Turn Your Shelter Upside Down

March 31, 2010 by  

The Delaware SPCA, which operates two open admission animal control shelters in Delaware, is a new member of the club. I am, of course, referring to the club of caring shelters which have rejected the catch and kill policies of the era dominated by the Humane Society of the United States, and instead embraced the No Kill Equation model of sheltering.

In just under two years, the death rate has dropped 70%. According to their director Anne Cavanaugh,

In early 2008 the Delaware SPCA adopted a policy under which only animals that were too ill or injured to recover or were a danger to the public would be euthanized. The objective was to dramatically increase the ‘live release rate,’ which is the standard many shelters use to measure their effectiveness in terms of reuniting pets with owners, having them adopted to new homes, or transferring them to rescue groups.

Today, their save rate is 80% and climbing. I had the pleasure of meeting Anne when she just started at the SPCA as part of a seminar on Building a No Kill Community I held in her community. Anne inherited a shelter dominated by cronyism and mismanagement–and an $800,000 structural deficit on top of it.

How did she turn her shelter upside down? I could cut and paste from the experiences of Tompkins County, NY, Charlottesville, VA, Reno, NV, Porter County, IN, Shelby County, KY, or any of the others. In other words, the No Kill Equation. And, especially, the No Kill Equation’s focus on comprehensive adoptions. In fact, this is the same story that is occurring in Duluth, Minnesota where a shelter director has taken his community to an 88% save rate and climbing.

Not only is the No Kill Equation beyond reproach, the HSUS model of sheltering is experiencing a well-deserved demise. Of course, it is true that most shelters follow the latter. But no true animal lover in the nation still subscribes to it. It has no legitimacy. And even Wayne Pacelle, the Minister of Spin at HSUS, is trying to distance himself from it in obscure blog after obscure blog that wants to have it both ways: ‘we support No Kill but we don’t support No Kill,’ so as not to offend his catch and kill cronies, while acknowledging that the whole nation is moving in an exciting, more compassionate direction (that HSUS had nothing to do with and indeed fought a losing battle against).

We can adopt our way out of killing and in more communities across the country, we have. But that requires shelter leadership and staff willing to do so.  A number of years ago, I did an interview with Angel Tales magazine in Chicago. They asked me, “What’s the most critical step to take to build a No Kill community?” My response was as follows:

If you ask 100 animal welfare professionals this question, all 100 would say spay/neuter. But all 100 would be wrong. That is not to say that high volume, low cost sterilization services aren’t important, they are. In fact, they are crucial. But that is not why most dogs and cats are currently being killed in shelters. It isn’t “pet overpopulation.” What we are actually suffering from as a nation, what is actually killing a high number of animals, is an overpopulation of shelter directors mired in the failed philosophies of the past and complacent with the status quo.

We know how to stop the killing, but many shelter directors refuse to implement the No Kill model. As a result, a widespread, institutionalized culture of lifesaving is not possible without wholesale regime change in shelters and national animal protection groups, replacing them with compassionate leaders who reject killing as a method for achieving results.

That is only part of the story. The more comprehensive answer would have also added that once new leadership is brought in, that leader needs to bring in new staff. For years, we’ve been told that those who staff our nation’s shelters are caring and compassionate. For years, we’ve been told that the killing is not their fault. And in my first book Redemption, when I put the blame for killing directly on their shoulders—because they find killing easier than doing what is necessary stop it—I was attacked. “No one wants to kill,” shelter directors and staff who killed in the face of alternatives shot back. “Blaming shelters for killing is like blaming hospitals for patients dying,” said PETA’s killers and killing apologists. “Shelters are filled with hard working people doing their very best,” affirmed HSUS, the chief architect of the killing paradigm we live with today.

But here’s the rub. Shelter reformers are now better connected and have more access to information and we’ve managed to connect the dots—to see scandal after scandal at killing shelters which show, definitively, that too many of these people not only needlessly kill animals in the face of a readily available lifesaving alternative, but they also neglect and abuse the animals in the process. But of greater significance, we now have a number of No Kill communities, and in the case of places like Duluth, MN and Newark/Georgetown, DE, communities moving in that direction and very nearly there. The question, of course, is whether any of the communities with No Kill level save rates did so with the same staff and the same team that oversaw the killing?

In Redemption, I wrote about my own experiencing creating the nation’s first No Kill community in Tompkins County and the resistance to my efforts by the many staff members I inherited upon my arrival. I wrote that “Not all staff was supportive of the new order” as they appeared content to continue killing and pass the blame to others. “In the first six months, over half of all employees moved on or were fired, eventually replaced with new coworkers who shared a vision of a No Kill Tompkins County.” Before Susanne Kogut took over as head of the shelter in Charlottesville, she came to visit me in Tompkins County to see how we did it. After she got the job, she called me. I remember our first conversation. I asked her how many of her managers shared her vision for a No Kill Charlottesville. How many she could rely on to implement the spirit of that vision in her absence. And how many were working at cross purposes with her, trying to stall or undermine changes. The answer was pretty lopsided. I don’t recall the specifics, but it was somewhere on the order of all but one or two were decidedly against saving lives. I told her to fire them all and then call me back when she did. The rest, as they say, is history.

The reality is that I don’t believe it can be done any other way. And that is why, just as there are many communities who have achieved success and all of them did it by leadership and staff terminations, there are just as many communities—King County, WA and Los Angeles, CA to name just two—that have promised No Kill success, but failed to achieve it because leaders were not terminated, or new leaders would not do the necessary task of firing underperforming and non-performing staff.

People are the heart and soul of any organization. To succeed at the No Kill endeavor, staff members must be committed to the organization’s mission and goals, share leadership’s lifesaving values, and have a strong work ethic. That means termination of employment for some people. Admittedly, this is no fun for anyone involved, but it is a necessary step to move forward effectively.  It is always better to fire a bad staff member than to kill a good animal. Animal shelters should never become what, in fact, they have become in too many communities: a jobs program for people who are not employable in other agencies deemed more important by uncaring bureaucrats. In Los Angeles, if you failed out of the sanitation department (the trash collectors), you were placed in the animal shelter rather than fired. Until very recently in Houston, the Bureau of Animal Regulation & Care was where candidates who scored the lowest on city aptitude tests were placed. Is it any wonder that BARC has historically been beset by neglect, cruelty, and killing?

On the plus side, turnover in staff means you reward the hard workers. It means advancement for some employees. It means new people with a passion for saving lives get hired. It means the job just got a whole lot easier because when you have the right people on the team, a lot of things fall into place right away.

As noted above, in Tompkins County, 50% of staff was pushed out, resigned, or terminated within six months. The result was a 93% save rate which amounted to a 75% decline in killing, virtually overnight. In Charlottesville, almost every manager was terminated. The result was a 92% save rate the following year. In Reno, every manager resigned and only three of the original 60 staff members remain today. The result is a 90% save rate. Even in Philadelphia, when the now-defunct Philadelphia Animal Care & Control went from an 88% kill rate to a save rate of over 60% (and at one point got as high as 74%), it resulted from a 50% overall turnover—by firing union-protected shirkers. And what about Delaware and Duluth? The story is the same. Shirkers were removed in favor of passionate, hard working employees.  At the Delaware SPCA, 80% of Anne’s staff is new. According to Anne, “I try to raise the bar every time I hire someone new… it makes my life easier and we can accomplish so much.” And the results prove it.

I have never seen a shelter go from a culture of killing to a culture of lifesaving without turnover in managers and staff. That is why King County has so far failed. That is why No Kill has failed in both the City and County of Los Angeles. And that is why the long-term success of the No Kill plan in Austin is still up in the air. Recent events there suggest that the same leader who presided over an anti-No Kill campaign, backed by the ASPCA, and who has killed over 100,000 animals under her watch is not doing what it takes to save lives—and not holding her team accountable. That is why I have called for regime change in Austin.

No one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But here’s the truth. You want to go No Kill? Fire the lot of them.

A Celebration of Compassion

March 29, 2010 by  

April 1 is right around the corner. We will have our fun. We will pull our pranks. We will wake our spouses and partners and tell them something they’ve been waiting—or dreading—to hear, only to follow up with an “April Fool’s” retort. But one thing is no April Fool’s Joke. April 1 also has a far more important—and deadly serious—significance. In my humble view, it is one of the most important days in the history of animal sheltering, right up there with the day Henry Bergh incorporated the ASPCA in New York City, the first in the nation.

Sixteen years ago, on April 1, 1994, after months of negotiation and the threat of a public initiative, Richard Avanzino, then President of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals signed the Adoption “Pact”, a memorandum of understanding between the SF/SPCA and the city shelter that guaranteed a home for every healthy dog and cat in San Francisco. Each and every healthy dog and cat who entered the city’s pound would be saved—no matter how many there were or how long it took to find them a home.

It was a historic beginning of an altogether different future for shelter animals—not of certain death as had been the case nationwide since before the turn of the century, but a future that held promise, protection, and a new chance at life. As the front door at 2500 16th Street in San Francisco slowly swung open that morning, the first battle flag of the No Kill revolution was being raised.

Read the rest by clicking here.

Building a No Kill Florida

March 28, 2010 by  

Join me this Saturday, April 3,  in Melbourne, Florida, 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.

Sales of books benefit local No Kill initiatives. Sponsored by Daphne Foundation and Space Coast NMHP.

For more information or to register, click here.

Irreconcilable Differences

March 22, 2010 by  

Irreconcilable Differences has ended its exclusive Amazon availability. You can now purchase from Barnes & Noble and wherever books are sold.

The book, which has only been available through Amazon until now, has received solid 5 out of 5 star reviews and is called “clear and rigorously reasoned,” “excellent reading,” “a real page turner,” “the perfect follow-up to Redemption,” and a “grand slam,” by “the voice of America’s displaced pets and the conscience of the animal sheltering industry.”

To purchase from Amazon, click here.

To purchase from Barnes & Noble, click here.

To purchase a personally dedicated, signed copy (at a higher mark up to support the No Kill Advocacy Center), click here.

Hungry Dog to be Killed

March 19, 2010 by  

Update: Saved by rescue. Lucy goes to a foster home. While the ASPCA argues that rescue groups are “dog fighters” and “hoarders” in disguise in their perverse effort to derail Oreo’s Law, time and time again, rescue groups are the ones who do the lifesaving while the millionaire organizations turn their backs.

As I blogged earlier today, Jane Hoffman and Ed Sayres, who collectively have tens upon tens of millions of dollars pass through their hands every year, claim they are national No Kill leaders and that New York City is a national model. But in reality, while they sit in their offices collecting their paychecks, New York City animal control kills healthy animals every day, threatens to kill healthy animals every day, and doesn’t even have enough food to feed the animals.

Let me repeat that, the shelter down the street from the nation’s wealthiest humane society and one of the top 200 richest overall charities in the U.S., can’t even feed the animals. Despite the fantastical sums of money at Jane and Ed’s disposal–and no sooner had I posted that, that an e-mail came across my desk showing what really happens at this “model” city.

Meet Lucy.

Lucy is sitting on death row at New York City’s animal control shelter. Why? She’s hungry. She came in to the shelter severely underweight. And they “tested” her right away and found that she doesn’t like people giving her food and then trying to take it away. That is one of the bogus tests shelters use to claim skinny, hungry dogs are “food aggressive.”

Here are the results of her “temperament test”:

  • Stare=1 soft eyes, ears back, mouth close, scared, no aggression show
  • Sensitivity=1 soft body, ears back, accepts the touch
  • Tag=2 does not engage in play, nervous, no aggression show
  • Pinch=1 no response
  • Pinch II=1 no response
  • Food Aggression=5 curls lip, shows teeth, keeps head in dish (very under weight)
  • Toy Aggression=1 no interest
  • Rawhide Aggression=1 no interest
  • Dog to Dog=1 approaches to investigates turns away

None of the results show any kind of aggression: “no aggression,” “accepts the touch,” “no response,” “approaches.” Except when they try to take her food away, she keeps her head in the dish and shows her teeth which they note is because she is “very underweight.” But because of that, Lucy is scheduled to be killed.

Once again I make the plea: Jane and Ed, come down from your penthouses and FEED THE ANIMALS. Don’t allow them to be killed for being hungry.

The earlier post about NYC is here:

Back to Basics: #1. Food

The New York City-based ASPCA’s Sarah McLachlan “Angel” commercial alone expanded the ASPCA’s already swelled coffers by $30,000,000 in one year. Add to that the tens of millions given to the Mayor’s Alliance of NYC Animals by other funders to save and care for New York City’s animals, and “lack of resources” for the animals of NYC does not seem to be a problem. So, how is it that despite a relatively low per capita intake rate, the wealthiest humane society in the country and one of the 200 richest charities overall down the street, and a coalition with over $20 million in revenue dedicated to helping NYC animals, that NYC kills healthy animals and threatens to kill them every single day if rescue groups do not take them?

And, even more insane than that, how is it that NYC shelters are running out of food?

NYC shelters have started putting out frantic appeals saying they do not have enough food to feed the animals in their care. According to one such appeal put out:

Dramatic budget cuts have forced Animal Care & Control of NYC to look to the public for food donations.

AC&C’s primary source of funding is the City of New York. Due to the current fiscal environment, that support has been drastically cut. Your food donations are now desperately needed for the hundreds of animals in their three care centers. And they could be needed for months.

NYC a national model? Perhaps of greed and self-serving leadership. Hey Jane and Ed, come down from your NYC penthouses and feed the animals.

No Kill News from Around the Country

March 19, 2010 by  

A Call for Regime Change in Austin


Congratulations are due for Austin, Texas No Kill advocates who have achieved a major hurdle in their fight against entrenched shelter leadership responsible for killing animals with ruthless efficiency while saying “No” to the programs and services that make ending the killing possible. The shelter director routinely ordered animals killed despite state inspection reports that found hundreds of empty cages on any given day. Simple requests—such as an end to convenience killing (killing when space is available)—were rebuffed time and time again.

Their uphill battle for decency and compassion included opposition from the ASPCA propaganda and killing machine which backed the kill-oriented director, while trying to undermine reform efforts; and HSUS, which wrote a letter of support to move the shelter from a centralized location close to where people live, work, and play to a remote “out of sight, out of mind” part of the city so that managers could get bigger office spaces.

In spite of the bureaucratic uncaring, regressive leadership at the shelter, and anti-lifesaving roadblocks from both the ASPCA and HSUS, they won unanimous passage by the City Council of their No Kill plan. The plan includes an end to travesties such as convenience killing.

But the question remains whether a director who has bitterly opposed reform of the shelter will implement the plan with integrity. This is the same question the Austin Statesman seems to be asking when it applauds passage of the No Kill plan, but says success depends on the follow through. Will leadership at the shelter be its champion? History says, “No.”

There have been roughly 100,000 animals put to death since Dorinda Pulliam took over the pound in Austin, Texas. That’s over 12,000 each year, 1,000 each month, 34 each day, 1 every 12 minutes the shelter has been open to the public. That is a profound failure.

It is long past time for her to step aside. The animals and the animal loving people of Austin deserve better.

Back to Basics: #1. Food

The New York City-based ASPCA’s Sarah McLachlan “Angel” commercial alone expanded the ASPCA’s already swelled coffers by $30,000,000 in one year. Add to that the tens of millions given to the Mayor’s Alliance of NYC Animals by other funders to save and care for New York City’s animals, and “lack of resources” for the animals of NYC does not seem to be a problem. So, how is it that despite a relatively low per capita intake rate, the wealthiest humane society in the country and one of the 200 richest charities overall down the street, and a coalition with over $20 million in revenue dedicated to helping NYC animals, that NYC kills healthy animals and threatens to kill them every single day if rescue groups do not take them?

And, even more insane than that, how is it that NYC shelters are running out of food?

NYC shelters have started putting out frantic appeals saying they do not have enough food to feed the animals in their care. According to one such appeal put out:

Dramatic budget cuts have forced Animal Care & Control of NYC to look to the public for food donations.

AC&C’s primary source of funding is the City of New York. Due to the current fiscal environment, that support has been drastically cut. Your food donations are now desperately needed for the hundreds of animals in their three care centers. And they could be needed for months.

NYC a national model? Perhaps of greed and self-serving leadership. Hey Jane and Ed, come down from your NYC penthouses and feed the animals.

Wayne’s World of Deception

Seven out of ten Americans surveyed believe that HSUS is an “umbrella group” for America’s local humane societies. Six out of ten think their local humane society is affiliated with HSUS. And the same number believe HSUS “contributes most of its money” to local organizations that care for animals. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Intentionally wrong.

This confusion is no accident. It is by HSUS-design. In addition to a pattern of deceit in its fundraising appeals, HSUS forbids shelters from clarifying the confusion. HSUS, for example, sells its donor list for one time use by shelters, but the list comes with caveats. In addition to others (such as not mailing it out until HSUS sent their appeal to those donors), the one primary stipulation is that:

In order to rent the list, you would need to submit the complete mail piece to [HSUS] for pre-approval.

Over the years, the Nevada Humane Society has learned that people are often confused by fundraising appeals from HSUS. Local residents think they are donating to the local humane society when they give money to HSUS. In fact, NHS has been told by local residents that they have already donated to them, when in fact they gave to HSUS. This confusion goes beyond fundraising: NHS was publicly criticized for “embracing Michael Vick”—which they did not—because people thought HSUS (“the humane society”) was NHS. In order to clarify the confusion and to help raise funds for local programs, they tried to buy a list from HSUS to do so. And they submitted their proposed mailing for HSUS approval which included the statement that:

Nevada Humane Society is a nonprofit organization. We rely upon donations to make our lifesaving work possible. We do not receive funding from national groups or the government. Your contribution is tax-deductible. Please return this reply slip in the enclosed envelope to Nevada Humane Society. Thank you.

After doing so, HSUS denied the request, stating that unless NHS removed the clarifying statement, they could not use the list. In other words, HSUS did not want NHS informing these individuals that when they give to groups like HSUS, they are not giving money to local lifesaving efforts. Put simply, HSUS was committed to keeping its supporters in the dark as to where their money was going.

Building a No Kill Community


I recently returned from Shelby County, Kentucky where hundreds of animal lovers from eight states came to hear the message of hope and promise of the No Kill philosophy. Join me for one of the remaining seminars: an inspirational two-hour multi-media presentation followed by a book signing for Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart & Soul of America’s Animal Shelters, which is being called “excellent reading,” “a real page turner” and a “grand slam” by the “voice of America’s displaced pets and the conscience of the animal sheltering industry.”

  • Melbourne, FL. April 3, 2010.
  • Douglasville, GA. April 16, 2010.
  • Jersey City, NJ. April 20, 2010.
  • New Zealand. April 30-May 2, 2010.
  • Greater Seattle Area (Whidbey Island), WA. June 18, 2010.

For more information, click here.

NYS Rescuers and Residents: We Need You!

March 18, 2010 by  

We need your help saving the lives of puppies, kittens, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals currently being killed in New York State shelters despite rescue groups willing and able to save them. According to Empty Cages Collective, a NYC-based rescue group:

While justifications for killing abound, the truth is that shelters all over New York State kill animals who reputable and responsible animal rescue organizations are or would be willing to take, rehabilitate and place in loving homes. Animals are being killed in New York City, Rochester, Buffalo and cities and towns throughout the state because animal control establishments are not working with rescuers at all or will not work with them to the extent they could. Even in New York City, where NYC shelters do a better job working with rescue organizations than almost anywhere else in the state, animals are still killed while hardworking and knowledgeable individuals who run 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescues are denied taking animals destined to die.

Attention: New York State rescuers and rescue groups

As Oreo’s Law is considered by the New York State legislature, the No Kill Advocacy Center is asking for your participation in a short (5 minute) survey about your experiences.

To take the survey, click here.

Attention: New York State residents

The animals of New York State need your help. They are in a classic David vs. Goliath battle for their very lives. Lobbyists for the ASPCA and behind the scenes maneuvering by the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals is threatening to derail legislation which would save the lives of thousands of animals currently being killed throughout the state.

We need letters in support of Oreo’s Law sent immediately to:

The Honorable William Magee
Chair, Assembly Committee on Agriculture
LOB 828
Albany NY 12248

You can also e-mail him by clicking here.

While all letters are welcome, we especially need letters if you are from New York State. If you are part of a rescue group, please tell him of your experiences and difficulties and how much Oreo’s Law will help you save lives.

Remember: Without you, the animals do not stand a chance.

Oreo’s Law Resources

For far too long, those running our animal shelters – agencies funded by the philanthropic donations and tax dollars of an animal loving American public – have refused to mirror our progressive values. For far too long, they have assumed a power and authority to act independent of public opinion, and the will of the people who have entrusted them to do their jobs with compassion, dedication and integrity. In betraying this trust, they have proven that they can’t be trusted, and that we must regulate them in the same way we regulate other agencies which hold the power of life and death: by removing the discretion which has for too long allowed them to thwart the public’s will and to kill animals who should be saved. Oreo’s Law, thankfully, seeks to do just that.

Sadly, we cannot bring Oreo back and give her the second chance the ASPCA denied her. And we will forever remember her killing at the hands of those who were supposed to protect her from further harm as many things:  tragic and heartbreaking, chief among them.  Nothing can alter that calculus. But we can lessen the futility of Oreo’s death if we learn from it, and alter our society in such a way as to prevent such a betrayal from ever happening again.

– From the No Kill Advocacy Center

To learn more about Oreo’s Law, click here.

Is No Kill a Bipartisan Issue?

March 17, 2010 by  

My favorite television show, in fact the only show I watch, is 30 Rock. It is unique, funny, sometimes razor sharp, has great characters, and is set in my favorite city, New York. In fact, I am a little embarrassed to admit how much of our family slang is based on the show.

But one part of the show always bums me out. And it bums me out not only because  it makes fun of animal abuse, but because it always comes out of left field. Alec Baldwin plays NBC Vice-President Jack Donaghy, a conservative executive who insists on all the rights and perks of being part of “the haves.” What makes Donaghy’s character so appealing is that his insights are often brilliant. His one-liners, hilarious. The views he expresses are so over-the-top you can’t help but laugh (such as calling Hurricane Katrina, “Rainfall Katrina” or blaming the Great Recession, brought on by the reckless policies of the prior administration, on Nancy Pelosi). And the man who is reciting them—actor Alec Baldwin—is an avowed liberal. It makes for great television.

But in every episode, his character makes really mean jokes about animals being harmed. It’s a reason to employ the mute button at least once in every episode. Why is Jack Donaghy’s character always joking about animal abuse—about electrocuting dogs, shooting cats, or torturing monkeys? It’s especially disheartening coming out of Baldwin, given that he is purported to be an animal lover, too. While most of Donaghy’s views and jokes are meant to cast him as a Republican, the jokes about gratuitously abusing animals do not develop the character’s politically conservative character for the simple reason, quite frankly, that even Republicans love animals. It’s not really a partisan issue, and given the heart the Donaghy character is often shown to have, it comes off as gratuitous, ugly, and forced. In fact, to be authentic, he should have a dog running around his office who is the center of his universe.

In my work promoting and assisting communities with their No Kill initiatives, I’ve traveled all over the country. I’ve worked in or with decidedly liberal or “blue” communities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, and even Ithaca, New York. But I’ve also worked with some of the “reddest” communities in the country’s most conservative states: in Southern Utah, rural Georgia, and Kentucky. And I’ve found both deeply committed to saving the lives of animals in shelters.

That is why then-Senator Tom Hayden, one of California’s most liberal politicians, and then Assembly Member Tom McClintock, the state’s most conservative legislator, came together to sponsor the 1998 Animal Shelter Law, known as the “Hayden Act” which gave rescue groups power to save animals and forced killing shelters to improve their operations. That is why former Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) was a champion of expanding the federal Animal Welfare Act. That is why Shelby County, Kentucky is a No Kill community as is Tompkins County, New York. That is why San Francisco in the 1990s—which had a mayoral runoff election between an openly gay man and an African-American man, both arguing that each was more liberal than the other—shares a sheltering philosophy with Ivins City, Utah—one of the most Republican areas of the country dominated as it is by the Mormon church—which saved 97% of all animals in its animal control shelter. And that is why Steven Phipps and I could stay up until almost 2:30 am in Shelbyville, Kentucky and agree on almost every single thing we talked about: because all we talked about were animals.

I just returned from Shelby County, Kentucky, a rural conservative community, in the heart of the South. They recently celebrated one year as a No Kill community. I went down there as part of my book tour for Irreconcilable Differences. A local mega-evangelical Church (capacity 600) donated the space and the local pastor was on hand to assist with the audio and sound system because he loved animals. Hundreds of animal lovers from eight Southern, mostly conservative, states came to hear the message of hope and promise of the No Kill philosophy and I received a standing ovation. One of the people in attendance was Steven Phipps of the Blount County Humane Society in East Tennessee.

It turned out we were staying in the same hotel and after he did a brief interview of me for No Kill Nation, a Facebook page of which he is one of the co-founders (over 22,000 “friends” and counting), we got to talking. Steve and I have long corresponded by e-mail and telephone but I had never met the man until then. We both share a deep love for animals. He is a passionate No Kill advocate and I’ve dedicated my life to it. His home is home to animals of all kinds, as is mine.  Since neither of our wives could make it, it was he and I and our mutually favorite topic: the conquest of a No Kill nation. At 2:30 am, I staggered to my room and fell asleep since I had to wake up at 6 am for a flight home. I went back to the liberal Bay Area. He went back to conservative Blount County. We never fought, we never pointed fingers, but aside from our mutual love of animals, we couldn’t be more different in our views.

Steve voted for Mike Huckabee in the primaries and considers himself an “Independent Conservative.” He voted for George W. Bush both times while holding his nose because he considers Bush “progressive,” which is contrary to his views on social and economic issues. During the last election he voted for “Palin/McCain,” not the other way around.

I voted for Dennis Kucinich in the primary even though he had already dropped out of the race, voted for Ralph Nader in both Bush elections, but this time around, held my nose while casting a ballot for Barack Obama because I did not expect him to dust off the glorious but dormant philosophy of FDR.

On almost every social issue, with some exceptions, we disagree. But on the issue of saving the lives of animals in shelters, we are two peas in a pod. And we are not alone. The gentleman checking me in to my hotel room gave me a free room and tried to upgrade it to a suite (but they were sold out). Why? He’s an animal lover. In overhearing a political conversation he was having with someone else, it was pretty evident that had he known of my own views on the topics he was opining about, he would have ridiculed me, in one of Jack Donaghy’s famous quips, as “a Godless, glassy-eyed Clinton-ista.” But he proudly told me he was an animal lover and thanked me for my work.

Shelby County, Kentucky is not unique. No Kill communities now exist in all parts of the country, in communities of every demographic. Some are urban. Some are rural. Some are politically liberal. Some are politically conservative. And that is what makes the prognosis for a No Kill nation so good. Despite all those things that separate us as Americans, people of all walks of life want to build a better world for animals.

The ASPCA’s One-Two Punch

March 15, 2010 by  


Under siege since his callous killing of Oreo, an abused dog who survived being thrown off a rooftop in Brooklyn but could not survive the “rescue” by the ASPCA, ASPCA President Edwin J. Sayres is fighting legislation that would make it illegal for shelters to kill animals a qualified non-profit organization is willing to save. The law is named after Oreo, and threatens to memorialize for all time her betrayal at his hands.

According to inside sources, Sayres is seeking a report to “claim” that California’s Hayden Law, upon which Oreo’s Law is based, is harmful to animals. In the process, he is not only attempting to stall progressive legislation in New York, but he is threatening to turn legislative progress back by more than a decade in California, threatening the lives of animals on both coasts.

Adding further insult to injury, a source close to the ASPCA also reports that Sayres will also commission a survey of rescue groups in New York State to “prove” that they already have access to animals. However, the source reports that they will only talk to rescue groups recommended by New York kill shelters in order to arrive at the pre-determined conclusion. Rescue groups that are denied animals because of the arbitrary policies of shelters and which would provide substantial proof of the need for the law will not be allowed to participate.

Read “To Kill Animals in New York, the ASPCA Goes After them in California” by clicking here.

Whidbey Island (Seattle) No Kill Seminar

March 15, 2010 by  

Join me for a free two-hour seminar on Building a No Kill Community, followed by a book signing.

Saturday, June 19, 2010 at the Historic Captain Whidbey Inn, Whidbey Island, WA (north of Seattle) from 2 – 4:30 pm, followed immediately by a book signing reception from 4:30-6:00 in the Inn’s quaint bar and waterside patio deck are.

The seminar is sponsored by the Whidbey Animal Guild.

For more information or to register, email whidbeyanimalguild@gmail.com or click here.

The Historic Captain Whidbey Inn

To fully enjoy the ambiance of the island’s historic setting, box lunches (vegan box lunch available in advance) will be available for attendees and guests as of noon on Saturday. Check in at the “Ice House,” purchase a box lunch, and wander the grounds for your perfect picnic setting. Rooms are being held for the seminar at the Historic Captain Whidbey Inn for any guests from on or off-island who would like to enjoy the serenity and majesty of one of the region’s most spectacular locations. Stay one night, or extend your stay to enjoy all the Island has to offer and receive 15% off of your second night’s stay. First ten to reserve rooms will get free copies of both of Nathan’s inspiring books! When calling please mention that you are with the WAG group.

For more information or to reserve a room, click here.

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