The Jewels in Oakland’s Crown

July 20, 2015

Joaquin Miller sad_Layout 1_0001

Over 400,000 trees in the Oakland and Berkeley hills and surrounding corridors will fall to the chainsaw, including Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, Monterey Cypress, and Acacia. Habitat for owls, squirrels, raccoons, and many other animals will simply be wiped out and thousands of gallons of toxic herbicides made by Dow and Monsanto—including those found to be toxic to wildlife, cancerous to humans, to destroy the kidneys and liver of dogs, and when cruelly tested on animals, resulted in rats being born with their brains outside of their skulls—will be applied in wildlife habitat, near people’s homes, in dog parks and other recreational corridors. Why? To satisfy the personal prejudices of native plant ideologues who believe these trees don’t belong here and thus want to turn forests which provide habitat to hundreds of thousands of animals into “grassland with islands of shrub.” Although all four species of trees are scheduled for clear-cutting, proponents of deforestation hold out a special hatred of Eucalyptus. The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a hit piece, vilifying Eucalyptus. The article is ignorant in its conclusions, arrogant in scope, and a great disservice to Oakland’s citizens, residents of the hills, the wild animals who make the Eucalyptus groves their homes, the dog walkers, cyclists, hikers, and others who seek out the majesty and beauty of the trees to recreate, and to the great historical legacy of men like Joaquin Miller who planted them and Robert Sibley who bequeathed them in perpetuity for future generations.

Click here to read “The Jewels in Oakland’s Crown: In Defense of Eucalyptus Trees,” the article by my wife and I in The Huffington Post.


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How To Be a Superhero for Animals

July 14, 2015

There are many ways to help save the lives of animals in shelters. The newest guide from the No Kill Advocacy Center, “How to Be a Superhero for Shelter Animals,” offers you 10 powerful ideas. When others won’t save animals; you can always, Do It Yourself!

To view, download, or print the FREE guide, click here.

The No Kill Advocacy Center is big on empowering the grassroots. For some inspirational ideas and resources to help you, visit the Superhero page of the website by clicking here.

Want to get inspired? Watch a film of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and ending the killing of animals in their community by clicking here.


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Michigan 2014

July 2, 2015

What An “Average” State Shows us About Sheltering in the U.S.


Tsubuki, one of the little critters available for adoption at the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter. UPAWS has made Marquette, MI, a No Kill community.

Michigan’s 2014 statistics were released yesterday for reporting shelters. In many communities, lifesaving is up, up, up. There are new communities saving 95% or better of the animals and a fair number of cities saving 97%, 98%, even 99%.

Chippewa County, for example, saved 98% of dogs and 98% of cats in 2014 and adopted out the one pig who ended up at the shelter. As I have said before, pigs are people, too. The City of Madison Heights saved 99% of dogs, 98% of cats, and all the ferrets. Midland County saved 99% of dogs and 98% of cats. Alger County saved 100% of dogs and 99% of cats. The Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS) which serves Marquette is one of the shelters highlighted in my documentary film, Redemption, about the No Kill revolution in America. It saved 100% of rabbits, 100% of guinea pigs, 98% of dogs, 98% of cats, and 94% of “pocket pets.”

Tragically, some “shelters” don’t deserve the name. Detroit Animal Control killed over 70% of all dogs and cats and the majority of other species. Kalamazoo County Animal Services killed more cats than they took in: taking in 1,378 and killing 1,391. They certainly do not, as their name falsely implies, provide any real “services” to cats or the people who love them.

Like other aspects of American society, shelters in Michigan are broken down into camps: the “haves” and “have nots” and some in the middle. But the difference between those succeeding and those that are failing isn’t about money; it is about their commitment to saving lives. Those that want to are saving animals in record numbers. Those that don’t are killing. Many are just “average” shelters killing an “average” number of animals, which is, given the still low industry standard, a lot of animals (compared to the best performing shelters, though admittedly better than it has been historically). How to change that? And what would it take?

Michigan shelters are saving about 6.5 of every 10 animals. They need to save three more to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. By implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, they would be able to increase reclaims, save “feral” cats, and reduce impounds by keeping animals with their responsible caretakers. Then they can focus on adopting out the remainder. How many more? They just need to reach less than 1/2 of 1% of Michigan residents. It is theirs for the taking.

For those shelters that do not want to change, the same way every social movement in American history has and does: 1. Advocacy 2. Legislation 3. Litigation.

Some other items of note:

  • None of the reporting shelters sold live animals for research. (The practice of shelters doing so should be banned nationwide.)
  • The vast majority of reporting shelters do not seem to provide any sheltering services to rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, and other non-dog/cat species. Only 36 of the 132 reporting agencies (27%) took in any animals besides dogs and cats and many of those only took in one or a few. It is worth noting that when you look at the overall numbers killed, perhaps the rabbits and others are the unwitting lucky ones. The reporting shelters killed 17,950 dogs and 24,623 cats, compared to 706 non-dog/cat species. We need to first reform shelters to make them the save havens they should and can be. Of course, while I have long maintained that “shelters” should not take in animals if all they are going to do is kill them, that need not be the choice.

In the next few days, Michigan should also report totals, including the percentage of shelters which reported as the overall number of reports is down (somewhere in the neighborhood of 66% of shelters by my back of the envelope calculations). About 132 agencies reported, which is less than the roughly 165 or so that reported in years past and represented about 83-84% of the total. When the comprehensive tally comes out, it will give us a better grasp of what progress Michigan has made, how many animals are still losing their lives, and what it would take to end the killing altogether.

In the meantime, here are the rough/preliminary numbers I came up with based on what was already released: Michigan’s reporting agencies took in about 58,550 dogs and killed 17,950, a save rate of 70%. They took in 63,706 cats and killed 24,623, a save rate of 61%. They took in 2,400 other animals and killed 706, a save rate of 70%. Overall, the save rate was 65%, about the national average.

The data for individual communities will be crunched and updated to and will include not just dogs and cats, but all animals who entered the shelters because ferrets, pigs, rabbits, and other animals matter, too.


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PETA Joins Hunters in New York to Declare Open Season on Cats

June 30, 2015


PETA has once again shown its true colors, this time aligning itself with a hunting organization in order to promote the round up and killing of community cats. As New York State legislators this week were debating whether to provide funding for sterilizing “feral” cats in lieu of killing, two groups came out in opposition: the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council and PETA. One wants to hunt down and kill animals and PETA, well, they also want to hunt down and kill animals. The only difference is one shoots; the other injects with poison.

Since its inception, PETA has advocated for the round up and killing of homeless cats. In 1995, for example, over the objections of cat lovers pushing for a sterilization program, the Mayor of Miami Beach pushed a plan to trap and kill cats. PETA sent a letter to the Mayor applauding his decision. The Mayor, however, had also decided that kittens would be turned over to a rescue group for socialization and adoption. But PETA took issue with this part of the plan, arguing that all the cats, including the kittens, should be taken to animal control and “euthanized by sodium pentobarbital injection.”

More recently, the Pima County, AZ, Board of Supervisors were voting last year on whether or not to reduce the killing of “feral” cats by implementing TNR at the shelter. As the local news reported, “Saving thousands of cats from being euthanized every year sounds like a good idea, but a well-known animal rights group is completely against it.” PETA told legislators that the cats were better dead then fed and urged them to continue rounding up and killing them.

When they are not advocating that community cats should be killed, they are killing them themselves. In 2014, PETA took in 1,605 cats at its Virginia headquarters and killed 1,536 (a kill rate of 96%). They transferred another 43 to kill shelters where they were either killed or displaced others who were killed. That would put the cat kill rate as high as 98%. They found homes for only 16, an adoption rate of 1%.

Thankfully, New York legislators ignored PETA. They voted 188 to 11 to pass the bill and send it to the Governor. Pima Supervisors also ignored PETA, embracing sterilization in lieu of killing. As to PETA killing animals themselves? Virginia lawmakers voted 130 to 3 (over PETA’s objections) to require private shelters, which PETA claims to be, to work to find homes for cats.

Please note: I do not criticize PETA because of what they are thought to stand for (animal rights), but because of what they actually do stand for (animal killing). I criticize them because they “do not advocate right to life for animals” (as Ingrid Newkirk herself has written), because they kill over 90% of the animals they take in, including healthy puppies and kittens, and because they also advocate that they be killed by others.

In the early 1990s, I was living in Wheaton, Maryland, a stone’s throw from PETA headquarters, before they relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Because I love animals, am vegan, and did not want to see them killed, exploited, or abused, I became a PETA volunteer. 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, that was a very bad idea, because PETA would just kill him. 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.

Learn more by clicking here.

Learn why by clicking here.


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They Did It; So Can You

June 27, 2015


In 2010, operating under the old adage that if you want something done right, do it yourself, a group of Alameda, CA, shelter volunteers banded together and told the City that they could not only run the shelter better (i.e., save more lives), they could save the City money in the process. They submitted a bid to run the shelter and got the contract. After 126 years of running the shelter, the City turned it over to the volunteers. In 2014, the shelter saved 92% of cats and 98% of dogs. You can read the inspiring story by clicking here. In Palm Springs, CA, under similar circumstances, the shelter now saves 95% of the animals. And in Petaluma, CA, a similar group saved 94% in 2013 and claims an even higher save rate in 2014 (See

“We figured out how to save over 97% of ALL our animals in an open admission city pound. By doing so, we have tons of donations, tons of volunteers, and tons of happy adopters. We run out of animals! In my experience, animal advocates arguing that we ‘have to kill’ animals (followed by the usual excuses…) is false… Kill shelters are on the way out. Modern, high achieving shelters are going to make sure of that.”

They are part of a growing number of shelters—run by newly formed groups—that wanted the shelter run right and decided to do it themselves. They have rejected the excuses of why ending the killing of animals is impossible, of why things have to be done the same way year after year, of why there is no choice but to accept the deadly results. And they are not alone. Similar examples exist in other states.

You can do it, too. Here are sample copies of their bids to take over the shelter for you to use and modify:

Other approaches to saving lives in the local shelter include waging a political campaign for reform, passing a law that requires shelters to save more lives, or making sure that the person running the shelter is compassionate, effective, and hard working.


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