Beyond the Pale

I have never shied away from controversy because to do so is to accept the status quo. When you dedicate your life to a movement where saving lives is controversial, only an unethical person is uncontroversial.

Thanks to the paradigm of killing created by the Humane Society of the United States’ evil matriarch, the late-Phyllis Wright, and the embrace of that view by the ASPCA and others, foster care programs were called a “sham,” offsite adoptions were labeled “sidewalk giveaways,” TNR was “subsidized abandonment,” No Kill was called a “cancer.” Efforts to reform antiquated and regressive shelter practices were dismissed as “naïve” and “unnecessary” because the “public cannot be trusted,” “no one wants to kill,” “we all want the same things,” and, to paraphrase Wayne Pacelle’s bid to rebuff No Kill legislation in San Francisco last year, shelters have a right to kill animals and should not be mandated to save lives.

For over 15 years, I have reached out to people like Pacelle and to groups like HSUS in the hopes that we could move past these divisions and collaborate on moving the movement toward a humane orientation. They refused to collaborate, accusing me of the very thing they were doing: being divisive. And so I went over their heads to the very top: the people. I wrote a book for them because I knew that they loved animals and if they just knew the truth, if I could just help cut through the fog of misinformation peddled by the Wayne Pacelles of the world, the truth will out. I was right. And a revolution has ensued.

And like with every threat to the status quo, there is push back. A counter-revolution aimed at protecting and defending the status quo. The more successful we are, the harder and more desperate they become. I spent a half hour with hosts Mike Fry and Beth Nelson on Animal Wise Radio this past week where we discussed the great changes sparked by the publication of my first book, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America. And the changes have been great, with No Kill initiatives and, more importantly, No Kill success all across the globe. One community is on pace for a stunning 99% save rate this year.

In the second half of our discussion, we talked about the increasingly personal nature of the attacks on me as a way to sabotage the movement. Initially, the attacks were on the No Kill philosophy itself and on those shelters and communities that were succeeding. In San Francisco, they claimed it was all “smoke and mirrors,” they trumped up false data to prove it, and when that failed, they tried to isolate the success as somehow unique to a very specific set of demographic and geographical circumstances that could not be replicated. They went so far as to say that lifesaving success in San Francisco was because of a large homosexual population and because the City was surrounded by water, an island, preventing an influx of animals into the community. Bizarre, irresponsible, pathetic, to be sure. But the focus was on No Kill itself, the shelter. Oh sure, when I was at the San Francisco SPCA, I was accused of killing animals in the parking lot so they would not count in the statistics because they were not “impounded,” but the focus was on how No Kill was not possible and, even if it was, San Francisco was unique.

But then came Tompkins County and then Charlottesville and Reno and Shelby County and Ivins City and now dozens of communities across the U.S. and across the globe and they can no longer make those arguments. So they have started to attack me personally, a classic case of attacking the messenger when you can’t attack the message.

Their first and primary argument is that I am in league with breeders because I was the first to suggest that pet overpopulation is a myth, a fact now embraced by even the Humane Society of the United States, even though they still use the term. The reality is that the latest data comes from a study commissioned by them (in conjunction with Maddie’s Fund). Are they in league with breeders too?

As proof of my nefarious intent, they cite a website that claims a breeding organization is promoting my first book. The truth is that I have never bred an animal, do not receive any fees from breeder groups, and in many respects, am at odds with positions taken by those in the breeding community. For example, I support laws banning the sale of puppy mill animals from pet stores and, in fact, have proposed to the California Governor’s office that they follow the lead of cities like West Hollywood and Austin by passing a statewide ban, although I’ve suggested a subsequent tax break for pet stores who open their facilities to the adoption of rescue and shelter animals.

I have also held workshops on closing down puppy mills, including the following from No Kill Conference 2009:

Legislating and Litigating an End to Puppy Mills Strategies to overcome institutionalized cruelty. This workshop will explore legal definitions of “puppy mills,” and offer both legislative strategies through anti-cruelty law reform and litigation strategies to combat this institutionalized form of cruelty.

It is not that I don’t support spay/neuter. I do. And when I was in charge of shelters, I supported it more than most shelter directors do. Spay/Neuter is one of the cornerstones of the No Kill Equation and a program I offered for free in both San Francisco and Tompkins County. My opposition to mandatory spay/neuter laws is because they increase the power of the animal control bureaucracy to impound and kill animals for violations, and that is what has occurred in municipalities which pass them. It also causes animal control to divert scarce resources from programs which save lives to enforcement of ordinances that result in higher rates of killing.

Now, even the ASPCA has come out against them for similar reasons stating that, “the ASPCA is not aware of any credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay/neuter law.” (By their logic, the ASPCA must be in league with breeders, too.)

In other words, my opposition is not philosophical. If mandatory spay/neuter worked to save the lives of animals being needlessly killed in shelters, I would support the laws. I would be the single, loudest voice in support of them. I’ve even told supporters that while I would not support them, I would not actively oppose them if they put in protections for animals in these laws, such as exemptions for feral cats, no impound provisions, free spay/neuter in lieu of a citation, and automatic repeal if impounds or killing subsequently increase.

The latest “smoking gun” is that I rent a house from my father-in-law who was once involved in a shareholder lawsuit when he ran a large company years ago. What that has to do with me and why they believe that the actions of my “landlord” are significant to understanding my support for No Kill is beyond me.

To be sure, I find it ironic that those making those allegations include:

  1. Pat Dunaway, an alleged animal abuser;
  2. Ardena Perry, an alcoholic suffering from chronic anxiety who obtained a shelter dog by fraud, drugged the dog, and had the dog killed, earning her a restraining order; and,
  3. The latest Winograd-basher, an Austin, Texas resident by the name of Delwin Goss.

Who is Goss? Goss is, drum roll please, a convicted felon, drug dealer, and drug addict who now allegedly does TNR. But wait, there is more. Goss has been convicted of felonies, not once, not twice, but three times!

Isn’t it ironic that those casting aspersions about my character are an alleged abuser, a dog killer, and a meth dealer?

And now they are being made on a website claiming an association with Best Friends Animal Society. Why? Because I’ve called Best Friends out on their unethical conduct as it relates to Oreo’s Law? I guess the enemy of my enemy is my friend—even when those “friends” kill dogs, neglect them, and peddle poison in our communities.

Desperate and pathetic. Those are the only two words to describe the lot of them.