It is only February, but already we know who is going to win the 2011 award for historical fiction. The winner is Karen Medicus of the ASPCA. She recently took issue with an article I wrote which took her and the pro-killing ASPCA to task for their failed attempts to sabotage the shelter reform effort in Austin, Texas. In response, Medicus writes that she has always championed No Kill, that the ASPCA champions No Kill, and that Dorinda Pulliam, the disgraced former director in Austin who was forced out after refusing to provide necessary veterinary care to sick and injured cats in violation of state law, was a driving force behind No Kill.
This is historical revisionism at its worst. Pulliam killed over 100,000 animals during her tenure. She refused to embrace foster care. She refused to embrace other programs of the No Kill Equation. She killed despite hundreds of empty cages. And she refused to focus on adoptions, telling a reporter she didn’t have time because her staff was too busy (killing the animals in the back room). And every time Pulliam reached for the needle, killing in the face of alternatives she simply refused to implement, Medicus was there every step of the way legitimizing and defending it. According to FixAustin’s Ryan Clinton,
In an editorial submitted to (but never printed by) the Austin American-Statesman in February 2007, Karen Medicus of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) said that there was no reason to be alarmed by the fact that Austin, Texas’s municipal shelter killed roughly 12,000 pets in 2006 because—in Medicus’s judgment—each animal put to death was not sufficiently “desirable and placeable” to merit an alternative sheltering strategy. She has consistently, vehemently, and unsuccessfully lobbied against calls for meaningful and reasoned shelter reform in Austin.*
That same year, while Medicus was blaming the victims in Austin by suggesting they deserved to be killed because they were too old or too ugly to be worthy of life, her boss at the ASPCA, Oreo’s killer Ed Sayres, was telling the USA Today that killing was the moral equivalent of not killing. Or, as Sayres himself said: “There is no room in this movement for No Kill as morally superior.” Indeed, Sayres’ career at the ASPCA has been marked by fighting reform efforts and insisting on the right of shelters to kill animals even in the face of alternatives.
But why the turnaround from No Kill equals hoarding, from the animals deserved to be killed because they aren’t “desirable,” to the claim that she and the ASPCA always supported No Kill in Austin? The answer is obvious. Now that there is real success, now that Pulliam is out and lifesaving is in, now that 88% of all animals are being saved and No Kill is on the horizon, Medicus and other killing apologists at the ASPCA can’t keep claiming it is impossible. So they need to save face. They need to take credit for the reform effort that succeeded despite of their vehement efforts to stop it. And rewriting their own sordid, shameful history is the the only way to do that.
Medicus, Sayres, and Pulliam certainly deserve each other. But the animals of Austin deserve better. And now that Pulliam is out, and Medicus and Sayres have been relegated to an irrelevancy, that is exactly what the animals are getting: today almost 9 out of ten animals are going home alive. And they are going home alive because reformers won, and the Medicus-Sayres-Pulliam paradigm of killing was defeated. As I stated earlier,
[T]he end is within reach. All the incoming new TLAC director has to do is reach out and take it.
* While Medicus was a vocal proponent of killing, when Pulliam was committing animal cruelty by intentionally withholding medical care from sick cats in order to blame No Kill for warehousing, Medicus was deafeningly silent. This is not surprising as Medicus has often parroted the “No Kill equals hoarding” argument.