July 19, 2013 by Nathan J. Winograd
No Kill Conference 2013 brought together animal lovers from 45 states and 11 countries to the George Washington School of Law in Washington D.C. The most successful shelter directors, animal lawyers, shelter veterinarians and shelter reformers nationwide shared insights and strategies to end the systematic killing of animals in our nation’s pounds and shelters. The attendees heard from directors of open admission shelters with save rates of better as high as 99%. They heard from lawyers who have passed laws making it illegal for shelters to kill animals in a wide variety of contexts and who have successfully saved the lives of animals who shelters were determined to kill. They heard from veterinarians who are pushing the envelope and saving animals who would have been considered non-rehabilitatable just a few short years ago. And they heard from reformers who have succeeded in passing laws to end the needless killing of animals in their community. In the keynote address, I welcomed attendees, shared our movement’s successes, described the increase in No Kill communities throughout the United States and indeed the world, and laid out the vision of the conference: The No Kill revolution is on the march.
Welcome. You are among friends here. And they are all available to you to share in this great revolution that is taking place in communities across the country. Here, you will find directors who are saving nine out of ten animals entering the shelters they oversee. They have heard and rejected the excuses of why every community can’t do the same. Here, you will find animal lawyers who are litigating and legislating an animal’s right to live. Here, you will find animal activists who are challenging the killing in their communities and winning. Here, you will find shelter veterinarians who are saving animals who would have been labeled “non-rehabilitatable” just a few, short years ago.
A little more than a decade ago, No Kill was a dream. There was not a single No Kill community. Today, animals in roughly 500 cities and towns across America are cared for by shelters saving between 90% and as high as 99% of animals. In 2012, more than one new community per week crossed that threshold. The No Kill revolution is on the march.
This weekend, we will celebrate that achievement together. Because here, you will also find a reflection of yourself. People who share your values, who believe—as you do—that killing animals is never an act of kindness, when those animals are not suffering. Beyond celebration, our goal is to give you the tools to create similar success in your own hometown.
It doesn’t matter if you are a shelter director, a volunteer, a rescuer, an activist, or you define yourself simply, as animal lover. If you have a commitment to making No Kill a reality in your community, you will succeed. You just have to give yourself permission to try.
Every year at the No Kill Conference, I use my keynote to remind people that our movement is not unique. I use my keynote to highlight people in history who have made great changes. Using their example to shine a light on what we can accomplish in our time and in our own movement. People like Martin Luther King, champion of civil rights. People like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the voice of women’s suffrage. The great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. I remind people that they, too, faced great obstacles. That they, too, faced an entrenched and powerful status quo. That they, too, were beset by doubt and insecurity. That destiny played no role. That they made a choice. And in making that choice, they changed everything. I use their example to inspire attendees to make the same choice.
This year, we don’t need to look back. We don’t need to reach back to other causes in history. To a time when it looked hopeless and then someone came along who changed everything. Because this year is different. This year, we have many examples in our movement.
No longer do we have to look for inspiration from history to people who faced similar challenges and succeeded. We now have people we can look to who faced the exact challenges we face and overcame them. Not just one or two or even a dozen, we now have hundreds. People like…
Christie Banduch, who took over a city pound with a 4% save rate. A pound where 96% of all animals were killed. Thanks to Christie, they now save 92%.
Holly Henderson, who never ran a shelter. She took over Chippewa County Animal Control in Michigan, a shelter beset by killing and public acrimony. Thanks to Holly, they now save 95%.
Josh Cromer, who also never ran a shelter. He took over an animal control shelter beset by one excuse after another as to why No Kill was impossible. He finished his first year with a 95% save rate, a save rate he deemed “not good enough.”
Cheryl Schneider, who took over a county shelter serving 15 towns and cities; a shelter notorious for poor care of animals, which cost them their lives. She finished with a 94% rate of lifesaving.
Denise Jones. When officials announced they would start killing again after four years as a No Kill shelter, her rescue group stepped in to save the animals. To prevent similar crises in the future, she became the shelter’s animal control officer and didn’t waste any time. As part of her training for the position, she attended a mandatory “euthanasia” training class. When she saw they were going to practice on healthy cats, she stood up and said, “No.” Instead, she brought them back to her shelter for adoption. In addition to those cats, Shelby County finished the year with a 99% save rate.
Mitch Schneider, who didn’t believe No Kill was possible. But he was willing to try. Despite a per capita intake rate four times higher than Los Angeles, five times higher than San Francisco, and 10 times higher than New York City, Reno, NV saved 94%. This is their story:
In these and other communities, shelter leadership led the charge. But in many communities, shelter leadership is the problem. And it requires others to stand up. Others like…
Ryan Clinton, who knew you did not have to be in a position of power to be powerful. He stood up to a regressive pound director, to a city bureaucracy that kept saying “No,” to others who stood in his way. Austin, TX takes in 23,000 animals a year. It now saves 92% of them. This is their story:
Peter Masloch was an animal lover who learned about the No Kill movement. He also learned his shelter was not No Kill. In fact, it had an 85% rate of killing. One day he marched in and boldly announced, “There will be no more killing in the shelter!” and proceeded to make it come true. Allegany County, MD saves 94%.
Michael and Pam Kitkoski have a lot to smile about. Since the shelter was not doing the job, they decided they would. Rockwall Pets has one main job: find homes for the animals of the Rockwall, TX shelter. The city is averaging a 96% save rate per month.
Sabine Smith-Stull attended the Conference last year and started a rescue group determined to save each and every orphaned puppy in her city and succeeded. Then she took over the old county shelter. Todd and Patti Rumsey just wanted to walk dogs at their local shelter. They found themselves in the director’s crosshairs, the Mayor’s crosshairs, and PETA’s crosshairs because they stood up to the killing. The director told them if they didn’t back off, they wouldn’t be allowed in the shelter. Thanks to them, that regressive director is now gone. Todd and Patti are still there.
Every day, roughly 10,000 animals are killed in U.S. shelters. On June 11, Mike Fry asked shelters and rescuers across the nation to come together and adopt them out instead for Just One Day. And they did.
This dog was all smiles as she found a new home.
Orphaned kittens normally scheduled for death were saved.
Rabbits were saved.
Roanoke, VA emptied its cat cages.
Boone County, KY emptied its dog kennels… From the large and confident, to the small and timid. Sometimes one at a time. Sometimes in groups of two. Over 12,000 animals were adopted. June 11, 2013 was perhaps the safest day for animals in shelters in U.S. history. 1,200 shelters and rescue groups came together. Adopters welcomed a new family member. The incinerators remained shuttered. And the morgues stayed empty.
It was a celebration of life for animals like this little dog who danced his way into a loving, new home.
Meet Bob, Allison, Ellie, Brian, and Valerie. Before anyone knew a No Kill community was possible, before they had a practical answer as to how you stop the killing, they knew the killing was wrong and they set out to do something about it. In the process, they created the first No Kill community.
As you saw, before I arrived, the shelter in Tompkins County was typical of most shelters in the country: it had a poor public image; it killed a lot of animals; and it blamed the community for doing so. Once there, I announced the lifesaving goal to the community and asked the community for help. People from all walks of life volunteered, inspired by the goal and eager to assist. Many people adopted animals: some walked dogs, others socialized cats, veterinarians offered their services at reduced rates or free of charge, business owners offered free products as incentives to adopt. I was not timid about asking for help, and most people were incredibly generous and eager to assist. The goal of ending the killing of animals in the shelter became a community-wide effort. The people of Tompkins County opened their hearts, homes, and wallets. And overnight, by harnessing that compassion and changing the way the shelter operated, Tompkins County, New York, achieved No Kill.
It didn’t matter whether they were young, old, blind, deaf, or missing limbs. They were all guaranteed a home, and they all found one. The most amazing thing was that I didn’t have to convince anyone that this was a good idea or a worthy goal. The people of Tompkins County were ready and willing to make it a reality as soon as I got there. They just needed someone to tell them it was possible and to show them how to do it.
What can we accomplish when we give ourselves permission to try?
We can go from a 4% save rate to 92%. We can erase one day’s worth of killing across the entire U.S. by adopting out over 12,000 animals in a single day. We can go from no No Kill communities to one; from one to hundreds; from hundreds to a No Kill nation. We can successfully arrive at the brighter future we are striving for. On the road we paved that led there.
For the next two days, you will learn from the speakers as to how they did it in their cities. You will also learn how you can do it, too. Not just some of you, but all of you…
You can and you must. Because despite the No Kill movement’s great and increasing success, there are still tremendous gaps. There is still a lot of killing. There is much abuse. There is great suffering. And the animals need a champion.
They need YOU. And when you give yourself permission to stand up, the way those who I have exemplified here have done, it gives others permission to do the same. When you summon the determination to begin this vital process, others will be inspired by your example and they will stand up with you. One will become two. Two will become four. And eventually you will become unstoppable. If you are an activist, they will join your fight for a No Kill community.
If you are a shelter director or rescuer, the public will rally to your cause: they will adopt, volunteer, foster, donate, and more.
When a Pennsylvania shelter asked the public to help them save 200+ cats and kittens with FeLV and FIV. The public said YES.
When a Florida shelter with a capacity of 375 found itself with 750 animals due to a hoarding bust and asked the public to help them empty the shelter the good way, the public said YES.
When an open admission shelter in New Zealand asked the public to help it end the killing overnight, the public said YES, allowing it to triple adoptions and finish the year with a stunning 99% save rate.
When an open admission shelter in Australia asked the public to help them save every motherless baby kitten, the public said YES.
When an Indiana shelter told the public it would stay open until no one was left in the building, they lined up in droves. The shelter stayed open until 10 pm and adopted out 153 animals in one day.
When you stand up, they stand up. So stand up:
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, we are vindicated because collectively we follow them into a brighter future. That someone is YOU.
Together, we will prevail. Because we will not stop…
Until every animal…
In every city…
In every shelter…
Finds their way…
[Some portions of the keynote were omitted.]
Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.
Here is my story: www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=11902
And this is my vision: http://vimeo.com/48445902