No Kill Advocacy Center Seeks to Stop PETA Killing

December 12, 2014 by  

Over 30,000 animals, including a dog stolen from her home, have been killed

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In the wake of the recent arrest of two employees of People for the Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) who stole and killed Maya, a nine-year-old girl’s Chihuahua, the No Kill Advocacy Center (NKAC) has filed a petition asking the Virginia State Veterinarian to revoke PETA’s status as an animal shelter in order to eliminate PETA’s ability to kill animals.

Maya’s theft was not the first time that PETA employees have been arrested over their taking and killing of animals. In a 2007 criminal trial against two other PETA employees in North Carolina, jurors heard testimony from individuals that they turned over animals to PETA after PETA promised to find the animals homes only to learn that PETA killed the animals, in some cases within minutes of taking them, in the back of a PETA van stocked with syringes and lethal doses of sodium pentobarbital. This is not the first time PETA has been accused of taking animals from people under false pretenses and putting the animals to death, thus suggesting that the taking and killing of Maya cannot be dismissed as the action of rogue employees. PETA is using its designation as an animal shelter to deceive the public and acquire animals for the purpose of killing them. It is also using that designation to acquire the controlled pharmaceutical substances used to kill those animals.

NKAC’s petition states that “PETA’s actions potentially violate several state statutes and regulations, including Virginia laws against larceny, mandated holding periods, and VDACS regulations governing euthanasia of animals at animal shelters.”

Since 1998, PETA has killed over 30,000 animals, roughly 2,000 animals a year including kittens and puppies. Like Maya, many of these animals were healthy, but nonetheless PETA killed them without making any attempt to find the animals homes first. Revoking PETA’s status as a shelter would bring such senseless killing to an end and be an important step in protecting the pets, often cherished family members, of the people of Norfolk and surrounding communities.

To read about the theft and killing: http://bit.ly/1pGUQcj

 

For a copy of the NKAC’s petition: http://bit.ly/1zxqE5o

 

For a copy of a surveillance video showing PETA employees stealing Maya: http://youtu.be/hpOyHnvycKE

 

Learn more: www.whyPETAkills.org

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Does PETA Kill Healthy Puppies & Kittens? “Absolutely”

November 9, 2014 by  

On November 6 at the University of Virginia School of Law, I debated PETA’s attorney on the issue: “The Kill Versus No Kill Debate: Which Animal Shelters Are Most Humane?” I argued for a guaranteed right to life for companion animals entering shelters. PETA argued that animals were better off dead. In the interests of full disclosure, I agreed to have the debate videotaped or audiotaped and to make it available to everyone so people could hear for themselves what each side believed and where each side stood on the issue in their own words. PETA refused.

 

As such, over the next several weeks, I am going to post on the fundamental disagreement between PETA, on the one hand, and on the other, myself and what I believe to be the true No Kill and animal rights position.

 

Yesterday, I posted about their call for the mass extermination of pit bulls in shelters. Today, I address PETA’s claim that “no shelter wants to euthanize animals” (including PETA itself, which kills roughly 2,000 animals per year).

 

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Today, an animal entering a shelter in this country has a one in two chance of being killed and in some communities it is as high as 99%, with millions of animals—the vast majority of whom are healthy or treatable—losing their lives every year. The reason for this statistic is as shocking as the statistic itself. In the typical American animal shelter, animals are being killed for two primary reasons: habit and convenience.

They are killed when there are empty cages, within minutes of being walked in the door, without ever being offered for adoption, despite rescue groups ready, willing and able to save them, and despite a whole host of programs and services that would provide those shelters alternatives to killing if only shelters would implement them. Hundreds of American communities with shelters which have embraced these alternatives to killing are now saving between 90% and 99% of the animals proving how unnecessary the killing is and how false the historical excuses used to justify that killing are. Unfortunately, most shelters in this country refuse to follow their lead. Why? Because killing is easy, killing is convenient, and killing has become the default. So why bother with the hard work of implementing alternatives?

To PETA, this is as it should be.

They defend abuse in shelters as long as those shelters are “kill” shelters. They have fought legislation that would have banned convenience killing (when there are empty cages or when qualified rescue groups are willing to save them). They fight efforts to legalize TNR in lieu of killing for community cats. They have told shelters not to foster animals or to work with rescue groups, but to kill those animals instead. And PETA does not just defend the killing that others do, they kill animals themselves.

PETA kills roughly 95% of the thousands of animals they take in and seek out every year while adopting out a paltry 1%, despite revenues of over 30 million dollars a year and millions of animal-loving members. They have killed 29,426 animals in the last 11 years, including healthy puppies like these…

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And this one…

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When PETA representatives have been questioned about this killing, they’ve argued that all of the animals they kill are “unadoptable.” But this claim is a lie for numerous reasons.

Groups and individuals have come forward stating that the animals they gave PETA were healthy and adoptable, including this mother cat and kittens…

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PETA insiders have admitted they kill healthy animals. As the spay/neuter van goes out in the morning to sterilize animals, one of its jobs historically has been to pick up puppies and kittens and other healthy animals people surrender to PETA on the way back at the end of the day and then deliver them to this little outbuilding in the parking lot of PETA’s headquarters.

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That building serves only one purpose: to kill animals. They are taken out of the vans and immediately put to death, their bodies stored in the giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose. It is a freezer that cost $9,370 and, like the company which incinerates the bodies of PETA’s victims—Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater—was paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead.

Moreover, PETA staff have described the animals they’ve killed as “perfect” and “adorable.” And PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk herself admitted they kill healthy and treatable animals: when asked whether or not PETA kills “adoptable” animals, she didn’t hesitate, stating, “Absolutely.”

 

Of course, she qualifies it by saying it is only done “when we can’t find them a home” but then she admits to another reporter that they don’t even try to find homes, telling the Virginian-Pilot,

“We are not in the home finding business, although it is certainly true that we do find homes from time to time… Our service is to provide a peaceful and painless death to animals no one wants.”

Which begs the question: how can people want animals if PETA does not advertise them, fails to make them available for adoption, and kills them right away?

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No Bunny Left Behind

October 31, 2014 by  

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Finding the City of Alameda’s animal shelter is a challenge. As I set out for a meeting there, it struck me as I drove into the parking lot that GPS has probably saved a lot of lives in shelters across the country. It is set deep in the back of an industrial zone, past waste management and other government buildings, down a dead end street. As many shelters across the country are, it was purposely built in the cheapest way, in an out of the way location, to warehouse and kill animals at the lowest possible cost. And once, that is what they did. At one point, refusing to ignore the lack of veterinary care for the animals and unacceptable rates of killing, the volunteers revolted and the city fired them all. But that was another time, another administration, worlds away from where the shelter is today.

By 2010, with rising costs, the City was spending close to $1,000,000 a year running the shelter and was looking to find a way out. Enter the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter (FAAS). Almost three years ago, this group of volunteers put in a bid to take over running it, offering to do it for $300,000 a year. The group fundraises to make up the difference. In all fairness, the City’s police department continues to run animal control field services, but the deal—which the City accepted—nonetheless amounted to a significant savings: about half a million dollars annually. It turned out to be the classic win-win. Today, FAAS saves well over 90% of all animals who enter the shelter. And while there is always room for improvement, on my recent visit, it showed. At the shelter, I met committed staff members, well-cared for animals, and animal control officers coming and going with a smile on their faces, the look of people satisfied with a job well done. As soon as I walked in, someone said hello, asked me if I need help, told me about the 16 white kittens they had, and asked if I wanted to adopt one, all before I had the opportunity to say hello back. What a breath of fresh air.

They are part of a growing number of shelters that have rejected the excuses of why ending the killing 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. While I was at the Alameda shelter, I received this comment on my Facebook page from someone in Petaluma, another city in the San Francisco Bay Area once beset by public acrimony over poor care of animals and high rates of killing (it has been slighted edited for readability):

“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.”

The City of Alameda is living proof.

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Although my meeting was with a human, I met with some kittens, too. The two kittens above are just a small number of the dozens available for adoption. There were dogs of all sizes. And a fair number of rabbits.

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I was glad to see that in addition to dogs and cats, no bunny was left behind

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No Kill Is Love Tour 2014

October 28, 2014 by  

Thank you to everyone who came to one of the dozens of screenings we had around the country for Redemption, my film about the No Kill revolution in America, including the San Pedro International Film Festival where it won the audience award for best film and the Torchlight Film Program at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. The tour took me to Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, Cleveland, Sacramento, Denver, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Austin, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Charlotte, Northwest Arkansas, Albuquerque, Detroit, Chicago, Modesto, Ithaca, Buffalo, Houston, Los Angeles, and Tallahassee. Many people flew to the screenings and others drove over 8 hours to see it. Many of the cities included an after-party, some had live music, others had red carpets, vegan food, a post-film seminar on building a No Kill community, Q&A, and/or plenty of press.

The tour could not have been possible without the help of a lot of people, including those who sponsored events, who volunteered, who helped to promote it, and so much more. A big, deep, heartfelt thank you to all of you, too many to name.

Thank you to Mike Fry and his team at Animal Ark for making the world premier such a memorable event: a stunning theater, live music, vegan food, red carpet, and more. Thank you as well to the cast and crew including Sagacity Productions, Director Russ Barry, Producer Bonnie Silva, Narrator Don Morrow, Composer Sean Hathaway, the activists we interviewed in the film such as Larry Tucker, Ryan Clinton, Valerie Hayes and many others, the many fine actors like Michael Sayers who played the great Henry Bergh, as well as the entire cast and crew, also too many to name here.

But the ultimate thank you goes to the film’s benefactor, Debi Day. Debi’s philanthropy has enabled educating a wider audience about the myths and misperceptions that lie at the heart of shelter killing and spreading the good news that there is a humane, life-affirming alternative to that killing. Thanks to Debi, this film will serve an important role in reaching new people and moving the No Kill revolution towards its inevitable, and hopefully not too distant, victory. I remain grateful for her kindness, her unique and special contribution to our cause and the potential for animals her assistance helps to be realized.

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All told, over 5,000 people in 27 cities saw the film during the tour. 

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People arriving to the world premier of Redemption in Minneapolis. 

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The Minneapolis premier was a family affair.

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“And that laugh… wrinkles your nose, Touches my foolish heart…” Dancing with my wife at the premier in Minneapolis.

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Without Debi Day’s generosity, the film would not have been possible. Here, Debi Day and Marc Claus arrive at the premier in Minneapolis. 

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Minneapolis premier host Mike Fry and his husband George Hamm celebrate the release of Redemption at the screening’s after party.

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On the red carpet at the San Pedro International Film Festival (SPIFF) in Los Angeles.

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Official Selection: SPIFF.

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Redemption won the audience award for Best Film at SPIFF.

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At the State Theater in Austin, TX, one of the communities featured in the film.

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Receiving a proclamation at the Austin screening from City Council Member Mike Martinez naming August 3 Nathan Winograd Day in the City of Austin for my role in helping it become the largest city in America with at least a 90% save rate.

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Attendees in many cities received a free film companion.

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Some cities were modest in size, but the vast majority saw hundreds of people turn out to see the film. Cities like New York City sold out and many people had to be turned away.

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Screenings were held in various venues around the country including performing arts centers, universities, and commercial theaters like this one in Chicago.

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At the Ithaca, NY, premier, one of the cities featured in the film.

Denver

A lot of people helped make the tour a reality and a success. Here, I’m with the team of No Kill Colorado who helped bring the film to Denver.

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I met a lot of great people who are working hard to make a lifesaving difference in their communities.

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One of the many four legged attendees, Amazing Grace survived a Georgia gas chamber and became the namesake for “Grace’s Law” which banned gas killing of dogs and cats in Georgia pounds. Here, she gets a belly rub at the Atlanta screening of the film.

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During the tour, I’ve met some really great “people” including Bridget at the Nashville screening. Two legs, two wheels, all heart.

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The tour was kind to all animals. There was plenty of delicious vegan food at many of the events.

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Food on the road can be sketchy, but thanks to No Kill Maricopa County, in Phoenix I was treated to the Big Wac, the best vegan burger in America.

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It was all part of the 2014 No Kill is Love tour. 

While the tour has come to an end, I’ll announce other film festivals in the coming months, I’ve been invited to screen the film for staff at one of the most influential companies in the U.S., attendees of the national No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C., will receive a free copy, and some time in 2015, the film will be available as a DVD for rent/purchase. Stay tuned….

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An Embrace of SNR, With Caveats

October 23, 2014 by  

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For years, No Kill advocates have been promoting TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release*) for what were termed “feral cats,” cats who live outdoors and are not social with humans. Feral means an animal who has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. This is not accurate for many free-living cats who have been born and raised without human contact. Moreover, the term is used to invoke the false notion that these cats are not part of the natural environment and therefore do not belong there. Thankfully, even as TNR has gone mainstream, the term “feral” has fallen into disuse, in favor of the more accurate term “community cat” or “free-living cat.” But at the same time, community cat has come to encompass a larger number of cats than those once deemed “feral.” Whereas “feral” denoted those cats who are not social with humans, “community cat” makes no such distinction. Any cat without a permanent address, social or unsocial with humans, is considered a community or free-living cat. At the same time as the movement has shifted from feral to free-living, therefore, TNR has morphed into SNR (Shelter, Neuter, Release) for these cats, irrespective of their sociability to humans. Should No Kill advocates support SNR for community cats who are social with humans with the same enthusiasm they supported it for feral cats who are not? With caveats.

For most of the history of animal sheltering in the United States, feral cats who ended up in shelters faced an almost certain death sentence. Without a human address, there was no one to reclaim these animals. Fearful of humans, they were not considered candidates for traditional adoption and were not afforded the opportunity. Combined with the misconception that they disproportionately suffer without human caretakers because some claimed they “belong” in homes, the tragic result has been the execution of virtually all healthy and self-sufficient free-living cats in shelters across the nation. Such killing was the status quo until cat lovers began advocating for the alternative of neutering and releasing them back into their habitats.

In a TNR program—an essential component of the No Kill Equation—free-living cats who are not social with humans and end up in the shelter are neutered and released back into their habitats. The shelter also works with local feral cat caregivers who trap the cats for purposes of sterilization and release. Sometimes, these cats have human caretakers who watch over them and feed them. But often, the cats who end up in shelters are like other “wild” animals, thoroughly unsocialized to humans, surviving on their own through instinct and wit and no worse off because of it.

Once in the shelter, sterilization isn’t the most important variable. The most important part of the TNR equation is the “R,” the functional equivalent of adoption. Through TNR, cat advocates have found a life-affirming way to address the dogmas which the animal protection movement itself created and expounded for decades that have been responsible for the mass slaughter of these cats. Right now, TNR is the most humane option for these cats because it assures their safety and buys them a ticket back home.

Today, many No Kill advocates are also promoting what they call SNR for all community cats, including those who are social with people; in other words, friendly cats who are adoption candidates. The reasons to do so can be compelling. First, some of these cats are not lost. They are outside, but they get lost when they are taken to a shelter. Returning them merely returns them home. Even if they were lost when they were picked up, the likelihood of being reunited with their families is greater for cats if they are allowed to remain where they are rather than being admitted to the shelter. In one study, cats were 13 times more likely to be returned home by non-shelter means (such as returning home on their own) than by a call or visit to a shelter. And another study found that people are up to three times more likely to adopt cats as neighborhood strays versus adopting from a shelter. At the same time, the risk of death for street cats in communities has been found to extremely low, with outdoor cats living roughly the same lifespan as indoor pet cats. In other words, the risk of death is lower and the chance of adoption higher for cats on the streets than cats in the shelter. In a study of over 100,000 alley cats, less than one percent of those cats were suffering from debilitating conditions. As such, SNR meets the two goals of a shelter better than impoundment in a shelter does: reclaim by families or adoption into a new home. In addition, SNR saves lives from shelters which have not comprehensively implemented the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. Where the alternative to SNR is death, SNR, of course, is always the preferred outcome.

But admittedly, SNR for friendly community cats isn’t what we did when I ran an animal control shelter. When they were not reclaimed, we found them homes. All of them. Moreover, if the cats are truly lost or abandoned, shelters should not forget that they have a mandate to help reunite families. Since the choice presented—SNR or death—is a false one, breaking up families by simply releasing animals back on the streets without trying to find their existing home is at odds with that mission. This view loses sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them. And if the family does not show up, if cats are truly without a human home and they are social with people, they should be given one. In fact, the shelter is obligated to find them a loving, new one. That’s their job. In other words, the reason cats are more likely to find their original home or a new one from the streets is because most shelters are run ineffectively and inefficiently, not because people aren’t looking for their cats or homes are not available. Those shelters that do a good job at both have been able to increase—by 20-fold and more—the percentage of cats reclaimed by their families, at the same time that they maintain adoption rates that allow them to save as high as 99% of all cats entering the shelter. If shelters did a better job at being shelters, therefore, not only would they have realized their mission, but SNR would not be the difference between life and death for cats it is today precisely because most shelters are poorly performing.

The bottom line is this: if shelters are going to embrace SNR, rather than guaranteed adoption, shelters should also do several other things: checking for identification, scanning for microchip, reviewing lost cat reports, knocking on doors in the neighborhood, and posting the cat’s photograph online. But that is not what groups like HSUS advocate. It is no surprise that they don’t since they have no experience running a fully functioning, successful shelter and have no idea how to create one. Instead, the only way they know how to save lives isn’t by training shelters to do the job entrusted to them and to do it well, but by telling them that they don’t have to do their jobs at all. By embracing SNR as a first choice, they have found yet another way to do so. Thankfully, this one does not involve killing and so when the choice comes down to SNR or death, SNR should be embraced time and time again. But those do not have to be the only two choices. If we reformed shelters, SNR wouldn’t be the first choice for socialized community cats: redemption and adoption would be. It would and should, however, remain the last, because killing should never be a choice at all.

* While it is popular to use “return” instead of “release,” I believe this is inaccurate unless the term return is considered expansively to include all of the outdoors. If it is not safe to return the cats to the location where they were trapped or picked up, they should be released in another location.

For further reading: The Life of a Wild Cat

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A No Kill Nation By 2005… 2010… 2015… 2020

October 21, 2014 by  

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We’re coming to the tail end of 2014. In two months, 2015 will be upon us. That is the year, according to Maddie’s Fund, that every shelter, in every city, in every county, in every state in the country will be No Kill. In 2015, according to the national organization that promised to “revolutionize the status of companion animals” by infusing “megabucks into every community,” not a single shelter will kill a single healthy or treatable animal. It won’t matter whether the animals are young or old, healthy or sick, unweaned, injured, or traumatized. It won’t matter if they are cats who are not socialized to people or dogs labeled “pit bulls.” Not a single one will be dying anywhere. And we won’t even have had to fight for it. In fact, Maddie’s Fund says we aren’t allowed to stand up and fight for it. That is because “no one wants to kill” and “we all want the same thing” and the shelter director who orders dogs and cats shoved into gas chambers cares as much as you do and the workers who neglect and abuse the animals actually love them. And saying otherwise is just “bash and trash.”

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I don’t need to tell any of you that this is all at best, wishful thinking, and, at its worst, a damn lie. In 2000, shortly after its founding, Maddie’s Fund promised us a No Kill nation by 2005. In 2005, they promised it would happen by 2010. And in 2010, they said 2015. Of course, by the third go around, they stopped guaranteeing it and started to hedge: it became “probable,” they were “bullish” and “optimistic” about it. But the intent was the same: if we wait five years (in New York City, in Los Angeles, and everywhere else), the killing would stop. But here’s the rub: despite 15 years of promises, hundreds of millions of dollars in grants (not all of it for animal causes), and dozens of what they promised would be “game changing” programs that failed to deliver the promised results, they have not created a single No Kill community. Not a single one.

Shelter killing remains the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the U.S. with millions losing their lives every year. And the reason for that statistic is as shocking as the statistic itself. Most animals are being killed in shelters not because there are too many, too few homes, because people are irresponsible, or because people have failed to sterilize their animals. Animals are dying in shelters for one reason: because people in shelters are killing them.

Maddie’s Fund may be maintaining the delusion that No Kill will happen magically a few months from now or they may be planning their fourth “game changing” announcement that it will happen in yet another five years, in 2020, hoping everyone forgets about their prior claims. I don’t know and I don’t care and neither should you. No Kill is not going to happen by pretending that shelter directors who are thoroughly reconciled to the killing and collectively inject millions of animals with fatal doses of poison in spite of readily available lifesaving alternatives do not want to kill or want the same thing as we do. Nor will they magically wake up on January 1 and say to themselves, “Today is the day I will finally stop killing.”

If you want No Kill in your hometown and your local shelter director refuses to implement common-sense, cost-effective alternatives to killing, you are going to have to do what the people in successful communities across the United States have already done—fight for it. Like they did in Austin. And Reno. And Ithaca. And elsewhere. Regardless of what the “experts” at Maddie’s Fund tell you.

Here’s how: http://bit.ly/RB7B5a

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Redemption Wins Award for Best Film

October 15, 2014 by  

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I am happy to report that Redemption, my film about the No Kill revolution in America won the audience award for best film at the San Pedro International Film Festival. When I first announced that the film was accepted at SPIFF, shelter killing advocates (yes, there are such people) contacted the festival and told them not to show it and if the festival did, they would protest. Of course, you don’t tell a festival that focuses on films to censor films, but logic has never been the naysayers strong suit (if they were logical, they would embrace No Kill). This award proves them wrong and proves what I have said all along: my love for animals and your love for animals is not unique. It resides in most people. And because it resides in most people, our job as activists is to give them the information they need to cut through the misinformation about the “necessity” of killing and to give them the tools they need to help bring that killing to an end. When we do so, we’ll have every single one of them willing to follow us into a more compassionate future for shelter animals.

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A lot of people deserve credit for the award including Sagacity Productions, Director Russ Barry, Producer Bonnie Silva, Narrator Don Morrow, Composer Sean Hathaway, the activists we interviewed like Larry Tucker, Ryan Clinton, Valerie Hayes and many others, the many fine actors like Michael Sayers who played the great Henry Bergh, as well as the entire cast and crew, too many to name here.

But the ultimate credit goes to the film’s benefactor, Debi Day. Debi brings to this cause a powerful combination of qualities: means and generosity. Debi’s philanthropy has enabled educating a wider audience about the myths and misperceptions that lie at the heart of shelter killing and spreading the good news that there is a humane, life-affirming alternative to that killing. Thanks to Debi, this film will serve an important role in reaching new people and moving the No Kill revolution towards its inevitable, and hopefully not too distant, victory. I remain grateful for her kindness, her unique and special contribution to our cause and the potential for animals her assistance helps to be realized. Thank you Debi.

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While Tallahassee, FL is the only city left on the roughly 30-City No Kill is Love 2014 tour, there may be other opportunities to see it. We’ve been invited to do a private screening for the staff at one of the largest companies in the U.S. We’ve been invited to other film festivals. And it will be featured at the No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C. (everyone who attends will also receive a free copy of the film and a companion guide). In addition, there is a chance we may be able to screen it in a few other cities. Finally, once all these events are completed, the film will be available for rent/sale on Amazon. Stay tuned…

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When No Kill Isn’t

October 14, 2014 by  

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As the No Kill movement gets larger and more communities improve rates of lifesaving, we need more rigor in defining what constitutes a No Kill community. Elsewhere, I’ve posted why a 90% rate of lifesaving in and of itself does not actually constitute No Kill. Admittedly, I have been guilty of commingling the two—90% and No Kill—and we shouldn’t.

There are, for example, shelters that save over 90% of the animals—in some cases, well over 90%—but still kill healthy and treatable dogs and cats, including community cats who are not social with people. There are, in fact, communities with save rates approaching 98% who still kill healthy and treatable feral cats. Moreover, some communities use coalition-wide rates which can exceed 90%, irrespective of pound rates which may be lower. They also exclude “owner requested killing” and deaths in kennels as doing so reduces even the coalition-wide save rates below 90%.

In addition, there are shelters that save well over 90% of dogs and cats but either do not take in non-dog and cat species (and they shouldn’t if all they are going to do is kill them, but nonetheless leave these animals with no protections of any kind) or, worse, take in and kill rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals. In the 1990s, for example, while the San Francisco SPCA was making progress for dogs and cats and helping spearhead a No Kill revolution in this country, there were no programs for rabbits at the SPCA, the species of shelter animal killed in the third largest number in shelters across the country. There were no programs for hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, and other animals who were still being killed in large numbers (as a percentage of their total intakes) at the San Francisco pound. Nor was there a No Kill guarantee for injured but rehabilitatable wild animals brought to the shelter, such as pigeons even though such birds, if unable to be released safely into the wild, should be adopted out as companions rather than killed. In fact, I share my home with two such pigeons. Because the city pound itself was not interested in putting in place programs to save these animals and efforts to get leadership at the San Francisco SPCA to do so were rebuffed, non-dog and cat species continued—and continue to this very day—to die in large numbers in that city. They still continue to die in other cities where the No Kill guarantee does not extend to every species entering those shelters. It can and it should.

All of these communities have called themselves “No Kill” and they aren’t. The penultimate question is always whether the shelter is saving all animals entering the shelter who are healthy and treatable, rigorously defined.

To call a community that still kills healthy and treatable dogs, cats (including community cats who are not social to people), rabbits, guinea pigs, and others “No Kill” without more because they save 90% of dogs and cats is not only misleading, it may in fact be fundamentally dishonest.

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Redemption Comes to Los Angeles

September 10, 2014 by  

Join me on October 11 in Los Angeles for a screening of Redemption, my film about the No Kill revolution in America.

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Redemption is an official selection of the San Pedro International Film Festival. The film will screen on Saturday, October 11. This will be the only Southern California showing. Advanced tickets are required.

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HSUS Celebrates the Killing of Animals

September 1, 2014 by  

And pays people to eat them.

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Nearly 25 years ago when I decided to dedicate my life to the cause of animal rights, I was faced with an important decision: where to focus my attention? Given my concern for all animals, it was a tough choice and one I weighed very carefully. Should I focus on animals used in research? Animals raised and killed for “food”? Animals in captivity? Wild animals? Both then as now, the list of issues needing attention was a long one and as a young law student at Stanford, I focused on all these issues through the campus animal rights group I founded. But several experiences helped me to answer the calling I eventually chose after graduation: working to end the killing of companion animals in American shelters.

First, I was influenced by a mother who was the neighborhood cat lady. Second, I was fortunate to have life-altering experiences working with two local No Kill shelters while attending law school. Third, I was deeply troubled by the animal protection movement’s philosophical embrace of the killing of companion animals. Finally, I was inspired by the legal and societal precedent-setting potential for all animals embodied in the concern and love most Americans already have for companion animals. As a result, I decided to focus most of my time and energy on an issue which I saw almost no other activists with an animal-rights orientation addressing: shelter killing.

Over the last two decades, that is precisely what I have done. As a former director of two of the most successful shelters in the nation and the current Executive Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, a non-profit organization working to bring an end to the systematic killing of animals in shelters, companion animals are the animals on whom I have focused most of my professional time and energy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the suffering or plight of other animals any less. And that is why I have always lived my life according to a simple ethos: do no harm; a maxim that is reflected in what I eat, what I wear, how I spend my consumer dollars, how I respond to the animals in need who cross my path, and how I am raising my children, among other things. It is also why my wife and I authored All American Vegan, a vegan primer and cookbook that seeks to inspire other No Kill advocates and everyday dog and cat lovers to likewise embrace a compassionate way of eating.

Nonetheless, in spite of these efforts to promote veganism and my long, personal identification as an animal rights activist, some people—often those new to my Facebook page or the cause of No Kill—have certain preconceived notions about who I am or should be, and what I should be allowed to say on my own Facebook page (a form of censorship with which they would no doubt take great offense were similar limitations to be dictated to them about permissible content on their own page). And often, that means not only surprise and frustration but sometimes even anger when I post about other animal related issues that matter deeply to me but do not concern the plight of companion animals.

Sadly, it seems that there will always be a portion of the followers on my page who I cannot please: animal rights activists who accuse me of not caring about other animals beyond dogs and cats simply because I have chosen to focus most of my effort on those animals (a criticism I doubt they would ever make of other animal rights activists focusing exclusively on more traditional animal rights issues such as animal agriculture or fur), and on the flip side, No Kill advocates who attack me for expressing concern about other animals beyond dogs and cats, such as a pit bull advocate who called me an “extremist” for a comment I made on the Facebook page of a No Kill colleague in defense of chickens after other No Kill advocates defended their killing. To the latter group, the fact that I do not wish any animal to experience pain, suffering or a premature death, instead of limiting my compassion to dogs and cats labels me an “extremist.” My response? To thine own self be true.

And that is why when I see the nation’s large, so-called “animal protection” groups—most notably, the HSUS, the ASPCA and AHA—behaving as unethically towards cows and chickens as they have historically behaved towards dogs and cats, I must say so. Not only do the animals these groups are throwing under the bus in deference to those who systematically abuse and kill them deserve a voice, too, but there is value in exposing the hypocrisy and philosophical rot that permeates these corrupt institutions at every level. Often, people want to compartmentalize the malfeasance of these groups: to argue that their different divisions are separate and distinct from one another and that an institutional culture which allows for the thwarting of shelter reform efforts, which defends shelter killing and even celebrates shelter directors who oversee facilities where animals have suffered horrible abuse and senseless deaths, is none-the-less capable of a morally consistent and effective agenda for wild animals, animals abused and killed in agriculture or in other spheres. As several recent campaigns by these groups to promote the lie of “humane” meat clearly demonstrate, not only is this view ill-informed and naïve, but dead wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, Jennifer and I ate at one of the newest locations for a chain of vegan restaurants whose food we absolutely love: Veggie Grill. And like virtually every other time we have eaten at Veggie Grill, we were thrilled to see the restaurant not only packed, but filled with a broad array of people from all possible demographics—old and young, male and female, entire families, businessmen in suits and tattooed hipsters. This popularity is also reflected in the expansion of Veggie Grill which has opened 25 locations since its debut in 2006. With delicious, faux meat sandwiches that mimic the real thing, Veggie Grill is proof positive that if you make it delicious and familiar tasting, vegan food can have tremendously broad appeal, especially among an American public that is becoming increasingly conscious about the animal suffering and killing enabled by their consumer choices.

Perhaps it was this awareness that compelled the pizzeria next door to attempt to compete by advertising itself in two ways. On one side of the door was writing upon the window advertising its wide array of vegetarian offerings. I was happy to see a pizzeria using its meatless options as a possible selling point. But my enthusiasm for the pressure Veggie Grill was obviously placing on the pizzeria was immediately eviscerated when I noted what was written on the other side of the entry door, a statement so oxymoronic as to make my head spin: “cruelty-free meat.”

Although the number of companies that disingenuously refer to their meats, eggs, and dairy products as “humane” has rapidly increased over the last several years, I had yet to encounter such a blatant co-option and misappropriation of that particular term and certainly never before to describe meat. Historically, the term “cruelty-free” has been used to describe products made without animal testing. It was coined by a vegan who never would have imagined it would someday be used to describe animals killed for food. But sadly, as more and more companies scramble to respond to a public that is increasingly weighing the moral implications of their food choices, lies like this are becoming more common. Enabling its spread are corrupt “animal protection” groups such as HSUS, the ASPCA, and the American Humane Association which not only pay lip service to the lie of “humane meat,” but get rich in the process of doing so. There is a lot of money to be made partnering with the people who harm animals, and these groups are feeding at their troughs.

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Case in point: two weeks ago, HSUS unrolled its “Hoofin’ It” campaign, sponsoring a week long event in Denver celebrating the killing and eating of animals. “On Sunday you can get bison; Monday ‘sheep is the star’; Tuesday is pig night; Wednesday it’s cow”.

The catch: HSUS claims they were raised and slaughtered “humanely.” But these claims are untrue by definition. There is no such thing as “humanely” killing an animal who does not want to die, and killing animals is an inherent part of the production of meat, eggs and dairy products, as are confinement, reproductive manipulation, social deprivation, and physical mutilation, all ending with getting their throats slit. Indeed, on the Hoofin’ It website, they boast of some animals being killed—or what they euphemistically call “harvested and processed”—after living only 24-30 months despite a natural lifespan of 25 years. We’re told that the methods they use are important for one primary reason: they make the animals more “delicious.”

 

Not to be outdone, the ASPCA gave money—$50,000 in donations given to them to save animals—to a for-profit company so that they can kill more chickens. And AHA, the long the ignored stepchild of the “big three,” decided to top them all: awarding Foster Farms the American Humane Association’s “Humane Certified” label which now appears on the package of every dead Foster Farms chicken sold in America, in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money and agreement to standards which often do little more than codify cruel industry practices. Like HSUS and the ASPCA, AHA lulls people into a false sense of complacency that supporting a company which abuses and kills millions of animals a year is consistent with a belief in animal protection. And what, exactly, do they mean by “humane”?

  • Does AHA prevent animals from being kept in crowded indoor cages in warehouses? No.
  • Does AHA require chickens to be allowed to go outside, to get fresh air and sunlight, to be able to act in accordance with all of their instincts to ensure their happiness and psychological as well as physical well-being? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit beaks from being cut off? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of masticators—giant machines in which unwanted, live baby chicks are ground up while alive and fully conscious? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit chickens from being hung upside down by the legs and feet (legs and feet that are often suffering from terribly painful joint diseases), being electrically stunned, and having their heads cut off? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the cutting of the teeth of piglets? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit cutting off the tails off pigs? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of electrical shock on cows? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of restraints to forcibly inseminate a cow or a pig? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of a gas chamber to kill despite calling it “inhumane to all animals”? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the castration of newborn calves by a rubber band being placed around their scrotums to cut off blood supply? No.

Finally, under what warped definition of “humane” can a process that ends with animals having their throats slit possibly qualify? The kind where AHA is paid to say it is.

Whether it packaged as “humane meat” or “pet overpopulation,” the idea that killing animals is acceptable if done for the right reasons, by the right people or under the right circumstances are merely different manifestations of the same insidious lie that permeates and hinders the animal protection movement at the beginning of the 21st century: that killing animals who are not suffering can ever be humane. It can’t. It isn’t. And if HSUS, the ASPCA, and AHA are going to claim to speak on behalf of animals and raise money off their plight, then morality and integrity compel them to challenge and stand up to this pernicious idea, not perpetuate it, even if it upsets their donors, their corporate handlers, or the people on their Facebook pages.

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