Part I: The Year in Review

“No army can stop an idea whose time has come”

Power to the People. That is the how 2010 can be summed up. We did not have the ASPCA’s $130 million in revenues. We did not have HSUS’ $110 million budget. We did not open a New York City fundraising office and take in over $40 million like Best Friends did. And we did not have the $300 million in assets that Maddie’s Fund does. But we, the people, accomplished something that they did not in 2010 and, in fact, have never done. We achieved success. We created No Kill communities.

We achieved a No Kill community in Marquette, Michigan. We achieved a No Kill community in Hastings, Minnesota. We achieved a No Kill community in Prescott, Wisconsin. We achieved a 91% save rate in Reno, Nevada despite the highest unemployment rate in the nation. We reduced the killing by over 70% in Georgetown and Wilmington, Delaware. And we repeated the No Kill achievement in many communities, such as those in Kentucky and Virginia. And that is not all.

We got New Zealand to embrace the No Kill Equation. We successfully passed shelter reform legislation in the State of Delaware. We not only ousted a draconian director responsible for killing over 100,000 animals, we stewarded the unanimous passage of a No Kill ordinance in Austin. And more.

We did those things. Us. Everyday animal lovers lacking big dollars and the support of big organizations. We did those things in spite of opposition from the ASPCA and HSUS. And we did it without any of the large, well-funded national groups that have the hubris to proclaim they are the voice of the movement, that they lead us. Even as they fail while we succeed. And even as they hoard their millions, while we fight for the animals at often great personal cost.

Despite the tremendous success of last year, 2010 was also the year of staggering betrayals. It was the year HSUS completely embraced Michael Vick, the most notorious dog abuser of our generation, and sabotaged No Kill in San Francisco. It was the year Best Friends showed itself willing to sacrifice 25,000 animals a year and the trust of the rescue community for money. It was the year Alley Cat Allies refused to support a bill that would have saved the lives of countless feral cats and kittens in NYS shelters in deference to a friendship with one of the legislation’s chief opponents. It was the year that Maddie’s Fund continued to parrot the fiction that New York City was a national model even as rampant neglect, cruelty, and illegal conduct in the city shelter dominated headlines and the suffering animals there cried out for a champion.

When the animals needed them, the people—the grassroots—came through. And tragically, yet again, the large moneyed organizations did not. In the process, we learned who our real friends were—which groups the animals could truly count on to champion their best interests—and which groups were willing to sell those animals out for more pedestrian interests: money (as in the case of Best Friends), cowardice (as in the case of Alley Cat Allies), heartless uncaring (as in the case of HSUS and the ASPCA), and allegiance to the disproven antiquated notion that community collaborations hold the key to success even as existing success by others born of standing up to those who defend the status quo and their own lack of success despite ten years and $100,000,000 prove them unequivocally wrong (as in the case of Maddie’s Fund).

Although no gain could justify the betrayal, the cruelty, and the killing which the animals suffered, there was a silver lining. After years of trying to reform the large national organizations, we learned we can achieve success without them. We also learned who the real leaders are: You. Me. Us. And this has strengthened and emboldened our resolve. Because rather than show allegiance to organizations, even when those organizations betray their mission (and the animals in the process), we fully rejected old dogmas that once defined the paradigm under which we all operated. We held accountable those individuals and organizations which claim to represent the interests of animals but who, in reality, have very different motives and allegiances. We fully and unequivocally rejected their excuses. And we fully accepted—though not always without heartbreak—the bitter reality that many of the emperors in the humane movement have no clothes.

Here is a month by month look at the highlights and lowlights of a heartbreaking but also incredible year.

January Lowlight: After killing Oreo, an abused dog, Ed Sayres made it his personal mission to kill Oreo’s Law which would have saved 25,000 animals per year needlessly killed in NYS shelters while the rescue groups willing to save them are turned away. The fight to save those animals would dominate much of the year and definitively show that the large national groups cannot be counted on to stand up for the animals.

February Highlight: After an expose showed that a West Hollywood pet store was getting their dogs from puppy mills and then lying to the public about the source, the City of West Hollywood, CA voted to ban their sale. There is an exception for animals from rescue groups and shelters to encourage greater cooperation between public and private, the kinds of relationships that have saved countless animals in other communities.

February Highlight: The economy continues its tumble in Reno, Nevada with foreclosures reaching all-time highs and unemployment among the top in the nation. As tent cities begin dotting the landscape, the Nevada Humane Society steps in to provide food and medical care for tent city pets, showing why Reno leads the pack and the kind of compassion and “can do” attitude that allows it to finish the year with a 91% rate of lifesaving despite a per capita intake seven times the rate of New York City.

March Highlight: The Delaware SPCA, which runs two animal control shelters in Delaware announces that killing has been reduced by 70% since new leadership took over and began implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. The save rate hits 80% after the new Director oversees an 80% turnover in staff.

March Highlight: Austin, Texas No Kill advocates fight one of the most ruthless and draconian shelter directors in the nation, a person who presided over the deaths of over 100,000 animals during her tenure, even as she refused to implement common-sense, readily-available lifesaving alternatives. The City Council unanimously embraces their No Kill plan setting a 90% save rate as their goal and imposing a moratorium on convenience killing (killing when there is space in the shelter), despite her objections and that of her patron, the ASPCA.

March Lowlight: The Butcher of Norfolk strikes again. Ingrid Newkirk’s dark impulses are revealed in all their barbarism as the State of Virginia releases PETA’s killing rates for the year. Of 2,366 animals they sought out, only 8 are adopted. Newkirk and her cult devotees put 97% of them to death.

March Highlight & Lowlight: Showing the best and worst in animal sheltering, a cat in Houston and a cat in Reno climb a power pole and in both cases, the local shelter is called to help. Houston refuses, letting the cat get electrocuted trying to come down.Reno says yes, rescuing the cat and saving his life. Not surprisingly, Reno has a 91% save rate. Houston shelters are little more than an assembly line of killing.

April Highlight: The Royal New Zealand SPCA embraces the No Kill Equation, launching a saving lives campaign all over the country. After giving a keynote address at their national conference, I am invited to do training in shelters all over the country. With financial, operational, informational, and other support from the national organization, several shelters are now saving over 90% of the animals. If only HSUS, the ASPCA, or Best Friends would show that kind of leadership.

May Highlight: After conspiring with No Kill opponents to “prove” that No Kill equals hoarding by allowing sick cats in the shelter to suffer because she illegally refused to provide veterinary care, the director of Town Lake Animal Control, a woman who killed over 100,000 animals, who killed tens of thousands a year, hundreds per month, dozens per day, one animal roughly every 12 minutes the shelter was open to the public, was finally gone. And with her forced departure, the era defined by killing despite readily available lifesaving alternatives, killing despite empty cages, killing despite a refusal—an ugly, selfish, unethical, indefensible refusal—to do what is necessary to stop killing. Only Ed Sayres laments her firing, calling it “horrible.”

May Highlight: Prescott, Wisconsin and Hastings, Minnesota announce that they have achieved No Kill by following the only proven model, the No Kill Equation. What more is there to say?

June Lowlight: Despite shutting down NYS Assembly e-mail servers on two occasions, thousands of phone calls and tens of thousands of e-mails in support, the voice of the people are silenced by politics at its worst: backroom deals between state legislators, the ASPCA, and the Maddie’s funded Mayor’s Alliance result in a defeat of Oreo’s Law. Roughly 25,000 animals are needlessly condemned to death in the process, while Ed Sayres and Jane Hoffman continue to enrich themselves at the animals’ expense.

July Highlight: On the heels of Oreo’s Law’s defeat, the State of Delaware unanimously passes comprehensive shelter reform legislation that also includes a rescue access provision, abolishes convenience killing, requires animals to be co-housed in kennels and cages, makes foster care official state policy, requires posting “all stray animals on the Internet with sufficient detail to allow them to be recognized and claimed by their owners,” requires shelters to maintain registries of rescue groups willing to save lives, and requires shelters to post statistics (intake, adoption, reclaim, transfer and killing rate). To legislators, to the Delaware animal loving public, to the shelters and rescue groups who participated in the passing of this bill, there was nothing controversial about it. No fear mongering about hoarders, no fear mongering about dog fighting, no fear mongering about overcrowding, no fear mongering about costs, no fear mongering about notice requirements being unfair to small rural shelters, no fear mongering about anything. The bill mandates that animals be given every opportunity for life, and no one thought that would be a bad or controversial idea. In other words, there was no HSUS, no ASPCA, and no Best Friends.

July Lowlight: While the Mayor’s Alliance, the ASPCA, and Best Friends raise and hoard millions in New York City pledging to help the animals in need, the animals were forced to go without basic care, languish in filth, were denied needed medical treatment, healthy and treatable animals were needlessly put to death, and the shelter warned it was running out of food to feed them. New York City’s pound facility descends into chaos while Maddie’s Fund continues to tout its program there as a national model for others to emulate, holding Jane Hoffman up as its lodestar.

August Highlight: A sold-out No Kill Conference takes place in Washington, D.C. drawing people from 39 states and countries as far away as New Zealand and Australia. A three minute video putting the No Kill movement in historical context says it all:

August Lowlight: After New York City descends into chaos and volunteers begin speaking out about the badly mismanaged house of horrors that is the NYC pound system, the ASPCA’s and Mayor’s Alliance’s handpicked director implements a new policy that violates Federal Civil Rights laws: volunteers who exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of speech will be summarily terminated. Animal champion Micah Kellner takes on their cause demanding that the City repeal the illegal policy.

September Highlight: Shortly after Austin’s regressive director is forced out, Austin announces its best save rates ever: 8 out of 10 animals are now being saved at the pound.

October Highlight: The No Kill Equation’s invasion of New Zealand is followed by its invasion in Australia. While the RSPCA in the Australian Capital Territory is saving 95% of dogs, and the Animal Welfare League on the Gold Coast approaches 90% for both dogs and cats, new leadership and a new more progressive vision in Tasmania results in a 54% in adoptions virtually overnight. The No Kill movement is global.

November Lowlight & Highlight: In Georgia, shelter workers bury animals alive. In Mississippi, a shelter starves animals to death. In North Carolina, an animal control officer shoots a beloved family dog because he did not want to spend the time trying to catch her after she got out of her yard. In Texas, puppies are drowned by being flushed down a trench drain. In Washington, a shelter employee punishes a cat who is fearful of being handled by drowning her in a bucket of bleach, while the whistleblower who brought the incident to light must be transferred to another department fearing retributive violence by shelter employees. But rather than hold these “shelters” accountable, the Humane Society of the United States asks the public to celebrate them in a campaign they call “National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week.” To combat this charade, the No Kill Advocacy Center fights back, launching “National Animal Shelter Reform Week” to confront the tragic truth about how most shelters in this country operate and to increase public awareness about how animal lovers can fight back.

November Lowlight: The San Francisco Animal Welfare Commission sides with the San Francisco SPCA, the San Francisco pound, HSUS, and the ASPCA by voting to continue needless killing “indefinitely,” after tabling legislation that would have mandated No Kill. Every social justice movement represents change, and the status quo always has its champions. In the end, progress depends on challenging the status quo, and that inevitably means challenging those who represent it. This is unpleasant. This requires courage. It takes leadership. But success demands nothing less. And sadly, the Commission was not up to the task.

November Lowlight: It is more dangerous for a dog to be in a U.S. animal shelter than in war-torn Afghanistan. Target, a dog who saved American soldiers from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, is killed by a U.S. shelter. While the shelter director claimed it was a mistake, killing is not a “mistake” when it happens all of the time, all over the place. While our hearts went out to the family of that poor dog, shelter killing is no less tragic because someone says a particular dog (or cat or rabbit or other animal) is unwanted. The killing of four million animals every year in our nation’s regressive pounds and “shelters” is a needless travesty that can and must be brought to an end. Right now, roughly 3,000 draconian shelter directors and the large national organizations who defend and legitimize them are holding back the will of millions of Americans.

November Lowlight: November (13) marked the one year anniversary of Oreo’s death. Sadly, we cannot bring Oreo back and give her the second chance the ASPCA denied her. And we will forever remember her killing at the hands of those who were supposed to protect her from further harm as many things:  tragic and heartbreaking, chief among them.  Nothing can alter that calculus. But we can lessen the futility of Oreo’s death if we learn from it, and alter our society in such a way as to prevent such a betrayal from ever happening again. Oreo’s Law proponents vow to bring the fight for compassion and decency back to NYS in the new legislative year.

November Highlight: November (5) also marked the one year anniversary of the No Kill Nation’s Facebook page; a page “founded on the principles and inspiration found in the book Redemption: ‘The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America’” written by yours truly. 95,000 fans and counting… We don’t have to win the hearts and minds of the people. We already have them.

December Lowlight: Wayne Pacelle and HSUS received a $50,000 check from the Philadelphia Eagles and Pacelle announces that Michael Vick not only should be allowed to have dogs, but that he would make a “good pet owner.” Tell that to Little Mel, one of Michael Vick’s victims, who still goes into convulsions every time he meets a stranger. When he has to go outside, he won’t bark as he is too afraid too. He backs up against the wall, lowers his head, and tries to hide. Michael Vick isn’t looking back. And neither is his enabler, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS, who helped Vick get his job and life back, arguing that he deserved a second chance even as he lobbied the court not to give Mel and others like him that chance. Pacelle wanted Mel killed. Even the ASPCA and Best Friends said allowing Vick to play in the NFL again was the right call. A truly ugly chapter in our movement.

December Lowlight: The Association of Shelter Veterinarians comes out with guidelines for shelters in which they list five freedoms for animals: 1. Freedom from hunger and thirst 2. Freedom from discomfort; 3. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease 4. Freedom to express normal behavior, and 5. Freedom from fear and distress. All good stuff. But in deference to their killing colleagues (and some of them being killers themselves), they intentionally leave out the most important one of them all: Freedom to live. Once dead, the other freedoms are irrelevant.

December Highlight: An open admission shelter in Marquette, Michigan reveals the best kept secret in the movement. They write: “While we hated the high euthanasia rates, we believed they were inevitable if we were to remain an open admissions shelter. It was what nearly everyone in the animal welfare field told us.” Then they read Redemption and changed course. The result: they went from a 34% to a 93% save rate. They’ve been No Kill for two years. Who knew?

2010 was the year of No Kill in Michigan, in Minnesota, in Wisconsin, in Nevada, in California, New York, Virginia, Utah, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, and more. It was the year of No Kill in Canada, in New Zealand, and in Australia. And with those successes, we are one step closer to victory. One step closer to achieving our dream. One step closer to redemption.