In Their Own Words

June 30, 2009 by  

More from the Redemption archives

The second edition of my book, Redemption: the Myth of Pet Overpopulation & the No Kill Revolution in America, has just been released. In it, I discuss the changes in the movement since the book first appeared two years ago. I ask and answer questions such as:

  • Is HSUS changing in deed as well as word?
  • Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, what if pet overpopulation is real? Does that change the calculus of killing or our advocacy?
  • Do shelter animals have a right to live?
  • How can we dismantle the killing paradigm?
  • Should we regulate shelters the way we regulate other institutions that have the power of life and death? And how?

Since its release in September 2007, Redemption has become the most critically acclaimed book ever written on its topic. The book has won five awards. It has been positively reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle (, Sacramento Bee, and over fifty newspapers nationwide. And it was named an Editor’s Choice must-read by The Bark magazine.

In doing research for the first and then the second edition of the book, I amassed a large body of historical archives about the movement. And as I indicated in two prior posts, here and then here, once the second edition was completed, I began packing away the material used to write the book. But as so often happens when you go through old items, you begin re-reading them. I also wrote that periodically, I’d release some of the material for posterity.

In the first post, I released some letters from HSUS telling a prosecutor that feral cat caretakers should essentially be arrested for animal abandonment, and calling TNR “inhumane” and “abhorrent.” I also released a postcard written by Ingrid Newkirk stating that PETA doesn’t believe in “right to life” for animals.

In the second post, I released:

  • a letter from PETA applauding a Mayor’s decision to round up and kill feral cats and suggesting they kill the kittens also,
  • a letter from the AKC arguing that it should be illegal to feed feral cats,
  • a Washington Post article about HSUS using donor funds to buy beach-front property for its executives, and,
  • an ASPCA letter saying No Kill success in San Francisco is because it has a large gay population.

Here’s more:

Want to Stop Killling? Hell no, says PETA.

Charlottesville, VA is one of the safest communities for homeless animals in the U.S. Its shelter director is hailed as a leader in the No Kill movement. Its rate of killing and care of animals demonstrates a deep commitment to saving homeless animals.

But when she first began at the Charlottesville SPCA in 2005 and declared her intention of making the community No Kill, she experienced intense opposition from PETA, which tried to thwart and undermine her efforts. At the time, Killing apologist and Newkirk cultee Teresa Lynn Chagrin of PETA lambasted Charlottesville’s decision to end the killing. Citing a disgruntled employee who was fired and then claimed animals were dying in their kennels (not so, Charlottesville publishes all statistics annually), PETA writes a letter to the Board of Directors of the Charlottesville SPCA expressing shock that the new director “publicly stated that she wants to stop the euthanasia [killing] of healthy animals… The simple fact is that all open admission shelters must euthanize [kill] healthy animals. According to the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) Seven Basic Policies for Every Animal Shelter, ‘Euthanasia [killing] of shelter animals to make room for others is a tragic necessity that prevents animal suffering.’”

Chagrin then goes on to say that killing is “often the kindest option for animals admitted to sheltering facilities.” Ironically, even though the prior administration in Charlotteville killed animals rescue groups were willing to save, killed animals while rescue groups were en route to save them, and had staff which kicked and abused animals but did not fire them (the same sorts of staff members who then complained about conditions at the shelter after they were fired), she called the shelter under the killing regime, a “safe haven” for animals.

Chagrin also opposed a No Kill resolution introduced by a Michigan lawmaker who stated that, “Killing healthy cats and dogs is an extremely cruel and wasteful practice” and wanted to encourage all pounds in Michigan to adopt a No Kill philosophy. She called the resolution to end killing “disastrous.” Despite the fact that Tompkins County NY has saved at least 92% of animals every year for the last seven years, while PETA routinely kills 90% of animals they actively seek out in order to kill, Chagrin also attacked No Kill in Tompkins because during a very short period one summer, they had to be flexible and creative by putting animals in other rooms of the shelter until space was available. She is still with PETA, still fighting No Kill, and by now, I would think she would be sufficiently hydrated after years of drinking the Newkirk Kool-Aid. Maybe it’s time to stop?

Speaking of killing them all, in a 2000 San Francisco Examiner article, The Butcher of Norfolk calls for the automatic destruction of all dogs someone says looks like a Pit Bull. Read Newkirk’s article by clicking here.

Work with rescues? Kill ‘em instead says HSUS.

In this 1990 letter from HSUS’ Director of Sheltering, HSUS says not to work with other shelters or transfer animals to rescue groups because transport would stress the animal, even when the alternative is death! HSUS also argues that increasing save rates by working with rescue groups would “contribute to the destruction of an agency’s public image.”

Read the letter by clicking here.

Though HSUS says it is changing (how long does it take to change? It’s been 50 years!) despite recent mass killing support in Tangipahoa, Wilkes County, and elsewhere, just a couple of short months ago, killing apologist Wayne Pacelle wrote San Francisco telling them:

  • if they mandate No Kill, the end result will be warehousing and animal suffering (essentially likening No Kill to the Lied Animal Shelter fiasco in Las Vegas),
  • it is wrong to regulate shelters even though we regulate pet owners, and,
  • that despite a per capita intake that is at the bottom of national rates and despite the fact that even the local SPCA says it has no choice but to import thousands of animals into San Francisco because of an inability to meet adoption demand, San Francisco is suffering from “pet overpopulation.”

This from someone who is asking us to get in bed with a monster by embracing the most notorious animal abuser of our time as a spokesperson for the animal protection movement.

Filthy Ferals?

When is it ok to kill? According to Sacramento Animal Control’s director, apparently it is when they are worthless and unworthy of our compassion. Here, she says that killing healthy animals is a tragedy, but not so when it comes to “filthy, feral animals.” Are feral cats really filthy and not worthy of our compassion? Outrageous! It is also worth noting that at the time, Sacramento Animal Control was doing very little to stem the tide of killing of even the healthy animals she claimed are worthy.

Read the article by clicking here.

The Anti-No Kill Mob

After San Francisco ended the killing of healthy dogs cats, the sheltering establishment, led by HSUS, the ASPCA, the California Animal Control Director’s Association, and others went on the attack, arguing that No Kill is little more than “public deception,” “con artist rip-offs,” “gimmick,” “hype,” “turns their backs” on animals, “slam the door in the pet owners’ face,” “kill animals surreptitiously, behind closed doors, and hope their supporters never find out,” and “danger[ous].”

Read excerpts from dog and cat killers, killing apologists, and hitmen-for-hire like Pat Miller attacking San Francisco and No Kill following the birth of the modern No Kill revolution, by clicking here.

The anti-No Kill mob included Bill Garrett, the former head of the Atlanta Humane Society (AHS), a member of HSUS’ national sheltering committee, and an executive at SAWA, who would go on to liken No Kill advocates to 9/11 terrorists who slam airplanes into buildings. As director of the AHS, Garrett ran Fulton County Animal Services, which killed the vast number of animals entering its facility. A small group of animal lovers began attending County Council meetings in order to educate the community about the mass killing and move Fulton County, GA toward greater lifesaving. In fact, they would ultimately succeed when AHS surrendered the animal control contract. One of the headlines that followed the takeover by the Southern Hope Humane Society says it all: “The First kittens to Leave Alive!” What was the name of one of the groups that Garrett likened to 9/11 terrorists? It’s nefarious so be prepared to quake in fear…. Are you ready?

“Kitty Village.”

Yup, it can’t get more nefarious than that. Read the e-mail by clicking here.

Next up: In a statement reeking with racial overtones, the American Humane Association cautions against adopting animals to “ghetto” areas where they claim these animals end up attacking children in schoolyards; AHA, HSUS & ASPCA embrace a policy that says all kittens under six weeks of age in shelters should be killed; and they vote against high volume, low-cost spay/neuter for the pets of low-income people who would not otherwise spay/neuter, in deference to the profit-focused American Veterinary Medical Association.

Debunking Pet Overpopulation

June 29, 2009 by  

The twitter version:

Enter? 8 M Savable? 7 M Saved? 4 M Killed (Savable)? 3 M Need homes? 2 M Looking for pet? 17 M

The blog version:

  1. How many dogs and cats enter shelters annually? 8 million. (Some put it as low as 6 million, but I am going to use a “worst case” scenario.)
  2. Of those how many are savable? 90 percent or just over 7 million.
  3. Of those how many will be saved? 4 million.
  4. How many of the savable animals are killed? 3 million.
  5. How many need to find new homes? If shelters are doing their jobs comprehensively, just over 2 million (3 million on the high end). The remainder should be increased reclaims or in the case of feral cats, TNR’d.
  6. Other than those who will adopt from a shelter as a matter of course (those saved above), how many people in the U.S. are looking to bring a new dog or cat into their home next year but have not decided where they will get the animal and can be influenced to adopt from a shelter? 17 million. So, 17 million people for 2-3 million dogs and cats.
  7. Has this happened anywhere? Yes, there are many communities which have hit the 90th percentile in save rates.
  8. How long did it take them? They did it virtually overnight when new leadership committed to the No Kill philosophy and passionate about saving lives replaced long standing bureaucrats mired in defeatism and excuse making.
  9. Are shelters doing all they can to influence those people to adopt from them? This is a rhetorical question. Click here (audio) for an all-too-common experience shared with me by a potential adopter when I was assessing a local shelter.
  10. Why don’t they do better? A failure of leadership among the national animal welfare groups such as ASPCA and HSUS, a crisis of uncaring among shelter managers, unfettered discretion to avoid putting in place the programs and services that save lives, and the built in excuse of pet overpopulation.

The book version:


Get the whole story. Click here to purchase.

No Kill News from Around the Country

June 25, 2009 by  

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Austin Texas Citizens Demand No Kill Equation

A unanimous decision of a citizens’ advisory committee in Austin, TX has demanded that the shelter stop killing animals despite empty cages, model itself after successful programs in places like Reno, NV, implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, and even consider privatizing the shelter.

Town Lake Animal Control’s director tried to derail the vote, but was outnumbered by animal lovers on the Committee. Even the ASPCA’s Karen Medicus, the spokesperson for the ASPCA’s convoluted Mission: Orange program, could not be typically obstructionist of animal advocates and finally sided with them by voting  for the measure.

Though hailed as a Mission: Orange success story by Medicus and her boss, Ed Sayres, the real success  in Austin belongs to Austin Pets Alive (APA), which is saving these animals, on a threat of a death sentence by the pound. While Sayres told the local newspaper, the Austin Statesman, that Mission: Orange has led to the save rate increase, this—like much of Ed’s rhetoric—is nothing more than bluster. Mission: Orange did nothing of the kind. Outside inspections found hundreds of empty cages, even while the killing continues. There would not have been any increase of significance but for APA taking animals on the pound’s kill list. Take away transfers to APA, and Year two of Mission: Orange, like Year One, would have been a failure. The pound’s regressive director, Dorinda Pulliam, knows this. Medicus knows this. And, of course, Ed Sayres knows this. But what do you expect from a guy who says that killing is the moral equivalent of not killing? Or, in his own twisted words: “There is no room for No Kill as morally superior.”

Despite an envious and generous (by comparative standards) per capita budget of $7.16, and hundreds of thousands of additional dollars being thrown at it by the ASPCA, the Austin pound continues to lag behind more progressive communities in terms of lifesaving. As a recent study and successful communities have shown, all the money in the world can’t save an animal unfortunate enough to find himself at a shelter with a director obstinate in her refusal to implement lifesaving alternatives to killing. The study concluded that communities which invest in progressive leadership—which Austin does not have—save the vast majority of lives on budgets a fraction of the one in Austin, TX.

According to the Advisory Committee report,

The City Manager should ensure that the Animal Services Department is fully onboard with the Council’s new directive to make Austin a No Kill City by saving 90% of impounded animals…. Any employee of the shelter who rejects the Council’s directive either through disagreement or lack of effort should be removed or reassigned.

I’m with Donald Trump on this one. They deserve two words: “You’re fired!” Remember, it is better to fire a bad staff member, than to kill a good animal.

Hey Austin politicians, you want to save money and save lives? Invest in progressive leadership!

To read the Austin report, click here.

To read the No Kill Advocacy Center’s leadership study, click here.

Your American Animal Shelter

While the Humane Society of the United States assures us that everyone in animal sheltering has “a passion for and are dedicated to the mutual goal of saving animals’ lives” and PETA says blaming shelters for killing is like blaming hospitals for sickness, animal advocates in Tulare County, CA know better. The shelter manager was recently indicted for needlessly killing animals in order to sell their bodies for dissection. He has not been fired, but has been put on paid administrative leave.

The Tulare County shelter has long lobbied against increased protections for sheltered animals in California, was one of the most vocal opponents of the 1998 Animal Shelter Law which gave rescue groups rights to save sheltered animals, and continues to blame the irresponsible public for its own failings and criminal activity.

This is YOUR American animal shelter. The one that blames YOU for the killing.

(Thanks to YesBiscuit! for breaking this story.)

Your American Animal Shelter, Part II

Collier County 170

Cats lie dead at Collier County Animal Services following a mass killing ordered by the shelter’s then-uncaring and incompetent director, despite a per capita budget that is the envy of shelters nationwide.

In order to save money, Collier County FL Commissioners are considering doing away with most adoptions at the local shelter, turning its shelter, Collier County Animal Services (CCAS) into a slaughterhouse, with no pretensions to being anything different. Collier County is one of the wealthiest communities in Florida, but its animal shelter has long been run by incompetent, uncaring and cruel managers, while Commissioners have turned a blind eye.

I did an assessment of the shelter in 2007. This is a sample of what I found:

  • Of 3,445 cats taken in during the previous twelve month period (October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007), 2,727 lost their lives, the vast majority at the hands of CCAS staff.
  • Animals are dying in their cages, because there is no one to care for them.
  • Four staff members (three “customer service representatives” and one individual in uniform) were sitting behind the front desk socializing about their personal lives. I overheard one of them telling the other about the number of “margaritas” she had to drink the night before. Meanwhile, animals were standing in their own filth in their cages and kennels, none were asked to go into the kennels to provide care, and they were certainly not doing it on their own volition.

At the same time, shelter leadership took the position that it was doing a good job with what it has. For example, the director “excused” rates of shelter killing by relying on outdated and factually inaccurate clichés: “A good death is better than a bad life,” she told me in defense of their practices. At another time, she stated that “I’d rather kill cats with a full belly than have them die hungry under the wheels of a car.” This is rhetorical nonsense.

First, those are not the choices. A cat does not face either shelter killing on the one hand, and on the other, a life of deprivation and ultimately being run over with a car. In fact, a comprehensive eleven-year study of outdoor cats found that they had similar baselines for health to indoor cats and similar rates of disease in comparison. Furthermore, the study found that the vast majority of the cats were in good physical condition, with only four percent killed for health reasons. The director’s contention that we stop the cat from possibly suffering or possibly dying by killing the cat ourselves is an irreconcilable contradiction and a patently unethical one.

Second, there are many programs which CCAS could implement, which would obviate the perceived “need” to kill. For example, the agency could have a non-lethal feral cat TNR program, which the director opposed. The agency could adopt more animals based on a more systematic and comprehensive media presence, but the director chose to intentionally operate under the radar to avoid public scrutiny. The agency could do daily offsite adoption programs, but chose not to. It can have more public friendly hours, it can hold staff accountable to results, it can start a foster care program, it can improve relations with the local humane society, and more—none of which it currently does or does well, despite a per capita budget of $8.46, almost three times the rate of Tompkins County which has saved at least 92% of the animals every year for the last seven years, and over four times the rate of Charlottesville’s animal control shelter, which is also saving 90%.

My recommendations were ignored, and now the Commissioners seem intent on actually killing even more animals. Once again, all the money in the world can’t save an animal unfortunate enough to find himself at a shelter with a director obstinate in her refusal to implement lifesaving alternatives to killing. Add a bunch of derelict Commissioners to the mix, and the end result is even worse.

Once again, this is YOUR American animal shelter. The one that blames YOU for the killing.

More from the Redemption Archives


In a prior post, I wrote that I began packing away the material used to write my book, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America. But as so often happens when you go through old items, you begin re-reading them. I came across a couple of items of note. I also wrote that periodically, I’d release some of the material for posterity. Earlier, I released some letters from HSUS telling a prosecutor that feral cat caretakers should essentially be arrested for animal abandonment, and calling TNR inhumane and abhorrent. I also released a postcard written by PETA that they didn’t believe in right to life for animals.

Here’s more:

Over the objections of feral cat advocates pushing for a TNR program, the Mayor of Miami Beach pushed a plan to trap and kill feral cats. PETA sent a letter to the Mayor applauding his decision. The Mayor, however, had also decided that kittens would be turned over to a rescue group for socialization and adoption. But PETA took issue with this part of the plan, arguing that all the cats, including the kittens, should be taken to animal control and, if necessary, “euthanized by sodium pentobarbital injection.” In Miami, animal control has long deemed it necessary to kill these little gems.

Read the letter by clicking here.

The American Kennel Club’s Vice-President says “it should probably be a crime to feed feral colonies.” They can’t seem to get it right about dogs, why are they offering wrong opinions about cats? Click here for the letter.

The year is 1988 and financial scandals rock HSUS. So what else is new? Read the Washington Post article here.

And, last but certainly not least, the ASPCA says the only reason No Kill was successful in San Francisco was because of a large gay community. (The ASPCA also underplays the population of the city eleven-fold). You can’t make this stuff up. The late-Roger Caras writes, “Running on about no-kill as the answer is maybe okay in San Francisco, with a population of 70,000, one third who are gay (the gay community is traditionally the most animal friendly).”

This is from same man who once likened dogs and cats to “inhabitants of an interstellar craft… brought here with the purpose of disrupting our ecosystem.” He described them as a threat of the highest magnitude, damaging property and decimating wildlife, and the notion of creating successful programs to save them as so impossible that it was “not worthy of a passing daydream.”

Read the letter by clicking here.

Redemption for Smiley


Someone said Smiley looked like a Pit Bull-mix. Talk about getting it wrong! Because of that, however, Smiley was imprisoned for two years in a Washington shelter and scheduled to be killed, caught in a game of politics and power and litigation between the shelter and animal lovers. According to rescue advocates, many people tried to adopt Smiley but were rebuffed. Smiley was finally saved.

Read Smiley’s story by clicking here.

It’s time to take away the discretion and power of shelter managers to ignore what is in the best interests of the animals and kill or, in this case, confine them needlessly.

Find out how to mandate lifesaving by limiting shelter discretion by legislating the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. Learn about the Companion Animal Protection Act by clicking here.

It’s Here!


The most acclaimed book on animal shelters just got better. Redemption has been updated and expanded for 2009, including:

  • HSUS has been forced to modify its language and admit that pet overpopulation is a myth. But is it changing in deed as well as word?
  • In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, what if pet overpopulation is real? Does that change the calculus of killing?
  • Do shelter animals have a right to live?
  • How can we dismantle the killing paradigm?
  • Should we regulate shelters the way we regulate other institutions that have the power of life and death? And how?

Available wherever books are sold.

For more information, click here.

To purchase the new edition from Amazon, click here.

No Kill Documentary Wins Award


Fifteen Legs, the documentary about animal lovers rescuing dogs and cats from death row in shelters and driving them across country to loving new homes just won the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award.

The documentary includes extended commentary by me, and will begin airing on PBS stations in July.

For more information, click here.

A No Kill Houston?

Join me this Monday, June 29, at 10:05  am PST as I talk for 30 minutes on the No Kill movement and what it means for the animals of Houston with KPFT FM 90.1 radio hosts. You can also listen live at

Thank you

I really want to thank all the well wishers and kind comments I received following my blog about the death of my kitty, Gina, and the death of Uncle Steve. I can’t tell you all how much it meant.

The blog is here.

From the Reno News Gazette

June 24, 2009 by  

Reno plays big role in expanded edition of book ‘Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America’

By Mark Robison, Reno News Gazette


Nathan J. Winograd was brought in as a consultant to help Nevada Humane Society and Washoe County save more pets. His plans have been in effect for about two years now, and thousands more pets’ lives have been saved in Washoe County than would’ve been under the previous shelter system, based on county and NHS statistics. Winograd published a book in 2007 about his theories of sheltering called “Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & the No Kill Revolution.” It’s now out in an expanded version for 2009.

The second edition discusses the partnership between Washoe County Regional Animal Services and Nevada Humane Society. It cites Reno’s success as a positive case study. As Winograd emailed me, “It is very much Reno-centric and hopefully will be a source of local pride. As I said, the eyes of an animal loving nation are on Reno.”

It also includes a new foreword, an expanded discussion of the No Kill Equation, and a new section on the need to regulate shelters:

  • HSUS has been forced to modify its language and admit that pet overpopulation is a myth. But is it changing in deed as well as word?
  • What if pet overpopulation is real? Does that change the calculus of killing?
  • Do shelter animals have a right to live?
  • How can we dismantle the killing paradigm?
  • Should we regulate shelters the way we regulate other institutions that have the power of life and death? And how?

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Unfortunately, many shelter directors remain steadfast in their refusal to embrace the No Kill paradigm. To them, the culprit for the killing remains “pet overpopulation,” a dogma they cling to with the fervor of religious faith and which they deem to be simply beyond question—outside the realm of factual confirmation, data, and analysis.

When I argue in this book that pet overpopulation is a myth, I am not saying that people aren’t irresponsible with animals. It doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of animals entering shelters. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be better if there were fewer of them being impounded. Nor am I saying shelters don’t have institutional obstacles to success. But it does mean that these problems are not insurmountable. And it does mean we can do something other than killing for all savable animals right now, today: if all shelter directors cultivate the desire and will to do so, and then earnestly follow through. That is good news. It is news we should celebrate. And it should be the focal point with which we target our advocacy efforts to achieve the greatest declines in killing possible in the shortest amount of time.

It is not pet overpopulation if kittens are being killed in shelters because the shelter refuses to put in place a foster care program which would eliminate the “need” to kill kittens, as too many shelters in this country do. It is the shelter’s decision to kill kittens instead of implementing a foster care program that is killing kittens. It is not pet overpopulation if Pit Bull-type dogs are being killed because the shelter kills dogs based on arbitrary criteria and unfair stereotypes, even if the individual dogs are healthy and friendly. It is the shelter’s decision to adhere to an arbitrary policy that dictates that Pit Bull-type dogs should be killed that is killing those dogs. The same is true of sick dogs, shy cats or any of the other categories of shelter animals who could be saved with a targeted program that shelter directors simply refuse to implement.

The reality, for example, is that short of leaving them alone or outlawing their trapping, a shelter cannot save feral cats in its facility without a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program, just as it cannot save kittens or puppies without a program such as foster care. Any shelter director who says they oppose No Kill is making the thoroughly unethical argument that they want to continue killing. How do you save animals without embracing alternatives to killing? You cannot. But while any level of lifesaving is not possible without these programs, No Kill is precluded unless they are comprehensively implemented to the point that they replace killing entirely.

It’s Here!

June 23, 2009 by  


The most acclaimed book on animal shelters just got better. Redemption has been updated and expanded for 2009:

  • HSUS has been forced to modify its language and admit that pet overpopulation is a myth. But is it changing in deed as well as word?
  • Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, what if pet overpopulation is real? Does that change the calculus of killing?
  • Do shelter animals have a right to live?
  • How can we dismantle the killing paradigm?
  • Should we regulate shelters the way we regulate other institutions that have the power of life and death? And how?

Since its release in September 2007, Redemption has become the most critically acclaimed book ever written on its topic. The book has won five awards. It has been positively reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle (, Sacramento Bee, and over fifty newspapers nationwide. And it was named an Editor’s Choice must-read by The Bark magazine.

Not only has the book helped shift the national debate about killing, it is also playing a direct role in helping to transform communities. A shelter manager in Washington says the book completely changed her views and she is committing herself to saving all animals in her shelter. Another in Ohio reported that the book gave her the “conviction to move forward” with her No Kill ambitions. Yet another in Louisiana reported to her staff, “We’ve been doing it wrong, and we are going to start doing it right.”

After reading Redemption, county commissioners in an Indiana community succeeded in taking to No Kill a shelter that previously killed the vast majority of dogs and cats, often cruelly. As Redemption celebrates its continuing success, Tompkins County, New York, finished its seventh No Kill year, Charlottesville, Virginia, entered its third, and new communities like those in Reno, Nevada, entered the No Kill club. Other communities in other states have also embraced No Kill or are aggressively moving in that direction. No Kill is on the agenda of local governments nationwide as advocates in communities as diverse as Seattle, Washington, and Indianapolis, Indiana, are using Redemption and the model it advocates to force changes in the practices of local shelters.

Available wherever books are sold.

To purchase the new edition, click here.

Awards: Best Book, USA Book News; Silver Medal, Independent Publisher’s Association; Best Book, Cat Writers Association of America; Runner-Up, Best Book, Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Publishing; Certificate of Excellence, Dog Writers Association of America.

For reviews, click here.

From the Archives & More

June 16, 2009 by  

From the Redemption archives


I began packing away the material used to write my book, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America. But as so often happens when you go through old items, you begin re-reading them. I came across a couple of items of note. Periodically, I’ll release some of the material for posterity.

In Redemption, I wrote about HSUS attempts to derail a TNR program in the Outer Banks of North Carolina:

…the cat lovers who made up the Outer Banks Spay/Neuter Fund met with officials of the Dare County Animal Control Advisory Board to ask for assistance. They were there to introduce themselves and demonstrate how the county could save money by investing in spay/neuter rather than continuing the local practice of impounding and killing the feral cats of the Outer Banks. The Board suggested they present their plan to the Outer Banks SPCA. The SPCA director, however, told them not to bother. The SPCA had already declared “its total opposition to the spay/neuter of feral [cats],” preferring instead to kill them.

Members of the Outer Banks Spay/Neuter Fund turned to the Humane Society of the United States for help. Since HSUS was the nation’s largest companion animal and humane advocacy group—and one with significant influence over local shelters—leadership of the Outer Banks Spay/Neuter Fund expected their assistance in the struggle to legitimize TNR to the local shelter. The co-chair of the Fund explained:

We had thought HSUS would write a letter on our behalf. We thought that HSUS would encourage the Outer Banks SPCA to stop killing these cats since there was a non-lethal alternative. We felt that feeding and caring for these cats was in keeping with the humane mission of the Humane Society of the United States.

Instead, HSUS wrote to the Outer Banks SPCA calling TNR “inhumane” and “abhorrent,” applauding the SPCA’s opposition to the practice and encouraging the director to contact HSUS for assistance.

HSUS would also go on to write the local prosecutor that the practice was illegal under the state abandonment statutes. The letter was written by HSUS attorney Roger Kindler, who remains on the HSUS executive team to this very day. Attached is only a small portion of some of the correspondence (including interviews). Click here to read.

I also came across a hand written postcard sent to me by the Butcher of Norfolk herself, Ingrid Newkirk, telling me that PETA does not believe in “right to life” for animals even though PETA is supposed to be an animal rights organization. As I’ve said numerous times, the right to life is universally acknowledged as a basic or fundamental right. It is basic or fundamental, because the enjoyment of the right to life is a necessary condition of the enjoyment of all other rights. An organization cannot be “rights” oriented as PETA claims to be and ignore the fundamental right to life. If an animal is dead, the animal’s rights become irrelevant. Not only does PETA not acknowledge the right to life, they have rejected it. And they demonstrate that by seeking out and killing 2,000 animals every year.

And not only is PETA not an animal rights group, it is not an animal welfare or even an animal control agency. They kill in the face of lifesaving alternatives, which undermines principles of animal welfare. And their record of killing puts them even outside the purview of an animal control orientation, except in the most regressive of agencies which do not even make any animals available for adoption. Indeed, there is no philosophical foundation for the belief that animals should be sought out and killed.

Read the postcard by clicking here. (My address is no longer valid.)

The number two bullet point where she writes: “There are always exceptions” refers to correspondence we were having relating to their support for the extermination of feral cats. I expressed disappointment that PETA believed all feral cats should be killed and while she acknowledged that they should be, she said there are exceptions to that.

Next up: Fund For Animals supports an ordinance that makes it illegal to feed feral cats, with some exceptions including to trap them “for proper disposal,” as if they are nothing more than yesterday’s trash. The ASPCA says the only reason No Kill was successful in San Francisco was because of a large “gay community.” HSUS calls No Kill shelters “glorified collectors.” The National Animal Control Association calls No Kill a “delusion.” While others call it a “cancer.”

Speaking of PETA

In a prior post, I wrote that AR-News, a listserve of animal rights supporters, kicked PETA out of its group by stating:

PETA claims to be an animal rights group. Why would any animal demand the right to be murdered by their supposed rescuer and advocates? Can you imagine Amnesty International or the United Nations demanding that a population of humans be killed because they don’t want to bother finding any food or shelter for them? PETA is not an animal rights group, in any meaningful sense of the term. It’s disgusting and perverse that PETA is working so hard to derail the no-kill movement… Who needs an ‘advocate’ like that?

Now, AR-News has permanently barred another person, who turned out to be a PETA employee, from posting on the website. The PETA employee had posted a defense of PETA’s killing policies to which AR-News responded that the PETA excuse,

perpetrates story fraud (making up and adding content). What’s worse is the commentary itself, which belittles and denigrates the animals who clearly suffered tremendously in these instances. This behavior is disrespectful towards other animals, and certainly not befitting of an animal advocacy news list.

AR-News goes on to call PETA’s promotion of its killing of these animals “deplorable and demented. It is not sarcasm. It is not dark humor. It is sickening and symptomatic of a disturbed mind.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Oh wait, I’ve also said that.

Read the Butcher of Norfolk by clicking here.

The Cost of Saving Lives

I’ve written about the study before, but its worth noting that the No Kill Advocacy Center released the results of its analysis comparing per capita animal control spending on save rates.

Read the report by clicking here.

The Killing of Puppy 43063

June 11, 2009 by  


Your Honor, on June 19, 2007, a 12-week-old brown and white puppy … entered the Loudoun County shelter and was given number 43063. He was never given a name… the puppy was killed by the shelter, never having been given a chance to live, never having been given a name. Why? Contrary to state law and contrary to local law, puppy number 43063 was never put up for adoption and was killed for one reason and one reason only: Puppy number 43063 was identified by the shelter as a pit bull mix. On the puppy’s pre-euthanasia report, the official reason for euthanasia is typed in as “breed.” Let me repeat that. The recorded reason for why puppy number 43063 was killed under current shelter policies was “breed.” That reason at some point was crossed out in ink and “behavioral observations” was written in its place. Behavioral observations. The shelter’s canine behavior assessment for puppy number 43063 notes that the puppy, “Approaches the front of the kennel seeking evaluator’s attention. Happily greets evaluator. Is sociable. Initiates gentle, physical contact. Wanted to be in evaluator’s lap. Moves closer for further attention. In evaluator’s lap playing. Wiggly. Leans against you. Bouncing around. Very lovey. –Counsel for Plaintiffs, Animal Rescue of Tidewater vs. Loudoun County, Virginia, May 5, 2009.

Pit Bull advocates across the country were closely following a recent trial in Virginia about whether Loudoun County’s ban on Pit Bull adoptions was legal, given a provision of state law and the Attorney General’s opinion to the contrary. According to Virginia State Law,

No canine shall be found to be a dangerous dog solely because it is a particular breed nor is the ownership of a particular breed prohibited.

According to the Attorney General’s interpretation of that law,

Publicly funded animal shelters may not euthanize dogs based solely upon breed.

The case, Animal Rescue of Tidewater vs. Loudoun County, Virginia ended in the County’s favor. The court held that banning the adoption of dogs deemed Pit Bull or Pit Bull-mixes did not violate the law.* As a result, dogs someone says “look” like “Pit Bulls” or “Pit Bull-mixes” will continue to be killed without ever being made available for adoption.

The County, in undisputed court testimony, conceded that point:

Q: Are Pit Bulls in Loudoun County allowed to be adopted?
A: No. The pit bulls and pit bull mixes are not allowed to be adopted.
Q: As to pit bulls, any citizen of Loudon County may not adopt a pit bull; isn’t that correct?
A: The Loudoun County Animal Shelter does not adopt out pit bulls, no.

To the Director’s credit, he did approach the Board of Supervisors to ask them to remove the adoption ban on Pit Bulls which they declined. But despite this, his staff—most notably his shelter manager—testified in defense of the shelter by misleading the court, with a series of Orwellian claims that deny the obvious and contradict one another.

The Loudoun County shelter manager claimed the shelter only killed one “adoptable” Pit Bull even with a blanket policy against putting any up for adoption. Of 122 dogs killed since a new policy was enacted—reaffirming the ban but allowing “adoptable” Pit Bulls to be transferred to rescue groups—she said all but one failed their temperament evaluation. One. That’s a pass rate of 0.01%. Compare that to 86% in Tompkins County. And 86.6% according to the American Temperament Test Results. Despite this, the shelter manager testified that the shelter is not biased against Pit Bulls, but in favor of Pit Bulls:

Q: And you stated that pit bulls are not treated differently at the shelter, is that correct?
A: No, sir, they are not…. We never make decisions based on breed, we make decisions based on space availability and based on appropriateness.
Q: [But pit bulls or pit bull-mixes] are never put on the adoption floor; isn’t that correct?
A: At this time they are not made available for adoption, that’s correct.

Q. Are you aware, personally aware, of any staff bias regarding pit bulls either pro or con?
A. Well, we do have some staff that are pit bull advocates, and so any bias we might have would be in favor.

Despite admitting the shelter bans the adoption of Pit Bulls, she claimed they are treated the same as other dogs and decisions about them are not based on breed. Despite the fact that she admitted a Pit Bull with behavior issues has never been given the rehabilitation that is given to other dogs, she says they are treated the same. She even went so far as to say that if there was Pit Bull bias at the shelter, “any bias we might have would be in favor.”

As noted above, counsel for Animal Rescue of Tidewater described one such “dangerous” Pit Bull at this shelter:

Approaches the front of the kennel seeking evaluator’s attention. Happily greets evaluator. Is sociable. Initiates gentle, physical contact. Wanted to be in evaluator’s lap. Moves closer for further attention. In evaluator’s lap playing. Wiggly. Leans against you. Bouncing around. Very lovey.

The puppy was killed. Sadly, this sort of behavior by individuals tasked with overseeing humane societies and animal control shelters is not surprising. Rather, it is endemic to the industry. And it is a lack of any accountability for their actions that gives shelter managers an aura of untouchability and allows them to make outrageous claims, even when contradicted by the evidence.

In fact, that is what is underlying the larger opposition to the No Kill movement. The No Kill movement is attempting to impose accountability on shelters which have not had any because groups like the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States have not only given them a free ride, they defend them no matter how poorly they perform. And with uncritical support, encouragement, and even praise by killing apologists and enablers like the ASPCA and HSUS, it is little surprise that shelter managers would feel no compunction about making such claims even while testifying in court, under penalty of perjury.

One of these enablers is a hitman-for-hire by the name of Pat Miller, an anti-No Kill crusader who holds herself up as an “expert” on sheltering issues, and who testified for the County in the lawsuit. Miller testified that roughly 60% of all Pit Bulls in shelters are unadoptable based on a study she has seen. The study was conducted by the Massachusetts SPCA at a time when it was killing at an astonishing rate. Not surprisingly, it came up with the finding to justify its kill rate, the same way the Loudon County shelter manager justifies killing dogs she claims are Pit Bulls or Pit Bull-mixes by saying the only ones she kills are “unadoptable.” As I wrote in Redemption:

With assets at one time reaching nearly one hundred million dollars, the Massachusetts SPCA (MSPCA) is perhaps the richest animal shelter in the world, but roughly 60 percent of all dogs and cats who entered the MSPCA shelter system throughout the 1990s were killed.

Is it any wonder that the MSPCA study cited by Miller would conclude that 60% were “unadoptable”?

Even assuming this study is valid (it is not: Tompkins passed 86%, consistent with outside studies), Miller also admitted that dogs who may perform poorly in a shelter often blossom outside of the shelter:

Sometimes you’ll see a completely different dog outdoors. One who appears quite unsocial and stressed in the kennel may be quite friendly out of the kennel when it’s removed from that stressful environment…

She then turned around and stated that taking dogs outdoors is not and does not have to be part of the behavior assessment!

Q. And I guess you may have answered this, but is taking a dog outdoors to evaluate the dog an additional tool in the assessment?

A. It’s not – …

Q. And have you ever taken a dog outside after you have done an individual assessment?

A. Not — generally, not for information gathering purposes.

Why? If the information would help more accurately evaluate a dog’s “temperament,” why isn’t it a mandatory part of the evaluation process? The answer is simple: shelter staff is looking for a reason to kill dogs. As I indicated in Redemption:

As a result, in many—if not most—shelters across the country, dogs are being killed as unadoptable based on deeply flawed test results that are wrong more than they are right, where different shelter staff could easily get different results, and with very poor predictive validity in the home. Not only are the chances of a dog being saved in a shelter reduced by under-performing management or lack of effective policies, but often dogs must first “pass” this test of dubious value. Add to that the pressure to provide a publicly palatable reason for killing (“aggression”), and the obstacles to getting out alive are formidable.

Miller declined to admit the obvious, that passing only one out of 122 Pit Bulls showed “breed bias.” She also claimed to be unfamiliar with studies that showed Pit Bulls having pass rates that exceeded many other breeds, and were in the 80th percentiles even though these studies are, and have been, widely available. What kind of “expert” remains willfully ignorant on issues regarding which she claims to be an expert? What kind of “expert” ignores all evidence to the contrary? What kind of “expert” doesn’t express concerns about the fact that these bans threaten all dogs as shelter staff misidentify Pit Bulls and Pit Bull-mixes the vast majority of times? The answer is simple: Someone who will not be swayed from a predetermined agenda of killing. That is also why it was not surprising, though no less disturbing, that she claimed to have high regard for a Loudoun County shelter staff member, even when she was informed that this staff member “was suspended recently for euthanizing dogs that were not appropriately prepared for euthanasia.”

As I’ve written about Miller before:

In a misleading and deceitful article by Pat Miller in the January issue of the Whole Dog Journal, No Kill was once again equated with hoarding and called “a deceptive myth.” She also stated that people who donate to No Kill shelters are “misguided.” Miller is no stranger to spreading vicious attacks against No Kill. She led one in the mid-1990s after San Francisco ended the killing of healthy dogs and cats. As I indicated in my book Redemption:

Pat Miller, the president of the California Animal Control Director’s Association, and the director of operations for the Marin Humane Society, a wealthy bedroom community just north of San Francisco that was still killing savable animals, indicated the claims [in San Francisco] were “based on semantics, data distortion, and the prolonging rather than the relief of animal suffering.” Miller would go on to say that she, like others who shared her views, was “disturbed by the advocacy of No Kill philosophies.”

Richard Avanzino, then President of the San Francisco SPCA, summarized this opposition best:

For years, there has been what seems to me a concerted, aggressive, and sometimes mean-spirited campaign against No Kill in general, and against the [San Francisco SPCA] in particular. This campaign has included statements that in my eyes go far beyond the bounds of legitimate debate, and rely instead on falsehoods and misrepresentations that demean, diminish, and disparage…. Again and again, we find programs misrepresented, motives questioned, and results and achievements ignored.

In her latest salvo, Miller revisits her wrath at the movement to end shelter killing by arguing that No Kill shelters are derelict because they refuse to kill animals. Not surprisingly, her husband still works for a shelter that kills animals, despite taking in only 5,500 animals annually. Compare that to Reno (which takes in roughly 16,000) and [is saving 90% of all animals].

As to Puppy 43063, Loudoun County staff themselves evaluated him and found that he was “happy” and “sociable” and “gentle” and “wants to be in your lap” and “seeks attention” and “plays” and is “wiggly” and is “very lovely.” They then claimed he was aggressive. And they killed him. And they kill hundreds of others like him. With the blessing of national “expert” Pat Miller. With the blessing of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. With the blessing of the courts of Virginia. And under the oversight of a shelter manager who says that despite an adoption ban, they never make decisions based on breed, treat all dogs the same, and if they have a bias, it is in favor of Pit Bulls. You can’t get more Orwellian than that.

Loudoun County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. Its animal shelter budget is one of the highest in Virginia and on the top end of shelters nationally: $10 per capita (in a recent study, the mean was found to be $3.95). It also takes in only 10 dogs and cats for every 1,000 human residents, less than the national average and almost four times less than Reno, NV which is saving 90% of dogs, including Pit Bulls. But all that wealth and all that money meant nothing to Puppy 43063 because someone said he was a Pit Bull-mix. And someone else in Loudoun County said that made him dangerous and unadoptable.

This is YOUR American animal shelter. The one that blames YOU for the killing.


* The legal ruling was based on narrow interpretations of state and local law. Briefly, the case largely turned on the fact that the prohibition on killing dogs based solely on breed in Virginia state law fell within the parameters of the state’s dangerous dog law, and the court narrowly interpreted its proscription only to dogs subject to dangerous dog hearings in court. Despite the Attorney General’s opinion that banning their adoption was illegal (which the Court deemed non-binding), the Court stated that since the shelter allows some of these dogs to be transferred to rescue groups, it did not violate the law or a local law that says citizens may adopt any dogs they want from the shelter. In the run-up to the trial, the shelter began transferring a rare few to rescue groups.

Your American Animal Shelter

June 9, 2009 by  

I just returned from Montcalm County, Michigan. While the Humane Society of the United States assures people that everyone in animal sheltering has “a passion for and are dedicated to the mutual goal of saving animals’ lives” and PETA says blaming shelters for killing is like blaming hospitals for sickness, animal advocates in Greenville, MI know better.


They have spent years fighting against their shelter’s use of the gas barrel and against the selling of shelter animals to medical research. (By 6 to 3 vote, the County this month voted to end the practice of pound seizure). On top of this, a recent report from an Ad Hoc committee appointed by the County Commissioners has found the shelter doesn’t even provide animals clean water to drink, burns the animals with bleach by not removing them during the cleaning process, fails to accurately document adoptions and other “outcomes,” improperly evaluates animal behavior (temperament testing) by “roughing up” the animal, and kills them inhumanely and by untrained personnel.

During public comment at an April meeting, a former Montcalm County animal control officer testified that when the “Class B Dealer” came to pick up the animals to sell them for research, he would say, “Who’s going to college?” He’d then toss dogs into the back of a covered pickup truck and throw cats in after them, in the same space, in the same truck. The officer then stated: “The ones we gassed were the lucky ones.”

In 2007, the shelter took in 1,161 cats.

It killed 1,060 of them.

It then gave 67 to the Class B Dealer to sell into animal research.

Only 34 were adopted.

This is YOUR American animal shelter. The one that blames YOU for the killing.

Scotty, Beam These Studies Aboard!

June 4, 2009 by  

Breed Bans are Economically Wasteful. Not only are dogs needlessly being killed because of them, but they are also wasteful financially. A new study commissioned by Best Friends shows the high economic cost of breed bans, without the corresponding public safety benefit. The study demonstrates that breed discriminatory legislation tends to exhaust limited resources in already under-funded animal control programs by flooding the system with potentially “unadoptable” dogs due to the ban. It is not that the dogs themselves are dangerous. The vast majority (roughly nine out of ten) are healthy, friendly, or treatable. It is that the legislation declares them to be “unadoptable” and slated for execution. Costs to regulate or ban the animals can run into the millions and provide no help to prevent dog bites. At a time when communities are declaring bankruptcy, this is yet one more reason why breed bans should be abandoned. Click here for more information.

Too Many Homes, Not Enough Animals. The Maddie’s Fund keynote from No Kill Conference 2009 was based on a study by the Ad Council. It shows that 17 million people are going to bring a new pet into their home next year and have not decided where that animal will come from. They can be influenced to adopt from a shelter next year, where there are roughly 3,000,000 available animals. So much for “too many animals, not enough homes.” Click here for more information.

Cost is the Primary Barrier to Spay/Neuter. Alley Cat Allies has a new study that shows while most housecats are neutered, the primary factor for neutering rates in household cats is income. The lower the household income, the lower the sterilization rate. The primary reason cited was cost. The research also found that low cost sterilization of unaltered feral cats would have a dramatic impact on impound and death rates in shelters.

This research reaffirms what we have known in this movement since at least the 1970s when the city of Los Angeles opened the nation’s first municipally funded spay/neuter clinic in the United States for low-income pet owners and saw sterilization rates increase, and impound/death rates at local shelters plummet. Another study several years ago in Mississippi found 69% of pet owners with unspayed/unneutered animals would get them sterilized if it were free, a fact which is not surprising for a state with some of the lowest per capita incomes in the nation.

It also reaffirms a ten year JAVMA study of feral cat impound and death rates in Ohio. It reaffirms an analysis of impound dates at animal control done in San Francisco in the mid-1990s that found upwards of 75% of kittens are from feral moms. It reaffirms early to mid-1990s-era studies (one in Santa Clara County, CA and the other in San Diego, CA) putting the percentage of sterilized housecats at or around 80%. And it reaffirms many others going back decades. While the study is not surprising and doesn’t break new ground, it is great to have further research to back it up for the pinheads in government who need gobs of data analysis before they will acknowledge the obvious. Click here for more information.

Invest in Leadership. A survey of animal shelter funding and save rates conducted by two organizations found some interesting preliminary data (the study is not yet public). What was not surprising was that governments which run their own pounds pay more than if they contract out to private shelters. Private SPCAs and humane societies have been subsidizing animal control for so long that it has become the unfair and unreasonable expectation of municipalities that these private non-profits should continue to do so. Assuming that the agencies will retain these contracts despite compensation levels that fail to cover the actual costs of running animal control, and regardless of whether they are No Kill or killing shelters, governments are, in effect, having shelters use private donations to subsidize a government mandate. As a result, these shelters are using money raised for adoptions, medical care, and other lifesaving work to pay the cost of sheltering and killing stray and seized animals under their animal control obligations. Donor funding may also be used to enforce often arcane and inhumane animal laws (e.g., breed bans, cat leash laws, feeding bans, pet limit laws) which are inconsistent with lifesaving.

This survey surprisingly found that government-run or municipal animal control shelters had higher rates of lifesaving than private non-profit shelters administering animal control contracts, but this was not dependent on funding levels. One possibility is that if a community has both an animal control shelter and a distinct private shelter, the private shelter can maximize its donations to increase spay/neuter, adoptions, and other programs rather than subsidizing animal control leading to improved lifesaving rates. In addition, with two shelters working in a community, there are greater resources available for the animals (including cage/kennel space). But this requires further analysis. It is not clear that each of these communities also had a private humane society, had a private humane society which worked with them, and/or had a private humane society which actually cared about saving lives.

The real gem in this study is that rates of lifesaving were not conditioned on per capita rates of animal control funding. In other words, regardless of whether the shelter was public or private, it found little correlation between level of government funding and rates of lifesaving. Roughly, per capita funding ranged from about $1.50 to about $6.30. The average was $5.85. The mean was $3.95.

Save rates ranged from 35% ($2.00 per capita) to 90% ($1.50 per capita), but they did not follow any predictable pattern. There were shelters with an 87% rate of lifesaving spending only $2.80 per capita, and shelters with a 42% rate (less than half of the former) spending more than double that (at $5.80 per capita). It was generally all over the map:


What did make a difference was leadership: the commitment of shelter managers to saving lives. While communities should provide adequate funding, only throwing money at the problem will do very little without leadership committed both to lifesaving and to accountability. In King County, WA, the City Council has spent millions of additional dollars since three independent evaluations in 2007 and 2008 revealed high rates of illness, deplorable conditions, cruelty and uncaring at King County Animal Care & Control (KCACC). In fact, the King County Council has never denied a funding request for KCACC. But no improvement in animal care has been made. Animals continue to languish, continue to get sick because of poor care, continue to go untreated, continue to suffer, and continue to die.

In Portland, OR, likewise:

Over the course of the past few years (fiscal years 2003 though 2008), a period during which the total number of animals brought into the shelter increased by only 5 percent and the agency’s budget increased by 50 percent (to a current $4.6 million), nearly every measure of the agency’s performance documents failure. Adoptions are down by 40 percent (dogs) and 18 percent (cats). Nearly half of the dogs not returned to owners are killed; so too are nearly two-thirds of cats. The “kill rate” is now well above rates in neighboring counties facing far more severe budget limitations. Thousands of dollars are squandered on adversarial enforcement efforts that have achieved no meaningful improvement in the public’s safety. The number of animals saved by cooperating life-saving organizations and individuals, a number widely recognized as a key measure of community support, has dropped by 40 percent.

To really make an impact, communities must also invest in progressive leaders willing to embrace the programs and services which make No Kill possible. As I have said in the past, the most important element of the No Kill Equation is often the hardest to find. But find it we must, because lifesaving is simply not possible without it:

A hard working, compassionate animal control director who is not content to continue killing by hiding behind the myth of “too many animals, not enough homes” or regurgitating tired clichés about public irresponsibility.

The studies are important because they help elucidate the truth:

  • Make spay/neuter affordable;
  • Breed bans waste money and lives without any benefit to public safety;
  • There are plenty of homes for shelter animals if shelters did a better job marketing them, competing with commercial sources of pets, and tapping into the public’s compassion; and,
  • Invest in leadership.

Hopefully, advocates can use these studies in their own communities to sway public policy. Hopefully, they will help win votes on City Councils across the nation. But a word of caution: While we must use data and analysis to help make our case to the community, we can’t abandon the emotional plea. Ultimately what is going to cause a triumph of No Kill over killing—of compassion over shelter cruelty—are the simple concepts which have historically triumphed in every successful social justice movement—right vs. wrong. Ultimately, what is causing this great revolution to sweep across the country, what will destroy every last vestige of the HSUS-inspired killing paradigm we live with today is not cost analysis, safety data, or number crunching. It is empathy. It is love—the great love people have for companion animals. It is emotion. All those things we are told not to focus on because somehow they are less valuable than the data and analysis. We can determine the difference between right and wrong based on what we know to be the truth in our hearts. I’m with Captain Kirk on this one. Mr. Spock got it backward.


Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock debate the merits of logic vs. emotion.

The Unholy Trinity

Given that all the indicators, studies, data, and public opinion are in our favor, why aren’t we a No Kill nation yet? I would argue that it is a failure of leadership. The three largest animal protection organizations in the country are HSUS led by Wayne Pacelle, the ASPCA led by Ed Sayres, and PETA led by Ingrid Newkirk. And no one can explain why we are still mired in killing as a nation—and as a movement—as they can, in their own words:

Ed Sayres: “There is no room for No Kill as morally superior.”


Ed Sayres apparently telling a crowd that killing is the moral equivalent of not killing. Are you kidding me?

Ingrid Newkirk: “The animals … got the gift of euthanasia, and to them it was the best gift they’ve ever had.”


Ingrid Newkirk with a dog. The dog’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Hopefully Newkirk did not give the dog the “gift.”

Wayne Pacelle: “I don’t have a hands-on fondness for animals. To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal.”


Wayne Pacelle in a P.R. photograph with a dog belonging to someone else.

“We are not killing [animals in shelters].We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death… but we are not killing. And that’s why I cannot stand the term No Kill shelters.” –Penny Cistaro, “Euthanasia Expert,” speaking at the Humane Society of the United States Expo.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Building a No Kill Michigan

June 1, 2009 by  

Join me in Greenville, MI this Saturday, June 6 for a No Kill seminar. The seminar has been been called “a prerequisite for animal lovers, rescue groups and organizations that are serious about changing their communities to No Kill.”

I’ll be doing a free two-hour inspirational multi-media presentation about building a No Kill community, followed by a book signing. The seminar is sponsored by Friends of Animals.

For more information, click here.