Our History Through Cartoons

January 28, 2010 by  

A history of the No Kill movement through political cartoons

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. And when those pictures are political cartoons, they speak in volumes. Political cartoons endure precisely because they are razor sharp in their attention, telling us all we need to know for or against some proposition. From the earliest days of our Republic, the political cartoon has served to dramatize current events and put opposing views into stark contrast. And the No Kill movement has been no exception. Here are some cartoons which define key events in the history of the movement, and help to illuminate the fight for a No Kill nation. [Click on each picture for a larger view.]

Trivializing Compassion


Henry Bergh was the 19th Century animal advocate who launched the humane movement in North America. He gave the first speech on animal protection in the U.S., incorporated the nation’s first humane society (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and succeeded in getting the New York State legislature to pass the nation’s first anti-cruelty law.

After he succeeded in getting an anti-cruelty law, he put a copy in his pocket, and took to the streets that very night—and every single night thereafter for the remainder of his life—to patrol the streets of his native New York City looking for animals in need of protection. The annals of the ASPCA describe the first such encounter:

The driver of a cart laden with coal is whipping his horse. Passersby on the New York City street stop to gawk not so much at the weak, emaciated equine, but at the tall man, elegant in top hat and spats, who is explaining to the driver that it is now against the law to beat one’s animal.

Among many other achievements, he even invented the clay pigeon to put an end to cruel pigeon shoots.  If he were alive today, there is no doubt that Bergh would be the nation’s most vociferous No Kill advocate and a fierce critic of the ASPCA he founded.

Sadly, the political cartoons of Bergh’s day often mocked him. Here, two cartoons depicting Henry Bergh try to assassinate his character by claiming he cares about animals, but not people. In the cartoon above, Bergh is weeping at a bull fight but telling the poor of New York City to get off his property. In the cartoon below, Bergh is chastising Charles Darwin for insulting the crying gorilla by suggesting the gorilla is related to humans.

Of course, Bergh’s compassion was not limited to animals: Bergh also rescued abused children. In 1874, less than a decade after incorporating the ASPCA, he formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first child protection organization in the nation, effectively launching the children’s rights movement in the United States.

The Death Camps


In contrast to the Pollyanna pieces done by comics such as Patrick McDonnell about shelters (Mutts), this piece actually captured the typical American animal control shelter. Animal control, supported historically by groups like the Humane Society of the United States, consider being a lost, stray or feral cat a death sentence. Animal Control officers are often empowered to round them up and kill them. And these organizations promote and embrace laws which give animal control officers even more power. In California, a proposed law in 1994 would have empowered officers to kill cats immediately upon capture on the street if they did not have proof of a rabies vaccination—which would have resulted in mass slaughter. This 1995 cartoon captured that reality.

While McDonnell’s work is guided by an obvious compassion for homeless animals and he donates proceeds from his book signings specifically to No Kill shelters, his depiction of shelter directors and staff as hard working, compassionate, lifesaving-driven animal lovers crumbles in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Approaches to Spay/Neuter


Rather than accuse people of being irresponsible, rather than rant about “pet overpopulation” and the “need” to kill, all of it of dubious value and truth, and rather than seek mandatory spay/neuter laws which empower animal control to impound and kill more animals, this piece summarized the shelter’s desire in five humorous words. Though not a political cartoon, per se, the Tompkins County ad of my tenure was as biting and dramatic as one (copy of the original from the San Francisco SPCA). Tompkins County became the first No Kill community in U.S. history on the back of strong community support, something “pet overpopulation” “mandatory spay/neuter” and “irresponsible” ranters have never, ever been able to achieve.

The Last Gasp of the Dinosaurs


In 2004, as the No Kill movement gained momentum following Tompkins County, NY’s success and with the founding of the No Kill Advocacy Center, the architects of the status quo met in Asilomar, California to take back their hegemony over the sheltering discourse. They identified the terms “No Kill” and “killing” as hurtful and divisive and demanded that they ceased being used. They argued that the decision to save lives through TNR, offsite adoptions, and other needed programs should not be forced on shelters but left to their own determination. They also argued that killing was not their fault. Despite this, they claimed they were committed to saving healthy and treatable animals, narrowly defined to exclude whole categories of animals including feral cats. Groups like HSUS pledged to enforce the “Asilomar Accords” and traveled the country telling groups they could not call themselves “No Kill” or use the term “killing” for animals killed in shelters. By the end of the decade, only two communities had embraced the Accords, however, and though it lives on for record keeping purposes among some groups, the Asilomar Accords were challenged by the U.S. No Kill Declaration, and found them essentially, “Dead on Arrival.”

This cartoon from the No Kill Advocacy Center shows the dinosaurs trying to cling to the status quo, as they are about to get wiped out of existence by a meteor which represents the No Kill movement. Pictured are some of the Asilomar Accords’ signatories: HSUS, the National Animal Control Association, Denver Dumb Friends League, and Ft. Wayne Animal Control, shelters and organizations with a long, dubious history of killing and/or fighting the No Kill movement’s lifesaving innovations.

TNR Takes the Movement by Storm

The Lumbering Giant says TNR is O.K. except when it is not O.K.

In 2006, after decades of calling Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs for cats “inhumane,” “abhorrent,” and “subsidized abandonment,” after asking a prosecutor to arrest and jail feral cat caretakers for violation of state cruelty laws against abandonment, and after calling mass killing of feral cats in pounds and shelters “the only practical and humane solution,” the Humane Society of the United States indicated it was updating its feral cat position to reflect the emerging consensus of the animal control community, a community with a history of mass slaughter. They had no choice.

At the end of the 1990s, only a small handful of shelters embraced TNR as an alternative to killing of feral cats. But cat lovers across the country rallied on behalf of the cats, and with communities like San Francisco using TNR to reduce the feral cat death rate by over 80%, with Tompkins County becoming the first open admission shelter to zero out deaths of feral cats through TNR, and with the advocacy of TNR on a local, regional, and national scale by groups across the country, any question of the legitimacy and efficacy of TNR was erased. TNR took the movement by storm. And HSUS was forced to follow. Their March 2006 statement said “TNR was ok” but only in very limited circumstances, essentially writing in several exceptions that swallowed the rule including:

  • TNR efforts must be limited if someone says that feral cats are a threat to wildlife;
  • Feral cat caretakers must respect the “limitations” of other groups in the area, including those who may not share their views about feral cats; and,
  • Killing of feral cats can continue for an undefined “interim period.”

Taken to their logical conclusion, these “limitations” were so severe they effectively nullified any ostensible support for TNR in the 2006 statement. There is no feral cat colony anywhere in the United States, for example, where some wildlife is not also present. HSUS was asking feral cat advocates to make the decision “about whether to maintain a particular colony” after a determination of “the potential negative impact on local wildlife.” To make this determination, HSUS further asked feral cat caretakers to “respect” the views of all interested parties—which potentially includes animal control and Invasion Biology proponents who do not support TNR.

The unspoken converse to deciding whether to maintain a particular colony is deciding whether to eradicate it. That is the choice presented, providing a powerful tool to the enemies of TNR. Essentially, it means that feral cats can be excluded from locations whenever someone says wildlife is impacted, which could potentially happen everywhere. In fact, these are exactly the types of claims being made all over the United States, and while HSUS says it no longer favors eradication, what is the alternative to TNR, other than doing nothing?

If, as HSUS claims, cats kill wildlife, are a rabies threat and an “invasive non-native species,” and cause neighborhood strife, does this mean that TNR is acceptable so long as the cats are kept away from neighborhoods, people, birds and other wildlife? Because these conditions exist nowhere, it would appear to mean that TNR is acceptable so long as the cats are not allowed outdoors—a logical absurdity.

In the No Kill Advocacy Center’s cartoon above, the lumbering, sleeping giant, HSUS, wants to tell the feral cat community all of this, but TNR proponents have moved on with the firm and unequivocal position that feral cats have a right to live, regardless of what HSUS, Audubon Society and its acolytes, and regressive animal control shelters have to say about it. In a short period of time, HSUS was forced to abandon the statement in favor of more open acceptance of TNR. But by then, was anyone listening?

Angels of Death


The realization that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a group which advocates against killing animals for food, sport, and otherwise, nonetheless opposes No Kill, champions mass slaughter of companion animals in shelters, calls for the ban—and therefore systematic extermination—of all dogs someone says look like “Pit Bulls,” says feral cats are better dead than fed, and kills roughly 2,000 animals every year they seek out, shocks and outrages the true animal lover.

While No Kill was coming into its own over the last decade and shelters across the country were saving better than 90% of all animals on a fraction of PETA’s budget, PETA continued to move sharply in the other direction. PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk spent the decade not only attacking No Kill, but actively seeking out animals to kill (roughly 90% of them). The total body count from 2000 – 2008 (2009 figures not yet available): 19,326. Once the 2009 figures are released, the number will skyrocket past 20,000: that’s roughly 2,000 animals a year that PETA has killed every year for the last decade; or over five animals killed by PETA every single day of the last ten years.

In this No Kill Advocacy Center cartoon above, a dog dresses like a chicken in hopes of getting PETA to care about him, too. Unfortunately, the previous cartoon turned out to be wrong. PETA also kills other animals, including chickens, as well, which it does at its Norfolk, VA facility. The cartoon below turned out to be more accurate, as the chicken in the shelter fears for his life as much as the dogs and cats do.

In 2006, PETA staff was arrested for killing animals they promised to find homes for, and then discarding their bodies into local supermarket dumpsters. Although they were acquitted of animal cruelty and other charges since it is not illegal for a “certified euthanasia technician” to kill animals if connected to an organization that has registered itself as a shelter, testimony during the court case showed that PETA went to shelters and private veterinarians to get animals, telling some they would find them homes, and killed the animals, often within minutes of departing in the back of a van. One veterinarian who gave PETA a healthy mother cat and her kittens testified that the animals were never at risk for being killed in his practice; he was simply looking for homes for them. He gave them to PETA because he thought they would have no trouble finding them homes. PETA staff killed them within minutes. Their bodies were found in a dumpster a short time thereafter.

Riding on Michael Vick’s Bloodstained Coattails


Despite a series of pro-killing scandals that have marked his tenure, Wayne Pacelle, the beleaguered and uncaring CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, shocked even his supporters by embracing Michael Vick, the most notorious dog abuser of our time. Vick took pleasure in seeing dogs tear each other apart. He took pleasure in beating dogs to death. He took pleasure in hanging dogs by the neck. He took pleasure in electrocuting dogs. He took pleasure in shooting dogs. And he took pleasure in drowning dogs.

After being convicted on federal dog fighting related charges, Vick was banned from the NFL. But Vick sought to escape permanent punishment by doing the time-honored tradition of the scoundrel: hire a P.R. team to reform his image, issue a “mea culpa,” do some carefully orchestrated appearances with kids, and then get his old life back. Wayne Pacelle was eager to assist him to do that. With the help of Pacelle, Vick gets his life back, becoming a millionaire once more, while the dogs he killed are, well, still dead. Vick follows up by saying he wants dogs again: will HSUS help him with that also?

While Pacelle, through HSUS, testified that the dogs Vick abused should not be given a second chance and should all be killed, Pacelle said that their abuser should be. Vick became a spokesman for HSUS. Or was it the other way around? In the nokillblog.com’s cartoon, Pacelle rides Vick’s blood-stained coattails to his favorite destination—the front pages of the New York Times, 60 minutes, and other media.

Convenience Killing


As occurs all over the country, Tom Skeldon, the Lucas County, Ohio dog warden, killed animals, despite readily available lifesaving alternatives. Indeed, he killed dogs and puppies even when rescue groups and humane societies offered to save them. In this Toledo Blade cartoon, Skeldon is telling a dog to sit, which the dog does, demonstrating that he is a kind, friendly, and obedient dog, which should please the warden. It doesn’t. Skeldon wants the dog to sit in the electric chair, so he can be put to death. What made this cartoon so dramatic is that it resonated so strongly with the experience many rescuers have of their own dog wardens and pound directors. Skeldon may have been less polished than others, but he was hardly unique. Indeed, this comic could have been published in virtually any newspaper—Houston (TX), King County (WA), Los Angeles (CA), and hundreds of other cities—and it would have had the same meaningful impact. Thankfully, Skeldon was forced out, but others like him remain entrenched in shelters all across the country.

The Meaning of Oreo’s Law


In November of last year, the ASPCA killed an abused dog named Oreo, despite an offer by a No Kill shelter to save her life. In response, the New York State Legislature is now considering a law that would make it illegal for any shelter or pound to kill an animal if a legitimate rescue group is willing to save the animal’s life. But the ASPCA wants to kill the proposed law, the way it killed Oreo, for which the new law is named.

While the animal loving people of New York State flood the legislature with calls of support, while the most progressive voices in the companion animal movement have embraced and endorsed Oreo’s Law, and while rescuers anxiously await legislation that will empower them to save the lives of thousands of animals every year, the leader of the nation’s wealthiest SPCA stands alone in defiant opposition, thumbing his nose at them all.

This cartoon from YESonOreosLaw.com shows a shelter killing dogs and cats that rescue groups are there to save. Oreo’s Law would give them that power but Ed Sayres, the President of the ASPCA, is trampling Oreo’s Law and holding them back, which will cost animals their lives.

Regardless of whether animals and animal lovers win by passing Oreo’s Law in this session of the legislature, Ed Sayres and the hacks he recruits to oppose it (or to remain deafeningly silent) will lose. Indeed, Sayres is already paying a price. While he assured his staff that the anger over Oreo’s killing would subside in a few days, it still hasn’t three months later and the fight for Oreo’s Law is intensifying calls for his ouster. At the same time, the fight over Oreo’s Law has clearly shown rescuers and animal lovers which groups they can count on to champion the animals and which groups they can’t.

And this much is clear: if animal rescuers win, so do the animals. And if Oreo’s Law passes, animal rescuers will win big across the country. As one reformer stated, “Where New York goes, so goes the nation.” Indeed, the next phase of the quest for a No Kill nation will not center on adoption ads or social media—these will achieve widespread acceptance—the FIGHT will be in the halls of Albany, NY, Sacramento, CA, Austin, TX, and other state capitals. Because how do you achieve and sustain a No Kill nation if shelter directors keep the discretion they currently have to avoid doing what is in the best interests of animals and kill them needlessly? You can’t. Oreo’s Law is just the first wave of a national effort to shift the balance of power back to the animals—and their rescuers.

The Animals of NYS vs. Ed Sayres, ASPCA

January 22, 2010 by  

Dear friends and colleagues,

The animals in New York State shelters need your help. Recently, the ASPCA killed an abused dog named Oreo, despite an offer by a No Kill shelter to save her life. In response, the New York State Legislature is now considering a law that would make it illegal for any shelter or pound to kill an animal if a legitimate rescue group is willing to save the animal’s life. But the ASPCA wants to kill the proposed law, the way it killed Oreo, for which the new law is named.

We can never bring Oreo back, but we can make sure this never happens again in any New York shelter. Oreo’s Law will save thousands of dogs and puppies, cats and kittens (including feral cats), rabbits, and pocket pets currently being killed in shelters despite rescue groups willing to save them. And it won’t cost taxpayers a dime! But Ed Sayres, the President of the ASPCA, is opposing the law and threatening to kill it.

While the animal loving people of New York State flood the legislature with calls of support, while the most progressive voices in the companion animal movement have embraced and endorsed Oreo’s Law, and while rescuers anxiously await legislation that will empower them to save the lives of thousands of animals every year, the leader of the nation’s wealthiest SPCA stands alone in defiant opposition, thumbing his nose at them all.

Unable to publicly admit that his opposition stems only from the fact that he doesn’t want the public reminded about Oreo’s killing, Sayres has couched the ASPCA’s opposition as concern that the animals the law would save would actually be better off dead, arguing that rescue groups might be animal hoarders or dog fighters in disguise. Day in and day out, these rescuers show tremendous courage and compassion—visiting what is often the one place on earth hardest for them to go as animal lovers: their local shelters. And yet they go back, again and again. They endure the hostile treatment. They endure the heartbreak of seeing the animals destined for the needle. They endure having to jump through unnecessary and arbitrary hurdles set by shelter directors who are holding the animals they want to save hostage. They endure having to look the other way at abuse of other animals, because if they don’t, if they speak out, they will be barred from saving any animals. And this law would make their lives easier—their work less difficult. It would empower them, tip the balance more in their favor, and lessen their daily burden. That the President of the ASPCA would fail to support such a law, or worse, would dare oppose it by claiming that these dedicated, hard working rescuers are, in reality, dog fighters and hoarders in disguise not only is offensive, but a betrayal of these selfless, compassionate individuals—and  a betrayal to the animals whose lives the law would save.

Right now, one man—Oreo’s killer—has indicated he intends to thwart the will of thousands of rescuers, and millions of New York animal lovers, by taking a position which—were he to be successful in killing the legislation—would sacrifice the lives of thousands of animals every year in the State of New York.

Right now, one man—who has consistently betrayed the cause which he is paid half a million dollars a year to champion—is abusing his power by choosing to condemn thousands of animals every year to death as a personal vendetta against those trying to prevent others from needlessly killing animals, like he did with his egregious and indefensible killing of an abused dog.

Right now, one man—who has sullied the name of the ASPCA beyond any recognition—has basically said of the animals of New York State dependant on this bill for their very lives, the ethical equivalent of ‘Let them die!’

We cannot allow this to happen. Your letters, e-mails, and telephone numbers are needed now. Please visit www.YESonOreosLaw.com for what you can do to help end killing in New York State shelters. Even if you do not live in New York, your support is crucial. Because, as one supporter from Texas, noted: “Where New York goes, so goes the nation.”

We Can Stop the Killing in NYS Shelters

January 18, 2010 by  

Recently, the ASPCA killed an abused dog named Oreo, despite an offer by a No Kill shelter to save her life. In response, the New York State Legislature is now considering a law that would make it illegal for any shelter or pound to kill an animal if a legitimate rescue group is willing to save the animal’s life. But the ASPCA wants to kill the proposed law, the way it killed Oreo, for which the new law is named.

We need your help.

We can never bring Oreo back, but we can make sure this never happens again in any New York shelter. Oreo’s Law will save thousands of dogs and puppies, cats and kittens (including feral cats), rabbits, and pocket pets currently being killed in shelters despite rescue groups willing to save them. And it won’t cost taxpayers a dime!

That is why the No Kill Advocacy Center, Pets Alive, Tompkins County SPCA, Empty Cages Collective, No More Homeless Pets, Friends of Animals, Alley Cat Rescue, No Kill leaders like Michael Mountain, founder of Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s top animal law professors, and the nation’s most successful shelter directors have endorsed Oreo’s Law.

Thousands of animals are depending on us for their very lives. Your letters, e-mails, and telephone calls can make a difference.

Learn more about Oreo, Oreo’s Law, and how you can help. Visit the all-new website: www.YESonOreosLaw.com

“It is time for all of us to lift our voices for those who cannot speak for themselves.” (Gail Longstaff, No More Homeless Pets, announcing support for Oreo’s Law.)

Ed Sayres Threatens To Kill Oreo’s Law

January 14, 2010 by  

Henry Bergh, the founder of the ASPCA, is rolling in his grave. The man currently sitting in the chair he once occupied, heading the organization he founded, is not only thwarting his dream of an organization whose mission is to save the lives of animals, he is actively undermining it. As animal lovers approached Ed Sayres, the current President of the ASPCA, to cease opposition to Oreo’s Law, pending New York State legislation named after an abused dog he ordered killed despite a rescue alternative, Sayres refused, turning his back on both the animals and their rescuers.

His refusal comes after animal lovers working on the legislation made a number of concessions—each designed to eliminate Sayres’ opposition—by removing all reference to Oreo and even giving him credit for the law, in exchange for his support. But Sayres refused, holding firm in opposition to the bill in spite of the body count, underscoring that his association with the ASPCA has afforded him friends in high places, and that when the legislation comes to a vote, he will simply see to it that it is killed, as easily as he needlessly killed Oreo.

Who was Oreo?

In New York City, a one-year old dog named Oreo was intentionally thrown off a sixth floor Brooklyn roof top by her abuser. Oreo sustained two broken legs and a fractured rib. Oreo also appears to have been beaten in the past—several of the neighbors in the building where Oreo lived reported hearing the sounds of the dog being hit. The ASPCA nursed her back to health and arrested the perpetrator. They also dubbed her the “miracle dog.”

The miracle was short-lived. According to the ASPCA, when Oreo recovered from her injuries, she started to show aggression. After a series of temperament tests, the ASPCA made the decision to kill her. The New York Times reported the story the day before Oreo’s scheduled execution. A sanctuary in New York offered to take Oreo, explaining that they had experience rehabilitating dogs deemed aggressive and offering her lifetime care, including plenty of socialization and walks if the rehabilitation was not successful. They were ignored, hung up on and lied to. And the ASPCA chose to kill the dog instead. That afternoon, Oreo laid dead, the victim not of her former abuser, but of an overdose of poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-Plus,” at the hands of a shelter bureaucrat, and at the behest of Sayres.

Following the furor that erupted over Oreo’s killing, Micah Kellner and Tom Duane, New York State legislators, introduced a bill to prevent animals from being killed by shelters when there is a lifesaving alternative offered by rescue groups. “As a dog owner and a foster parent for an animal rescue group, I was heartbroken to learn that Oreo was [killed]. When a humane organization volunteers their expertise in difficult cases, a shelter should work with them to the fullest extent possible,” said Kellner. “I am hopeful that Oreo’s Law will ensure that no animal is ever put to death if there is a responsible alternative.” (A few weeks later Ed Sayres, Oreo’s killer, did it again, killing a dog named Max a rescue group had offered to save.)

No Kill Movement United Behind Oreo’s Law

Not only have thousands of animal lovers contacted Kellner and Duane thanking them for introducing Oreo’s Law, but the leaders of the No Kill movement have unanimously embraced it as well. Louise Holton, Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) pioneer, Alley Cat Allies co-founder, and head of a national cat rescue group, was the latest No Kill leader to embrace Oreo’s Law, urging New York legislators to pass it.

She joins:

  • National leaders including myself at the No Kill Advocacy Center and  Michael Mountain, founder of Best Friends;
  • The most successful shelter directors in the country including Abigail Smith, the Executive Director of the Tompkins County NY SPCA, Bonney Brown, the Director of the Nevada Humane Society, and Susanne Kogut of the Charlottesville SPCA;
  • Animal rights proponents including Priscilla Feral at Friends of Animals;
  • Media including Mike Fry of Animal Wise Radio;
  • The nation’s top animal law professors including Taimie Bryant, UCLA Law Professor and author of California’s Hayden Law, Rebecca Huss, the court appointed guardian of the Michael Vick dogs, and Joan Schaffner, co-host of the No Kill Conference and editor of a textbook on litigating animal disputes;
  • Rescue groups throughout New York State including Pets Alive, the shelter and sanctuary which offered to save Oreo, Empty Cages Collective, a rescue group in New York City; and,
  • Animal advocates across the country.

And No Kill pioneer Richard Avanzino, the father of the modern No Kill movement, calls right of shelter access key to a No Kill nation.

One Organization Stands Opposed

As it now stands, only one organization has publicly come out in opposition to Oreo’s Law—and that is the ASPCA. While the animal loving people of New York State flood the legislature with calls of support, while the most progressive voices in the companion animal movement have embraced and endorsed Oreo’s Law, and while rescuers anxiously await legislation that will empower them to save the lives of thousands of animals every year, the leader of the nation’s wealthiest SPCA stands alone in defiant opposition, thumbing his nose at them all.

Unable to publicly admit that his opposition stems only from the fact that he doesn’t want the public reminded about Oreo’s killing, Sayres has couched the ASPCA’s opposition as concern that the animals the law would save would actually be better off dead, arguing that rescue groups might be animal hoarders or dog fighters in disguise. Day in and day out, these rescuers show tremendous courage and compassion—visiting what is often the one place on earth hardest for them to go as animal lovers: their local shelters. And yet they go back, again and again. They endure the hostile treatment. They endure the heartbreak of seeing the animals destined for the needle. They endure having to jump through unnecessary and arbitrary hurdles set by shelter directors who are holding the animals they want to save hostage. They endure having to look the other way at abuse of other animals, because if they don’t, if they speak out, they will be barred from saving any animals. And this law would make their lives easier—their work less difficult. It would empower them, tip the balance more in their favor, and lessen their daily burden. That the President of the ASPCA would fail to support such a law, or worse, would dare oppose it by claiming that these dedicated, hard working rescuers are, in reality, dog fighters and hoarders in disguise not only is offensive, but a betrayal of these selfless, compassionate individuals—and  a betrayal to the animals whose lives the law would save.

In fact, Best Friends Animal Society asked New York State rescue groups whether they supported the bill, and whether they have seen animals killed by shelters despite their offers to save them, and the overwhelming response was “Yes.” (When Best Friends presented these findings to Ed Sayres, however, he dismissed them as irrelevant.)

Moreover, over ten years experience in California with virtually identical legislation shows that these concerns are misplaced: the fear mongering about hoarders and dog fighters that also occurred when the bill was pending in California did not materialize. And there are already protections built into the law to ensure that this does not occur.

A Face Saving Overture to the ASPCA

Nonetheless, activists working with Kellner’s Office approached the ASPCA this week, through Best Friends as an intermediary, in the hopes of removing Sayres’ opposition to the bill, and offered additional (though unneeded) protections and a face-saving change in the name of the law in exchange for the ASPCA’s support, including:

Language suspending “any organization that has an officer or board member who has been convicted of a statute having as its primary effect the prevention or punishment of neglect and/or cruelty or dog fighting until such time as that officer or board member is no longer an officer or board member of the organization.”

Language suspending any organization during the time “such charges are pending in a court of law, but not yet adjudicated until such time as the case is adjudicated either in favor of the organization, at which time the suspension will be lifted, or if adjudicated against the organization, until such time as the officer or board member is no longer with the organization.”

In addition, proponents offered to reintroduce the bill without reference to Oreo as “The Animal Shelter Lifesaving & Fiscal Responsibility Act,” since the bill would not only save the lives of animals, but would save taxpayers from paying to hold, kill, and discard the bodies of the animals New York shelters kill, by giving the animals—and the costs—to rescue groups. They also agreed to cease all reference to Oreo as it relates to this bill. They offered to allow the ASPCA to take credit for the law. Finally, they offered that if the ASPCA did not want their support for the newly introduced bill, they would not be publicly involved. In other words, activists offered Ed Sayres the opportunity to do the right thing.

As he did with Oreo, he refused. Ed Sayres firmly and unequivocally rejected the offer, and reiterated that the ASPCA had friends in high places and simply would kill the bill—regardless of how many animals are also killed in the process.

The People of the State of New York vs. Edwin J. Sayres

Right now, one man—Oreo’s killer—has indicated he intends to thwart the will of thousands of rescuers, and millions of New York animal lovers, by taking a position which—were he to be successful in killing the legislation—would sacrifice the lives of thousands of animals every year in the State of New York.

Right now, one man—who has consistently betrayed the cause which he is paid half a million dollars a year to champion—is abusing his power by choosing to condemn thousands of animals every year to death as a personal vendetta against those trying to prevent others from needlessly killing animals, like he did with his egregious and indefensible killing of an abused dog.

Right now, one man—who has sullied the name of the ASPCA beyond any recognition—has basically said of the animals of New York State dependant on this bill for their very lives, the ethical equivalent of ‘Let them die!’

This will not stand.

“It is time for all of us to lift our voices for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

—Gail Longstaff, President, No More Homeless Pets KC, announcing support for Oreo’s Law

What can you do to help? Go to www.yesonoreoslaw.com or click here.

No Kill News From Around the Country

January 13, 2010 by  

Tompkins County SPCA’s Seventh Year with a 90+% Save Rate

For the seventh straight year, the open admission Tompkins County SPCA achieved a better than 90% rate of lifesaving, finishing 2009 saving 92% of all animals. Executive Director Abigail Smith will participate in a panel discussion “The 90% Club” at No Kill Conference 2010.

Nevada Humane Society Doubles Adoptions

The Nevada Humane Society broke its own record of 8,635 just one year prior by finding loving homes for 9,184 animals in 2009, culminating in a 90% countywide rate of lifesaving. That is up 102% under Executive Director Bonney Brown. In 2006, the year before she took over, NHS adopted  4,539, less than half. Bonney will be leading a workshop on adoptions at No Kill Conference 2010.

Charlottesville SPCA Also Does it Again

Under Executive Director Susanne Kogut, the Charlottesville SPCA also finished 2009 with a 90% rate of lifesaving, an achievement it has matched for four years in a row. Susanne joins Bonney and Abigail at No Kill Conference 2010. She’ll discuss leadership strategies.

To celebrate Charlottesville’s success, actors Sissy Spacek and actor/singer Schuyler Fisk recorded a PSA and single with all proceeds benefitting the SPCA. To watch the PSA, click here. You can purchase the song, “Love Somebody,” on iTunes.

And the Good News Is…

What makes Tompkins, Reno’s, and Charlottesville’s achievements especially exciting is that they are no longer unique or even the most successful. No Kill communities now dot the American landscape. A new day dawns….

No Kill Conference 2010

Last year’s No Kill Conference was the sold out, must attend event of the year. In addition to No Kill leaders like Avanzino, Kogut, Brown and Smith, some new and exciting voices and topics are being added to this year’s event including:

  1. Mike Fry on Technology: Technology is revolutionizing the No Kill movement, allowing shelters to increase adoptions, redemptions, revenue, and volunteers. It also has the potential to find missing pets. For a teaser, read “Saving Lives 2.0″ by clicking here.
  2. Lucy Schlaffer & Paul Bonacci on Shelter Design: Shelter design can eliminate URI in cats, reducing length of stay and boosting your adoption rate. It can also help reduce and in many cases, eliminate barrier frustration in dogs. Innovative shelter architects ARQ who designed the groundbreaking San Francisco SPCA Pet Adoption Center and the nation’s first green-certified shelter at the Tompkins County SPCA will give a workshop on innovative, state-of-the-art shelter design.
  3. Brent Toellner on Challenging BDL: Brent Toellner of Kansas City Dog Advocates will challenge breed identification and breed discriminatory legislation and give you the data you need to be successful fighting it in your community.
  4. Ginny Mikita on Defending Dangerous Dogs: She has filed countless lawsuits in order to defend dogs scheduled to be killed after they have been arbitrarily declared dangerous. Former PETA and Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney and staunch No Kill advocate Ginny Mikita will lead a workshop on how to defend so-called “dangerous” dogs.
  5. Bernice Clifford of Animal Farm Foundation and Aimee Sadler of the Longmont Humane Society combine to lead workshops on kennel enrichment strategies for long term, hard to place, and exuberant dogs, as well as exercise and socialization programs in a shelter to boost adoptability. These efforts saved 92% of all dogs at the open admission Longmont shelter.

Workshops will also include defending feral cats and their caregivers, enrichment strategies for shelter cats, questioning the notion that cats are “invasive” and do not belong outdoors, and more. Click here to see a list of speakers and click here to see a list of workshops.

More information/register by clicking here.

Of all attendees registered to date:

  • 52% are affiliated with a shelter
  • 32% are affiliated with rescue groups
  • 16% are otherwise affiliated: policymakers, government officials not associated with a shelter, media, and animal rights advocates.

Please note: Last year’s conference sold out months in advance. If you are considering attending, do not delay. Once sold out, there are no waiting lists and no exceptions.

Building a No Kill Community

Join me for an inspirational multi-media presentation on Building a No Kill community seminar, followed by a book signing:

  • Shelby County, KY. March 6, 2010. For details, click here.
  • Melbourne, FL. April 3, 2010. Details coming soon!

In May, I’ll also be flying to New Zealand as part of the No Kill Equation’s quest for global domination! (Insert mad scientist laugh here!)

More dates and cities will be added soon.

No Kill Conference 2010

January 11, 2010 by  

Last year’s No Kill Conference was the sold out, must attend event of the year. And it is happening again!

The No Kill Advocacy Center is teaming up with the Animal Law program at George Washington University Law School, Maddie’s Fund, and Friends of Animals to bring together the nation’s most successful shelter directors and the nation’s top animal lawyers. They will show you how to create a No Kill community and teach you how to use the legal system to save the lives of animals.

Learn from animal control/shelter directors who are now saving over 90% of all animals using the building blocks to No Kill success—programs and services that have had results in both urban and rural communities—to increase adoptions, reduce length of stay, increase redemption rates, rehabilitate animals, and much more.

Learn from animal law experts who have challenged our legal system to help animals: Whether it’s drafting model laws, fighting breed specific legislation, filing impact legislation, or protecting condemned dogs, learn how to use the legal system to save the lives of animals.

Learn from activists fighting entrenched and regressive shelters in their own community as they show you how to launch successful campaigns for reform.

The only national conference that says we can and must stop the killing and we can and must do it today.

Join No Kill advocates nationwide at this ground-breaking event. A No Kill nation is within our reach!

What: No Kill Conference 2010
When: July 31-August 1, 2010
Where: Washington DC
More Information/Register: www.nokillconference.org

Some highlights:

  1. In 2009, 9,184 Nevada Humane Society animals found homes under Bonney Brown’s leadership, up from 4,539 before her tenure – an increase of 102%. That helped bring the total save rate to 90% countywide. You too can more than double your adoptions. Bonney will lead an Adoption workshop at No Kill Conference 2010.
  2. Technology is revolutionizing the No Kill movement, allowing shelters to increase adoptions, redemptions, revenue, and volunteers. It also has the potential to find missing pets. Mike Fry will lead a workshop at No Kill Conference 2010. (For a teaser, read “Saving Lives 2.0″ by clicking here.)
  3. Shelter design can eliminate URI in cats, reducing length of stay and boosting your adoption rate. It can also help reduce and in many cases, eliminate barrier frustration in dogs. Innovative shelter architects ARQ will give a workshop on how the physical shelter can help you create a No Kill community.
  4. What does it take to be an effective leader? Hear from the “90% Club”: those shelter directors, like Susanne Kogut and Abigail Smith, saving over 90% of all animals at their open admission shelters.
  5. And more. Click here to see a list of speakers and click here to see a list of workshops.

Please note: Last year’s conference sold out months in advance. If you are considering attending, do not delay. Once sold out, there are no waiting lists and no exceptions.


Biological Xenophobia

January 8, 2010 by  

In Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle column, “Ask The Bugman,” a letter writer asked The Bug Man the following question:

Why shouldn’t we use pesticides to control invasive species such as the light brown apple moth? If we don’t do anything, it will ruin all of our crops.

In his response, Richard Fagerlund aka The Bugman questioned the very concept of “invasive species”:

How do we decide what is an invasive species? If animals and insects are competitive and adapted to the environment they are in, they will thrive. If they can’t make a living, they will move on. If you call a species invasive because it moves to new areas, then our species, humans, are probably the most invasive species on the planet. Certainly, we have done as much or more damage in some areas as all the other species combined.

“Invasive species” is a term used for economically important (or destructive in our minds) organisms. If an insect or other animal weren’t destructive, they wouldn’t be considered “invasive.” If a beautiful butterfly invades an area, it is a wonderful event. If a moth that feeds on a few crops comes along with it, it is a menace to society.

When we talk about native species, we are referring to species that have been around as long as we can remember. We don’t want to see them displaced by other species we may not know as well. When an “invasive” species becomes adapted, it becomes part of our ecosystem. When we start using pesticides to control the “invasive” species, we are going to affect everything living in that ecosystem, including our own species. We found that out when they started spraying those chemicals to control the light brown apple moth. Many people complained of adverse health effects.

I would imagine that after Wednesday’s article, Fagerlund is getting a whole lot of crazy from the hyperbolic, hysterical “invasion biology” crowd. Yet he is not alone in the views he shared regarding the troubling growth of this harmful ideology. As an environmentalist, I have anxiously watched the spread of this dangerous mindset over the last several years which condones the use of poisons, killing and the destruction of natural places in a vain attempt to stop the natural – and inevitable – processes of life on earth. It is true that the determination as to which species are “invasive” are based on subjective human aesthetics and narrow commercial interests, and that by the invasion biologists’ own logic, humans are “invasive” species #1. Fagerlund’s rational, common sense discussion of the issue is a welcome departure from the jingoistic fear mongering which increasingly characterizes the discussion of migration and natural selection, even among those who should know better, such as scientists and environmentalists.

In both Redemption and again in Irreconcilable Differences, I also challenged the concept:

The idea that some animals have more value than others comes from a troubling belief that lineage determines the value of an individual animal.  This belief is part of a growing and disturbing movement called “Invasion Biology.” The notion that “native” species have more value than “non-native” ones finds its roots historically in Nazi Germany, where the notion of a garden with native plants was founded on nationalistic and racist ideas “cloaked in scientific jargon.” This is not surprising. The types of arguments made for biological purity of people are exactly the same as those made for purity among animals and plants.

In the United States, Invasion Biologists believe that certain plants or animals should be valued more than others if they were at a particular location “first,” although the exact starting point varies, is difficult to ascertain, and, in many cases, is wholly arbitrary. Indeed, all plants and animals were introduced (by wind, humans, migration, or other animals) at some point in time. But regardless of which arbitrary measure is used, Invasion Biologists ultimately make the same, unethical assertions that “introduced” or “non-native” species do not have value and are not worthy of compassion. They conclude that these species should, therefore, be eradicated in order to return an area to some vague, idyllic past.

Trying to move the world to a mythical state that probably never existed lacks a moral or logical foundation. Nature cannot be frozen in time or returned to a pre-European past, nor is there a compelling reason why it should be. To claim that “native” species are somehow better than “introduced” species equally or better adapted to the environment is to deny the inevitable forces of migration and natural selection. No matter how many so-called “non-native” animals (and plants for that matter) are killed, the goal of total eradication can never be reached. As far as feral cats are concerned, they will always exist. To advocate for their eradication is to propose a massacre with no hope of success and no conceivable end. They exist and have a right to live, regardless of how and when they arrived or were “introduced.” Their rights as individuals supersede our own narrow, human-centric desires, which are often based on arbitrary biases, subjective aesthetics, or commercial interests.

The ultimate goal of the environmental movement is to create a peaceful and harmonious relationship between humans and the environment. To be authentic, this goal must include respect for other species. Tragically, given its alarming embrace of Invasion Biology, the environmental movement has violated this ethic by targeting species for eradication because their existence conflicts with the world as some people would like it to be.  And in championing such views, the movement paradoxically must support the use of traps, poisons, fire, and hunting, all of which cause great harm, suffering, and environmental degradation.

Equally inconsistent in the philosophy of Invasion Biology is its position—or, more accurately, lack of a coherent position—on humans. If one accepts the logic that only native plants and animals have value, human beings are the biggest non-native intruders in the United States. With over 300 million of us altering the landscape and causing virtually all of the environmental and species decimation through habitat destruction and pollution, shouldn’t Invasion Biologists demand that non-native people leave the continent? Of course, non-profit organizations that advocate nativist positions would never dare say so, or donations to their causes would dry up. Instead, they engage in a great hypocrisy of doing that which they claim to abhor and blame “non-native” species for doing: preying on those who cannot defend themselves.

In the end, it is not “predation” that Invasion Biologists object to. Animals prey on other animals all the time without their complaints. In fact, they themselves prey on some birds by eating them, and they prey on animals they label “non-native” by eradicating them. For Invasion Biologists, predation is unacceptable only when it involves an animal they do not like.

Like Fagerlund, I agree that it is wrong and obscene to label any species an “alien” on its own planet and to target that species for extermination. Disguised under the progressive mantle “environmentalism” , this emerging field of pseudo-science should more accurately be labeled “biological xenophobia.”

Saving Lives 2.0

January 6, 2010 by  

How Technology is Revolutionizing the No Kill Movement


By the spring of 2009, there were almost 600 million users of online social networks, like Facebook, MySpace, Bibo, Hi5 and Twitter—roughly 70% of the total Internet users worldwide. In spite of the massive market share already enjoyed by this growing media, all indications are that usage is rising fast, and, according to some, accelerating.

Some industry analysts predict that growth of social networks will not taper off significantly for better than a decade, at which time somewhere in the range of 80% of Internet users will be connecting through social networking sites. Others suggest that as these networks evolve to offer more functionality, their growth could expand beyond projections.

While users of social networking platforms do so for several reasons, including connecting with family and friends and re-connecting with old friends, their members want more: they want to actively share with family and friends. In fact, they want to create value through media. Why should animal shelters care? How can animal protection organizations leverage social networks to expand our cause? The answers are many, but more importantly, the possibilities are limitless.

Social networking will affect every aspect of the animal welfare field in ways we have only begun to think about. Imagine, for example, a shared lost and found pet recovery system implemented communitywide. Not only could people who have lost pets post photos and descriptions of their animals, the system itself could send this information via social networks to cell phones of followers of the system. In this scenario, someone could be out looking for their lost pet, hanging posters, or visiting impound centers, and receive an automated text message on their cell if the animal is found. This is not some fantasy scenario. A system like this has started operating in Minnesota.

Because of the ability of social networking to reach masses of people nearly instantaneously, social networking is changing the way emergency response or rapid response teams communicate, especially given the fact that these networks have both public and private sharing options. Teams of response personnel can enjoy confidential instant communication from anywhere, then share selected public information to followers of their efforts.

Recognition for volunteers, published memorials and honoraria for special people and pets, and calls to action on social issues are just a few areas where social media is already having an impact on animal welfare issues. During the current legislative session, for example, we will be using Facebook and Twitter in our efforts to pass legislation to ensure enforcement of existing animal cruelty laws in Minnesota at puppy mills. Even though there is widespread public support for proposed legislation, some very large and powerful national special interest groups, including the American Kennel Club and the National Rifle Association, have joined in opposition.

The challenge associated in going head-to-head with large, national special interests can seem daunting. That challenge is made more difficult given the idiosyncrasies of the legislature. For example, prior to a committee hearing on a bill, there is generally very short notice. During that time, supporters like Animal Ark must arrange for expert testimony, rally supporters to contact committee members asking them to support the bill, and encourage people to attend the hearing. Social networking provides the ideal solution to this challenge.

From nearly anywhere, using a cell phone, we will be able to send a simple text message or “tweet” that will alert all of our friends and followers on multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts. Additionally this one, simple “tweet” can simultaneously update web pages that are not directly within those networks. Thousands of recipients of these calls to action will receive them any way they choose, via text message, email, or message notification in their favorite social networking sites.

Unlike broadcast email blasts, which are often perceived as spam even when the messages carry important, friendly content, messages distributed via social networks are generally received in a more open way. This is because the recipients of the messages are, by the very nature of these networks, receiving the message from someone they have said is a “friend.” They are also, therefore, more likely to send the messages on to their other friends.

These technologies level the playing field, allowing shelters and small grassroots organizations to challenge the status quo in other ways as well. The Humane Society of the United States, for example, is arguably the richest and most powerful animal protection organization in the country. Forbes listed it as one of the top 200 charities in the nation overall and certainly the wealthiest animal welfare organization. It has tremendous media reach and media power as a result of this enormous wealth. But it is vulnerable to social marketing. In February of last year, it lobbied a court to kill all the dogs and puppies seized from a dog fighter in North Carolina based on its outdated and regressive policy that all dogs associated with dog fighters should be killed as a matter of policy. This included friendly dogs and nursing puppies born in the shelter after the seizure. The court deferred to HSUS “experts” and all the dogs and puppies were put to death.

In the past, some local dog lovers might have complained but their concerns would not have been heard very far and wide. But in the age of social networks, condemnation of HSUS went viral, spreading around the world. It brought the largest and most powerful organization to its knees, and within weeks, HSUS rescinded the policy because of the bad “press.” All because of social marketing.

Although implementing some of these efforts can require technical expertise, most are incredibly simple. But simple does not mean less powerful. In fact, some of the easiest to implement could have the greatest impact in terms of lives saved. Adding a “share” button to every pet page on a shelter’s website for example is very easy to do. But its reach is enormous: it quickly connects animals available for adoption to a network of millions of users. (Not all “share” buttons are created equally. To learn how to implement this feature on your site, click here.)

Animal Ark, Minnesota’s largest No Kill animal welfare organization implemented a share button last month. Immediately, Animal Ark pets began popping up on social networks. Here is a portion of a Twitter feed as an example:

On Facebook, discussions on specific animals have resulted in dozens of comments on various networks. But more importantly, since this feature has been implemented, the total number of unique daily visitors to the animal pages on Animal Ark’s website has increased significantly. Each of these visitors is, on average, looking at several pets, resulting in thousands of increased “hits” daily to the pages of animals available for adoption on our website. This surge in web traffic has coincided with more visitors to the shelter, quicker adoptions, and even online sponsorships of animals, generating revenue.

How does this work? The average Facebook user, for example, has roughly 130 friends on the network. When a shelter allows for the sharing of a pet’s link, and asks their friends and followers to share the pet with their friends and followers, the animals’ pictures and profiles spread across the social networks rapidly. The acceleration of the spread can be exponential, especially if followers and friends are actively encouraged to continue spreading the word (i.e., sharing the animals).

The sharing of adoptable animals via social networking sites is viral marketing in its truest, purest and best form. It costs virtually nothing to get started, and the payoffs are tremendous: more and quicker adoptions, donations, and other support. Furthermore, it is just one of countless uses of social media that animal welfare advocates will be able to leverage to save the lives of homeless animals.

Animal Ark, for example, has gone one step further by integrating our shelter management software with Twitter and Facebook. When an animal is adopted at the shelter, an automated message is sent to these networks announcing the adoption. Other automated “tweets” have been built into Animal Ark computer systems, resulting in what is, in effect, an automated, real-time news feed from the Animal Ark shelter. This feed is then featured and updated in real-time on our various web pages.

All of these examples are just the beginning. There are unlimited uses of technology and social networking in the animal welfare field. Given the built-in capabilities of many of these networks to deliver text messages to users’ cell phones, and given the fact that people who have lost their pets are often away from home posting lost pet postersand looking for their pets, the functional utility of these networks clearly has an enormous reach. They will touch every component of our work, from volunteer recruitment and recognition to capital campaigning. And millions of animals can be saved in the process.

Guest blog by Mike Fry.

Mike Fry is the Executive Director of Animal Ark, Minnesota’s largest no kill animal welfare organization. He is also one of the hosts of Animal Wise Radio, a weekly, syndicated radio show dedicated to animals. Fry is the former Director of Internet Computing for Pentair and former VP of Internet Technologies for Worthington Software. He is credited with assisting in the development of commercial Internet technologies that are now in use worldwide.

Join Mike’s online community where technology-savvy animal welfare advocates can share ideas about using technology to advance animal welfare causes by clicking here.


Mike will give a workshop on using technology to save animals at No Kill Conference 2010. To learn more and/or register, click here.

Building a No Kill Kentucky

January 5, 2010 by  

Join me on Saturday, March 6, for an inspirational two-hour multi-media presentation followed by a book signing for Irreconcilable Differences. The seminar has been called “a prerequisite for rescue groups and organizations that are serious about changing their communities to No Kill.”

The seminar is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. Sales of books benefit Shelby County’s No Kill mission.

For more information or to register, click here.

The Decade That Changed Everything

January 1, 2010 by  

On December 30, I did a month by month review of 2009. Yesterday, I posted my predictions for 2010. Today, I review the last ten years, and what is in store for the next decade.

Part III: The Best Decade Ever*

Most pundits have said “good riddance” to the last decade, proclaiming it one of the worst in recent history. From the standpoint of the No Kill movement, however, the last ten years were unparalleled in terms of success. The first decade of the 21st Century not only saw No Kill go from the theoretical to the real, it saw its meteoric rise. Largely ignored and ridiculed in the 1990s and early part of the decade by the large national organizations like HSUS, ASPCA, the American Humane Association, the National Animal Control Association and the Society for Animal Welfare Administrators, No Kill proved itself the paradigm of the future. In 2004, threatened by its success, these organizations unsuccessfully tried to hijack the movement through the “Asilomar Accords,” but fell victim to the U.S. No Kill Declaration, the success of No Kill communities, the 2007 release of Redemption, and the will of a companion animal loving nation.

Winner: Tompkins County’s No Kill Achievement

No Kill comes into its own as Tompkins County, NY becomes the first No Kill community in U.S. history in 2001/2002. The success of the open admission shelter in Tompkins County dispelled the falsehood that an open admission shelter could not be No Kill and ignited the movement. By the end of the decade, No Kill communities could be found in all parts of the country, and in the process, all the programs of the No Kill Equation—from offsite adoptions to Trap-Neuter-Release—become mainstream.

Winner: Trap-Neuter-Release


At the end of the 1990s, only a small handful of shelters embraced TNR as an alternative to killing of feral cats. With HSUS urging prosecutors to arrest feral cat caretakers for “abandonment,” and calling TNR “abhorrent” and “inhumane,” and Invasion Biologists calling for the round up and killing of feral cats, the prospects for widespread acceptance of TNR in the humane movement seemed doubtful.

But cat lovers across the country rallied on behalf of the cats, and with communities like San Francisco using TNR to reduce the feral cat death rate by over 80%, with Tompkins County becoming the first open admission shelter to zero out deaths of feral cats through TNR, and with the advocacy of TNR on a local, regional, and national scale by groups across the country, any question of the legitimacy and efficacy of TNR was erased. TNR took the movement by storm.

Winner: A Pet Loving Nation

The economy collapsed but spending on companion animals continued to increase as giving to animal related causes became the fastest growing segment in American philanthropy. But the most dramatic example epitomizing just how much Americans love companion animals was the overwhelming response to the animals displaced by Hurricane Katrina. People gave hundreds of millions of dollars to charities that promised to save the animals, and thousands of rescuers from all across the country descended on New Orleans and surrounding communities to save animals forcibly left behind by mass evacuations of people. In the end, they also succeeded in changing federal policy about rescuing pets.

Winner: Redemption & The No Kill Equation

Behind every revolutionary movement is an intellectual tradition. The American Revolution had Common Sense. The environmental movement had Silent Spring. The abolitionist movement had Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And the women’s rights movement had The Feminine Mystique. In 2007, the No Kill movement got “Redemption.” Released to rave reviews, winning five national book awards, hitting the top 300 at Barnes & Noble, and becoming the number 1 selling animal rights book on Amazon, Redemption redefined the debate about shelter killing nationwide, and in the process helped to spearhead No Kill communities in the U.S. and abroad.

Coining the phrase “The No Kill Equation” to describe the collective programs and services which make No Kill possible, the No Kill Equation model of sheltering quickly became the gold standard, helping communities like Reno, NV and others achieve No Kill success virtually overnight.

Loser: The San Francisco SPCA

While the No Kill movement saw tremendous growth, success, and national acceptance, the agency that sparked it goes in the other direction. The fall of the San Francisco SPCA emerges as one of the worst events of the decade, as the former crown jewel of the No Kill movement—under the disastrous leadership of Ed Sayres and his hand-picked acolytes—abandoned its No Kill mission and rejected the movement it helped spark.

Loser: Asilomar Accords

In 2004, as the No Kill movement gained momentum following Tompkins County, NY’s success and with the founding of the No Kill Advocacy Center, the architects of the status quo met in Asilomar, California to take back their hegemony over the sheltering discourse. They identified the terms “No Kill” and “killing” as hurtful and divisive and demanded that they ceased being used. They argued that the decision to save lives through TNR, offsite adoptions, and other needed programs should not be forced on shelters but left to their own determination. They also argued that killing was not their fault. Despite this, they claimed they were committed to saving healthy and treatable animals, narrowly defined to exclude whole categories of animals including feral cats. Groups like HSUS pledged to enforce the Accords and traveled the country telling groups they could not call themselves “No Kill” or use the term “killing” for animals killed in shelters. By the end of the decade, only two communities had embraced the Accords, and though it lives on for record keeping purposes among some groups, the Asilomar Accords were challenged by the U.S. No Kill Declaration, and found themselves essentially, “Dead On Arrival.”

Loser: Humane Society of the United States

As a companion animal loving nation committed itself to doing whatever it took to save the animals of Hurricane Katrina, HSUS squandered their compassion and donations. Wayne Pacelle announced “mission: accomplished” in New Orleans, abandoning the victims in the face of tremendous suffering and departing with tens of millions of dollars raised for Hurricane Katrina victims still unspent. Pacelle could have leveraged the goodwill and money he was given to lead animal lovers toward a No Kill nation. Instead, his actions sparked fraud investigations by both the Louisiana and Mississippi Attorneys General, and showed that the HSUS CEO and HSUS as an organization are both uncaring and incapable of true leadership.

Loser: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

But one agency topped (bottomed?) them all as the worst of the last decade. While No Kill was coming into its own and shelters across the country were saving better than 90% of all animals on a fraction of their budget, PETA continued to move sharply in the other direction. PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk spent the decade not only attacking No Kill, but actively sought out animals to kill (roughly 90% of them). The total body count from 2000 – 2008 (2009 figures not yet available): 19,326. Once the 2009 figures are released, the number will skyrocket past 20,000: that’s roughly 2,000 animals a year that PETA has killed every year for the last decade; or over five animals killed by PETA every single day of the last ten years.

The Decade to Come

We ended this past decade with a hope that did not exist at the close of the prior one—in which not a single No Kill community existed. Now, as this decade closes, No Kill communities dot the American landscape, and activists throughout the nation are working to replicate that success in their own hometowns. It is a time of great hope and promise.

As the decade opened ten years ago, the humane movement was (erroneously) united in its perception of who was to blame for the killing and the hopelessness that it would ever end. But the truth came out, and splintered the movement—dividing us into two opposing camps: those who embrace the No Kill philosophy, its achievability, and the great promise held out by the American public’s great love for companion animals; and those who cling to the old paradigm of killing and blaming, on which their hold on power is based. Today, the heads of the three largest animal protection organizations—HSUS, ASPCA, and PETA—tragically remain No Kill’s most vociferous enemies as they continue to uphold the tradition of killing, continue to defend draconian shelter directors, continue to fight reform efforts, and continue to advance deadly shelter policies. We have learned that our fight is not with the many (the public) but with the few.

Loser: The Dinosaurs and Winner: No Kill

As the new decade opens, we stand at a cross roads. There are some in the No Kill movement who want to celebrate every half-hearted and self-serving gesture by HSUS or the ASPCA as proof that they are changing, proof that they can be trusted again, proof that they are on our side after all. Many in this movement seem so anxious to declare victory—to provide praise for miserly and hard won changes begrudgingly given as evidence of a sea change. And this is a mistake.

Now is not the time to seek appeasement. Now is not the time to declare peace. There will come a day when No Kill is fully established, when we can gently agree to disagree on issues because, truly, we will all be on the same page—and the big question relating to whether animals should live or die will be put to bed once and for all, and the systematic killing of four million animals a year will be viewed as the cruel practice it always was; a national shame that is inconceivable to us as a people.

When that day comes, as it invariably will, and the voices of killing are finally silenced, when the practices they condone are unequivocally rejected, when killing innocent animals is unthinkable, and when those who staff our nation’s humane societies, SPCAs, animal shelters, and large, national groups are truly committed to the best interests of animals; then we can shake hands across the aisles over our disagreements, because the stakes will be much lower—and no animal will be killed as a result of someone’s “differing” point of view.

But to behave now as though our goals are the same—when all evidence is to the contrary—and the change we get is nowhere near approaching the vast changes that are truly needed, is to sacrifice the animals for political expediency, for the desire to be the first to “blog” about success, to raise money by falsely telling supporters of “great” victories that are, in reality, merely superficial. Right now, the “changes” some are quick to celebrate are insincere token gestures, paid out of mere self-preservation. They are parsed out begrudgingly, in a miserly fashion with the hope they will quell criticism, not because they are what justice and ethics demand. By praising these minimal actions, when it is within their power to end the killing now if they so chose, we embolden them to continue on this course, and allow animals to be killed as a result.

Today, the will of 100 million Americans is being thwarted by only 3,000 or so shelter directors and a small handful of regressive national “leaders”: Wayne Pacelle, Ed Sayres, Ingrid Newkirk, and a few others. If we had the will and desire, we could—by refusing to accept anything less—impose our vision immediately and without restraint. Indeed, our power is already being felt: Sayres is besieged, Newkirk is increasingly seen for the Butcher that she is, and Pacelle’s recent temper tantrum over No Kill shows just how vulnerable he is.

And so I predict this: As the next decade comes to a close, it will do so without the Wayne Pacelles, Ed Sayres, Ingrid Newkirks and other agents of killing still holding the power. The reign of the dinosaurs will come to an end. As will the allegiance of the agencies they hold hostage to their kill-oriented colleagues, to their antiquated philosophies, and to their failed models, which hold us all back from the success that their organizations and this movement can achieve the moment they decide to embrace it. Those who replace them will truly champion No Kill both in word and in deeds. And we will see, if not the achievement of a No Kill nation, a nation on the cusp of that seminal and revolutionary achievement.

No more compromises, no more excuses, no more killing. That is the challenge for the decade. A No Kill nation is within our reach.

——————————

*Since there was no year zero, technically, the new decade starts in 2011. But that defies our common experience and natural usage. Because of that, I am ignoring the technically accuracy for the sake of a clean comparison between what we commonly refer to as the decades of the 1990s, the 2000s, and the upcoming ten year period of the 2010s.