They Did It Overnight

Porter County, Portsmouth, and Reno

The municipal shelter in Porter County Indiana used to kill roughly 115 dogs and cats per month, young and old, healthy and sick, friendly and aggressive. There were even allegations of cruelty. After firing the long term director and staff, they now kill about 7 hopelessly ill animals or aggressive dogs a month. They did it overnight.

In Portsmouth Virginia, a new director took over the humane society which contracts for animal control services and committed herself to implementing the No Kill paradigm. Killing is down 63% since she took over operations. Contradicting those who say that No Kill leads to overcrowding and animals dying in kennel, the number of animals found dead is down 75% due to better cleaning practices, staff that is better able to assess medical needs, and increased veterinary care. Defying those who say there are too many animals for too few homes, adoptions are up, while rescue transfers have more than doubled. They did it overnight.

In Reno, Nevada, the Nevada Humane Society led an incredible renaissance in 2007 that saw adoptions increase as much as 80 percent and deaths decline by 51 percent, despite taking in a combined 16,000 dogs and cats a year with Washoe County Animal Services. Reno’s success occurred immediately after the hiring of a new shelter director committed to No Kill and passionate about saving lives. They did it overnight.

That is similar to success in mid-1990s San Francisco, Tompkins County, Charlottesville, and many, many others.   And though we would be a No Kill nation today if all communities embraced, rather than vilified the No Kill philosophy, and if shelter directors cultivated the desire and will to do so and then followed through in earnest by comprehensively implemented the programs and services which make it possible, we will not be. Simply put, too many shelter directors haven’t and many simply refuse to. When shelter leadership is entrenched, when local government is indifferent, we need to find the inner strength to press forward despite obstacles and delays.

While we have felony animal cruelty laws giving shelter the power to protect animals from abusive people, we don’t have good laws protecting animals from shelters, and shelter directors often enjoy unfettered discretion to kill and to refuse putting in place programs that prevent killing. We should have those laws, and we should be working furiously toward nationwide comprehensive shelter reform legislation. But until then, in some places where shelter leadership is not committed, where government continues to stall or delay reform efforts, and where the large national groups who legitimize killing are strong, it will take some time. All of the communities which have achieved No Kill success were as bad as any other before they got started. People can’t get discouraged or believe the road too long or too difficult to start.

So while we are impatient with those who choose to use their power for killing, and while our actions and demands should reflect that, as long as we remain vigilant, we must be patient with ourselves; with what we can accomplish to avoid getting discouraged and quitting. To avoid saying “What’s the point? They will never change.” Quitting ends hope. Quitting fails the animals. Because, though it may take time, the power to change the status quo is ultimately in our hands.

No Kill Conference

The nation’s most successful organizations, shelter directors, and animal lawyers are coming together for an inspiring and revolutionary conference to end the killing of animals in U.S. shelters. Learn how to achieve No Kill from shelter directors who are succeeding. Learn how to legislate and litigate for change from progressive animal lawyers. Learn how to reform your local shelters from dedicated activists. Join No Kill advocates nationwide for this ground-breaking event!

To learn more, including workshops and speakers, visit

Please note: To get the “early bird” rate of only $100, you must register by February 28, 2009! Registration includes two full days of workshops, breakfast and lunch both days, free books about feral cats, dogs, and No Kill, and more.

The No Kill Conference is sponsored by the No Kill Advocacy Center, Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie’s Fund, PAWS Chicago, George Washington University Law School, The Peter and Paula Fasseas Foundation, Paws and Claws Society, No More Homeless Pets of Kansas City, Carolyn Saligman, Animal Ark No Kill Shelter, Animal Wise Radio, The No Kill Nation, Fix Austin, Move to Act, Missing Pet Partnership, and Valparaiso University School of Law. Special additional support provided by Animal Farm Foundation, Alley Cat Allies, and the Quincy Hotel.

Welcome Houstonites!

Learn the truth about Houston and find out how you can help end the killing of animals in your community: Visit