On the Verge of Complete Victory

Yesterday I did a radio interview to share all the successes we had as a movement in 2018 and to discuss what the future holds for 2019 and beyond. Although the interview was 45 minutes long, I did not get to cover all the things I wanted to talk about.

So here is my list (in no particular order):

  1. We made it illegal to eat dogs and cats by banning it in the 44 states that still allowed it.
  2. We made cockfighting and dogfighting illegal in U.S. territories like Guam and Puerto Rico. (It was already illegal in the 50 states. The new law extended it to U.S. territories.)
  3. Two states (HI & NJ) banned the use of wild animals in circuses.
  4. For the first time in U.S. history, a judge issued a habeas corpus order on behalf of an elephant “to determine whether she should be released from her imprisonment” at a zoo. Historically, U.S. courts have repeatedly ruled that non-human animals “are not legal persons who have a right to be free.” That view has begun to crack.
  5. San Francisco and Los Angeles banned the sale of fur, the largest cities in America to do so. Almost immediately, clothing companies and fashion designers announced they were dropping fur from their labels.
  6. The United States, European Union, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and other countries have signed a 16 year agreement not to allow commercial fishing in Arctic “marine ecosystems that have only recently become accessible because of the melting ice cap.” The deal is being called “unprecedented” because it is the first international agreement that doesn’t just regulate commercial fishing, but effectively bans it.
  7. Under a new law, dogs, cats, and other animal companions will be treated like family, rather than property in divorce cases. California courts will now consider the best interest of those animals in awarding custody.
  8. California banned pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits from “puppy mills” and other commercial breeding operations. They will only be allowed to partner with shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups to place animals. (Maryland did, too, but the law will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020.)
  9. California passed legislation to make it illegal to sell cosmetics and hygiene products, such as deodorant and shampoo, that are tested on animals or have ingredients tested on animals. Although the law does not go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, companies wanting to sell their products in California — including Proctor & Gamble, Gillette, and others — will have to stop torturing animals.
  10. Pueblo, CO, became the latest city to pass the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA), model legislation from the No Kill Advocacy Center, my organization. The law prohibits killing based on age, species, color, appearance, size, or breed; requires the shelter to achieve and maintain a minimum 90% placement rate; makes it illegal to kill animals as long as there are empty cages and requires the shelter to set up temporary cages or double animals up so long as it is safe to do so; requires the shelter to notify rescue groups at least two days in advance before killing an animal and giving them the power to take the animal to spare his/her life; requires the shelter to notify owners (so long as there is no evidence of neglect or abuse) and finders before killing animals and giving them the opportunity to rescue the animal; prohibits convenience killing by mandating a holding period for both stray and owner relinquished animals; prohibits the killing of healthy and treatable animals; and, more.
  11. Delaware mandated community cat sterilization. Instead of killing, “visibly healthy cats admitted to a shelter, not placed for adoption, and lacking discernible owner identification, are sterilized, vaccinated against rabies, ear-tipped, and returned to a safe location where they were found or, if necessary, appropriately relocated.” While it continues to prefer adoption, it amended the Delaware CAPA to prohibit killing healthy community cats when they can be returned to their habitats. Since CAPA passed, the killing of cats in Delaware has declined by 90%. Under this new amendment, that decline is expected to continue going up.
  12. In addition to the rising number of communities and community shelters embracing community cat sterilization, instead of killing; those that have been practicing it for years saw dramatic results. Alachua County, FL, for example, reported a 97% decline in cat killing — from 3,631 to 98. And in Olean, NY, city officials are conscripting the entire population to become community cat caregivers: “Residents will be ‘encouraged to participate in TNVR programs.'” City officials originally considered requiring a permit to trap, sterilize, and rerelease cats, but “chose instead to leave it open to all.” This follows the elimination of cat control, which had resulted in the round up and killing of community cats.
  13. Cities across the U.S. repealed their breed discriminatory laws including Rocky River, OH, Lakewood, OH, Castle Rock, CO, Eudora, KS, Anamosa, IA, Yakima, WA, Marceline City, MO, and others. The incoming governor of the country’s biggest state declared his total opposition to BSL, after supporting it in the past. And several states passed laws prohibiting it within their borders.
  14. Some cities don’t just prohibit breed discrimination, they proactively protect and promote these and other dogs. In Muncie, IN, “80 to 90 percent” of the dogs received are described as pit or pit-mixes. But instead of making excuses like “no one will adopt them,” Muncie Animal Care & Services held a month-long celebration they called a “Pitty Party” to showcase them for adoption and to end discrimination. How did they do? Muncie has a 99% placement rate for dogs, making it part of the most exclusive club in the movement—those placing 99%+ of the animals. And that’s not just for one month; that’s all year long. Muncie also recently passed an ordinance that not only makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of “breed,” but makes it illegal to kill healthy and treatable pitties (and other dogs) in the shelter. In other words, the Pitty Party never ends.
  15. 2018 added to the number of communities who are part of one of the most exclusive club in the movement: those placing 98-100% of the animals. I count 101 such communities.
  16. Austin is on the verge of ending killing for “behavior” reasons. In 2009, 7% of dogs were killed in the Austin municipal shelter ostensibly for “aggression.” In 2015, it was 1%. Today, it is 1/20th of 1%. It is entirely consistent with public safety. And it can go lower still. (Note: shelters do not kill dogs for “aggression.” Determining whether a dog is “aggressive” in a shelter is not reasonably possible. Shelters kill them for fear of liability and/or because they lack fully comprehensive programs that include long-term care and rehabilitation.)

There are more.

As to what the future holds:

There’s been a 90% drop in the killing of U.S. dogs and cats in “shelters” since the 1970s. Despite a doubling of the number of animal companions, the number of dogs and cats killed has gone from roughly 16 million to less than two million. Its been called “the single biggest success of the modern animal protection movement.” We are on the verge of ending the systematic killing of animals in pounds. How are we going to do that? As successes in Delaware, California, and elsewhere show, animal lovers are increasingly turning to the courts, to the ballot box, and to the halls of power to achieve and ensure the perpetuation of the success they accomplished.

But the biggest news of 2018 in terms of the sheer number of animals it will save is that several companies reported success in synthesizing real meat, which will soon hit store shelves and restaurant menus. It is made from a one time draw of stem cells. The stem cells are then replicated in a laboratory and grown in an animal-free medium to produce real meat from animals without killing. No animals will die. And no one has to be convinced to change their diet. The breakthrough will eventually save tens of billions of animals every year.

Onward and upward…


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