The Inmates Are Trying to Run the Asylum

October 25, 2011 by  

Anti-No Kill crusaders who fought and killed shelter reform legislation last year in Texas that would have banned the gas chamber and ended the killing of animals based on arbitrary criteria such as color, age, and breed are trying to co-opt the No Kill movement in Dallas by using the thoroughly discredited model which the ASPCA tried to force upon Austin, TX causing killing to rise, before reformers there succeeded in fighting them off. Just days after No Kill Dallas was formed (a group which authentically represents the No Kill philosophy and which I support), the Dallas Companion Animal Project was announced to counter it with a quote from me used without my consent, written 10 years ago, taken out of context, and designed to give them a legitimacy they do not deserve. I do not support the Task Force for the reasons stated in this letter to Mayor Rawlings, asking him to remove my name from their website implying that I do.

October 25, 2011

The Hon. Mike Rawlings, Mayor,
and Members of the City Council
Dallas City Hall
1500 Marilla Street
Dallas, TX 75201

Dear Mr. Mayor and Members of the City Council

I am writing to request removal of my name and an attribution made by me, but taken out of context, on the website and Facebook page of Dallas Companion Animal Project, an organization that claims to be “a task force appointed by the City of Dallas to develop a blueprint to guide our community to no kill of adoptable animals.” If it is truly a governmental commission appointed by the City, it is within your power to order the removal as I am not affiliated with the Task Force, do not support the Task Force, and do not believe it is sincere in its effort to end the killing of savable animals at the hands of Dallas Animal Services. My name is being used to give the Task Force a legitimacy it does not deserve for a platform I believe it does not faithfully represent, which is why I would never consent to its use.

In fact, Rebecca Poling, the Chair of the Task Force opposed lifesaving legislation in Texas last year that I authored which would have banned the cruel gas chamber, mandated collaboration between Texas pounds and non-profit rescue organizations by making it illegal to kill animals when qualified rescue organizations were willing to save them, required transparency in how taxpayer monies were spent by requiring shelters to make their statistics public, and would have made it illegal for shelters to kill animals based on arbitrary criteria. In addition, Poling’s tenure on the Dallas Animal Shelter Commission has been marked by staggering neglect and abuse at Dallas Animal Services, which is not only underscored by the fact that the agency routinely and needlessly puts to death tens of thousands of animals every year (24,793 of the 34,399 animals it took in), but allowed a cat to starve to death within its walls, while every single employee looked the other way at his cries for help. In short, you cannot create a true and authentic blueprint for No Kill success by empanelling a Task Force chaired by a person who has no track record of success and who opposes the very approach necessary to end the killing of savable animals.

The quote Poling attributes to me is that,

No Kill may be defined by what happens to the animals within the halls of the shelter, but it can only be achieved by what happens outside of them.

First, this was written over ten years ago before I created the first No Kill community in the U.S. and it was written while I still believed in a supply-demand imbalance between the number of available homes and number of available animals (“pet overpopulation”). But with over 23 million Americans looking to add a new pet to their households every year and only 3,000,000 being killed but for a home, the facts simply do not support the widespread, but now thoroughly disproven notion that there are too many animals and not enough homes. We are suffering from a marketing share problem, which is unquestioningly the fault of shelters.

In fact, since I made the attributed statement, shelters in numerous communities have comprehensively implemented a bold series of programs and services to save lives. As a result, they are achieving unprecedented results, saving upwards of 95 percent of all impounded animals in open admission animal control facilities. Some of these communities are in urban communities, and others are in rural communities. Some are in very politically liberal communities, and others are in very conservative ones. Some are in municipalities with high per capita incomes, and others are in communities known for high rates of poverty. And some are run by municipal shelters and others by private ones with animal control contracts. These communities share very little demographically. What they do share is leadership at their shelters who have comprehensively implemented a key series of programs and services, collectively referred to as the “No Kill Equation.”

The fundamental lesson from the experiences of these communities is that the choices made by shelter managers are the most significant variables in whether animals live or die. Several communities are more than doubling adoptions and cutting killing by as much as 75 percent—and it isn’t taking them five years or more to do it. They are doing it virtually overnight. In Washoe County, Nevada, local shelters began a lifesaving initiative that saw adoptions increase as much as 80 percent and deaths decline by 51 percent in one year, despite taking in over 15,000 dogs and cats.

In addition to the speed with which it was attained, what also makes their success so impressive is that Washoe County shelters are taking in roughly 35 animals for every 1,000 people, higher that the Dallas rate of 29 animals for every 1,000 people. In 2010, 91 percent of dogs and cats were saved, despite an economic and foreclosure crisis that has gripped the region. They are proving that communities can quickly save the vast majority of animals once they commit to do so, even in the face of public irresponsibility. This is consistent with the results in other communities. There are now No Kill communities in California and New York, Michigan and Texas, Kentucky and Virginia, and elsewhere. In Austin, Texas, the municipal shelter takes in roughly 25,000 animals a year but is saving over 90% of dogs and cats. In short, there is no valid reason why Dallas Animal Services cannot do the same if it chooses to.

As such, while my thinking and understanding have evolved, it is clear that Poling’s have not, as she refuses to keep pace with the dynamic and exciting changes occurring in the field of animal sheltering thanks to the No Kill movement she has opposed.

Second, while the quote is technically still true if read narrowly, Poling uses the quote out of context. Even then, I was speaking to the need of the shelter to embrace the community and making them a part of the lifesaving endeavor, with the kinds of programs we tried to mandate in Texas last year through legislation, which Poling opposed.

Third, Poling is using that quote to imply that Dallas Animal Services is not to blame for the killing. This is demonstrably false. And as such, she ignores my more current writing which more accurately reflects my philosophy and beliefs, based not only on achieving No Kill and assisting other communities to do the same, but on almost 20 years experience as a crusader in the No Kill cause fighting against defenders of the status quo, like Poling. In 2007, for example, I gave a community seminar to the leadership of San Antonio, TX. After hearing the City Manager indicate that he would promote a traditional model of sheltering, such as the kind championed by Poling, I told the people in attendance that they faced two choices over the city’s high rates of shelter killing: following the programs model of the No Kill Equation that embraced the community by reforming the shelter, or following the well-worn path of failure of communities like New York City (whose shelter system is still killing savable animals under conditions rife with fraud, neglect, and abuse) that the City Manager was championing. I also told the group that if they embraced the latter approach, the effort would fail. Tragically for the animals, I was right. The number of animals being killed in San Antonio remains staggering. By contrast, in 2006, I cautioned Austin as well. Initially, they also took the wrong road and killing went up 11% under the kinds of models celebrated by Poling (which she even cites by name and links to on the website). Thankfully, Austin officials took note, redirected the focus, replaced the leadership, and embraced the former model. They’ve never looked back. Last month, while Dallas Animal Services was slaughtering animals, Austin’s shelter saved 94%. The month before it was 96%. That is the choice your city also faces.

To save the animals of Dallas, you do not need a Task Force, endless meetings, or even focus groups. The key to ending the killing is already evident. Dallas, Texas is slaughtering animals by the tens of thousands because Dallas Animal Services is not comprehensively implementing the programs and services and culture of lifesaving that makes No Kill possible. To combat this, the Companion Animal Protection Act should be enacted into law. CAPA mandates the programs and services which have proven so successful at lifesaving in shelters which have implemented them; follows the only model that has actually created a No Kill community; and, focuses its effort on the very shelter that is doing the killing. In this way, shelter leadership is forced to embrace No Kill and operate their shelters in a progressive, life-affirming way, removing the discretion which has for too long allowed shelter leaders to ignore what is in the best interests of the animals and kill them needlessly. If you do this, you will be successful. But you will be opposed by the Chair of your own Task Force, and that alone should speak volumes.

Mr. Mayor and Members of the City Council, I could have simply written and asked you to remove my name, but I believe I would be doing a disservice to you, your administration, and the kind and generous people of Dallas if I did not also take this opportunity to explain in more detail why the Task Force, which claims to represent your administration and the good people of Dallas, is going down the path of failure. I urge you, on behalf of not only the animals, but the people who love them, to scrap the Task Force and put your faith in people who truly have the best interests of animals at heart and who would authentically represent the cause of ending their killing. There are over twenty communities across this nation that have ended the killing and they have done so by comprehensively implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. The Chair of your Task Force opposes that model, and it is the animals who are paying the ultimate price for it. Moreover, they will continue to pay the price because the Task Force not only has no real desire to succeed, there is simply no hope that it will under Poling’s leadership.

Very truly yours,

Nathan J. Winograd

Enclosures:

Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America

Irreconcilable Differences: The Battle for the Heart & Soul of America’s Animal Shelters

No Kill 101: A Primer on No Kill Animal Control for Public Officials

The Companion Animal Protection Act

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