October 27, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
Last weekend, Best Friends held their annual No More Homeless Pets conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. Roughly 650 people attended, of which 80% were new to the national No Kill movement. The conference was exciting, well executed, and included some remarkable and forward-thinking presenters and workshops. Bonney Brown, who is leading a successful No Kill initiative in Reno, NV gave two workshops on Building a No Kill Community. Jon Dunn, Social Marketing Manager for Best Friends, and Scott Goodstein, who led President Obama’s social marketing campaign, taught seminars on utilizing social media to save lives. There were presentations on non-lethal feral cat programs and much more. It was a great step forward for the movement, and I am grateful to have participated in the event.
Admittedly, I did not see all the workshops. Admittedly, there will always be some things No Kill advocates will disagree on. But there were three statements made by “experts” that were not simple disagreements between No Kill advocates. These three statements were not something on which No Kill advocates can reasonably differ. The claims were simply regressive, antiquated, and harmful for our goals of a No Kill nation. Without detracting from the assessment above, without detracting from the kudos Best Friends deserves for the event (none of the statements were made by anyone from Best Friends and, based on numerous communications with them in the past, I am sure Best Friends was as shocked by them as I was), I address those here.
Like most advocates working to reform our nation’s broken animal shelter system, I am accused of being “divisive,” though the claim only goes in one direction. Apologists for shelter killing are free to call No Kill and No Kill advocates “cruel” and a “delusion” (National Animal Control Association), “warehousing” and “glorified collectors” (Humane Society of the United States), “No Clue” (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and worse; but when you stand up for the animals, you are the “divisive” and “unreasonable” one.
I don’t enjoy conflict and I don’t seek out conflict. I’ve tried to meet with Wayne Pacelle in order to work out our differences, only to be rebuffed (he ignored my letters for 15 years and then finally responded to say he won’t meet with anyone he doesn’t trust, and he doesn’t trust me. Ironically, he was more than willing to trust, meet, and finally embrace Michael Vick, a convicted felon and dog killing psychotic monster). I’ve met in the past with the American Humane Association, only to watch them continue to promote arcane policies that harm animals. I’ve actually tried to establish a dialog with Ingrid Newkirk. And for two years, I tried to keep Ed Sayres focused on saving homeless animals at the San Francisco SPCA, rather than promoting his own aggrandizement. All, to no avail.
And I’ve said it before and I will say it again: when any one of these groups embraces the No Kill paradigm unequivocally, I will be the first to line up behind them. I’d even go away. Believe it or not, there are other animal related causes that I am passionate about and want to further before my time here on this Earth is finished. When they are ready to move on, so am I.
But their commitment to the mass killing of animals entrusted to their care and to the care of the shelters they provide political cover to, is entrenched beyond the bounds of reason. As I wrote in the new 2009 second edition of Redemption:
The only thing standing between the system of mass killing we are living under today and the No Kill nation we can immediately achieve is that the leaders of the large national organizations refuse to seize the opportunity to act. Instead they are determined to fail—to ensure that the paradigm they have championed for so long is not upended—by blocking reform efforts which challenge their hegemony; by protecting and defending draconian shelter practices, uncaring shelter directors; and by squandering the potential represented by the great love people have for companion animals.
How can I ignore the fact that the 3,600,000 savable dogs and cats killed every year in our nation’s shelters can in fact actually be saved today but for the policies championed, defended, and promoted by groups such as HSUS, NACA, AHA, ASPCA, and PETA? I cannot. And so I am left with no choice but to engage them directly. I am left with no choice but to counter their deadly policies. I am left with no choice but to stand up for the animals, even as I am called “radical,” “enemy seeking,” “unreasonable,” and “divisive.”
It comes with the territory. As I told Best Friends conference attendees in a series of slides at my workshop on “Reforming Animal Control,”
They’ll tell you No Kill is impossible (even though it has already been achieved!). They’ll use that as an excuse to continue killing. And to whitewash their failures to hold staff accountable. Or their failure to implement lifesaving programs. To keep customer service poor and the shelter dirty. To allow this to continue: algae covered water bowls and filthy kennels. And this: cruel methods of killing and dirty litter boxes. To fill body bags, despite empty cages. It is truly time for change.
But when you call it into question. They’ll call you “divisive.” They’ll give you one excuse after another:
- “It’s pet overpopulation.”
- “It’s the public’s fault.”
- “We need more laws.”
- “The animals are not adoptable.”
- “Wait five years.”
Even though none of these are true.
Being called “divisive” is not something I— or other No Kill advocates such as the good folks at FixAustin who were recently accused of the same in a newspaper editorial—relish. I suppose, however, that since this is the mantel that people often bear who challenge vested interests intent on harm, we might as well wear it as a badge of honor. After all, we are in good company: Harriet Beecher Stowe was considered “divisive” not just for being an abolitionist, but for refusing to compromise by challenging the liberal concept of “humane slavery.” Alice Paul was considered “divisive” within the suffrage movement for not being civil with the two-faced Woodrow Wilson. As were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Of course, Martin Luther King, Jr. was “divisive” not just for challenging segregation, but liberal “supporters” in Chicago who allowed the “ghetto” and Lyndon Johnson for sending black and poor people to fight his dirty war against poor people in Viet Nam. Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, Harvey Milk, Thomas Clarkson, and everyone else—great or small; remembered or forgotten—who ever said “enough is enough” in their respective social movements. All of them were “unreasonable.” All of them were “divisive.” All of them were “radical.” I suppose we should be grateful that being labeled a “communist” is no longer in vogue, though it is just a matter of time before we are called “terrorists.” Thankfully, history always vindicates those who champion compassion, those who aspire to do the right thing in spite of the consequences in the here and now—because progress depends on it.
And so I stand up in spite of the personal attacks. And while the conference itself was exciting; while the vast majority of speakers were terrific and trailblazing; while the venue and process was flawless; while the end result was a positive step forward in our efforts to achieve a No Kill nation; while 80% of attendees were either new to conferences or new to the movement, showing that the No Kill movement is growing by leaps and bounds; while I came away energized and excited and grateful that Best Friends gave me and others an opportunity to reach a whole new set of activists with the No Kill message—activists who have joined our army of compassion and will spread out across the county to their respective communities and help burn down every last vestige of the “catch and kill” paradigm that HSUS and others champion and protect—I also felt nervous and angry and once again forced to stand up and defend the animals against potentially deadly misinformation.
Only this time, the misinformation that allows killing to continue came not from my enemies (such as Pacelle, Sayres, and Newkirk), but from my friends. It came from other presenters who claim to be allies in the fight for a No Kill nation. (One panelist in another session actually claimed the City of Los Angeles is a national model because of its mandatory spay/neuter law which has caused killing rates to increase for the first time in a decade! Another panelist is a poster child for killing apologists and killing enablers like Judy Mancuso who want to spread this warped version of “success” statewide.) And I could not, and I cannot, allow that to go unanswered. It would be a betrayal to my good sense. It would be a betrayal to my conscience. But most of all, it would be a betrayal to the animals.
As I write in my upcoming book Irreconcilable Differences,
While it is always more difficult and uncomfortable to stand up to one’s so-called “friends” than to stand up to one’s “enemies,” stand up we must. For if we are ever to achieve a No Kill nation—and end the wholly unnecessary killing of millions of animals every year in U.S. shelters—we must respond strategically to the actual problems that cause animal suffering and prevent greater lifesaving…
Nationwide lifesaving success will be achieved only when all shelters and all animal protection groups embrace the No Kill paradigm that says that the killing in our nation’s shelters must end—and not when we “respect” opposing views that accept and legitimize that killing.
And so at the risk of being again (and unfairly) labeled “divisive,” I feel duty bound to clear up the false claims made by some of the “experts” at the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference. During my involvement on a panel on adoptions, my fellow panelists made several statements that are quite simply wrong and indefensible.
One panelist defended leash laws for cats and “indoor only” adoption policies. Another panelist claimed that cat killing in shelters is currently inevitable because of “pet overpopulation.” And yet another stated that with the growth of adoptions, their “return” rate (adopted animals who are returned to the shelter within one year) also increased significantly.
When measured against seminars showing shelters and rescue groups how to embrace social media to save lives; when measured against workshops on increasing adoptions, embracing Trap-Neuter-Release, foster care, and other programs to achieve No Kill; when measured against all the wonderful outcomes and presentations of the conference, some may be tempted to say that I protest too much. But I don’t think so.
There were 650 people in the room, eight out of ten of who are new to the national No Kill movement. And if they walk away with lowered expectations, if they walk away with lowered demands, if they embrace cat leash laws or “indoor only” adoption policies while cats are being killed in their local shelters, if they give animal control more power to turn away good homes and kill the animals well meaning Americans are willing to adopt, if they do not embrace high volume adoptions because they think it comes with high return rates, if they wait five years when they shouldn’t have to wait any, if they embrace punitive laws as “reform” even though these are often part of the problem, animals needlessly die. And how can we—as animal lovers and No Kill advocates—allow that?
This is not theoretical. In Ohio, the Lucas County dog warden is under fire for an astronomically high kill rate. Roughly eight out of ten dogs are being put to death, even as rescue groups are turned away, even as owners are calling to try and find their missing dogs he has already killed, even as the dogs are getting sick because he refuses to vaccinate them, even though his response is always “kill, kill, kill” despite readily available lifesaving alternatives, and even though he is an incompetent hack who was given the job due to nepotism (he is related to a county commissioner). And so while a Committee overseeing problems at the shelter uncovered a pattern of neglect and incompetence, they also recommended door-to-door canvassing for dog license violators as the first step towards a solution. That’s correct: they want to give the Lucas County dog killer and his animal control thugs more power to cite, impound, and kill animals not in compliance. And they are not alone.
Los Angeles activists complain about the killing going at Los Angeles Animal Services. And what did they seek and ultimately enact into law? A punitive ordinance that gave uncaring animal control officers more power to cite, impound, and kill animals. And the officers have done exactly that: the first increase in killing in a decade.
How is that approach a path to No Kill? And who is championing it? Sadly, a minority of “experts” at the recent conference. Leash laws, license laws, arbitrary adoption policies, mandatory spay/neuter laws, and myths about overpopulation and the “need” to kill. Even though this approach has never worked and too often, has the opposite results.
Imagine this. Imagine it was a conference sometime in the future: a “No More Cancer” conference. And let’s say a cure for cancer has been discovered. It has a 100% rate of success in every patient to whom it was given as long as they follow the prescription. And let’s say one physician is championing that cure and has demonstrated time and time again, in patients all over the country and in all types of cancer, how it has worked. But the other panelists are championing old treatments that don’t work. Imagine what that first physician would feel like; what he would feel compelled to scream: “There is a cure people! What the hell are you talking about? Patients are dying and it is unnecessary.”
That is exactly how I felt listening to the panelists on adoptions advance outdated, antiquated, and downright regressive approaches to ending the systematic killing of animals in shelters. Don’t get me wrong; I do not want to overstate the case. For the most part, the panelists agreed on the many issues surrounding adoption programs, as they should have. There is only one model that has achieved No Kill success and it is the model we should all be championing: high volume, thoughtful but not overly bureaucratic screening, incentives and promotions, offsite events, evening and weekend hours, public relations, good customer service, and a fun and inviting shelter where people can interact with the animals. But this isn’t some minor process disagreement.
For example, comprehensive adoption programs are crucial to ending the killing of healthy and treatable animals. But while daily offsite adoption events were central to the strategy in San Francisco (we did offsite events seven days a week, at seven different locations every day) and they accounted for roughly 25% of overall adoptions, Bonney Brown of the Nevada Humane Society will tell you that while they have embraced every other aspect of a comprehensive adoption effort, including periodic offsite adoptions, given their centrally located facility, offsite adoptions aren’t a daily necessity for them, and the results prove it (adoptions for dogs are up over 50% and adoptions for cats are up over 80% since she took over). This is a difference of degree, which is community specific, even while we both agree that only the No Kill Equation model of adoptions achieves success.
The statements made by the panelists are not a difference of degree. They are a difference in kind. It is tempting to suggest they simply do not know better. This is bad enough. As self-proclaimed experts, they have a higher duty to stay on top of their field and only give the most relevant and modern advice—a duty they fundamentally abdicated by giving bad advice and drawing the wrong conclusions. But I believe there is something deeper at work. And regardless of the motivations, all of these claims are simply wrong. They are not wrong in my opinion. They are wrong, in fact. And while I was not on the particular panel when the City of Los Angeles was promoted as a model of success (I did debunk this claim in my conference seminar on “Reforming Animal Control”), I did challenge the rest during the panel discussion I was a part of. And I must challenge them here, too. [In many ways, the blog “Lessons from an Andy Warhol Tote Bag” is apropos here also. I recommend people read it again with an eye to what was championed by a minority at the recent Las Vegas conference.]
I won’t address the issue of mandatory spay/neuter. I’ve written about it too many times to go into again, as have many, many other animal lovers who correctly oppose: giving animal control more power to divert resources from lifesaving programs to enforcement; increasing the power of the catch and kill bureaucracy; and punishing the public for the shelter’s failures, especially as this punitive approach leads to more killing. For this, you can read Redemption, or go to nokilladvocacycenter.org, petconnection.com, kcdogblog.com, among many others. Even the ASPCA—the flagship for the Eastern “catch and kill” establishment—has finally, finally, finally, woken up and come out against them because they don’t work (though they don’t mention they also kill more animals).
But as for the rest:
Myth: Shelters should have “indoor only” adoption policies for cats/shelters should embrace cat leash laws.
Analysis of Claims: Instead of taking a pragmatic approach which itself is questionable (indoor-only policies might make sense in Manhattan, but not in rural America, and case-by-case in between these two extremes); the idea that cats belong only indoors and adoption policies should reflect that, requires shelters to accept an ethical contradiction: it is acceptable to kill cats today because some may be killed later if allowed outdoors. In addition, the risks of being outdoors are thoroughly exaggerated. A comprehensive 11-year study of outdoor cats found that they had similar baselines in health, disease rates, and longevity as indoor cats. A subsequent study gave feral cats “A+” grades across a wide range of physical and health characteristics. In yet another study, less than one percent of over 100,000 feral cats admitted to seven major TNR programs across the United States were killed for debilitating conditions; while a fourth survey across 132 colonies in north central Florida showed that 96 percent of feral cats had a “good” or “great” quality of life.
Moreover, as I write in Irreconcilable Differences:
In the end, however, the “risks” associated with being outdoors—disease, malicious humans, and even predation—are not the primary killers of cats. (A study on the diet of urban coyotes in an area filled with outdoor cats showed that domestic cats were found in only 1.3 percent of the scats). People in shelters are the number one killer of cats. If we care about cats, we should put programs in place that prevent them from entering these facilities and that provide an opportunity for them to get out alive when they do.
And that includes not putting in place arbitrary barriers to their adoption. We should not turn away good homes just because the potential adopters indicate the cat will be let outside, especially while shelters are killing savable cats.
Myth: Shelters cannot adopt their way out of killing cats and have no choice but to kill cats because of overpopulation.
Analysis of Claim: There are four reasons to reject this claim. First of all, the argument that it is impossible to end the killing of savable cats because there are too many ignores that it has already been achieved in many communities. In addition, it has been achieved in communities with per capita intake rates that exceed this claimant’s community several-fold. The fact that the claimant’s community has failed to end the killing of healthy and treatable cats is because of the practices (or lack of appropriate practices) by the animal control shelter in that specific community. It cannot be universalized.
Second, the data proves pet overpopulation is a myth. Several studies from a number of sources confirm that there are more people looking to bring a new cat into their homes than the total number of cats entering shelters, and most of these people can be influenced to adopt from a shelter. On top of that, not all cats entering shelters need adoption.
Third, there is consensus on this issue among the national groups including the No Kill Advocacy Center, Maddie’s Fund, HSUS, the ASPCA, and others. Given that these groups agree on very little, the fact that they all acknowledge that a small percentage increase of market share—roughly 3%—will eliminate the population control killing of all healthy and treatable cats and dogs indicates a high degree of confidence.
Finally, the claimant has no direct control over the practices of the community’s animal control shelter, the shelter has a long history of bureaucratic inertia and underperformance, it kills—rather than TNR—most feral cats, the large TNR group in the community has repeatedly failed to rescue notched ear cats in the animal control facility, there is a lack of full scale commitment to ending the killing of savable cats by the large shelters in the community, resources are misallocated, and shirkers on staff are not held accountable.
In summary, it cannot be called impossible since it has already been achieved, the data proves it, as does the consensus of groups who normally agree on very little. There are many reasons shelters kill cats. But “pet overpopulation” is not one of them. And there is ample evidence animal control in the claimant’s community is not doing nearly enough to save the lives of cats.
In the end, the real motivation behind this claim may be to provide political cover for the failure to achieve success by trying to universalize it. But, in the end, this amounts to nothing more than the age-old diversionary tactic of avoiding responsibility by pointing the finger of blame to others.
Myth: High volume adoptions results in high rates of returns (as high as 20%).
Analysis of Claim: The underpinning of this claim is that in order to increase quantity, you have to reduce quality. And because of these lower quality adoptions, this line of thinking goes, more animals are being returned. Increasing adoptions involves:
- Public access adoption hours
- Beating the competition (commercial sources of animals)
- Offsite adoptions
- Special events
- Adoption incentives
- Foster care
- Utilizing rescue groups
- Alternative placements
- Thoughtful but not overly bureaucratic screening
- A fun and friendly shelter environment
- Setting specific goals
- Encouraging the public to interact with the animals
- Turning challenges into opportunities
It has nothing whatsoever to do with reducing quality. That is why some of the most successful shelters in the country have return rates of less than 5%. In Tompkins County, New York, for example, it was closer to 2% despite a 93% save rate, the best in the nation.
In the end, however, even if it did involve a 20% rate of return and even if we accepted for the sake of argument, that this figure could never be lowered, what would be the significance of that? Sure, it would put more pressure on resources, but as long as the shelter was No Kill, no animals have to die as a result. And why focus on the 20% rather than the 80% who are still both alive and in their homes?
In the end, I’d rather have a lifetime home than a six-month home, but I’d treat the latter no different than an animal returning from foster care and simply find that animal another home six months from now. Our goal may be a lifetime home, but our greater goal is no more killing. And if the home falls through, while not the ideal, as long as the lifesaving guarantee is in place, there is no permanent harm.
When you release yourself from this (and other) conventional shelter dogma, all kinds of lifesaving possibilities open up: leasing animals to military families who are stationed for a defined period of time, trial run adoptions, and other creative alternatives to traditional shelter practices that result in killing far too many animals. In fact, during my recent trip to Australia, a rescue group recounted saving dozens of animals immediately threatened with death at the pound by placing them (“leasing them” she called them) in fixed-term homes for people from other countries on a temporary work related visa.
To be fair, the claimant on the panel admitted to be struggling with their own relatively new program and therefore was simply offering results before they have ironed out the “bugs” and achieved success. The claimant also admitted they had no control over the specific adoption policies of some of the groups involved in their multi-agency adoption efforts. The miscue here was clearly not intentional, but merely a relaying of preliminary data as it was. I’ve debated simply leaving it out, because it was not an effort to universalize their results, but I include it because it is worth clarifying misconceptions about high volume adoptions, especially since this misconception feeds into the dark vision promoted by people like Ingrid Newkirk, Wayne Pacelle, and others who advocate continued killing of animals.
And while the latter claim was not made with the dogmatic pronouncement of the first two, what the entire claimants share in common is that none of them have ever achieved a No Kill community. A priori, that makes their advice on how to achieve No Kill open to immediate challenge. Having achieved a No Kill community and having assisted other communities to do the same, I told the attendees at my conference workshop what they needed to hear and what should be their uncompromising mantra: no more excuses, no more killing. In the end, that will earn them the label “divisive,” but in the light of history, it will be seen for what it truly is: the mark of compassion.
For further reading:
October 19, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
Recently, my wife was given a tote bag purchased at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) gift shop in New York City. The bag has an “Andy Warhol” theme, and, therefore, not surprisingly, it also has a sense of humor. It’s made of pink and green striped canvas with a large Campbell’s Tomato Soup can—arguably Warhol’s most iconic work—printed on its front and back. Running up the straps is the famous Warhol quote, “I am a deeply superficial person.” Inside, at the end of a long, silver chain is a soup can shaped coin purse. But the real gem—the pièce de résistance—is what was tucked discreetly inside an inner pocket of the bag: a photocopy of a 1956 letter written to Andy Warhol by the then Director of MOMA Collections, rejecting the donation of one of his drawings.
It’s a masterfully written letter, gracious in actual word choice, but dripping in sarcasm. You can infer just how audacious the Committee considered Warhol to be for daring to suggest that his art belonged in their venerable institution. Little did they know the joke was on them; as Warhol’s paintings have recently sold for as high as $71 million, and MOMA now boasts over 130 Warhol pieces in its Collection.
“Last week our Committee…held its first meeting of the fall season and had a chance to study your drawing entitled Shoe which you so generously offered as a gift to our museum,” begins the letter. “I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection.” It then goes on to explain that because storage space is limited, they had to decline a work that, in their words, would be “shown only infrequently.” And as if that was not shocking enough to the modern reader, the letter ends with the most ironic post script in the history of letter writing: “P.S. The drawing may be picked up from the Museum at your convenience.” At his convenience?! Where? At coat check?
Given the perspective afforded by hindsight, the letter is, of course, comical. And kudos to the Museum of Modern Art for being able to laugh at, indeed, fess up to, what in the end was a monumental blunder on their part. As art lovers, we can laugh along with the Museum and even appreciate their self-deprecating humor. We can forgive, forget, and move on, because in the world of art, when non-profits such as the Museum of Modern Art screw up, when they become insular, short-sighted, or fail to keep informed or open minded about the evolving field in which they are supposed to be the “experts,” no one dies as a result. Egos are bruised, perhaps careers are stalled, but no one dies. And true genius lives on to vindicate itself—and even settle the score—at a later date.
The same, however, cannot be said about all non-profits. For some, the stakes in which they engage are so high, that their advocacy—when ill informed, antiquated and regressive—can have harmful, even deadly results. They, therefore, have a greater responsibility to stay informed and on top of the field they work in. They need to be held to a higher standard. This is why the recent recommendation by the American Humane Association (AHA) that Washoe County (NV) implement cat licensing is so downright obscene. When animal welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States and the AHA fail to keep pace, when they claim to be “experts” but promote antiquated policies, animals do die; something, unlike MOMA’s blunder, that the passage of time fails to correct. Those animals killed because of the decisions made by AHA or HSUS “experts” can never be brought back because they are gone forever. They are dead. They can neither bark or meow or purr or love or be loved ever again. And that is intolerable.
It is especially intolerable because it has been 15 years since San Francisco inaugurated the first major breakthrough in the No Kill paradigm and eight years since Tompkins County (NY) became the first No Kill community. There is simply no excuse not to know better. We know how to save lives. We know there is only one model that makes No Kill possible. And the large national groups should be working feverishly to ensure that the model is replicated in every community in the country. But they aren’t.
HSUS isn’t because Wayne Pacelle, their uncaring CEO, cares more about not offending his cronies in the “catch and kill” sheltering establishment than he does about the animals. He has made the willful decision that the animals be damned so HSUS can champion poorly performing shelters and provide political cover for shelter managers who find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it.
And AHA doesn’t because they choose to remain willfully ignorant. That is disconcerting enough. But that they are going into communities and giving advice that will cause animals to lose their lives is what makes it especially egregious. It is also a lost opportunity to influence shelter policy in a positive, life-affirming way.
Recently, AHA was asked to review Washoe County Regional Animal Services (WCRAS) in Reno, Nevada. Reno is also the home of the Nevada Humane Society, a shelter that not only shares a facility with WCRAS, but is a shelter I’ve been working with since 2006. I did two assessments of NHS since early 2007, recruited the Executive Director, helped write and implement policies, and am currently in the process of recruiting their Associate Director. I’ve also spent plenty of time at WCRAS, the WCRAS director was a speaker at the No Kill Conference in Washington D.C. I organized, and I recruited him as one of the panelists for the Committee reviewing candidates for the open NHS leadership position. I am very familiar with both the challenges and successes in Washoe County, which I have documented in over 200 pages of recommendations and model policies. Washoe County, as of the first ten months of this year, is saving 92% of all dogs and 88% of all cats.
The difference between the dog save rate and the cat save rate comes down largely to one program: the lack of a full scale, widespread municipally endorsed Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program, although WCRAS is now in favor of such an approach. But regardless of the 4% differential in lifesaving, Reno is one of the safest communities for both dogs and cats in the United States, saving nine out of ten animals and they achieved that success in one way: by following the No Kill Equation and by rejecting the failed 19th Century model of catch and kill sheltering sponsored and promoted by AHA-HSUS-and the equally “deeply superficial” ASPCA’s punitive legislation approach: a model that not only has never been successful in the U.S., it is also a failure in Australia as the No Kill Advocacy Center recently reported.
But that did not stop AHA from recommending that Washoe County implement mandatory cat licensing in their final report. In 1995, the San Francisco SPCA published what remains the definitive refutation of cat licensing in the United States, almost 15 years ago. That position paper was distributed all over the country and even presented to AHA when I met with their shelter services leadership at the San Francisco SPCA back in 1999. I personally hand-delivered it in a meeting in the conference room at the SPCA’s Adoption Center. Cat licensing, like other punitive laws, remains a license to kill and to increase the power of the animal control bureaucracy, at the expense of the animals.
So why did AHA advocate a failed model of punitive legislation that has never worked, has resulted in increased killing in those jurisdictions that have implemented it, and is in contravention of the only model that has actually succeeded: the No Kill Equation. Though it claims to be an “expert” at shelter operations, AHA is recommending a centuries old model rooted in killing and failure, while ignoring the only model that has achieved success at saving lives.
As I state in my upcoming new book: “Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart and Soul of America’s Animal Shelters,”
Only the No Kill Equation model has achieved this success. It is a program model which changes the way shelters operate and which gives the animal loving public an integral role in that operation. If a community wants success, this is the way to go: nothing else has succeeded. Trying to achieve a new end with a failed model doesn’t make sense.
American Humane’s recommendation that Washoe county consider implementing a cat licensing program is based on the National Animal Control Association’s (NACA) best practice guidelines and the expertise of our field services consultant, a former animal control director and NACA president who has over 30 years experience in the field. NACA is the national professional organization for animal care and control and the only organization that provides certification of animal control officers.
NACA is an industry trade group that represents people who kill millions of animals every year. They give awards to people and shelters that kill large numbers of animals. Has this supposed “expert” and “former animal control director” and “NACA president” ever achieved No Kill success? If he couldn’t achieve No Kill in 30 years, what business does he have telling a shelter that is currently saving 90% of all animals what they should be doing? In fact, NACA is on record calling No Kill a “delusion.” They have embraced Sue Sternberg’s anti-Pit Bull/anti-dog methods and policies, even though her methods do little but give shelters the excuse they need to kill savable dogs. They have condemned cats to death despite the TNR alternative. And they have consistently sought punitive schemes like cat licensing to give the officers they represent more power—a power that comes at the expense of animals. Cat licensing gives these officers one more reason to find animals in violation of law and subject to either citation and/or impound, and thus killing. If NACA staff and members are expert at anything, it is at how to kill animals. That is not the kind of advice Washoe County needs and it is certainly not the kind of advice that AHA, which claims to be about protecting animals, should be following.
This is also why we must conclude that AHA’s “Getting to Zero” campaign is so hypocritical and insincere. How do you have the hubris to claim you have the expertise to help shelters “get to zero” killing for healthy and treatable animals when none of your experts have ever achieved No Kill and when they remain willfully ignorant of what is truly required to do so? When you give advice that will actually undermine a community’s ability to do so? That will divert resources which should be used for lifesaving programs to enforcement of needless and counterproductive punitive mandates? It can’t be done. It has never been done. And it never will be done. Enough is enough.
No one in the movement seriously entertains the belief that AHA is a leader. But if they are going to claim a leadership position, they should lead. Relying on the consensus of an agency with a killing orientation is at odds with true leadership in the animal protection movement. If they are not going to change, they would best serve the animals by getting out of the way; by stopping their attempts to perpetuate failed and deadly policies.
It is time that the humane community and city governments cease relying on the advice of agencies and individuals that have never achieved No Kill success. In fact, it is irresponsible for individuals and organizations with absolutely no experience achieving No Kill to be offering themselves as experts, especially in light of the evidence that it is a concept to which they have been historically opposed, have at best only a superficial understanding of the dynamic and exciting changes occurring in the field of animal sheltering as a result of the No Kill movement, and do not embrace the only model that has proven successful in those communities which have implemented it. In short, Washoe County should not be following the recommendations of people who have had, by their own admission, 30 years to achieve No Kill success, but have utterly failed to do so.
The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Which leaves me to ponder the questions: Who are the people running AHA? Where is the cave they work out of? Where do they get the audacity to recommend what they recommended to one of the nation’s most successful lifesaving communities? And do they have any conception of how their antiquated recommendations expose the depths of their ignorance and unprofessionalism?
One of the most tragic things I have learned working in the No Kill field is how steadfast in defense of the status quo many in the humane movement remain, in spite of the body count. And while I have been forced to conclude that self-preservation and uncaring are at the heart of their resistance, I cannot conceive of how, at some point, this devotion to self-preservation would not also compel such people to read the writing on the wall and thus embrace the inevitable. I also cannot conceive of how their desire for self-preservation doesn’t force them to abandon outdated, disproven, regressive “deeply superficial” policies if for no other reason than to spare themselves the embarrassment of promoting a viewpoint that is so completely out of touch with reality. The earth is not flat, no matter how many times AHA and NACA say it is.
For additional reading: San Francisco SPCA, “Against Mandatory Cat Licensing,” 1995.
October 17, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and spokesman for the most notorious animal abuser of our time, is digging himself into a deeper hole. The head of the nation’s wealthiest animal “protection” group is now arguing in newspapers across the country, including San Francisco’s, that we should forgive Michael Vick because we are all “sinners when it comes to animals.” Is Pacelle really that desperate that he now says we are all monsters like Vick? Or perhaps, in a bit of Freudian repentance, he is talking about himself: about how he lobbied the court to kill Michael Vick’s canine victims even as he was fundraising off of them? The slaughter of the dogs and puppies at Wilkes County, NC? Or the mass killing in Tangipahoa LA? The round up and kill of cats in Randolph, IA? Or any of the innumerable places Pacelle and HSUS minions have chanted ‘kill, kill, kill’ in the face of proven, successful, reasonable No Kill alternatives?
As for me, I’ve never stomped, electrocuted, hung, shot, drowned, or strangled dogs, nor have I watched them tear each other to shreds and laughed. But Michael Vick did, and he’d still be doing it to this very day had he not been caught. [Read “Riding on Michael Vick’s Bloodstained Coattails” by clicking here.]
Kathleen McGarr of Fix San Francisco, a group which has been trying to reform the city’s kill-oriented animal control and SPCA, says that when she read Pacelle’s claim that she is a monster like Vick, “I nearly fell off my chair.” McGarr’s group has been fighting Pacelle who opposes their No Kill campaign in San Francisco. In short, Pacelle says that No Kill is warehousing, leads to animal suffering, and that San Francisco shelters should be allowed to continue killing. Who is the monster here Wayne?
The Op Ed piece by Pacelle comes on the eve of his planned visit to San Francisco where he will try to convince animal lovers that the most notorious animal abuser of our time should be embraced. Here’s my article about the visit from the examiner:
As the Humane Society of the United States embraces the most notorious animal abuser of our time and fights a proposal to save San Francisco’s neediest animals, the head of HSUS is coming to the City to raise money for his Washington D.C.-based group.
The controversial head of the nation’s largest and wealthiest animal protection organization in the United States is coming to San Francisco for an October 28 “Town Hall” meeting. Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, will discuss, among other things, his new spokesman: dog-killer Michael Vick, the most notorious animal abuser of our time.
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 Wayne Pacelle is asking animal lovers in San Francisco to embrace our movement’s version of Simpson, Geoghan, and Fritzl as a spokesman. It is beyond obscene. It is unthinkable.
Pacelle says he will answer questions from San Francisco animal lovers about this and other topics.
I have a number of other questions for Pacelle. Why did he, through HSUS:
- Participate in the slaughter of some 150 dogs, including puppies, in Wilkes County, NC?
- Lobby to stop No Kill legislation in King County, WA?
- Support breed discriminatory legislation in Indianapolis, IN that would have led to the round up and killing of Pit Bulls?
- Tell USA Today and Newsweek that killing in shelters is acceptable and that No Kill was warehousing?
- Mislead 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?
- Tell the court to kill Vick’s victims even as he was asking people to give HSUS money so he could “care” for them?
- Leave New Orleans with tens of millions given to HSUS for the victims of Hurricane Katrina even while those animals were still suffering?
- Legitimize the slaughter of virtually every animal at Tangipahoa Parish animal control?
- Tell people not to adopt animals during the holidays, effectively accepting the deaths of 1,000,000 animals as the alternative?
- Tell the Randolph, IA community that HSUS does not have a problem killing stray cats?
- Claim that rescued dogs in Missouri should face a “pretty certain death”?
And especially important for San Francisco animal lovers, why is he opposing a No Kill San Francisco? Pacelle recently sent a letter to San Francisco’s Animal Control & Welfare Commission equating No Kill with hoarding and opposing shelter reform legislation that would save San Francisco’s neediest homeless animals.
Unfortunately, Pacelle has long been an apologist and enabler of shelter killing.
In the end, the real reason behind the “Town Hall meeting” might just have nothing to do with animals. This “town hall” format is often little more than a fundraising ploy which has been successfully used by other organizations to sap money from local donors and thus away from local rescue groups, and into the bank accounts of national organizations. And for HSUS, money doesn’t appear to be a means to the end of saving animals. It is the end in and of itself, the animals be damned.
October 16, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
Let’s bring the No Kill revolution to all corners of the globe. I’ve donated all my remaining stock to the No Kill Advocacy Center. In return, the No Kill Advocacy Center is offering rescue groups and No Kill shelters outside the United States free cases of Redemption if they pay shipping fees. These books are marked “Courtesy Copy/Not for Resale” and are intended to be given away to people of influence in their community, such as shelter managers, government officials, and media representatives.
For more information and terms, contact the No Kill Advocacy Center directly by clicking here.
(The No Kill Advocacy Center has already given out thousands of free copies to U.S. rescue groups, government officials, shelter managers, and media representatives. This current offer is only for groups outside of the United States. U.S. groups can purchase the book through Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and wherever books are sold. However, I am giving out free copies to the first 400 people who visit my booth at the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference in Las Vegas later this month.)
October 14, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. vie to see which will become a No Kill nation first
Beginning in 2008, the No Kill Advocacy Center began sending hundreds of free copies of Redemption to virtually every rescue group and shelter in Australia, with the assistance of the Australian organization Pet Rescue. The effort resulted in the first media article addressing the No Kill philosophy and spurred the Animal Welfare League of Queensland, an open admission animal management/control shelter, to embrace the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. All told, 800 copies of the book were distributed throughout the Australian continent.
On September 30 – October 2, 2009, on behalf of the No Kill Advocacy Center, I participated in a national conference on the Gold Coast of Australia. Bringing together shelter directors, government officials, rescue groups and animal lovers from all over Australia and New Zealand, I led four workshops:
- Building a No Kill Australia;
- The No Kill Matrix: What is a Savable Animal?;
- Developing Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) in the Australian Context; and,
- Reforming Animal Control/Management: A Discussion for CEOs, Managers and Leaders of Pounds & Shelters.
I was asked to answer the question of whether it was possible to achieve a No Kill Australia. My answer was “yes.” Not only does the United States example says that it is—a model which shows great promise in Australia—but two communities in Australia are already proving it. Both the Gold Coast and the Australian Capital Territory are experiencing No Kill success. As I told our colleagues in Australia, understanding the model both the progressive U.S. and Australian communities used to achieve it provides powerful evidence that the issues are the same, the roadblocks are the same, and the solutions are the same. We are kindred spirits. And while far too many animals are still being needlessly killed in both U.S. and Australian shelters, we have a genuine solution at hand.
In reply, the head of one of New Zealand’s largest shelters offered a challenge at the conference: New Zealand will be the first No Kill nation. The Australian delegation accepted the challenge. I accepted it on behalf of the United States. The race is on.
Only time will tell if our 15-year head start will be enough to overcome the intransigence of uncaring shelter directors, their shirking staff, the government bureaucrats that protect them, and the national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States which continue to legitimize the killing.
Read the No Kill Advocacy Center’s report by clicking here.
The Making of a Revolution. Redemption’s impact on the No Kill vs. Killing debate has moved beyond the United States. It is changing hearts and minds in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well. A shelter manager for the Animal Welfare League of Queensland said that before Redemption, they found many reasons to kill an animal. Now, they are finding that with a little innovation, they are able to save them, as well as find them loving, new homes. Let’s bring the No Kill revolution to all corners of the globe. The No Kill Advocacy Center is offering rescue groups and No Kill shelters outside the United States free cases of Redemption if they pay shipping fees. These books are marked “Courtesy Copy/Not for Resale” and are intended to be given away to people of influence and affluence in their community: shelter managers, government officials, and media representatives. For more information and terms, contact them by clicking here.
October 9, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
The long awaited follow-up to the most acclaimed book on animal sheltering ever written. Coming this holiday season.
For more information, click here.