It’s a Cookbook!

June 30, 2010 by  

Coming to a bookstore near you in 2011

All American Vegan: Veganism for the Rest of Us

Full of delicious recipes, shopping, cooking, and baking tips, as well as philosophy, trivia, and humorous observations regarding the increasingly popular but frequently misunderstood vegan lifestyle, All American Vegan has something for everyone. Aspiring vegans will find practical down-to-earth advice about making the transition to a vegan diet as convenient and uncomplicated as possible. Parents of vegan children will appreciate the common-sense meal planning tips that introduce and incorporate the vast and ever expanding variety of vegan convenience foods now available. Non-vegetarians and the vegan curious will discover an approach which transforms the seemingly impossible into the entirely feasible. While veteran vegans and animal activists will appreciate the Winograds’ provocative perspective on how to most effectively promote widespread veganism. All American Vegan – It’s a cookbook and so much more.

The Value of an Animal’s Life

June 28, 2010 by  

“We also felt the reporting requirement in [Oreo’s Law] was unrealistic for some small rural shelters to meet.”

–Best Friends Animal Society

Would you spend one minute of your time to save an animal’s life? You would. I would. So why is it too much to ask shelters to do so? The firestorm over Best Friends’ betrayal of the animals and rescue groups in New York City is only intensifying, and like the killing of Oreo, is not likely to subside anytime soon. To put it mildly, they acted badly, and then to cover that up, they circled the wagons. I’ve already responded, as have others, to the sad and tragic dishonesty of their position paper on “Oreo’s Law.” And while there is a lot to be upset about in it, the one excuse that has crawled under my skin, the one that is eating at me, the one that is just so awful and outrageous I can’t believe they actually made the claim publicly is their belief that “the reporting requirement in the bill was unrealistic for some small rural shelters to meet.”

Oreo’s Law would have required shelters to notify rescue groups of their intent to kill an animal prior to killing–prior to taking the animal out of his or her kennel/cage, prior to walking them to the “e-room,” prior to holding them down, prior to injecting them with poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-plus,” prior to dumping their lifeless body into a landfill or throwing it into an incinerator. Put aside the issue that Best Friends is apparently now speaking for killing shelters instead of the best interests of animals, taking on for itself the role played by HSUS and the ASPCA, but is pre-killing notification really too much to ask?

Specifically, the text of Oreo’s Law required:

AT LEAST ONE BUSINESS DAY PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED EUTHANASIA OF AN ANIMAL, THE FACILITY HAVING POSSESSION OF THE ANIMAL SHALL PROVIDE NOTICE TO THE ANIMAL RESCUE OR ADOPTION ORGANIZATION OF THE SCHEDULED EUTHANASIA BY:

(A) POSTING OF THE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER OF SUCH ANIMAL ON THE WEBSITE OF THE FACILITY HAVING POSSESSION OF THE ANIMAL BY DIRECT LINK FROM THE FACILITY’S WEBSITE HOME PAGE; AND

(B) BY CONTACTING THE ANIMAL RESCUE OR ADOPTION ORGANIZATION DIRECTLY BY ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING MEANS:

(I) E-MAIL TO THE E-MAIL ADDRESS ON FILE;

(II) PHONE TO THE PHONE NUMBER ON FILE;

(III) TEXT MESSAGE TO THE PHONE NUMBER ON FILE;

(IV) FAX TO THE FAX NUMBER ON FILE; OR

(V) ANY OTHER MEANS OF ELECTRONIC WRITTEN COMMUNICATION AS PROVIDED BY THE ANIMAL RESCUE OR ADOPTION ORGANIZATION.

In other words, the shelter would have simply had to post to a website that the animal is scheduled to be killed, and one other method such as a mass e-mail to rescue groups. Two strokes of a keyboard would have met the requirement. And in this day and age, how can they possibly justify killing an animal when posting to the internet and sending an e-mail to an opt-in list of rescue groups could save that animal’s life.

Does Best Friends really believe the cost-benefit calculus is even close? An animal’s life vs. an employee or volunteer spending one minute on a computer? But that isn’t even the calculus, because computer programs can do this automatically now. In other words, it would have required no time at all.

I ran a small, rural open-admission animal control shelter in upstate New York. I know the burdens faced by them. Granted, that agency is not so little anymore. It now has a large, new facility, and has become a model for the rest of the nation. But that is because we did right by the animals and the community clamored to support us. But back in the day, it was typical of most shelters before I got there. It was run out of a converted house, it was dilapidated, had an operating deficit in excess of $100,000 per year, and it was hostile to rescue groups and volunteers. And while I talked about how typical it was in Redemption, the truth is I did not give the reality justice. It was far worse than even I thought. Just read the essay from a volunteer about what conditions were like before I got there:  Read “I was there” by clicking here. But when I was in charge, things changed.

We actually called every rescue group we knew of in five states, each and every one individually. When we could not find a rescue group, we called the national office of the breed rescue group and asked if they had local contacts. And then we called them. We used to send e-mails to rescuers, one at a time. And, in fact, I personally drove animals to rescue groups across state lines when I could not find a volunteer to transport them. Me, the Executive Director who was always the first one to get into the shelter in the morning and the last one to go home because I believed in leading my team by example. Me, the Executive Director who was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week because I would not allow anyone to kill an animal until we exhausted every possibility. So when animals were picked up by our ACOs in the middle of the night after being hit by a car, the emergency veterinary hospital would call me to discuss the case, to determine the prognosis, to decide on a course of treatment when it was at least guarded, or to approve a true mercy killing when it was poor-to-grave and the animal was irremediably suffering.

I remember one of the times when I could not find a volunteer to transport a traumatized Vizsla mama and her neonatal pups to a rescue group in another state. I remember driving them myself on my day off, hundreds of miles away, only to turn around after the drop off and head right back. I remember the rescue group representative asking me if I volunteered for the shelter. And her shock when I told her I was the E.D.; that I could not find a volunteer to bring them so I brought them myself.

That is how every shelter should operate, and that is the job of every shelter director. But Oreo’s Law does not ask for that. It doesn’t ask anyone to drive hundreds of miles on their day off. It doesn’t ask them to be on call 24/7. It doesn’t ask them to be the first to get into work and the last to leave so that the staff asks as a running joke if the Kurunda bed you slept in was comfortable and to make sure the coffee’s hot when they get in. But is it really too much to ask for a computer program to spit out a mass e-mail automatically every day? Or, failing that, to have a volunteer or employee send out one? Is an animal’s life really not worth two strokes of a keyboard? Apparently, Best Friends seems to think so.

The Best Friends “Spin” Machine Goes Into Overdrive

June 26, 2010 by  

Best Friends has been issuing a series of ever-changing justifications in response to my post, “Where Have You Gone Best Friends?” In that post, I indicated that Best Friends not only took an indefensible position of neutrality on Oreo’s Law, abandoning the rescue groups and animals who made them who they are, but also tried to get Animal Ark and Animal Wise Radio to withdraw their support for this lifesaving legislation in deference to their relationship to Ed Sayres, Oreo’s killer.

I spent nine days thinking about what to say and how to say it, trying to be fair, trying to understand why, trying to find some context that would make sense, trying to appeal to some elements at Best Friends who I know are as upset as I am about the direction they’ve been heading.

Their contradictory responses have been a bitter disappointment, not just to me, but too many who used to look up to them. No self reflection. No thoughtfulness. No truth. All politics. Instead of directly addressing the issues, acknowledging that a lot of people within Best Friends itself are very upset about the direction they are going, have left the organization because of it, are irate that they invited killing enabler Jane Hoffman to speak at their conference, and know that what they are saying about Oreo’s Law is not true, their responses further revealed their true colors. They lashed out, lied to cover their behinds, and in doing so, proved me right.

Basically their response consists of:

1. We Support Rescue Access Legislation Except When We Don’t.
Best Friends claimed to support “rescue access legislation” and although Oreo’s Law had all the elements of their position paper on rescue access legislation, they now claim that they did not support it because it isn’t needed; only collaboration is. But this isn’t what they told people when the bill was pending. They told people they support “rescue access legislation” hoping that people would not see past that to the fact that they didn’t actually support the bill. Why didn’t they tell those who asked them about Oreo’s Law then that they don’t support it because they only support collaboration, rather than misleading their members into believing that they were supporting it? And why remove the comments on their website from rescuers who told them about the struggles they were really facing in New York and who asked for their help on this law because it is needed?

2. Hoarders and Dog Fighters Will Exploit Oreo’s Law for “Unscrupulous Reasons.”
Even though the California law on which Oreo’s Law was based has saved thousands of lives and the same fear mongering about hoarders and dog fighters when that law was being considered did not materialize, they claim that New York is different. There, rescuers are really hoarders in disguise and/or can’t be trusted because they are small non-profits, whereas big non-profits can be trusted, even though like the ASPCA they have chosen to kill animals in the face of rescue alternatives. In other words, we shouldn’t fear killing, we should fear putting in place mechanisms to save their lives.

3. Supporters of Oreo’s Law are Just Emotional: “Most issues that we deal with today in animal welfare are charged with emotion. The failure of the passage of the New York State Kellner/Duane Bill (Oreo’s Law) is no different. Those who fought hard for the bill are now looking for outlets for their anger and people to blame.”
What is all the fuss? According to Best Friends, they are just animals and despite the fact that thousands have been ensured a needless death sentence, we shouldn’t get emotional about it. Settle down little people, settle down, Best Friends is above all the emotional fray and they alone are the logical ones.

4. “We felt we couldn’t help either side budge.”
Best Friends is not going to let the facts get in the way of a good story. And the fact is that we amended the bill four times to address concerns, and we offered to change the name of the bill, offered to never mention Oreo again, offered to drop out of the dialog, and offered to give the ASPCA full credit for the law. As I mentioned in my original post,

I was privy to several conversations with Best Friends where they stated they would support the law if various amendments were made. Those amendments were made, but Best Friends did not honor the agreements. They also stated that they would support the law if Ed Sayres and Jane Hoffman did not withdraw their opposition after they were told that in exchange for doing so, the bill would be renamed to remove any reference to Oreo. And when Sayres and Hoffman said “No,” Best Friends still refused to support it… In fact, I sent a letter to Sayres offering to disappear, to give him full credit for the law, to have the name of the law changed, if he would withdraw his opposition and champion it. And because we could never bring her back but we could save thousands of others with the law if he removed his opposition, I offered never to mention Oreo again in return.

5. “We also felt the reporting requirement in the bill was unrealistic for some small rural shelters to meet.”
According to Best Friends, it is ok to kill animals in the face of a rescue alternative, it is ok to turn rescue groups away, but don’t expect shelters to send an e-mail or post to the internet that animals are scheduled to be killed because that is too onerous. So Best Friends believes shelters should not be burdened with sending an e-mail before they march an animal into the e-room and inject that animal with poison from a bottle marked “Fatal-plus.” It’s the e-mail that is the problem.

6. The most disturbing allegation they’ve embraced is that we do not really need legislation to save lives, because No Kill will not be achieved by making it illegal to kill animals when alternatives exist, “Only through collaboration and cooperation will major victories for New York’s animals be achieved. “

Really? What proof does Best Friends have to back up such an assertion? Although they have raised millions of dollars in Los Angeles and claimed it is a “Tier 1” level program for their work on creating a No More (Killing of) Homeless Pets community, not only is it far from No Kill, recently it has moved in the other direction. Since they have never been successful, how would they know what it takes to achieve it? And why does this demand for collaboration only work in one direction? Over 70% of rescue groups surveyed in NYS have tried collaborating with shelters and they’ve been turned away. The shelters have told them they do not like rescue groups and do not want to work with them. One rescue group told of how the Executive Director of the shelter once paraded animals they offered to rescue right by them to the e-room to put them to death, choosing those very animals to show them who had the power. What does Best Friends say to them? Why is it ok for the ASPCA and shelters not to cooperate, but when rescue groups try to mandate that cooperation, that is divisive?

7. Finally, they claim they did not lobby Animal Wise Radio to withdraw their support, but Mike Fry shows that to be untrue in this post to Best Friends:

During our fairly heated phone conversation following that email exchange, you kept trying to make the point that this was not about the policy, but was rather about the ASPCA and your relationship to them. When I repeatedly asked you to make a case against Oreo’s Law based on the policy, you could not do so.

If your intent was not to sway my opinion, why make these comments? Why ask for confidentiality? Why make the follow-up call, when I had already shared with you my perspective?

I agree with others who have posted here. I am sick to death of people and organizations refusing to take challenging positions for all of the wrong reasons…

Reading your official policy statement on this topic has made me even sadder. Fundamentally, you have admitted, as I read it, to have sold out the animals for the sake of politics. That is bad enough, but refusing to come out with an official Oreo’s Law position until now hid your position from your members, donors and supporters.

That’s why you are getting all of these messages on this page. That’s why people are so disappointed in you. Maybe the words feel harsh. But, there is no “nice” way to say them that I know of.

I’ve had conversations with past and current Best Friends employees, including those who used to run the NMHP campaign and left over these issues, who are as upset as I am, who thanked me for expressing what they have felt for so long, for taking the bullet to tell the truth. And what they had to say was eye opening.

So what is the truth? It turns out that Best Friends is opening an office in NYC and did not feel it could successfully do so and oppose the ASPCA and Mayor’s Alliance on Oreo’s Law, thereby choosing to sacrifice the rescue groups and animals in the process.  Like Los Angeles, NYC is a very wealthy city. And Best Friends wants access to that wealth. Behind the politics is the money. Follow the money….

And people know it. People can sense it. As I tour the country giving Building a No Kill Community seminars, reaching capacity-plus audiences from multiple states, people have been asking me what is happening with Best Friends. There is an undercurrent out there that people are tapping into that the organization has changed, has become corporate, and shifted their priorities. Rescuers aren’t just dimwitted emotional hoarders in disguise, as Best Friends seems to think. They are smart, they are attuned to what is happening in this movement, they know what it takes to achieve No Kill, and they have tragic and first-hand experience proving that you can’t collaborate with organizations who refuse to work with you, who find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it.

We achieve No Kill in just one way: through the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. Nothing else has worked. Nothing. And when shelters refuse to change, when they refuse to collaborate, when they seek to hold back progress, we force them to in the same way each and every social movement in history has: by legislation. As I said in my original post,

The goal of every social movement is legislation to gain and then protect the rights of its members or the focus of its efforts. The suffrage movement wasn’t just seeking discretionary permission from elections officials to vote, an ability that could be taken away. Its goal was winning the right to vote, a right guaranteed in law. The civil rights movement wasn’t just seeking the discretionary ability to sit at the front of the bus or to eat at the same lunch counters or be given equal protection and equal opportunity. Its goal was winning the right to do so, a right guaranteed in law. The movement for marriage equality isn’t just seeking the discretionary opportunity to marry despite sexual orientation. Its goal is winning the right to do so, a right guaranteed in law. Because without legal rights, one’s fate is contingent on who the election official is, who the restaurant owner is, and who the mayor is. And in our case, who the shelter director is. And just as quickly as permission is given, it can be taken away.

Laws codify norms of behavior and, at their best, help create a just and thoughtful society. We have—and embrace—voting rights acts, environmental protection laws, and laws against discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. Ultimately, such laws are essential to ensure that fair and equal treatment is guaranteed, not subject to the discretion of those in power. We shouldn’t just want a promise that shelters will try to do better. We already have such promises—and millions of animals still being killed show just how hollow such promises are. We must demand accountability beyond the rhetoric. And we shouldn’t simply be seeking progressive directors willing to save lives. We should demand that the killing end, now and forever, regardless of who is running the shelters. And we get that in only one way: by passing legislation that gives sheltered animals the right to live.

Read Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Think of the animals being killed when you do rather than African Americans being denied civil rights And think of Best Friends saying “Wait” and “Let’s all just get along.” It is just as apt today for the rights of sheltered animals as it is was—and is—for civil rights:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly… For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” … This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see… that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Read it and reread it and remember that those seeking the unequivocal and immediate end to segregation and discrimination were called “divisive” by those within that movement who had become big, powerful, and threatened by the newer generation’s intolerance and impatience with the status quo, just as those who demand the killing end today are being called divisive by Best Friends and those who have come to their defense over this issue.

There are a small number of activists out there who are so fearful of the possibility that rescue groups are masquerading as hoarders, that they are willing to allow shelters to continue killing arbitrarily as a result, a harm we know to be endemic and pervasive. They’ve had the notion that killing is not the ultimate harm drilled into them for so long that it ceases to be the indefensible violent and evil act that it is. And tragically, Best Friends is exploiting this complacency to cover their illicit tracks. But worse, Best Friends has, in fact, itself adjusted to the killing, has achieved economic security, is profiting from the status quo, and by refusing to back the rescuers, by calling them “emotional,” has in fact become insensitive to what most rescuers truly face and truly want.

It was—and is—only through standing up to regressive voices who defend killing and fear monger that we make progress. When we all “got along”—as happened in the hundred years preceding the No Kill movement—it was nothing short of full scale, unmitigated slaughter at our nation’s shelters. The clouds only began to part when some of us had the courage to say “Enough!”

Do I wish it were different? Do I, like the voices I hear promoting “movement unity,” wish none of this was necessary? Of course I do. I wish we were all on the same page, too. But to pretend otherwise is to sacrifice our cause, and collaborationist wishful thinking is a luxury the animals can ill afford. That the leadership of Best Friends is making such naïve and superficial assertions shows how insular they’ve become in Kanab; how removed they are from the day to day experiences of those of us in the trenches without $30 million a year budgets; that they lack first-hand experience with how “collaboration” under such circumstances is meaningless.

In the end, what is harmful to this movement is not dissent, nor people unflinchingly calling anti-animal positions for the betrayals that they truly are. What is harmful to the humane movement, and therefore animals, is the long and historic association between those who love animals and those who kill them and the deadly and illogical myth this contaminating relationship has fostered that we all want the same thing, even in the face of clear and overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

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 championing 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 with four million animals needlessly being killed in our nation’s shelters every year, and the head of the nation’s wealthiest SPCA opposing legislation that would help remedy this deadly scourge, the fight must continue.

Tragically, perhaps the animals have to wait for another, newer generation of humane leadership that has not been poisoned by the toxic relationship that says an animal control system based on killing is compatible with a movement dedicated to ending that killing. Because what we need and what we lack are leaders who have not had the dogmatic pronouncements of this movement drilled into them for so long that they have inherited this mollifying legacy; leaders who no longer feel the need to hold off asking the tough questions because of personal relationships with people who take actions that cost animals their lives; leaders who will not hesitate—nor disparage others who do not hesitate—to call things for what they truly are, when that is what progress and ethics demand.

By those standards, we can no longer look to Best Friends as a leader. It seems Best Friends can only be counted on as an ally when it suits them, when there is no cost to their relationships with the likes of Ed Sayres and Jane Hoffman, when it does not interfere with their corporate growth, and when there is money to be made. It is a sad and tragic time for those of us who used to look up to them. But naively pretending otherwise is now yet another luxury the animals cannot afford.

Where Have You Gone Best Friends?

June 24, 2010 by  

It has been nine days since Oreo’s Law was defeated in this session of the New York State legislature. Nine days since several of the largest, most influential “animal protection” organizations in the country banded together to defeat a bill that had the potential to save thousands of lives by empowering their less wealthy, less powerful colleagues to do so. And I’ve written nothing about its defeat.

I assume I am regarded as a person who is rarely at a loss for words. And truth be told, I do have much to say regarding the bill’s demise and the obvious lessons the fight for Oreo’s Law has imparted. But this blog nonetheless has not come as easily as the others have, and every day since the bill’s defeat, I have sat before my computer, staring at a blank screen and struggling to find the words to express what needs to be said, to reiterate in part, that which to me and I hope to my readers has by now become so evident that stating it feels simply gratuitous: the enemy is within.

Yes, I am talking about the ASPCA which claims to champion the animals but advocates for their slaughter; and yes, I am talking about groups like the Mayor’s Alliance and the Animal Law Coalition that do the same. And as groups mirror the decisions of their leaders, I am talking specifically about Ed Sayres, Jane Hoffman, and Laura Allen. But those have become the obvious ones and I’ve written no less than 17 blogs and articles about their duplicitous and indefensible role in this saga. And if that was all there was to be said, I would have done it on June 16, the morning after Oreo’s Law was tabled by the legislature.

What has caused me to stare at a blank screen, unable to find the words is trying to put into context the actions of a group which I’ve worked with in the past and whose conferences I’ve been speaking at since their inception. Last week, as thousands of animal lovers throughout New York State flooded Albany with e-mails of support for Oreo’s Law, shutting down the mail server not once, but twice, ASPCA lobbyist Debora Bresch combed the halls of the capitol, working to defeat the bill with lies, misrepresentations and the powerful weight of the ASPCA’s century-old reputation. Covering her back were not only those organizations financially beholden to the ASPCA or those equally threatened by the upset of power which Oreo’s Law would accomplish but, tragically, an organization that for a long time now has been generally regarded within the No Kill movement as the only large national organization that is an ally to our cause:  Best Friends Animal Society.

How can I share how hurt I am over their positions and handling of Oreo’s Law, without coming off as callous or dismissive to their sanctuary work, the rescue they do, and the safety net they provided for the victims of dog killer Michael Vick? I don’t want to take anything away from those things. Nor can I forget that while most national groups were preaching killing, Best Friends championed my message when I was in San Francisco and they championed me when I created the nation’s first No Kill community in Tompkins County. And though I’ve been disappointed in their handling of some issues—how they sought to quell public discontent over the Wilkes County Massacre among other things—I’ve not called them out the way I have others, believing that in the cost-benefit analysis, they help more than they limit the success of our cause.

But this time, it is different. And I cannot remain silent in deference to their past contributions. In Oreo’s Law, in the brutal and needless killing of Oreo herself, I saw the defining issue of the No Kill movement. Oreo’s Law is not some auxiliary effort for the movement, it is central to the fight for a No Kill nation. Legislation that empowers rescue groups, removes the discretion which allows shelter directors the ability to kill animals in spite of lifesaving alternatives, and makes the killing we all claim to want to end illegal is what our movement is ultimately about. We will never, ever, ever, ever achieve and sustain a No Kill nation without legislation to reform our broken animal shelter system.

The goal of every social movement is legislation to gain and then protect the rights of its members or the focus of its efforts. The suffrage movement wasn’t just seeking discretionary permission from elections officials to vote, an ability that could be taken away. Its goal was winning the right to vote, a right guaranteed in law. The civil rights movement wasn’t just seeking the discretionary ability to sit at the front of the bus or to eat at the same lunch counters or be given equal protection and equal opportunity. Its goal was winning the right to do so, a right guaranteed in law. The movement for marriage equality isn’t just seeking the discretionary opportunity to marry despite sexual orientation. Its goal is winning the right to do so, a right guaranteed in law. Because without legal rights, one’s fate is contingent on who the election official is, who the restaurant owner is, and who the mayor is. And in our case, who the shelter director is. And just as quickly as permission is given, it can be taken away.

Laws codify norms of behavior and, at their best, help create a just and thoughtful society. We have—and embrace—voting rights acts, environmental protection laws, and laws against discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. Ultimately, such laws are essential to ensure that fair and equal treatment is guaranteed, not subject to the discretion of those in power. We shouldn’t just want a promise that shelters will try to do better. We already have such promises—and millions of animals still being killed show just how hollow such promises are. We must demand accountability beyond the rhetoric. And we shouldn’t simply be seeking progressive directors willing to save lives. We should demand that the killing end, now and forever, regardless of who is running the shelters. And we get that in only one way: by passing legislation that gives sheltered animals the right to live.

But Best Friends refused to embrace Oreo’s Law. And in not taking a position, their silence spoke volumes too: it failed to convey the urgency with which laws such as this are needed. In reality, neutrality is a position—a position that condones the status quo by not demanding different. It amounts to support for killing. This was bad enough, but it gets worse. Several months ago, I was made aware that Best Friends had called and e-mailed an early and influential supporter of Oreo’s Law—Mike Fry of Animal Ark shelter and Animal Wise Radio—asking him to withdraw their support in deference to ASPCA President, Ed Sayres. In addition, I was privy to several conversations with Best Friends where they stated they would support the law if various amendments were made. Those amendments were made, but Best Friends did not honor the agreements. They also stated that they would support the law if Ed Sayres and Jane Hoffman did not withdraw their opposition after they were told that in exchange for doing so, the bill would be renamed to remove any reference to Oreo. And when Sayres and Hoffman said “No,” Best Friends still refused to support it.

Instead, when queried by rescuers as to where they stood on Oreo’s Law, they responded that they “support rescue access legislation,” even as they failed to actually support it, in Oreo’s Law. But the inherent contradiction aside, Best Friends tried to undermine it behind the scenes by asking Animal Ark and Animal Wise Radio to withdraw their support. Why? According to Best Friends, the bill was nothing more than a vendetta on my part to “get back” at Ed Sayres for destroying the San Francisco SPCA. And Best Friends would not support such a bill.

But I did not introduce Oreo’s Law, did not name it Oreo’s Law, had never met, spoken to, or heard of Assembly Member Micah Kellner before he introduced it, and found out about it after the bill was already introduced. It is true that I disdain Ed Sayres, and no one who has read anything I’ve ever written about him would think otherwise. It is no secret that I think he is a bad, small-minded and hard-hearted individual. But I have come to this conclusion not out of spite, but out of experience. I have judged his actions in relation to his responsibilities and have continually found them to be the opposite of those a man in his position should be taking. He has defended killing and killers throughout the nation, providing them political cover which allows them to remain in their positions and kill even more. Even though he heads the nation’s wealthiest humane society, the shelter in his own community routinely says it is running out of food. And he stated publicly that killing animals is the moral equivalent of not killing them.

In Austin, Texas, he worked diligently to derail the efforts of animal lovers trying to reform a regressive shelter whose director killed animals despite over 100 empty cages on any given day, refused to allow the public to foster animals choosing to kill them instead, claimed she and her staff did not have time to adopt out animals because they were too busy (killing those animals in the back), and withheld treatment and care to sick cats, allowing them to suffer as a vendetta against the City Council which ordered her to stop convenience killing. And when she was finally fired, Sayres called her termination “horrible.” Time and time again, he has taken positions that embrace killing. Time and time again, he has misappropriated donor funds given to save animals to promote their killing instead. Time and time again, he has abused the power he has been given in trust by the American people.

But while Oreo’s Law was sparked by the actions of Ed Sayres, my disdain for him was not the reason I supported it. For one, I supported the Hayden Law, on which Oreo’s Law was based at a time when Sayres also supported it. But more importantly, I supported Oreo’s Law because it would have taken animals throughout NYS out of harm’s way, and placed them in the protective embrace of true animal lovers. Over 70% of non-profit rescue organizations surveyed in New York State stated that they have been denied the ability to rescue animals on death row at their local shelters for entirely arbitrary reasons. The study also revealed a pattern of intimidation by shelter directors throughout that state which forces rescuers to do what is incredibly difficult for any animal lover to do: stay silent in the face of abuse and inhumane treatment at their local shelters or risk losing the ability to save any animals. Oreo’s law sought to right these terrible wrongs and to further the cause which I am pledged to protect: to reform our nation’s shelters and to save the lives of innocent dogs and cats.

Were another Oreo’s Law to be introduced in another state, under a different name, and with a different set of events sparking its introduction—and were such a law to ultimately have nothing whatsoever to do with Ed Sayres or the ASPCA, I would work just as hard to ensure its passage as I did Oreo’s Law, because it is a good law, vital and essential to our cause. In fact, I sent a letter to Sayres offering to disappear, to give him full credit for the law, to have the name of the law changed, if he would withdraw his opposition and champion it. And because we could never bring her back but we could save thousands of others with the law if he removed his opposition, I offered never to mention Oreo again in return.

But I suspect that their alleged concern over my relationship with Sayres is not really why Best Friends asked Animal Ark and Animal Wise Radio to withdraw their support for Oreo’s Law, but rather it was motivated by their relationship with Ed Sayres. Because when Animal Ark and Animal Wise Radio informed Best Friends that this was about saving animals needlessly killed, not about who was or was not supporting it, they balked even though their own survey showed that shelters in NYS were hostile to rescuers, were needlessly killing animals, and that this bill was desperately needed. (Best Friends removed the comments from rescuers, the pleas for help, the evidence of needless killing from their website and erased it from their servers.)

Over the last several months, I have struggled with how to react to these actions: to the knowledge that not only did Best Friends intend not to support a law which could save thousands of lives by empowering the small non-profits rescuers which have always supported them, indeed, made them who they are; but, even more painful, that they had actively worked behind the scenes to undercut support for the bill. Although I was upset at these decisions, I worried that publicly revealing their conduct would place Oreo’s Law in further peril. I calculated that the revelation that yet another large, powerful animal protection organization opposed the law—even unofficially—especially an organization that is seen as “progressive,” might give legislators who were unacquainted with the dysfunctional and broken humane movement one more reason to table the bill.

And so I chose to remain silent, I chose to continue a dialog with Best Friends, hoping that their politically calculated statement in support of “rescue access legislation” might be interpreted as support for Oreo’s Law and hoping that their lack of involvement in Albany would have no impact. But the ASPCA made sure that didn’t happen, telling legislators on the eve of the June 15 vote to kill the bill that groups like Best Friends really opposed the law, but they were afraid to come forward for fear of reprisals from the rescue community. Bresch, the ASPCA’s hired gun in Albany, told legislators to interpret their neutrality as opposition because that was what it really was. And they did. Now, Oreo’s Law is dead for this year, and the opponents of Oreo’s Law have won, effectively issuing a death sentence to thousands of defenseless animals across New York in the coming year.

But then came the second punch in the solar plexus: The announcement right after the vote, that Jane Hoffman, who condemned those animals to death, was invited as a “featured speaker” at the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets conference in October.

And for several days, I’ve sat at my desk wondering what, if anything, I should say about it. The other day I received an e-mail from a rescuer who complained about my silence. She wrote, “Everyone figured you were locked away typing a reply to the shelving [of Oreo’s Law].” And I lashed out: Why should I have to be the one to do it?

I shouldn’t have. I wish I hadn’t. I’ve since apologized. But for the week after the June 15 vote that will cost thousands of animals their lives, I’ve been filled with anger and hurt, and no matter how many times I tried to write about the defeat of Oreo’s Law, my writing always centered on Best Friends. Because what more could I possibly say about Ed Sayres, Jane Hoffman, and Laura Allen? I’ve written 17 articles about their efforts to ensure that animals continue to be needlessly killed. But I’ve never written about Best Friends, how they abandoned us, first by a cowardly embrace of neutrality when the rescue groups and animals needed them the most, and then by a ham-fisted attempt to get Animal Ark and Animal Wise Radio to withdraw their support of the law.

And after staring at a blank screen for days, I’ve written it, rewritten it, set it aside, come very close to deleting it and if you are reading this, finally posted it. But having posted it, having told of Best Friends’ behind-the-scenes lobbying and Best Friends’ refusal to empower the rescue community, how does that change my view of Best Friends?

Do they still run an important sanctuary for animals? Yes they do. Do they still deserve our thanks and gratitude for their rescue of the Michael Vick dogs and other animals? Yes they do. Are there some amazing people there doing great things for animals? Yes there are.

But does Best Friends as an organization aspire to the full potential that they can and should achieve given their size and wealth? Does the leadership believe their rhetoric and live by the principles they claim to espouse? Did they defend the rescue groups and rescuers who made them who they are? Did they faithfully give voice to the voiceless animals in NYS shelters being slaughtered every day despite a readily available rescue alternative? Did they stand up for the thousands of animals who are going to lose their lives because of the June 15 vote? Did they act with honor, integrity, altruism, and compassion in their official and unofficial conduct as it relates to Oreo’s Law? That, they did not. Et tu, Best Friends?

As they prepare another conference pledging to provide the roadmap to a world where there are “no more homeless pets”—a conference I of course can no longer attend—I can’t help but wonder if the lack of discussion of Oreo’s Law, legislation which would have empowered the rescuers in attendance to actually succeed at the endeavor, will be noticeably absent? I can’t help but wonder if the unassailable fact that the very rescue groups in attendance are being routinely turned away by their local shelters and the animals they have offered to save are being killed instead will be addressed? And I can’t help but imagine how Best Friends choosing to remain neutral or the telephone call and e-mails to the contrary would go over with the rescuers in attendance if they knew about it? If it comes up, how will they spin it?

One thing we don’t have to conjecture is the message they will hear from one particular speaker. Because Jane Hoffman who worked diligently to make sure that rescue groups are not empowered, who worked diligently to make sure that shelters are allowed to continue killing in the face of alternatives, and who worked diligently to maintain their unequivocal discretion to kill who they want, when they want, regardless of whether a rescue group can save the animal or not, is very clear about where she stands.

She will repeat what she told attendees at last year’s conference—that shelters have no choice but to kill because of “pet overpopulation.” She will she tell them what she told attendees at this year’s HSUS Expo—that no one should be made to “feel guilty” about that killing. What is less clear is whether anyone will challenge her and make it known that if they wanted excuses for killing and absolution for the killers, they would have attended HSUS Expo instead? What is less clear is whether anyone will stand up and let it be known that if you truly want to end the killing of animals, you need to make it illegal to do so. You need to empower the rescue community. You need to actually commit to the mission you claim to support. And you need to stand up to bullies like Hoffman and Sayres who champion killing.

So what happens now? Where do we go from here?

I believe that the only way forward is to lay bare the forces that contributed to the bill’s demise so that in the next great battle of this war for No Kill, be it the re-introduction of Oreo’s Law in 2011 or similar legislation in another location, we can be better prepared to overcome those trying to hold back our success and the inevitable march of history. For in the end, it is the truth alone, and not our apparently naïve hope that those who have long spoken the rhetoric of No Kill and have financially benefitted as a result, will also have the courage, conviction, and even determination to put concrete action behind that rhetoric when the opposition is powerful and there are costs to be paid for doing so. When large organizations speak in opposition to our cause, even when their statement on the matter is made through silence—when they “simply” choose to remain neutral at a time rescuers and the animals need large groups to stand up for them, they do so with the authority we have entrusted to them with our support. Ultimately, their strength comes from us. When that power is revealed to be inauthentic—when the use of the power we have lent them is misused, we must look elsewhere for true leaders who  will move us courageously forward in spite of any potential personal consequences.

While I was bitterly disappointed at the defeat of Oreo’s Law, while I am hurt by the posturing of Best Friends, while many of you were distressed at the failure to win this important victory for the animals, and while it was important for me to say these things, I am not in despair. Even though we learned that we cannot expect Best Friends to come to the rescue, we will win justice for Oreo and protections for animals yet. We are in a war to win the brighter future for our animal friends that we know to be possible, and as with any war, we will win some battles, and we will lose others. While it is natural to celebrate our victories and mourn our losses, we must not forget that our failures have much to teach us. We must use our defeats as learning opportunities, which, if we heed their lessons, can make us stronger, more effective, and ultimately invincible. While we may have lost this round, we’ve seen where groups and people line up on this issue. Ed Sayres and Jane Hoffman have won a pyrrhic victory because more people see them for who they really are and what they really stand for. This can only serve to weaken them and to strengthen our resolve.

Open any history book, and on those pages you will find the story of our movement: a minority group with a new, more humane vision, seeking to overcome the status quo and the voices of the vested interests which champion them.  Our struggle, in the end, is not a new one. And if there is any justice in this world, it is that those who seek to hinder progress are the cause of their own undoing, even when, in our own time, it may sometimes seem as though they are winning. Hindsight is unequivocal and unforgiving of those who seek to hold back the progress which future generations will regard as self-evident.

So fellow activists, take heart. Not only is history on our side, but so is our size. We outnumber our opposition—a small group of cowering, fearful pretenders masquerading as members and leaders of the humane movement beholden not to the animals they fundraise off of, but to themselves and one another. Try as they might to hold us back, try as they might to maintain their grasp on power and maintain the charade that we all want the same thing, regardless of how many conferences they are invited to as a “featured speaker,” the very introduction of Oreo’s Law on their own turf and the chorus of thousands of voices that supported it in their own backyard prove that while they may have won this battle, they are losing the war.

Time marches in only one direction: forward. Next year, we’ll be back. And, if necessary, the year after that. However long it takes, we will not shrink from this fight. And each time we are called upon to stand up for the animals, we become smarter, bigger, more powerful, and ultimately unstoppable. And whether it is next year or the year after that, or even thereafter, eventually, we will win.

The drumbeat that started as a little patter in San Francisco those many years ago is now beating louder than ever, all over our country. And as we march, we are raising our voices for all to hear: no more excuses, no more compromises, no more killing.

Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light!
For the wretched of the earth, there is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise!

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing, say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!

—————————————

For Part II of this article: Read “The Best Friends ‘Spin’ Machine Goes into Overdrive” by clicking here.

Oreo’s Law T-Shirts

June 21, 2010 by  

Wear your heart on your sleeve and let people know where you stand on Oreo’s Law. Buy an Oreo’s Law t-shirt, coffee mug, or mousepad by clicking here.

All proceeds will be donated to No Kill groups working to reform the antiquated, kill-oriented sheltering practices embraced by opponents of Oreo’s Law.

front

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Click here to go to the online store.

No Hope for the Animals Neglected at KCACC

June 14, 2010 by  

The King County Council today began hearings about a cost recovery proposal for King County Animal Care & Control which will spread the costs of animal control to the individual municipalities and add some new positions in the shelter. The proposal is a response to King County’s budget deficit and to years of scandals which have plagued the agency. Unfortunately, the proposal by the County Executive offers little hope that conditions for animals will improve.

The Honorable Dow Constantine
County Executive and Members of the King County Council
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

Re: Animal Services Cost Recovery Proposal

Dear Mr. Constantine and Members of the King County Council,

I am writing regarding the County Executive’s latest proposal for “reform” of King County Animal Care & Control. I have watched the situation in King County closely since 2007, when I was hired by the Council to do a review of KCACC, and to determine the likelihood that the agency could in fact be reformed.

I was specifically tasked by the Council to determine whether the agency had the competency to run a humane animal care and control program. The answer was a resounding “No.” My findings included,

  • Dismal shelter conditions and animal care protocols, resulting in inhumane care;
  • Continual outbreaks of disease that indicated lack of proper cleaning and vaccination protocols;
  • Animals allowed to suffer for lack of medical treatment;
  • Lack of accountability and transparency regarding shelter policies and practices;
  • Records that were incomplete and/or inaccurate; and,
  • Missed opportunities to save the lives of animals or properly respond to calls for service.

I also found a leadership structure at the shelter unable to both supervise and discipline underperforming employees. In fact, some of the biggest underperformers at the shelter were supervisors — with disastrous outcomes for animals. The full 170-page report is available at http://bit.ly/dmGwPd.

Although the then-County Executive disputed some of my findings, they were affirmed by the U.C. Davis veterinary team he hired, which also found a pattern of neglectful treatment of the animals: http://bit.ly/c4VRiO.

Tragically, the same problems that plagued the shelter when I did my review plagued the shelter ten years prior: animals were not being fed, care was poor, and suffering was the norm. These findings also mirrored the 2007 Citizens Advisory Committee report, and over the past two years have been confirmed by independent reports from veterinarians; regular complaints from the public, volunteers, and local animal welfare organizations; a letter from a whistleblower within the department; independent reports in the Seattle Times; last year’s report by the King County Auditor; and a recent lawsuit filed by attorney Adam Karp. Review after review, assessment after assessment, analysis after analysis, complaint after complaint, have been virtually identical, and virtually unchanged over three years. The stories about suffering, abuse, neglect, and killing are both heartless and heartbreaking.

That is why it is not enough to seek cost recovery if the outcome for the animals is the same. The same people running the same operation will not yield a different result, regardless of who is paying for it, how much they are paying, and how many additional positions are hired. These are people who have allowed animals to suffer despite millions of additional dollars previously allocated by the Council, and after years of recommended changes they simply refuse to implement.

The citizens of King County are generous, compassionate animal lovers. They deserve better. And not only are they are not getting it; they will not with the current plan and the current team—especially as the latter has proved to anyone willing to look at the evidence that they are incapable of running a humane shelter and unwilling to protect animals from cruelty.

Learn more at www.kcaccexposed.org

Building a No Kill Washington

June 12, 2010 by  

Join me this coming Saturday, June 19,  on Whidbey Island, near Seattle, Washington, 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.

There are only a small limited number of spots left. For more information or to register, click here.

Pledge Your Support

June 11, 2010 by  

Please join me in helping raise $2,000 for my team at Animal Wise Radio in support of Animal Ark, Minnesota’s premier No Kill shelter. Thanks to Animal Ark and their partners, Hastings, Minnesota and Prescott, Wisconsin join the ranks of our nation’s No Kill communities.

Animal Ark is also at the forefront of saving feral cats and fighting abusive puppy mills in the state. And their efforts are having a lifesaving impact well beyond their borders. They’ve joined me in support of Oreo’s Law, will be sharing their successes at this year’s No Kill Conference, and are even being called upon to assist shelters as far away from them as Texas.

Help me create a No Kill nation one community at a time. To donate any amount, click here.

Rx for a No Kill L.A.

June 8, 2010 by  

Animals who enter Los Angeles Animal Services often don’t make it out alive. The number of animals dying in the kennels is high. The number of animals who simply disappear is high. And the number of animals who are killed is high and getting higher. Over the next year, internal projections by LAAS suggest that the killing may go up by as much as 50%.

Despite campaigning on a platform to reform animal services as a candidate, this tragic legacy defines the administration of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. And understanding why is the key to reverse this trend. Because rather than focus his attention on a top-down review and reform of the department when he was elected, Mayor Villaraigosa wanted to hire a new director and move on to other things. The Mayor, however, would not be afforded that desired luxury because the man he hired seemed to invite controversy wherever he went.

Ed Boks started his career in Maricopa County, Arizona, where he served as the director of the pound. Despite claiming that he had turned an agency with high rates of killing into a model animal control program very near No Kill, the reality was that he impacted the killing rate a paltry 10%, less than many communities were doing even without No Kill ambitions. By the time he left, Maricopa County shelters were still killing tens of thousands of animals every year and in fact, continue to do so to this very day. In addition, Boks and his team opened up a structural deficit in excess of half a million dollars a year, running the department into receivership.

Subsequent to Maricopa County, Boks was hired to run the pound in New York City. His results were less than spectacular despite promising the community that the City would be No Kill within five years. A few years into his contract, Boks’ Board of Directors unanimously voted not to retain him after a tenure marked by controversy and a department review which found serious gaps in animal care.

Mayor Villaraigosa hired him anyway. The results were predictable: Boks promised to make Los Angeles a No Kill city within five years and failed to deliver. In fact, prior to his arrival, LAAS had experienced a steady decline in killing every year for at least the last decade. But after gaining passage of a deadly mandatory spay/neuter law which gave his team more power to cite, impound, and kill animals not in compliance, that is exactly what they did and more animals were killed (there was also an increase in the number of animals dying in their kennels and simply disappearing). According to the department’s own statistics, during the last year of Boks’ tenure, the number of cats killed increased 25% with 3,000 more of them losing their lives. Dogs fared little better. More dogs were killed and more dogs died while in the department’s custody.

While Boks and other supporters of his deadly law tried to blame the economy, other communities which were harder hit by the recession and experienced greater rates of foreclosures and unemployment nonetheless saw their killing rates decline substantially. In fact, recently uncovered e-mails from Boks also show he knew the law actually reduced the number of animals being sterilized by low-income pet owners because private veterinarians increased their prices as a result.

The Villaraigosa-Boks Legacy

Although Boks resigned after the City Council gave him a vote of No Confidence, his tragic legacy continues. Killing rates continue to increase and officials at the shelter project killing to increase even more—as much as 50% over the next year—with cats the most at risk. One reason is because of the systematic killing of feral cats now occurring under court order in response to a lawsuit by Urban Wildlands that the City lost and chose not to appeal.

When Urban Wildlands and other bird advocacy organizations sued the City of Los Angeles over the department’s alleged Trap-Neuter-Return program for unsocialized free-living cats, the court should have thrown out the lawsuit. The basis for the lawsuit, fueled by hyperbolic propaganda masquerading as “science,” was the claim by Urban Wildlands that LAAS should have done an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act to determine if the cats were killing birds before providing spay/neuter vouchers for feral cats, having information about TNR on their website, and releasing feral cats to nonprofit rescue groups if they request them. The problem is that none of these activities require CEQA review. The City was not doing TNR itself so there was nothing to review; even if the City had been, TNR reduces the number of cats in the community, so there is simply no basis to conclude that it results in more birds being killed as the lawsuit erroneously asserted. Finally, CEQA requires a lawsuit to be filed within 180 days of a City undertaking a “new” program. But the activities Urban Wildlands complained of have been ongoing since 1991 in some cases.

Under siege for many failures and many scandals, Boks and his enablers were in need of victories so they announced “new programs” which did not actually exist, announced initiatives which were never ratified or implemented, and pretended to make progress in reducing shelter killing through TNR by simply wrapping decades-old programs in new language, sparking the ire of Urban Wildlands. (In all fairness, Urban Wildlands would have sued even if Boks initiated a true TNR program in earnest. But that is not what occurred, and now cats are dying for what appears to have been media grandstanding. Moreover, the City has chosen not to appeal condemning cats to certain death.)

As a result, the court ordered LAAS to stop issuing spay/neuter vouchers for feral cats, which it had been doing since 1991; to stop transferring feral cats to rescue groups in violation of state law which the City has been forced to do since 1998; to remove any pro-TNR literature from the website or lobby of the shelter in violation of the First Amendment and other free speech protections; and to stop giving people information about TNR, also in violation of free speech. Right now, any cat classified as “feral” is summarily executed because those with the power to prevent this dangerous and deadly precedent refused to act. (Although the City did not appeal, the No Kill Advocacy Center and Stray Cat Alliance sought to intervene, were denied, but have appealed the ruling. Some groups do care. You can read the brief by clicking here.)

Avoiding The Roadmap to a No Kill L.A.

Los Angeles is now suffering the consequences for years of failure by shelter and city leadership to actually build the infrastructure necessary to save lives and move the city earnestly toward No Kill. But rather than take responsibility and do what the Mayor’s Office should have done from the beginning—a top-down review and remake of the department—a representative of the Mayor’s Office told a local activist and critic that any criticism of the department’s rate of killing is unfair because even I said it would take a number of years to right all the wrongs at Los Angeles City Animal Services. And the truth is I did say that, but within a very specific set of circumstances that are being conveniently ignored. More than that, I made the comment years ago and those years have come and gone. Had the Mayor’s office done what I suggested they do, Los Angeles would be No Kill right now. Instead, it is moving in the opposite direction.

But more specifically, my comments were directed to the internal problems of LAAS; they had nothing to do with population dynamics as the Mayor’s representative intimated in his defense of their handling of the department. Given the potential adopter base, funding, and a low per capita intake rate, a No Kill Los Angeles was and is theirs for the taking because the internal problems were—and sadly still are—a problem of the City’s own creation. If city leaders were working to overcome the internal obstacles preventing a better lifesaving rate, if those within LAAS working against No Kill were no longer there, if the programs and services which make No Kill possible were being implemented, the last years would have resulted in a steadily decreasing rate of killing every year until the deaths of healthy and treatable animals was zeroed out, as has happened in numerous other communities throughout the nation.

Instead, it has been business as usual in many ways, and in others, a deterioration of the safety net. As a result, the killing has been going up every year. But the Mayor’s Office wants the public to believe that, because of a comment made a number of years ago, we can still expect that somehow magically, it will all work out. What the animals need is not magic, but what the Mayor should have been doing and, more importantly, what he can still do now to achieve it: reform the shelter. And he does that, by doing the following:

  1. The City is now looking for a new General Manager to replace Boks. The Mayor should not repeat the mistake of hiring someone with a track record of failure.
  2. The Mayor’s Office needs to quit rubber stamping union contracts so that it can eliminate underperforming employees. The Mayor needs to take authority for negotiating the contract away from the City Attorney’s Office and give it to a new and progressive department general manager.
  3. The Mayor’s Office needs to then fire underperforming employees.
  4. The Mayor’s Office needs to turn supervisory positions into at-will civilian appointees who serve at the pleasure and discretion of the general manager. Union staff overseeing other union staff is tantamount to self-regulation by the union and a recipe for continued underperformance.
  5. The Mayor needs to do a top-down review of the department and see to it that needed policy changes are actually implemented.
  6. The department’s budget needs to be balanced in favor of animal care initiatives by scaling back the bloated bureaucracy within the department and the counterproductive emphasis on punitive enforcement with a mandate to round up and kill animals.
  7. The Mayor needs to ensure that the programs and services of the No Kill Equation are comprehensively implemented.
  8. The Mayor’s Office needs to stop speaking the dead language of blaming the “irresponsible public” as a Mayoral spokesperson continues to do in response to critics. Regurgitating disproven dogmas and the language of defeatism that has been rejected by progressive shelters nationwide since the 1990s is hardly evidence of a commitment to reform. While people surrender animals to shelters, it is the shelters that kill them and one does not follow or excuse the other.
  9. The Mayor needs to repeal his punitive laws and replace them with shelter reform legislation to remove the discretion that allows the department and its staff to avoid doing what is in the best interests of animals and kill them needlessly.

But so far, the Mayor has not done any of these things. That is why a cat entering the pound in Los Angeles today has a smaller chance of being saved than last year. And that is why that cat is expected to have an even smaller chance in 2011.

Right now, there are municipal shelters all across the U.S., some of which are in less affluent communities with lower per capita incomes and higher rates of unemployment, that are saving better than 90% of the animals: in Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, Utah, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Virginia, New York, and California. LAAS has a greater budget per capita than many of them. It has a lower intake rate per capita than many of them. And while these cities are reducing their death rates to a fraction of the Los Angeles rate, in Los Angeles the trend is to more killing every year.

Los Angeles calls itself the city of angels, the city of lights, the city of hope, and the city of dreams. But its animal shelters are none of those things. They should be. And they can be. But that requires a Mayor willing to do the hard work to make those things happen. And so far he is not shown the propensity to do so. The animals and animal lovers of Los Angeles certainly deserve better.