Thank You, Mr. President

July 29, 2012 by  

For those of you who have read my blog and other writings for years, it is no secret where I stand politically. That said, I’ve worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle, from very liberal Democrats to very conservative Republicans. My colleagues in the No Kill movement also span the political spectrum. No Kill may be the only true bipartisan issue in America. And that is why I have repeatedly said that when it comes to companion animals, despite all those things that separate us as Americans, people of all walks of life want to build a better world for them. So politics aside, I am very grateful and honored to be acknowledged by former President George H.W. Bush for the pioneering work of my organization, the No Kill Advocacy Center.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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Legalized Torture

July 22, 2012 by  

A gas chamber is one of the cruelest methods of legally killing an animal. Animals are often crammed into the small chambers, piled one on top of the other. When the chamber is then filled with poisonous carbon monoxide gas, the animals inside gasp for breath, feel searing pain in their lungs and often claw at the chamber door or throw themselves against the sides in a desperate attempt to escape.

The practice is still legal in 32 states for dogs and cats. In many states which ban it for dogs and cats—like New York and California—they allow it for other species. Indeed, if you wanted to build a gas chamber to kill animals slowly and cruelly, there was a time when HSUS was happy to show you how—their homemade gas barrels are still in use in some U.S. shelters today.

And though national groups like HSUS have since criticized gas chambers for their notorious cruelty, their professed “opposition” to gassing did not stop them from sending dogs they claimed to have rescued to a shelter that used a gas chamber to kill them. It did not stop them from coordinating the defeat of a 2011 Texas law which would have banned it. Nor did it stop them from giving the pound in Davidson County, North Carolina, an award this month as a “Shelter We Love” that also uses one, killing roughly nine out of 10 animals they take in that way including every “Pit Bull” and “Pit Bull-mix” as a matter of policy.

In fact, Davidson County not only gasses animals, they gas young and sick animals in violation of law. The N.C. Animal Welfare Administrative Code prohibits use of the gas chamber for animals that appear to be 16 weeks or younger, pregnant or near death because it takes sick, younger or older animals longer to absorb the gas, resulting in a slower death.

According to an eyewitness, shelter employees also put animals of different species in the chamber, which is also illegal. Staff put a raccoon in the gas chamber with a mother cat and her kitten in order to sadistically watch them fight before killing them:

The gas chamber has two windows, one on either side. The raccoon and the adult cat started fighting. Then they turned the gas on. The adult cat got on one corner and the raccoon got on the other, and as soon as they turned on the gas, the kitten started shaking and going into convulsions.

For further reading:

Ban the Gas Chamber (No Kill Advocacy Center)

A “Pain” in Their Lungs and Hearts

Gas Chambers We Love

What you can do:

This week, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives condemning the use of the gas chamber and calling for its abolition:

I am pleased to introduce this resolution with the support of several of my constituents to bring more attention to this unnecessarily gruesome practice of using gas chambers to kill shelter animals. I am hopeful that with the continued advocacy of compassionate citizens, we can put an end to this outdated practice.

Though welcome, H.R. 736 is not binding on the states. We must outlaw the gas chamber either locally or statewide. Learn more at Rescue Five-O where you will find a model law that includes language banning the gas chamber, a guide to local political lobbying, as well as a guide to introducing, lobbying for and passing statewide legislation to get such a law passed.

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Their Own Worst Enemies

July 17, 2012 by  

No Kill is the only legitimate standard for animal shelters today. In fact, an argument could be made that it does not go far enough: by allowing for the killing of hopelessly ill or injured animals who are not yet suffering, who are killed in the face of a hospice care alternative, and even aggressive dogs who could lead happy lives in sanctuaries, there are gaps in the safety net. But to argue in the reverse: to argue for the continued killing of healthy or treatable animals is a non-starter. That it is inhumane, unethical and morally bankrupt goes without saying. But it is more than that: it is also irrational.

We create No Kill communities by institutionalizing the No Kill Equation, the series of programs and services which replace killing and which have allowed for overnight success in the many shelters across the country that have already dedicated themselves to that end. Programs that no rational person can seriously take issue with: foster care, offsite adoptions, socialization and behavior rehabilitation, thorough cleaning and care standards, medical care both as prevention and for rehabilitation, working with rescue groups, TNR, pet retention, progressive field services/proactive redemption, marketing and adoptions, and of course, progressive and imaginative leadership. Can anyone with even a hint of common sense or compassion actually say it is better to kill baby kittens than bottle feed them? Kill animals rather than promote adoptions? Kill animals rather than work with rescue groups? Of course not.

To say you are “opposed to No Kill” means you reject foster care in favor of killing, you reject vaccinations and medical care in favor of killing, you reject knocking on doors to get lost dogs home rather than killing, and you reject adoptions in favor of killing. Of course, most of the opponents of No Kill won’t say that. They can’t say that. No one will take them seriously. So they say they are “opposed to No Kill” and hope people don’t ask probing questions. Because if you were to ask, “Are you opposed to foster care?” The answer would have to be “No.” If you were to ask “Are you opposed to adoption?” The answer would have to be “No.” The same is true of each and every program of the No Kill Equation. And when you put them all together, and you implement them comprehensively to the point that they replace killing entirely, you get No Kill.

Second, opposition to No Kill rests on a single premise: No Kill is impossible. In order to defend killing, there can be no alternative. If a life-affirming alternative exists, the defense of killing in face of that alternative is a priori unethical. Today, there are dozens of No Kill communities representing hundreds of cities and towns across America; communities where so-called “open admission” shelters are saving all healthy and treatable animals. For the arguments of those who “oppose No Kill” to make even a modicum of sense, they have to pretend these communities do not exist, because how could No Kill be impossible if it has already been achieved?

Third, even if we were to assume for the sake of argument that they are right, if we assume that not a single No Kill community exists, what difference would that make? None. Instead of fighting efforts to create one, they should be dedicating themselves to figuring out how to bring them into existence. Because the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights, working diligently to achieve No Kill is the most solemn duty of any organization that claims the mantle of animal welfare or animal rights. In fact, no matter what rationale is used to justify the killing, it can never be reconciled with an animal’s inherent right to live. Proponents of “catch and kill” sheltering use “practical” arguments in favor of ending life all the time, such as “Killing dogs and cats is necessary because there are too many animals and not enough homes” or “Feral cats suffer on the streets and therefore killing is the compassionate option.”

Advancing a practical over an ethical argument has long been the safe haven for those who want to justify untoward practice and to make cruelty, killing or oppression seem like the natural order—regrettable but unavoidable; or in Wayne Pacelle’s language: a “lamentable necessity.” It’s dishonest, but oh-so-very typical. Indeed, history is filled with such examples. Early in the movement to abolish slavery in the United States, there were those who justified it by arguing that even though slavery might be a regrettable institution, it was necessary because people of different races could never live together as equals. This was an idea advanced even by so-called anti-slavery societies which argued that slavery should end only when white people summoned the collective will to expatriate every African American living in the U.S. to Africa. Suffragists faced the common argument that while it might seem unfair to deny women the right to vote, it was necessary because women were not capable of making informed decisions without the help of men. They argued that society would be placed in jeopardy were women, who possessed inferior minds, allowed to share in how the government operated. And those who opposed the civil rights movement of the 1960s often argued that they were not in fact racist in denying equal opportunity to people of color, but that differences between races meant that “separate but equal” was the natural order.

Having fully rejected these “practical” arguments which favored discrimination, we now see how faulty and myopic such “logic” actually was. We see how those who advocated for the oppression of blacks and for the disenfranchisement of women were sacrificing ethical principles to expediency—just as those who call themselves “animal advocates” but voraciously defend the killing of animals in shelters as “necessary” do. But just as we now understand that those who defended slavery or opposed civil and suffrage rights did so not in deference to ideals as they claimed, but rather as a means of defending the privileged position the oppression afforded them; So too, do those who defend the killing of companion animals and the agencies that systematically perform it do so not, as they claim, in order to promote the “practical” interests of animals. They do it to defend vested interests in which they have a personal stake. Regressive shelter directors and those at the national organizations which defend them do so because the No Kill movement threatens to expose them as failures. While self-proclaimed animal advocates and vegans which defend the killing and PETA do so not out of a genuine concern for animals, but in order to defend an institution with which they are deeply identified—even when that institution promotes policies that perpetuate rather than lessen the killing of animals and even when the agency itself inflicts upon thousands of animals the greatest form of violence : killing.

Protecting life that is not mortally suffering is a timeless and absolute principle upon which responsible animal advocates must tailor their practices. Every action they take must be subservient to preserving life. And while the arguments in favor of killing are easy to dismiss in this case because they are in contravention of the facts, even if they weren’t it wouldn’t matter as they are arguments that advance expediency over what is the right—and therefore, moral—thing to do. And so they are left with no choice but to lie in order to defend their position: to pretend that No Kill communities which prove that everything they argue is false do not exist, and to perpetuate the fiction that one can be “animal rights” or a person who believes in the fair and just treatment of animals by humans, while at the same time advancing an agenda that denies them their most basic and fundamental right to live. Indeed, what those who oppose No Kill seek for animals, they would never dare openly seek for themselves or other humans. In the case of those who might claim to be “animal rights,” they also perpetuate a double standard between human and non-human animals that the animal rights movement theoretically exists to oppose.

The keys to ending the killing have been discovered. We have the power to end the killing today. And in communities across the country, we’ve done exactly that. When defenders of killing fail to greet that news with celebration by responding with scorn; when they work feverishly to defend the paradigm that has been responsible for so much suffering and so much death in the face of the No Kill alternative; when they lie and slander those who are working diligently to end the killing, they unmask themselves. They prove to the rest of us—and to the animal-loving American public—who and what they truly are. And the conclusion becomes more and more inescapable: those who oppose No Kill are not only irrational, they are cruel and heartless. They don’t love animals. And in demonstrating that publicly with their dishonest defense of killing, they are sowing the seeds of their own demise.

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The Age of Guilt

July 13, 2012 by  

A Facebook follower posted a comment that when she questioned her local shelter, she “was met with nothing short of outrage.” Today, on my Facebook page, I asked whether we should still use the word “lifesaving” or “saving lives” when shelters adopt rather than kill animals. I, too, was subjected to outrage, including a couple of invective-filled responses by shelter staff. Why? Why is the mere act of questioning the assumptions on which the entire paradigm of killing is based subject to such overreaction?

By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd

If you’ve never seen it, watch Martin Scorsese’s rendition of The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton). Not only is it a great movie, one of my favorites, but if you watch it carefully, you’ll see a lot of parallels to our fight for a No Kill nation. Like the social fabric of Old New York, the paradigm of killing that the Humane Society of the United States and others have built is based on nothing substantive. “Old New York” was made up of 500 rich New York families who could trace their lineage back to the original Dutch settlers on Manhattan. It was a very exclusive club to belong to, and tried to be something it was not: European aristocracy. A rigid social hierarchy was created that mimicked the nobility, but because it wasn’t real – that is, there are no real titles in America and everyone was basing status merely on how long their families had been here – it was, in truth, not what it was pretending to be.

In creating the facade, everyone within that social structure had a very specific role to play and very specific ways of behaving in order to create the appreance they were going for. If anyone deviated from their role, questioned its validity, or stepped outside the rigid rules that created the impression they were seeking, they were punished severly by facing expulsion from the group. Free thinking and individual expression were forbidden as they threatened to expose the social fabric for what it really was: a system built on euphemisms, a precariously built house of cards. Just the act of questioning their false assumptions threatened to bring down the facade which afforded these families a privileged position in American society – and so it was simply not allowed.

Likewise, the old-school, traditional sheltering crowd created a rich system of lies and euphemisms to make the killing of animals into something it is not – an act of kindness. We have been told that they are the heroes performing the public’s dirty work when in fact most people care about animals and our shelters are often mismaged houses of horror where animals are routinely abused and neglected. We have been told that pet overpopulation is to blame for the killing when it doesn’t exist. And we have been told that any questioning of these assertions is unfair because “no one wants to kill,” when the facts clearly, and time and again, prove otherwise.

When you ask questions that challenge any of the constructs the traditional sheltering crowd has created to obscure the truth and establish their role as leaders in the animal protection movement, they are deeply threatened. So when you start asking questions, they overreact in order to silence criticism and shut down discussion that might pull back the ugly curtain and expose the hideous truth. Because if they didn’t, they’d be completely unmasked. But in one sense that should give those of us in the No Kill movement comfort. Though the facade they have created appears invincible, it has no solid foundation. It is vulnerable and weak. As Wharton herself wrote, “This was a world balanced so precariously that its harmony could be shattered by a whisper.”

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Why a Vegan Opposes PETA in Norfolk

July 11, 2012 by  

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In 1984, I became a vegetarian. A few years later, after visiting a dairy farm in Austria, after seeing cows chained about the neck, with open festering wounds, I whispered to one of them that I was sorry and never again would I contribute to their suffering. I’ve been vegan ever since. It has been over 20 years. I did it because I love animals.

PETA’s Daphna Nachminovitch also claims to be a vegan. She also claims to have become one about 20 years ago. And finally, she claims she became vegan because “I love animals so much that I stopped eating and wearing them.”

But that is where any similarities end. Twenty years ago, we were both at a crossroads in life. Twenty years ago, we both stopped eating and wearing animals. But we don’t both love animals. That much is clear. Because twenty years ago, I also found out that shelters kill animals, as did Daphna. And that is when we figuratively and literally parted ways for good.

In the summer of 1992, I was living in Wheaton, Maryland, a stone’s throw from PETA headquarters, before they relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Because I love animals, because I did not want to see them killed, exploited, or abused, I became a PETA volunteer. One night each week, I would stuff envelopes for them. And then one day, my roommate, a former PETA employee, found a dog in need of a home. We called him Ray. I asked her why we didn’t just take Ray to PETA. Surely, PETA, with its millions of dollars and millions of animal loving members, would find him a home. But she said No, because PETA would just kill him. Spit take!

That is when I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done, I walked away from them. It is what another PETA intern also did when he saw puppies and kittens in the kill room. He quit in disgust. And after a similar experience I had involving HSUS supporting the round up and killing of feral cats, I committed myself to ending the killing. And whereas I quit PETA after I learned the truth; Daphna joined them in order perpetuate the killing. And she has been killing ever since. And not only does she herself kill animals, she defends others who do.

I once asked the question if Daphna sits back with a contented smile after a long day of work and says to herself, “I had a great day, I caused a lot of animals to die today.” Since she was hired to protect PETA’s ability to round up and kill 96% of animals they seek out, including “healthy,” “adoptable,” “perfect” and “adorable” ones—all descriptions used by PETA employees to describe animals they have slaughtered, is a “good day at the office” a lot of killing?

At the time, I did not know if she herself killed the animals (I do now and the answer is yes by her own admission), but she certainly encourages it, defends it, promotes it and works to ensure that “shelters” across the country keep doing it. And judging by the vehemence with which she does it, it is job she appears to relish. Moreover, given her recent Op-ed entitled “Why a Vegan Opposes ‘No Kill’ Shelters in Norfolk,” I think the answer is pretty clear. In it, she claims that No Kill is impossible, it leads to hoarding, and therefore, cities like Norfolk should not embrace it.

To make her case, Daphna intentionally ignores one fundamental truth that puts the lie to all her claims: No Kill has been achieved. There are now dozens of No Kill communities representing hundreds of cities and towns across America; communities where so-called “open admission” shelters are saving all healthy and treatable animals. For her arguments to make even a modicum of sense, she has to pretend they do not exist. Because how could No Kill be impossible if it has already been achieved? So she lies. That is why the answer to the question posed above has to be “Yes.” A great day for her is when a lot of animals needlessly lose their lives because she is willing to lie in order to ensure the killing continues.

But let’s assume for the sake of argument that she is right. Let’s go back in time to the year 1992, the year I volunteered for PETA, when not a single No Kill community existed, the year I became a No Kill advocate in earnest. What difference would that make? None. As I did then, PETA should now be dedicating itself to figuring out how to create them. Because the right to life is the most fundamental of all rights, working diligently to achieve No Kill is the most solemn duty of any organization that claims that mantle of animal rights.

Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that Daphna is correct and that there are more animals, than homes. Would Daphna be justified in killing the “surplus”? Of course not. No matter what rationale is used to justify the killing, it can never be reconciled with an animal’s inherent right to live. In fact, proponents of “catch and kill” sheltering like Daphna use “practical” arguments in favor of ending life all the time, such as “Killing dogs and cats is necessary because there are too many animals and not enough homes” or “Feral cats suffer on the streets and therefore killing is the compassionate option.”

Advancing a practical over an ethical argument has long been the safe haven for those who want to justify untoward practices. Even accepting the sincerity of the claim, even if the practical calculus was correct, saving life that is not suffering is a timeless and absolute principle upon which responsible animal advocates must tailor their practices. Every action they take must be subservient to preserving life. And while such arguments are easy to dismiss in this case because the calculus is all wrong, even if they weren’t it wouldn’t matter as they are arguments that advance expediency, over what is the right—and therefore, moral—thing to do. And more than that, Daphna knows they are not true. She has lied. And she has lied because she knows her argument would fail if she didn’t.

Read her Op-ed for yourself. I’ve reprinted it here in its entirety, without a single edit, without a single addition or omission, not a word taken out of place or context. But I’ve done one thing. I’ve counted the number of euphemisms designed to obscure, the lies designed to mislead, the material misstatements designed to confuse, and the gross misrepresentations (hereinafter collectively referred to as “lies”). I’ve numbered them. There are over 50 of them, no small feat given that the entire piece consists of only 13 small paragraphs. In fact, she averages about four “lies” per paragraph, and given that the average paragraph was only a few sentences longer, virtually everything that she wrote was untrue.

She writes:

Why a Vegan Opposes ‘No Kill’ Shelters in Norfolk by Daphna Nachminovitch.

It has been almost 20 years. I was young and naïve (1). Who wouldn’t oppose killing? (2)

  • Naive? Try uncorrupted.
  • Who wouldn’t oppose killing? Daphna, Ingrid Newkirk, and everyone else at PETA. In other words, a lot of small-minded, hard-hearted people.

Count: 1 paragraph, 2 lies.

If you’d told me then that I would one day be putting animals to sleep (3), I would have thought you were mad. I love animals (4) so much that I stopped eating and wearing them. I was never going to kill them.

  • Last night, as I do every night, I put my dog to sleep. I helped him onto the bed since he is 13 and has arthritis. I played a little tug of war with him with a toy, careful not to pull too hard as he doesn’t have the same strength as before. Afterwards, I tucked him in and he fell asleep, by my side. This morning, we both got up. By contrast, animals who are killed are not put “to sleep.” Euphemisms obscure the gravity of what we are doing and make the task of killing easier. Once they are killed, these animals can no longer think and feel and run and play and eat and sleep and purr and bark and love and be loved. It is over. Forever. As Bonnie Silva writes in her book, Fifteen Legs, the term putting them to sleep “cannot provide a thick enough gloss to conceal the disturbing, awful truth.”
  • Daphna does not love animals. At best, she is indifferent. People who love animals do not kill them. They do not fight the efforts of those who want to stop the killing.

Count: 2 paragraphs, 4 lies.

When I graduated from college, I took a job at an open-admission shelter (5). Open-admission shelters take in all animals (6). Because there are more animals than people to adopt them (7), open-admission shelters must euthanize in order to make room for incoming ones (8). It’s simple math. If you pick which animals to open your door to, you can relax and declare yourself “no-kill.” (9) But, if you take everyone in – the sick, the injured, the aged, the unsocialized – cages fill up, and hard decisions must be made (10). At first, too clueless to appreciate how heartbreaking those decisions were (11), I condemned the shelter’s euthanasia technicians, who were young women like me. I judged them. I thought, “How can they sleep at night?”

  • A No Kill shelter can be public or private, run by a humane society or by a municipal government. No Kill only means that no savable animals are put to death, roughly 95% of all intakes. And there are plenty of No Kill animal control shelters and thus No Kill communities to prove it. By contrast, an “open admission” shelter does not have to, and should not, be an open door to the killing of animals. In fact, using the term “open admission” for killing shelters is misleading as they are CLOSED to people who love animals. They are CLOSED to people who might have lost their job or lost their home but do not want their animals to die. They are CLOSED to Good Samaritans who find animals but do not want them killed. They are CLOSED to animal lovers who want to help save lives but will not be silent in the face of needless killing. And so they turn these people and their animals away. Even if it were true that so-called “open admission” shelters cannot be No Kill (it is not), “open door” does not necessarily mean “more humane” when the end result is mass killing.
  • There are not more animals than people to adopt them. While Daphna claims it is “simple math,” she fails to provide actual numbers. So here they are: about three million animals are killed annually but for a home, over 23 million people will acquire an animal this year. If we increased the percentage of animals in homes which come from shelters by just 3%, we would zero out the killing. Put another way, even if 80% of people got those animals from somewhere other than a shelter, we’d be a No Kill nation. When shelters keep animals alive long enough to be adopted and market those animals, those animals find homes. And the dozens of No Kill communities which now exist prove it.
  • Killing is a choice. It is a choice made by the person who runs a shelter to take the easy, uncaring and inhumane way out. No Kill is also a choice. It is a choice made by the person who runs the shelter to replace that killing with alternatives. Its success is therefore directly proportional to the commitment that is made to it.

Count: 3 paragraphs, 11 lies.

I was “no-kill.” (12)

  • One does not embrace No Kill and then embrace killing with the vehemence of Daphna. This is a rhetorical device. Create a “straw man” and then burn it down. Clever, but untrue.

Count: 4 paragraphs, 12 lies.

Then along came Candy, a 4-year-old white German shepherd. Reason for surrender: “Landlord won’t allow.” Candy was perfect, and I couldn’t figure why her people chose an apartment over her. After several weeks at the shelter waiting for a home, Candy got kennel cough – essentially a cold but impossible to get rid of without getting Candy out of the infected environment. (13) I found a volunteer to foster Candy to give her another chance at adoption. Then I gave her the highest-visibility kennel, asked everyone I knew if they would take her (I already had a full house), and sang her praises to the moon and back. No dice. When Candy became depressed and stopped eating kibble, I gave her the tastiest canned food I could find. It wasn’t long before she showed no interest in that, either. One day, I saw her spinning mindlessly in circles. (14) It got worse. She would throw herself against one side, then another, and spin again. (15) She was trying to cope with confinement. (16)

  • Kennel cough is very easy to treat. It is also self-limiting, meaning it can clear up on its own without any treatment.
  • Dogs do not spin mindlessly in circles or throw themselves on the side of cages as a matter of course. If this happens, it means the shelter is neglectful, refusing to provide meaningful socialization and exercise. It means only that Daphna and others at this poorly run shelter provided inadequate care; that she was not able to find Candy a home, assuming Candy really existed, means only that she was lousy at adoptions and should have been fired.

Count: 5 paragraphs, 16 lies.

The shelter ran out of room, and foster homes were full. (17) My manager told me that I had to let Candy go to give other dogs a chance. (18) I asked to stay with Candy when she was euthanized. (19) I took her out for a last romp. I kissed and hugged her and cried into her fur. (20) I told her I was sorry for what she had been through, that she deserved better, that she was going somewhere where she would never be abandoned or caged. (21) I made sure she knew someone loved her as she drifted off. (22)

  • The number of foster homes is directly proportional to the effort put in. It is not a fixed number imposed on the shelter from outside. This is also true of adoptions. At the Nevada Humane Society, adoptions have doubled and the number of foster homes has increased by the thousands? Why? They care. And they have skills. In other words, they are good at what they do.
  • Candy did deserve better than death. And she was not going “somewhere where she would never be abandoned or caged.” She was going to the landfill or crematory, sent there by someone who had no business working at a job she was incapable of performing humanely.
  • As I said, people who love dogs do not kill them. And they certainly do not use the wholly unnecessary and preventable death of a dog to condemn millions of others to a similar fate.

Count: 6 paragraphs, 22 lies.

It was crushing to see Candy die, but there were unexpected lessons learned. (23) The technician was patient and tender, and I was ashamed for having felt so superior. (24) “No-kill” sounded great, but there was no magic wand to make homes appear out of thin air. (25) It was cruel to keep animals caged forever. (26) If no one wanted wonderful dogs like Candy, who would take those who were even less adoptable? (27) I resolved to be there for the animals who hadn’t known a kind word until they came to our shelter. (28)

  • It was not “crushing” to see Candy die, because when something is crushing, you do not do it again. You do not fight to give shelters the right to continue doing it in the face of lifesaving alternatives. You do not call for all dogs who look a certain way, such as the PETA’s campaign for mass extermination of pit bulls, to face a similar fate. You do not fight for it when it comes to free-living, unsocialized (feral) cats. You do not write letters to city council members and Mayors urging them to reject the efforts of activists trying to reform cruel and abusive shelters. All of which Daphna has done and continues to do.
  • It should go without saying: people who refuse to kill animals are ethically superior to those who choose to kill them.
  • It is true that there is “no magic wand” to adopt your way out of killing. But there are ten decidedly unmagical and proven things to do so. They are summarized in the No Kill Advocacy Center’s guide to “Adopting Your Way Out of Killing.”
  • Plenty of people are willing to adopt animals with impediments. It is the shelter’s job to tap into the public’s inherent compassion and love of animals.
  • The first time many animals experience neglect, abuse, and violence including killing is at the shelter which is supposed to protect them from it. Daphna merely perpetuates, not ameliorates, that neglect, abuse and violence.

Count: 7 paragraphs, 28 lies.

In the U.S., 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters annually, and about half are euthanized. Despite this sobering statistic, some rabid advocates of the deceptively named “no-kill” movement deny that there is an animal overpopulation crisis! (29) Tell that to the 200,000 or so animals who were left at Virginia’s animal shelters just last year. (30)

  • For too many years, the killing of millions of animals every year in our nation’s pounds has been justified on the basis of a supply-demand imbalance. We’ve been told that there are just “too many animals, not enough homes.” In other words, pet overpopulation. It is true that when it comes to animals needing homes in “shelters,” there is a supply-demand imbalance, but it runs in the other direction. The data and experience notwithstanding, some people continue to cling to the fiction that pet overpopulation is real. They do not have evidence to support it. They do not have data or analysis. They have no idea how many available homes there are (the demand side of the equation) as opposed to how many animals are killed but for a home (the supply side). Aside from a hopeless tautology (Because shelters kill, there is pet overpopulation; there is pet overpopulation because shelters kill), it is received wisdom, where data, analysis, experience, evidence have no place.
  • I would tell that to the 200,000 or so animals in Virginia, but I can’t. Daphna and her friends have killed them.

Count: 8 paragraphs, 30 lies.

Today, in Norfolk, a few armchair activists (31) have bent the ear of several councilmembers in an effort to push “no-kill” policies onto Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center (NACC). We’ve seen this before: In 2007, “no-kill” took over NACC. (32) The result? Severe crowding, animals dying in filth without veterinary care or the dignity of euthanasia (33), wretched public relations, complaints to the mayor, and citations by the State Department of Agriculture. Thankfully, the city hired a credentialed sheltering professional – the “no kill” advocates’ nightmare – who turned things around, making today’s NACC a safe and clean place for animals while raising adoption rates and working to educate the source of the animals: our community! (34)

  • Because I am one of those pushing for Norfolk to embrace No Kill and have reached out to both the Mayor and City Council, I can only assume she is accusing me of being an “armchair activist.” But it is safe to say, I am hardly that. I’ve worked with two of the most successful shelters in the nation and have consulted with dozens more, helping them achieve unprecedented lifesaving results. As Director of Operations for The San Francisco SPCA, I oversaw a shelter which adopted out about 5,000 animals a year, sterilized about 9,000 a year, and had a full service animal hospital that provided care to about 30,000 patients a year. I had a dozen veterinarians and behaviorists working under me and about 150 employees. In Tompkins, I oversaw a shelter that took in roughly 3,000 a year and provided full service animal control to ten towns and municipalities. I’ve consulted with shelters all across the country including those that take in as many as 30,000 per year, rewriting policies, hiring managers, doing top-down assessments, implementing programs. I’ve analyzed capacity for a shelter as the expert for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I’ve done consulting work for cities across the country. I’ve also written two books on sheltering, one of which has sold over 100,000 copies. And I’ve written local, state, and federal legislation to protect animals.
  • There is no “dignity in euthanasia.” Daphna ignores that what she seeks for animals, no one would dare openly seek for themselves or other humans even though PETA has mislead people into thinking they seek equal rights for animals. She ignores that no matter what the context and all through history—in Cambodia, Germany, under the Taliban, in Serbia-Croatia, in Rwanda, as in Darfur—despite the savagery, people cling to life, they cling to hope, and none of the survivors (and none of their rescuers) would suggest they should have been “humanely euthanized” by their liberators. To suggest such would perpetuate the violence and abuse. While cruelty and suffering are abhorrent, while cruelty and suffering are painful, while cruelty and suffering should be condemned and rooted out, there is nothing worse than death, because death is final. An animal subjected to pain and suffering can be rescued. An animal subjected to savage cruelty can even become a therapy dog, bringing comfort to cancer patients, as the dog fighting case against football player Michael Vick shows. There is still hope, but death is hope’s total antithesis. It is the worst of the worst—a fact each and every one of us would recognize if we were the ones being threatened with death. And it is an arrogant abuse of our power over defenseless animals to think it is our right to make such a determination for them.
  • No Kill did not take over the Norfolk pound; incompetence did. No Kill does not mean poor care, hostile and abusive treatment, and warehousing animals without the intentional killing. It means modernizing shelter operations so that animals are well cared for and kept moving efficiently and effectively through the shelter and into homes. The No Kill movement puts action behind the words of every shelter’s mission statement: “All life is precious.” No Kill is about valuing animals, which means not only saving their lives but also giving them good quality care. It means vaccination on intake, nutritious food, daily socialization and exercise, fresh clean water, medical care, and a system that finds loving, new homes. At the open admission No Kill shelter I oversaw, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of less than two percent, we reduced the disease rate by 90 percent from the prior administration, we reduced the killing rate by 75 percent, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and we saved 93 percent of all impounded animals. In short, from 2001 to 2004, we brought sheltering into the 21st century.
  • HSUS functionaries who peddle 19th century killing solutions are not “credentialed sheltering professional[s].” They have never created a single No Kill community and, like PETA, refuse to acknowledge they exist. They are dinosaurs in their field, who celebrate failure. The Davidson County, North Carolina shelter, for example, kills 9 out of 10 animals. It kills them in one of the cruelest ways possible—by gassing them to death. It also kills animals illegally and sadistically, putting different species into the gas chamber to watch them fight before they are killed. So what did the “credentialed” “professionals” at HSUS do? They give them an award, calling Davidson County a “shelter we love.” HSUS and PETA are cheerleaders for killing and cruelty. That is the No Kill advocate’s nightmare.

Count: 9 paragraphs, 34 lies.

A few new councilmembers later, here we go again. People who only took in about 30 animals last year (NACC took in 6,234) are pushing their modus operandi, and it will set us back badly. (35) The words “no-kill” sound politically appealing, but they are just words without substance and without a solution. (36) If councilmembers want to work with the professional sheltering community to end homelessness, let’s do it right. (37) Let them pass a law requiring a permit to breed dogs and cats and ban pet shop sales as long as animals in shelters go without homes. (38) Euthanasia (39) is a tragic symptom of a problem that we can solve together – through prevention, not rhetoric. (40) That’s why PETA has spent millions on spaying/neutering in Hampton Roads, sterilizing more than 80,000 animals for low to no cost. (41)

  • How would PETA know how to end killing? They’ve never done so and in fact do not want to. Killing is their goal. By contrast, I have. As have dozens of others. If you want to be successful, you follow the model that has been successful.
  • You can’t neuter your way out of killing. No community ever has.
  • It is not “euthanasia,” it is killing, which is often preceded by neglect and abuse at shelters.
  • We solve killing by not killing. We keep animals happy and healthy in shelters by implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. We solve the “problem” by firing neglectful, abusive, incompetent and uncaring directors and employees. And we continue it in perpetuity by passing laws that give animals in shelters both the right to live and the right to the programs of the No Kill Equation.
  • PETA spends money on spay/neuter because they do not want people to share their lives with animals. To PETA, sharing your life with a dog or cat is nothing more than a master-slave relationship which they want to spay/neuter and kill out of existence: “Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles—from our firesides, from the leather nooses and metal chains by which we enslave it.”

Count: 10 paragraphs, 41 lies.

The “no-kill” advocates inevitably end up at the wrong end of the mathematical equation, to the taxpayers’ and animals’ detriment. (42) Despite nationwide “no-kill” failures, (43) proponents still push reducing services, keeping needy animals out of shelters by restricting intake hours, charging high admission fees, having waiting lists for admission, and transferring animals to unscreened “rescues” (rescues make up a quarter of the estimated 6,000 new hoarding cases reported in the U.S. each year). (44) They promote impulse adoptions, fail to screen adopters, leave cats on the streets to die slowly without veterinary care or comfort, and worse. (45)

Count: 11 paragraphs, 45 lies.

This is a complicated and emotional topic; (46) it has been easy for the small “no-kill” faction (47) to create confusion based on overblown tales of rescues, along with a chasm of omission, and to con well-meaning people into blaming shelter workers for the very crisis that they have dedicated their lives to ending. (48) No animal shelter can end that crisis without help. (49) You can make a world of difference for homeless animals and the people who refuse to turn their backs on them by making sure that our shelters are open to all and that kindness governs, (50) as well as by pressing for sensible laws that stop the flow of unwanted animals into our community. (51)

Count: 12 paragraphs, 51 lies.

For my part, I’ll always remember Candy, who languished until her spirit broke. (52) And Nudge, a tabby rescued from the “no-kill” Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary in South Carolina after 10 miserable years among hundreds of cats stored like shoes in stacked boxes. Nudge was named because she nudged anyone who finally paid attention to her, and thanks to PETA, she found a loving home. (53) Not as fortunate were Lilly, who died in agony at the “no-kill” Caboodle Ranch in Florida (its owner has been barred from acquiring animals), and Malcolm, an old, sick Chihuahua transferred by New York City’s municipal shelter to a “no-kill sanctuary” called “Angel’s Gate,” where he was caged and left to die alone, unable to stand. That agency won’t make the same mistake again, and neither should Norfolk. (54)

  • She forgot about Candy and stopped caring about her the moment she poisoned her and sent her body to the crematory.
  • PETA might have found Nudge a home, but if they did, it was the rare exception as PETA slaughters 96% of all the animals they seek out, most for the express purpose of putting them to death.
  • First and foremost, PETA is not sincere. Even if these cases are as Daphna says they are, they would condemn the same conduct when it occurs in kill shelters. Instead, they defend those agencies. Here’s my 196-page report on conditions in Houston (I was hired by the city health department to assess the agency): http://bit.ly/cgeTD7. PETA defended the agency, telling city officials not to listen to me. In Seattle, this is what I found when I was hired by the County Commission: http://bit.ly/dmGwPd. (The shelter was not happy with my report and said I was biased/making stuff up. So they hired UC Davis to do an assessment. It reaffirmed my findings: http://bit.ly/c4VRiO). Yet, PETA also defended the agency, calling me and others who suggested reform, “radical” and encouraged legislators not to listen. To PETA, as long as there is “intentional killing,” nothing else matters. By contrast, I have never defended abuse and neglect, just because a rescue group calls themselves “No Kill.” In fact, their conduct is the other side of the same coin as shelters that recklessly kill the vast majority of animals in their care in the face of responsible, proven lifesaving alternatives which they refuse to implement—In other words, run-of-the-mill high kill shelters such as those that can be found in many cities and towns across America. While the mechanics are different—the ones that call themselves “No Kill” didn’t kill but left the animals to suffer and die on their own, the others simply kill them out of expediency—the underlying dynamic is the same: both shelters are outdated relics that refuse to modernize and put into place progressive programs and services which allow sheltering to be done humanely, responsibly, while saving the vast majority of dogs and cats. That some claimed they were “No Kill” is irrelevant. In the final analysis, they have more in common with high kill shelters and the leadership and staff who run them.

Count: 13 paragraphs, 54 lies.

There it is. So we have to ask the question, what is motivating her? What causes her to lie? Why the defense and promotion of killing, given a lifesaving alternative that now exists and has been proven to work across the country? In short, why kill animals who have a loving home to go to? It is safe to say that she is motivated not by “love” or even a corrupted version of “love.” As I’ve said, people who love animals do not kill them. Instead, the answer goes back to the nature of political death cults, of which PETA appears to be an archetypal example. Daphna is not only part of that cult; she is one of its staunchest adherents. As experts on cults report, cult members live in desperate need of the attention and approval of their cult leader. Daphna does what she does to please Ingrid Newkirk and win her approval and for no other reason. And because of that, it is impossible to reconcile her claim to “love” animals with her nearly rabid promotion of their killing.

It is also impossible for me to reconcile her claim to being vegan, with her support of killing not just cats and dogs—animals PETA is trying to drive to extinction—but the killing of wildlife and even chickens, which PETA has also done. And that makes the conclusion inescapable: Daphna is not a vegan in any meaningful sense of the word. And so even the title of her Op-ed, like most everything else in the piece, is nothing more than a lie.

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Louie, Louie

July 10, 2012 by  

What would you do if you see a cat on the street? Would you:

  1. Call animal control, agencies with a history of mass slaughter, as HSUS has historically recommended
  2. Round him up and kill him, as PETA would do
  3. If you live in NYC, take him to the ASPCA, give them a donation, and then let them pocket the money before they take the cat to the abusive New York City pound to be killed
  4. Take him to the pound yourself, where AHA has taught staff how to restrain and inject him with poison
  5. Give him lots and lots of love?

Of course, if he is truly homeless/in need, you open the door and let him in or find him a home. But if he is just hanging out, the answer is number 5.

Meet Louie. A little cat who crossed our path on a walk.

Leave no chin unscratched. Leave no head unpatted. Leave no belly unrubbed.

A Revolution in Sheltering

July 1, 2012 by  

I’ll be offline for awhile as I try to finish up some projects. As we celebrate Independence Day across the nation, I’ll leave you with some excerpts from one of my recent keynote addresses at the annual No Kill Conference:

The year is 1776. It is a time in world history when nations were governed by a privileged few. A few great thinkers dared to imagine something altogether different: a more compassionate society, a democracy, the ability to end injustice through self-rule as codified in law. Our forefathers fought a war for these ideals, and once the war ended, they sought to institutionalize those ideals with laws—great change, a revolution, codified in law.

It is a legacy that is at the core of who we are and how we effect change: a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Our system of government was designed not only to solidify the ideals of the American Revolution, but to change with the changing times. As envisioned by James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, “In framing a system which we wish to last for ages, we should not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce.”

No matter what the issue is: the fight for democracy as epitomized by Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams; the abolition of slavery as epitomized by William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass; the struggle for women’s suffrage as epitomized by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the great Alice Paul; civil rights as epitomized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk; an end to child labor as epitomized by Lewis Hine; or disability rights as epitomized by Justin Whitlock Dart, Jr. and Richard Pimentel; all these movements culminated in the passing of laws.

The goal was not to get promises and commitments that we would strive to do better as a society. The focus was always on changing the law to eliminate the ability to do otherwise, now and for all time. 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. Because without legal rights, one’s fate is contingent on who the election official is, who the restaurant owner is, who the mayor is, and in our case, who the shelter director is.

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 despite readily available lifesaving alternatives 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 shelter reform legislation which removes the discretion of shelter directors to ignore what is in the best interests of animals and kill them…

I am not a religious person, but that does not mean I am a man without faith. The faith I hold is in the remarkable capacity of my fellow humans for change and compassion. As a species we aspire to do better, to be better. We want to leave the darkness of the cave and come into the light. And when someone comes along who illuminates a path towards that light as the figures in history did for our ancestors, history vindicates us because we follow them into a brighter future.

I understand that my love for animals and your love for animals is not so unique as we’ve been led to believe. It resides in most people. Most people want to build a better world for animals. And they are waiting for us to show them how, to give them the means to do so. In our movement, the battle is not against the many, but the few; those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Right now, a small handful of people—the regressive directors in our nation’s kill shelters and the heads of the large national organizations—continue to hold us back. They hold us back from the great success we could achieve and the millions of lives we could save if only we find the courage to stand up to them together: loud, unified, uncompromising, demanding legislative changes that would put an end to the ruling power of the pretenders in our midst; that would force them by the rule of law to no longer kill or allow others to kill the animals they are pledged to protect.

We, the people in this room, the rescuers and reformers nationwide, and all animal-loving Americans outnumber them by the millions. As a movement, we must stop deferring to leaders who fail us and the animals time and time again. We must summon the determination to begin this vital process and the fortitude to challenge those who would dare hold us back. That is our mission and our challenge for the coming decade. And that is our most urgent and solemn duty.

As you move confidently into that future, prepared to meet the challenges, ready to fight when that is what the situation calls for, your allegiance never wavering from the animals, know that you are not alone. Know what was once called “impossible,” and then “improbable,” is now “inevitable.” To see what the future holds requires nothing more than a motivating backwards glance to see that you are truly standing on the shoulders of giants. We are continuing the struggle to build a more perfect union. And we’ve already come so far.

At this bright new dawn, let us seize the day…

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