practiced). Let’s see what the Newbury model means for the cats of the Dane County Humane Society.

Life and Death at the Dane County Humane Society
This year, over a period of several weeks, one by one, seventy-three cats were taken off of the adoption floor of the Dane County Humane Society in Madison, WI, to a room outside of public view. One by one, each was injected with poison from a bottle marked “fatal-plus” (or similar barbiturate). One by one, their bodies went limp and slumped to the table. One by one, each was put to death. Why were these 73 cats killed?

They were killed, according to recent reports, because the shelter decided it was going to keep every other cage empty and curtail other lifesaving programs, reducing the number of cages on its adoption floor by half. But since cats occupied those cages or were under the “care” of those other programs, they needed to be slaughtered first. This was necessary in order to “save more cats.” That’s right. According to shelter bureaucrats, by killing cats, by cutting the capacity of the shelter in half, they were professing the Orwellian logic that more cats would be saved…

At this shelter, every other cage is intentionally kept empty despite the fact that disease can be reduced by fostering sick animals, by isolating sick animals, by reducing disease rates through vaccination, proper handling, good cleaning and sanitizing protocols, and by reducing animal stress through daily interaction and socialization by volunteers. At the same time that the number of cages was reduced by half, however, the shelter restricted adoption hours and eviscerated its foster care program.

In response to a public backlash, the architect of this mass carnage claimed: “I am not in any way advocating for more euthanasia,” which is more double-speak since this is exactly what is being advocated. What else is the option when the number of cages is reduced by half, while the shelter is scaling back other opportunities—like adoption days and foster care programs—to save them?

According to Dr. Newbury, by killing the cats and then intentionally cutting shelter capacity in half, more animals will be saved over the course of the year or the next. If your head is spinning from the lack of logic, you are not alone. This argument was also lost on a reporter who noted that in fact, by killing more cats and cutting shelter capacity in half, more cats are likely to die, a fact confirmed by the rising death toll for cats at Dane County Humane Society. Since Dr. Newbury started with the Dane County Humane Society in 2003, the death toll for cats has been steadily rising. In 2003, the year she began, the cat save rate was on a mult-year rise culminating at about 80%. It has been declining every year since. Even while the Society is getting richer (its revenue is growing by the millions), it is killing more cats than in recent history.

According to a recently published report, the Dane County Humane Society’s “[killing] rate for cats reached 40% in October of this year, up from 29% in October 2006,” and this, despite falling intake rates. Despite the promise of more lifesaving, in fact:

The [kill] rate has not gone down. The shelter still kills about one-third of the nearly 7,000 animals it receives annually. And the numbers for cats are the worst. The shelter is actually taking in fewer felines – 3,000 so far this year, compared to 3,800 in 2006 – but is killing more of them. In 2003, the Humane Society [killed] 600 cats a year. By 2006, it was killing more than 1,200. And it’s on track to kill an even higher number this year.

On top of this, the Dane County Humane Society’s new rules:

Decreed that old or sick cats–even those with treatable conditions–would be [killed]. Kittens that arrive needing to be bottle fed would also generally be killed, since the Humane Society limited the number of foster families available to care for them to just 10.

… As more progressive shelters have demonstrated, disease can be reduced by more adoptions (which is undermined when Dane County cuts back adoption hours), sending animals to foster care (which is undermined when Dane County emasculates the program), using volunteers to socialize the animals (which is undermined when volunteers are turned away or leave in frustration), and practicing good husbandry (vaccination on intake, careful handling, thorough sanitizing and cleaning protocols).

This has not been lost on the cat loving public. According to volunteers, any respiratory infections at the shelter were not the result of having cats in all the cages, it was the result of shelter staff “ignoring basic protocols, like washing their hands in-between handling animals.” Moreover, the shelter’s director publicly admitted under a reporter’s questioning that they have never had an epidemic of a serious disease!

Rejecting the Status Quo
While Drs. Hurley and Newbury continue to dig trenches to the past, the rest of us are building bridges to our inevitable No Kill future—A future that promises more life, more compassion, more success, more programs to save the lives of animals. In doing so, we are rejecting the consensus of killing and rejecting the “model” of empty cages, lack of foster care, and killing because the animals do not meet draconian definitions of objective beauty or based on regressive and obsolete notions of “adoptability.”

For in the end, our movement is about more than seeking shelters which simply label themselves as “No Kill” and proceed with business as usual, as the Lied Animal Shelter did. Our movement is about action and results, not mere words and promises. What we seek is a modernization and transformation of our shelters, exchanging century-old obsolete forms of doing business which recklessly embrace killing as a morally ethical means to an end, with shelters that uphold the life and welfare of animals as paramount, and adjust their operations accordingly.

What we demand, and what the animals deserve, are shelter directors and shelter “experts” who value life, and keep pace with progress and innovation, and with the new and exciting methods of animal shelter protocols developed over the last decade to keep animals clean, healthy, and well cared for, while finding homes for all but hopelessly vicious dogs and irremediably suffering animals. These are the only models which veterinarians at one of the nation’s most prestigious veterinary college should be using to train the next generation of veterinarians and to guide the current generation of shelter directors forward.

As a university and as a training ground for new veterinarians, the U.C. Davis program should be at the forefront of progressive shelter practices and of the dynamic and exciting changes occurring in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement. Instead, Drs. Hurley and Newbury irresponsibly cling to the past by promoting methods of sheltering that are antiquated, inhumane, and lead to unnecessary killing. This would be the equivalent of a medical school continuing to teach its students that leeches, bloodletting and magical incantations are a valid treatment for pneumonia, in the face of proven alternatives like antibiotics, fluid therapy and rest. It is nothing short of bad medicine—and a textbook example of the “Semmelweis Reflex,” the reaction so-called “experts” often exhibit when the status quo, which they represent, is challenged.

The Semmelweis Reflex
Historians have coined the term the “Semmelweis Reflex” to describe “mob behavior in which a discovery of important scientific fact is punished rather than rewarded.” In the nineteenth century, Dr. Ignac Semmelweis observed a higher incidence of deaths due to puerperal fever in maternity wards associated with teaching hospitals than in births attended by midwives. In trying to figure out why puerperal fever was a hazard of giving birth in a hospital rather than at home, Semmelweis opined that students and doctors might be carrying the diseases from autopsies they performed, while midwives who did not perform such procedures were not. Semmelweis also found that rigorous instrument cleaning and hand washing could bring the fever rate down to zero. Had doctors known at the time that germs caused disease, this finding would have been unremarkable.

Unfortunately, Semmelweis’ discovery predated the germ theory of disease. At the time, no one knew that asepsis was important. According to Semmelweis’ critics, hand washing wasn’t needed when they could clearly see that their hands had nothing on them. And, tragically, they ignored his recommendations and continued with business as usual, with deadly results for their patients. Once germ theory became known and established, however, Semmelweis was vindicated for his foresight. Of course, sterility through instrument cleaning and hand washing has since become the norm.

The housing, socialization, adoption, foster care, cleaning and vaccination protocols, medical and behavior rehabilitation and other efforts pioneered in communities like San Francisco and copied elsewhere provide a life-affirming model of sheltering which provides high quality care, reduced disease rates, even while keeping cages and kennels full as necessary and in foster care, while finding the vast majority of shelter animals loving new homes. These models were developed by caring and compassionate individuals, professionals, and in conjunction with veterinary institutions like Cornell University.

Rather than attack Semmelweis, doctors should have simply washed their hands, since Semmelweis pointed out that this eliminated deaths, even though, at the time, no one could explain why. Similarly, rather than attack the methods of sheltering which allow the vast majority of animals to be saved, even while operating at capacity-plus fostering, shelter administrators likewise should copy its precepts because it has been shown to work in other communities. But the vast majority of shelter directors refuse to innovate in this way.

But something more nefarious was at work in Semmelweis’ time than a failure of understanding about germs, and it is the same “Reflex” which is at work in sheltering today. In fact, what occurred was that Semmelweis was fired because doctors felt he was criticizing the superiority of hospital births over home births, something that threatened their position in the social hierarchy. And therein lies the rub. The archaic voices of tradition in sheltering are acting the same way as the doctors who put their own positions above their patients. They refuse to innovate and modernize precisely because they are threatened by the growing hegemony of the No Kill movement and what this means for their own stature in this movement.

As a movement and as a nation, we have a choice. We can embrace the No Kill philosophy, and the programs and services which make it possible, and end the unnecessary killing of 4.5 of the five million dogs and cats slaughtered each year in our nation’s dog and cat pounds. Or we can adopt the model that will perpetuate it. The same model that caused 73 cats at the Dane County Humane Society to be killed for one reason and one reason only: They happened to enter a shelter, run by a director, who erroneously believed that sheltering “experts” like Dr. Hurley and Dr. Newbury actually had something to teach her.

Indy Pit Bulls Get Reprieve

May 14, 2009 by  

Despite the support and endorsement of groups like the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Indianapolis City Councilman Mike Speedy’s effort to pass Breed Discriminatory Legislation is dead. The City Council tabled the measure indefinitely.

The Indianapolis animal welfare community—including Indianapolis Animal Care & Control (IACC), the Humane Society of Indianapolis (HSI), Pit Bull advocates, and other dog lovers—celebrated victory. According to John Aleshire of HSI, “I am pleased and relieved to forward this email from Council Angela Mansfield with the news that the BSL ordinance proposed by Mike Speedy is DOA. It truly appears to be a dead issue and we can breathe a sigh of relief.”

The bill to regulate Pit Bulls was being supported by HSUS which claims to be against these types of laws, but was surreptitiously behind efforts to get it passed in Indianapolis. When challenged, HSUS denied it was supporting it claiming they were just offering “input” on the legislation, but the ordinance’s author had been referring critics to HSUS in an effort to win their support. And HSUS had been citing a similar Little Rock, AR ordinance as a successful model. In fact, Little Rock officials also offered input into the Indianapolis law, and suggested that this could be a first step toward an outright ban.

In Little Rock, animal control officers have been going door-to-door confiscating Pit Bulls who aren’t registered and, according to KC Dog Blog, media reports show many smiling, tail wagging dogs (which are now “potentially dangerous dogs” under the law) being taken away to their death. Even though thousands of Pit Bulls have been killed in Little Rock because of this, HSUS applauded enforcement officials in Little Rock for doing so, calling their efforts “meaningful.”

When the news broke of HSUS’ involvement, HSUS claimed it would no longer be a part of the effort, but further e-mails show that HSUS staff was still involved. E-mails going back and forth from Councilman Speedy and others who supported it regarding strategies to get it passed, included cc’s to HSUS staff.

In a desperate attempt to keep his anti-Pit Bull legislation alive, Speedy took the advice of HSUS and re-billed it as a pro-Pit Bull law, changing the designation “potentially dangerous dog” to “at risk dog.” He even claimed that “Pit Bull advocates have been giving their all for the last 10 years” to saving Pit Bulls with little progress. He thus claimed they needed “help” to save these dogs through his legislation. This proposition would be ludicrous if it wasn’t so disturbing.

First, this law was about harming, not helping Pit Bulls. Second, Pit Bull advocates in Indianapolis did not want his brand of “help.” Third, this notion in Indianapolis is a lie. Until the appointment of Doug Rae earlier this year to head IACC, Pit Bulls (including Pit Bull puppies) were automatically killed. Rae removed the blanket destruction policy in favor of treating every dog as an individual and adopting non-vicious dogs regardless of breed characteristics. In other words, dog advocates have not had 10 years to save Pit Bulls in Indianapolis. These dogs were being systematically killed by the City. For a representative of the City to then turn around and say you failed to save them from us and then use that as an excuse to enact legislation they did not want, is reprehensible.

Not surprisingly, PETA also supported the law. PETA has long called for the nationwide slaughter of all Pit Bulls in shelters. In fact, PETA’s dog killing apologist Teresa Chagrin wrote Speedy encouraging him to follow the Denver example and enact a full breed ban. According to Chagrin:

Denver’s law prohibits any person from owning, possessing, keeping, exercising control over, maintaining, harboring, or selling a pit bull in the City and County of Denver. A pit bull is defined in the ordinance as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Straffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of these breeds… I encourage you to contact [Denver officials who are] a wealth of information.

In 2005, Denver officials began enforcing a law making it illegal to have a Pit Bull as a pet. Denver newspaper reports describe police officers seizing friendly pet Pit Bulls from homes on threat of arrest. While groups like PETA whitewash the truth, saying that shelters are doing the “public’s dirty work,” the truth is more sanguine: the work is dirty, but it is not the public’s. In the case of Denver’s Pit Bulls, the lie is two-fold because people are not discarding them: government animal control and police agencies are taking cherished family members on threat of arrest—only to put the poor creatures to death.

While most national animal protection groups oppose these outcomes, PETA encourages other communities to do the same. They even supported a breed ban in Ontario, even though Ontario allows pound seizure. After 72 hours in a municipal pound, dogs are sold to any researcher from a registered research facility in Ontario for $6, if requested. In other words, despite the fact that the Ontario ban has caused family pets to be sold to laboratories for animal experimentation, PETA endorsed it.

So here’s a simple test to know whether you are on the right side of a sheltering issue. Do HSUS and PETA support your efforts? If so, you are doing it wrong. When dog killers, dog killing apologists, and those who testify in court or in the court of public opinion that dogs should be killed are applauding your efforts, it is truly time for change.

Sheltering News Around the Country

May 12, 2009 by  

Four Paws for “Hotel for Dogs”


Normally, I don’t do movie reviews. And the whole point of movie reviews is to review them when they are first released. But I have to make an exception on both counts. First, while my review may be a little late, I just saw the movie for the first time on DVD with my kids. Second, I’ve no choice but to mention it as the movie goes to the heart of the No Kill movement. The film is “Hotel for Dogs,” and it is too good, too on point, not to discuss.

It pits animal control—the “Central City Dog Pound”—against the rescue community. It paints a poignant picture of the sad reality of animal sheltering in too many American cities. But, in the end, it is a movie about the triumph of the underdog. A group (of kids) with limited resources but a deep and committed love for animals take on the establishment by showing there is an innovative, kinder, better way and win.
Like its all-too-common real counterparts across the country, the Central City dog pound of the movie is a place where:

  • Animals are killed after a paltry 72 hours and despite empty cages by hostile, uncaring animal control officers;
  • Animals are not treated as cherished beings worthy of compassion at the shelters which are supposed to be their protectors, but rather, they are viewed—as one of the officers in the movie described—as nothing more than “mangy strays” who should be rounded up and killed;
  • Staff socialize in the back and then getting excited about the overtime they will accrue, even when that overtime comes because they are going to kill dogs;
  • There is even the unnecessary and cruel misuse and abuse of the “catch pole.” Instead of handling dogs humanely and kindly, the pole is wrapped around their necks as they are taken to their death;
  • The dog rescuers in the movie spend their time trying to save the dogs from the shelter. Not surprisingly, the staff at the pound treats them as adversaries, rather than partners.

In the movie, the contrast between what the kids do and what the pound does is stark. The rescuers love the dogs and have a “can do” attitude. Some dogs have special needs. But the rescuers don’t classify them as “unadoptable” and kill them. Instead, the dogs are accommodated and helped to flourish because the information is used to better their life; to meet their needs as individuals. These issues are not seen as obstacles, but as challenges to be overcome. In one case, a dog who chews on everything is given, well, lots of things to chew. A collie with an ultra high energy level is given fake “sheep” to herd. A dog who does not like to be confined in dark places is given a picture window with a view of the city. Talk about refusing to accept the status quo.

At one point, pursued and undermined by an entrenched animal control establishment bent on killing, the children feel overwhelmed and one says to the group that “we are out-dogged,” to which the plucky inventor of the group reminds them that in the trenches, the task looks more pervasive and daunting than it really is. He tells them that if they bring to the task a commitment to the dogs, a passion for the goal, and a belief in themselves, they can succeed. Never give up, never give up, never give up.

Even the title of the movie speaks volumes to our cause. The animal control shelter is aptly named the “pound.” The No Kill alternative, run out of an abandoned hotel, is the “Hotel for Dogs.” It is what a shelter should be, a temporary way station where comfort and caring are the twin pillars, and where “guests” are pampered by people who care deeply about them. And it shows that what separates the pound from the No Kill Hotel for Dogs comes down simply to the attitudes of those who run them. It also doesn’t hurt that the tag line “no stray gets turned away” debunks the myth perpetuated by “catch and kill” defenders that an open admission shelter cannot be No Kill.

In the run-up to the final scene, animal control seizes the dogs, the kids turn around and break them out of the pound and race them to the county-line: “There’s a No Kill shelter outside the City,” says one. “If we get them over the county line, they’re free.” In the movie, like in our country, dogs are saved depending on their zip code. Depending on which side of an imaginary line drawn on a map they are found. Depending on whether the shelter on one side of that imaginary line has embraced a culture of lifesaving, or whether—like “Central City” in the movie—they have not.

In Tompkins County, New York, savable dogs are guaranteed a home. In Schuyler County, next door, they face an almost certain death. In the mid-1990s, in the city of San Francisco, dogs were being saved while just next door, in neighboring San Mateo County, dogs were—and continue to be—killed in appalling numbers. Today, dogs are being saved in Reno, NV, right next door to Carson City which is slaughtering them en masse. All depending on which side of the street they are found.

And in the end, like most movies for children, the underdog wins. Normally, I would dismiss this as  typical Hollywood Pollyanna. But as art does imitate life, the grand finale was a foreshadowing of things to come. In the end, a city employee (in this case, a social worker) admonishes himself for having lost the will and determination to succeed that characterizes the actions of the rescuers determined to save the dogs. He explains how they refused to compromise, refused to accept defeat. They saw what needed to be done—to save the dogs from death—and they did it, overcoming challenges with imagination, compassion, and perseverance.

After a fog of deceit is lifted and the people of Central City could see the truth before them, they rise up and demand that the dogs be saved. The dog rescuers are vindicated. Animal control is seen for what they are in too many communities, simply because that is how they choose to be. And the dogs are saved. I felt like I was reading Redemption.

For that is what this movie is. It is our story—the story of the No Kill movement. The story of the underdog who wins the day through ingenuity and determination. The story of those who reject the status quo by standing up to those in power and by building an alternative to the antiquated, cruel paradigm based on killing. The story of believing in the community and trusting in the power of the public’s compassion. The story of believing in ourselves.

And so kudos to DreamWorks. Kids or not, you must see this movie.

A Mandatory Spay/Neuter Nightmare
Last year at this time, one of the nation’s strictest mandatory sterilization laws went into effect in Los Angeles. It passed to great fanfare. “This ordinance, which contains clear guidelines and enforceable penalties, creates a valuable tool to take this city another step closer toward eliminating the unnecessary euthanasia of animals,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a February news conference attended by animal rights supporter Bob Barker and Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

“This spay and neuter law will move Los Angeles towards being the most humane city in America by educating pet owners to be more responsible, making our streets safer, reducing the number of animals killed each year in our shelters, and allowing us to more effectively use our resources,” said Richard Alarcón, the city council member who introduced the ordinance.

They also promised it would be a national model. But you won’t find mention of the “success” of the Los Angeles law on Wayne Pacelle’s blog and you won’t find it on HSUS’ website. Bob Barker won’t be promoting it as an example of success. And while cities like Reno (NV) are saving record numbers of animals, Los Angeles’ claim that it wants to be “the most humane city in America” has been shown to be empty rhetoric. It isn’t even in the running. It is actually getting worse than it already is. And the answer as to why is not hard to figure out.

I have long argued that these types of laws merely increase the power of the animal control bureaucracy to divert resources to punitive enforcement, increase their power to impound and kill more animals, all the while doing precious little to actually promote and encourage spay/neuter or save lives. Giving shelters the power to impound and kill even more animals is no way to lower the death rate, as has been shown time and time again. I wish I was wrong. I want to be wrong. But tragically for the animals, I was not wrong.

Even the ASPCA which–like HSUS–has taken the role of defending poorly performing shelters, has come out against them:

  • “To the knowledge of the ASPCA, the only method of population control that has demonstrated long-term efficacy in significantly reducing the number of animals entering animal shelters is the voluntary sterilization of owned pets.”
  • “In contrast, the ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or [killing] as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law.”

Animal activists who supported the mandatory spay/neuter law in Los Angeles should be doing some deep soul searching for what they have wrought. What they have accomplished is the worst year for cat killing at Los Angeles Animal Services in nearly a decade, and the reversal of a decade long trend of declining impounds and killing. According to LA Animal Watch,

During the past 12 months, 3,029 more cats were killed compared to the year before, an increase of almost 33%.

What they have wrought is a dog kill rate that is also up for the first time in a decade, and up rather significantly.

Not content to causing a needless slaughter in their own hometown, they are also trying once again to mandate it across the state, which promises equally appalling outcomes.

Why? I’ll answer that in an upcoming blog.

Where was HSUS?
No Kill Conference 2009 has come and gone, but the revolution continues. If you were not able to attend, you can still read the keynote presentation, listen to the archived live broadcast from Animal Wise radio featuring interviews with speakers and attendees, see photographs, and watch a montage set to music at nokilladvocacycenter.org by clicking on “What’s New.”

Ironically, the No Kill Conference was held about three blocks from HSUS headquarters in Washington D.C. Of all the national groups, HSUS is the one that had the most to learn. It is the one which keeps getting it wrong. Sadly, while American Humane Association sent a representative, none of the staff at HSUS could see fit to leave their luxurious offices to learn how to end the killing of animals in U.S. shelters. For an agency which is primarily responsible for the paradigm of killing we live with today, and for an agency which continues to advocate for mass killing in the face of alternatives, their absence is simply inexcusable.

I must admit, in a moment inspired by the success of the conference and the excitement of being around hundreds of committed animal lovers, I had to resist the “Martin Luther-esqe” urge to nail a copy of the U.S. No Kill Declaration to the door of HSUS headquarters. But alas, the moment passed and I continued on my journey.

Building a No Kill Michigan
Join me for a free three-hour seminar on Building a No Kill Community. The event is sponsored by Friends of Animals.

Saturday June 6th from 6 pm – 9 pm in Greenville, Michigan.

For more information, click here.

Another Award for Redemption
Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America has already won several national book awards, including USA Book News Best Book, Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, a Muse Medallion from the Cat Writers Association of America, and a Certificate of Excellence from the Dog Writers Association of America. It has just picked up another.

Redemption has been named the First Runner-Up for the Eric Hoffer award for excellence in publishing. As a Hoffer Award Finalist, Redemption reached the upper 10% of entrees for the 2009 award year. It came in second to the overall winner.

In late May, Redemption goes into a second edition printing, which includes a new foreword, an expanded discussion of the No Kill Equation, and a new Appendix III on the need to legislate No Kill through shelter reform legislation. The foreword covers changes in the movement since Redemption was first released in 2007, responds to critics of the book, and talks about the further successes in the No Kill revolution.

The No Kill Advocacy Center is already giving out personally signed advanced copies with a gift of $25 or more. Go to www.nokilladvocacycenter.org.

Another Award for Redemption

May 9, 2009 by  


Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America has already won several national book awards, including USA Book News Best Book, Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, a Muse Medallion from the Cat Writers Association of America, and a Certificate of Excellence from the Dog Writers Association of America. It has just picked up another.

Redemption has been named the First Runner-Up for the Eric Hoffer award for excellence in publishing. As a Hoffer Award Finalist, Redemption reached the upper 10% of entrees for the 2009 award year. It came in second to the overall winner.

In late May, Redemption goes into a second edition printing, which includes a new foreword, an expanded discussion of the No Kill Equation, and a new Appendix III on the need to legislate No Kill through shelter reform legislation. The foreword covers changes in the movement since Redemption was first released in 2007, responds to critics of the book, and talks about the further successes in the No Kill revolution.

The No Kill Advocacy Center is already giving out personally signed advanced copies with a gift of $25 or more. Go to www.nokilladvocacycenter.org.

It’s a Wonderful World

May 5, 2009 by  

Thank you to all who made the No Kill Conference in Washington DC a tremendous success. We had representatives from 37 states, the District of Columbia, and six countries (the United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, France, and Thailand). Thank you to the attendees, to the speakers, to the sponsors, to the hosts, to the supporters, and to the No Kill Advocacy Center and George Washington University Animal Law Program for making it possible. The following was my keynote presentation which opened the conference on Saturday morning:


You are among friends here. And they are all available to you to share in this great revolution taking place all across the country. Here, you will find shelter directors saving 9 out of 10 animals. They have heard and rejected the excuses of why every community can’t do the same. And the trail they are blazing will lead the way to our goal of ending the killing of almost 4 million dogs and cats nationally.

Two of them work in a community that takes in four times the per capita rate of animals than Los Angeles, over five times the rate of San Francisco and over twice the national average. But they are still saving 90% of sheltered animals. Another runs a No Kill open door animal control shelter which has been saving at least 92% of animals each year for the last seven years.

Here, you will find animal lawyers who are on the vanguard of litigation and legislation to give sheltered animals the right to live. Others aren’t waiting for society to catch up and pass these laws, they are breaking new ground with existing laws. One of them used the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act to require shelters to provide better care and more lifesaving opportunities for the animals. Another helped make it illegal for a shelter to kill an animal if a rescue group was willing to save that animal’s life.

You will find attorneys who give voice to feral cats, to Pit Bulls, and who are using their legal skills to close down abusive puppy mills. Here, you will find activists who are challenging the killing in their communities through campaigns for reform: That harness the power of the Internet; That harness the reach of the media; By promoting pro-No Kill candidates for city council; and, Even by taking over animal control commissions to set shelters policies themselves.

In some cases they have no formal power, but they are forcing changes because they carry the mantle of justice and truth and they are proving that the power of compassion is mightier than the power of the largest and wealthiest institutions who still cling to outdated ideologies and failed philosophies.

Here, you will find a reflection of yourself: People who share your values. Who believe—as you do—that killing animals is never an act of kindness, when those animals are not suffering.

And it is our desire, our most ardent goal, that you will leave inspired. With the tools you need to achieve success. And with a renewed faith that a No Kill nation is within our reach. Whether you are an attorney, an animal control director, a veterinarian, a rescue group, a volunteer, an activist, or simply someone who loves animals, You are part of a larger army of compassion that is sweeping across the U.S. in the battle for the heart and soul of our nation’s shelters.

A battle we are winning—and will win. We have found our voice, and recognize the potential its fullest expression can create. No more compromises. No more killing.

This is our country, these are our shelters, these are our values, and this is our will. The power to change the status quo is in our hands. And we will use that power to achieve our dream. Together, we’ll bring sheltering into the 21st Century. Together, we’ll create a No Kill nation.

But not everyone shares our optimism. I received a letter from a woman who has spent 50 years doing animal rescue work. She described her experiences over the years, including a heart-breaking rescue of a near dead kitten abandoned near a dumpster. It was clear she cared deeply about animals. And yet she opposes No Kill. Because she believes “there are fates worse than death.” Because she believes “there are too many animals, not enough homes.” Because she believes “there is a crisis of uncaring” in the U.S.

She cannot conceive of a No Kill nation because of decades of experience seeing abandoned, neglected, and abused animals. She says she knows this not from “percentages, data, and studies.” But from “what she has seen with her own eyes.” She has been in the trenches of rescue work so long, she has become myopic. To her, the world of animals is a world of pain and suffering. The national organizations she turns to for guidance reaffirm her point of view. Visiting shelters on a regular basis, she sees scared, sick animals going out the back door in body bags. She blames the public for it. And believes in the inevitability of certain outcomes.

To her, the choice is a quick death at a shelter or a slow death on the street. Because she lacks personal experience at progressive shelters which would debunk these points of view. She hasn’t seen the success of shelters who have embraced the public. She doesn’t live in a No Kill community. San Francisco, Tompkins County, Charlottesville, Reno, and now a dozen and more communities are just points on a map. But they tell an exciting story which she and others like her need to hear. A story that begins in San Francisco.

Where over 20,000 animals were being impounded annually. Most of whom were put to death. It was nothing short of a “Blood Bath.” And we were told that the public was to be blame. And then along came a man named Richard Avanzino. He believed in the public and he started a series of programs and services which would harness their compassion to save the animals. Programs like Offsite Adoptions, Foster Care, Behavior Advice, Feral Cat TNR, Socialization & Training, Behavior Rehabilitation, and high volume spay/neuter. Programs which embraced the public and made it easy for them to do the right thing.

And the results were so dramatic that San Francisco was ready to take the next bold leap. What the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, the American Humane Association and all local shelters said was impossible. A lifesaving guarantee for each and every healthy dog and cat in San Francisco. The first of its kind in the country. No matter which shelter they enter. No matter how many there are. And no matter how long it takes to find them a home.

The number of healthy dogs and cats killed in San Francisco under Richard Avanzino since 1994 was zero.

In 2000, I was the Director of Operations for the San Francisco SPCA. And the one question I received more than any other was whether San Francisco was so unique its success could not happen anywhere else? It was time to find out. In 2001, I traveled across country to Ithaca, New York. Taking the Private SPCA No Kill Model to an open door animal control shelter which impounded animals for 10 towns and municipalities. Impounded rabies suspect animals for the Tompkins County Health Department. Enforced New York State’s animal cruelty laws. Enforced Tompkins County pet ordinances. And enforced the “Dangerous Dog” laws.

And by implementing the programs Avanzino pioneered–the programs & Services I have come to call  “The No Kill Equation”–in 2002, Tompkins County went from a community:

  • that was killing healthy dogs and cats to killing none
  • that was killing treatable sick/injured dogs and cats to killing none
  • that was killing feral cats to killing none
  • that reduced the death rate by 75%
  • that increased the total save rate to 93%, well beyond San Francisco

It should have been a celebration. Sadly, it was not. Entrenched shelter directors across the country were overcome with a case of collective amnesia. When San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. saving all healthy dogs and cats, shelters said: “You can do it in an urban community, but you can’t in a rural one.” When Tompkins County becomes the first No Kill community in rural America, shelters said: “You can do it in a rural community, but not in an urban one.” At the very least, they argued, it could not be replicated in what they mean-spiritedly called the “backward” South because of the “Bubba Factor.”

So we took the No Kill Equation to Charlottesville, Virginia. To an animal control shelter which hired a new director who was passionate about the No Kill philosophy and committed to implementing the programs and services which make it possible.  And in her first year, she saved 87% of all dogs and cats. In 2006, she saved 92% of all dogs and cats. And in 2007 and 2008, she repeated the No Kill achievement. At an open door animal control shelter in the South. That should have ended the debate. But it did not.

There was still another hurdle to overcome. When Charlottesville achieved No Kill in 2006, these Naysayers who were running shelters which still killed the bulk of their occupants argued that No Kill could not be achieved in a rapidly developing community because the influx of new people would mean more animals, which would overwhelm the infrastructure of animal control, “forcing” them to kill.

So we took the No Kill Equation to Reno, NV, the fastest growing county in one of the fastest growing states. To a community which takes in over three times the per capita rate of dogs and cats than Los Angeles, five times the rate of San Francisco and over two times the national average. So if there is a problem with “pet overpopulation,” they certainly face it in Washoe County (Reno), Nevada.

But in 2007, compared to 2006:

  • The kill rate for dogs dropped 51%
  • The kill rate for cats dropped 52%

At the same time:

  • The adoption rate for dogs increased 53%
  • The adoption rate for cats increased 84%

The 2007 save rate (including animal control) for dogs was 92% and 78% for cats. In 2008, the save rate for cats climbed to 83%. The goal in 2009 is a 90th percentile for both.

There are others: in California, in Texas, in Indiana, in Colorado, in North Carolina, in Montana, in Utah, in Kansas, in Kentucky, and elsewhere. Some of these are urban. Some are rural. Some are public. Some are private. Some are politically liberal. Some are politically conservative. And at least one is in the “reddest” part of the “reddest” state. Proving that people of all walks of life want to build a better world for animals.

Dorothy doesn’t see that, because what is happening in these communities isn’t happening everywhere. Not because it isn’t possible, but because it has not been a priority for shelter managers or the government officials who oversee them. The contrast between a fully functioning No Kill shelter and a regressive one could not be more stark. But people like Dorothy don’t see the former and keep being told that the latter is the “best we can do.” So Dorothy lacks the larger perspective.

To her, the story is about the 4 million being killed in shelters she has been told we can’t save. Which obscures the bigger, happier, more accurate story. The story about the 165 million in homes, the vast majority of whom are part of families who are crazy about them and consider them cherished members of the family.

Yes, some may become homeless during their life. But as San Francisco and other communities have proved, shelters can be temporary way stations with good care and plenty of comfort until they find loving new homes. The story of the 4 million doesn’t have to be a tragedy. If all shelters embrace the public’s love of animals. Plenty of communities have proved it. But so do the “percentages, data, and studies” Dorothy dismisses so casually.

Nationally, about 4 million dogs and cats are killed annually in shelters, of which roughly 90% are savable, meaning they are not suffering, or hopelessly ill, or truly vicious dogs. On top of that, not all animals entering shelters need adoption. Some will be reclaimed by families after becoming lost. Some of the cats will be feral and don’t need adoption. They need sterilization and release. Some will be suffering or hopelessly ill and, sadly, will be killed. A shelter can save 90% but only needs to find a home for fewer. And there are plenty of people who are willing to provide that home.

There are roughly 20 million people who are going to get an animal next year, and most have not decided where that animal will come from. We just need to convince a small percentage of these people to adopt from a shelter. And, in the end, that is why shelters exist in the first place. To be a safety net for animals whose caretakers no longer can or want to take care of them. And shelters can do so without killing. That is what they are doing in communities across the country. That is what we are going to teach you to do in your own hometowns. And that is the perspective we are asking you to take back to the Dorothies in your communities.

To let them know that our perceptions do not always reflect the truth. In the trenches, the problem appears larger and more pervasive that it really is. Visiting poorly performing shelters on a regular basis, seeing scared, sick animals who are not being properly cared for and the occasional victim of abuse and neglect, people like Dorothy lose sight of a broader, more accurate perspective of people and how most of them really feel about animals.

Even while virtually all other sectors of the economy plummet, purchases for our companion animals increase every year and increased again in 2008 to $47 billion. And give hundreds of millions more to animal related charities. In fact, giving to animal related charities is the fastest growing segment in American philanthropy. They miss work when their animals get sick. And they cut back on their own needs to meet the needs of their animal companions.

Dorothy and people like Dorothy forget that No Kill success throughout the country is a result of people—people who care deeply. Evidence of this caring is all around them, but they doesn’t always recognize it as such or dismiss it as the “exception” even when they are constantly seeing exceptions. When people who adopt rescued animals send them thank you letters telling them how much they love their animals.

When they see people at the dog park. Or on their morning walks through the neighborhoods. They fail to recognize it at the veterinarian’s office—the waiting rooms always filled, the faces of scared people wondering what is wrong, the tears as they emerge from the exam rooms after saying good bye for the last time.

They don’t see that books about animals who have touched people’s lives are not only being written in ever-increasing numbers but are all best sellers because people do care, and the stories touch them very deeply and very personally. They don’t see that the success of movies about animals is also a reflection of the love people have for animals.

They fail to see how people were terrified as news spread of the pet food recall in 2007, when tainted pet food from China devastated lives. And while animals lost their lives because of tainted food, they were not the only ones to suffer. Their caretakers did, too, as thousands of caring, of helpless people had to witness the suffering of their pets as their government and a government overseas betrayed them for industry profits.

They don’t draw lessons from the fact that people support animal-related legislation, even at the expense of their own economic interests:

  • During the 2008 election, for example, Massachusetts voters ended greyhound racing.
  • In 2007, Oregon voters followed Florida’s 2002 lead and banned gestation crates for pigs.
  • In 2006, Arizona voters passed a farm animal protection statute banning veal crates, while Michigan voters defeated a measure to increase hunting in the State.
  • And in November 2008, Californians voted overwhelmingly to end battery cages for chickens.

The conclusion they should draw from these votes but fail to reach is that Americans don’t just care about dogs and cats; they even care about animals with which they do not have personal relationships. So we need to put to bed, once and for all, the idea that dogs and cats—animals most Americans now consider cherished members of their family—need to die in U.S. shelters because people are irresponsible and don’t care enough about them.

If they would only open their eyes, they would see tremendous proof of caring all around them, which has been growing over the years. It is what I call in my book as “The Changing B’s.” For much of 19th Century, animals lived in our barns and were seen as commodities: they herded sheep, pulled plows, took goods to market, and kept barns free of mice.

In the 20th Century, they moved to our backyards. Increasing affluence, education, division of labor, and urbanization changed our views of dogs and cats. They became “pets” instead of workers.

Recently, we see the ethic shift significantly, as they move into our bedrooms. The “companion animal” comes of age.When it set itself up as an adversary with the public, our movement got it wrong. People love animals. To end the killing, we need to harness that compassion. By implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. And that is how achieve a No Kill nation.

It is the public which has made the difference in successful communities because the public cares. That is what Dorothy must be made to see. That is what we must make all the Dorothies see. Everywhere you look, there is deep love for animals. Everywhere you look, there is our own reflection of that love. We must make them see that it truly is a wonderful world.

To see a video montage set to music, click here.