Shelter News from Around the Country

Trouble in Philly, Indy Pit Bulls get a reprieve, President Obama inadvertently helps King County’s neglected homeless animals, the No Kill Advocacy Center offers BOGO Free, Building a No Kill Houston, and free copies of The Pit Bull Placebo.

Chaos in Philadelphia
Dismantling the Philadelphia Animal Care & Control Association (PACCA), the homeless animals of Philadelphia were turned over to the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) on January 1 when the Department of Public Health gave them the contract to run animal control. In an effort to garner public support for their takeover in light of skepticism regarding its dedication to No Kill given their Executive Director’s poor lifesaving performance as head of the Washington Humane Society and his history of remarks disparaging No Kill, the PSPCA openly promised to seek passage of the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) upon getting the contract. Shortly after signing the contract for animal control, however, the Executive Director has quit, adding more confusion and chaos to an already volatile situation in Philadelphia.

So now the future of Philadelphia’s homeless animals rests with the part-time, volunteer Board of the PSPCA. Will they use this opportunity to hire a director fully committed to a No Kill Philadelphia? Or will they repeat the mistakes of the past by using an outside executive search firm, run by a woman who used to work in animal control in a shelter with a dismal record of lifesaving and open hostility to the No Kill philosophy? And will they follow the predictable route of hiring a showboat who promises to raise gobs of money, instead of hiring a committed animal lover passionate about saving lives?

If they care about animals, and even if they only care about the PSPCA (which is not necessarily synonymous with caring about animals), they should commit themselves to hiring someone committed to No Kill with a solid track record of saving lives. An SPCA’s duty is to fulfill its mission of saving animals, not solely seek enrichment of the agency at the expense of the mission. Moreover, if the history of this movement proves anything, it is that money follows lifesaving success, not vice-versa.

As I explained in Redemption about the San Francisco SPCA’s tremendous fundraising success following its embrace of No Kill:

Once teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the San Francisco SPCA now had an ample budget and a healthy surplus—totaling tens of millions of dollars—thanks to San Francisco’s pet-loving public, which no longer felt it was subsidizing the killing of pets if it supported the San Francisco SPCA: the San Francisco SPCA’s newfound wealth was a byproduct of [its No Kill] success—results which the public clamored to support—and not its cause.

How do you raise money? 1. Do good things for animals; 2. Tell people about it; 3. Ask for their help. When I took over in Tompkins County, I inherited a $124,000 deficit and turned it into a budget surplus by focusing on the animals first and foremost! When Bonney Brown took over as head of the Nevada Humane Society two short years ago, she inherited an $800,000 structural deficit. After reducing killing countywide by over 50% and creating one of the safest communities for homeless pets in the U.S.—Washoe County is saving 90% of all dogs and 83% of all cats even though her community takes in more animals per capita than Philadelphia—she finished 2008 with a budget surplus! (Bonney originally applied for the job at the PSPCA, but was turned away by the search firm.)

Furthermore, given that the new CEO will inherit animal control, a public agency, animal lovers in Philadelphia must insist that the new director be committed to No Kill and that they have a voice in who that person is. The PSPCA board should ask a committee of rescue advocates to meet the top three candidates, give them the opportunity to ask the candidates questions, and then make a formal recommendation to the Board, as occurred when I was recruited for the   job as Executive Director of the Tompkins County SPCA animal control shelter.

In addition, the current volatility underscores the importance of shelter reform legislation, something the PSPCA has already committed to seeking, but has yet to deliver. To achieve a No Kill nation, we must move beyond a system in which the lives of animals are subject to the discretion and whims of shelter leaders or health department bureaucrats. In a shelter reliant on killing, directors can come and go, the shelter continues killing, local government ignores the ongoing failure, and the public is led to believe that “there is no other way.”

Meanwhile, No Kill is succeeding in communities where individual shelter leaders are committed to it by establishing the programs and services that make it possible. Unfortunately, such leaders are few and far between. For No Kill success to be widespread and long lasting, we must move past the personalities and give shelter animals the rights and protections afforded by law.

Every successful social movement results in legal protections that codify expected policies and provide consequences for future conduct that violates normative values. We need to regulate shelters in the same way we regulate hospitals and other agencies which hold the power over life and death. The answer lies in passing and enforcing shelter reform legislation that mandates how all shelters must operate. In short, Philadelphia needs the Companion Animal Protection Act!

Finally, the recent chaos also shines a disturbing spotlight on the City of Philadelphia’s grossly incompetent Department of Public Health. Despite concerns with PACCA, it is disturbing that the Health Department which created PACCA after the PSPCA walked away from the animal control contract almost a decade ago would simply go back to such a volatile situation. What happens if the PSPCA walks away again after a new director is hired? There isn’t another private agency which can run animal control and given the history of the Health Department, they’ll simply create another uncaring, abusive, dysfunctional department.

Before 2005, the Health Department-run PACCA was, according to a wide variety of sources, “a mismanaged house of horrors” killing 88% of all animals—often illegally within minutes of arriving. This is the same Health Department which betrayed whistleblowers at PACCA after they came forward with allegations of abuse. Instead of acting on their complaints, the Health Department sought to silence them by informing the union which represented the abusive workers, subjecting the whistleblowers to threats of physical violence and acts of vandalism. One whistleblower was threatened with bodily harm and had the tires on his car slashed in the PACCA parking lot. This is the same Health Department which allowed foster kids in their custody to be abused and killed because they falsified records and failed to follow up—and then tried to derail a homicide investigation into the death of a 14-year old ward with cerebral palsy to protect themselves. Philadelphians cannot rely on this agency to do what is in the best interests of animals.

A Reprieve for Indianapolis’ Pit Bulls, not for Director
Pit Bulls-type dogs have been given a reprieve as the new Indianapolis Animal Care & Control (IACC) director has repealed their automatic death sentence. According to IACC, if they are friendly, they’ll be put up for adoption. If they are aggressive, they will not be. The change is welcome news. If there is a silver lining to the horrific ordeal endured by the dog victims of animal abuser and dog killer Michael Vick, it is that the surviving dogs forced even dog lovers—but more importantly the humane movement—to question their most basic assumptions about dogs, pit bull-type dogs, and dog aggression.

In the Vick case, only one dog was actually killed for aggression after evaluation, and the remaining dogs were placed in either sanctuaries or in loving new homes. Two of the dogs are now even therapy animals, providing comfort to cancer patients.

But not everyone is cheering. Unfortunately, victims of dog bites are upset, complaining that Indianapolis should continue to kill all dogs who even remotely look like the dog that bit them. Even pro-kill supporters like Pat Dunaway have weighed in—in a series of “anonymous” rants, predictably, dysfunctionally, and insanely in favor of continued killing.

Meanwhile, as the director continues to make reforms, he has had his car windshield smashed and his car smeared in dog food. Threatening notes have also been left for him on his now broken windshield. Although the perpetrator(s) have not been caught, the Indianapolis Police Department is investigating. It is worth noting that this follows a pattern when reform minded directors take over long neglected animal control departments. In at least two other circumstances, the culprits turned out to be union protected shirkers who were being held accountable for the first time in their animal neglecting careers. In Philadelphia, this included slashed tires, sugar in gas tanks, and threats of violence against reformers.

President Obama Inadvertently Helps the Animals of King County WA
Showing more holes in the vetting process which has plagued the new administration, President Obama has tapped King County Executive Ron Sims to be the number 2 person as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sims will run the day-to-day operations at HUD. But in picking Sims, the President has potentially helped the homeless animals of King County’s abusive animal control shelter.

For the past several years, Sims has overseen and defended an animal shelter system marked by allegations of unnecessary killing, animal abuse, neglect, and serious dereliction of duty. Under his watch, staff members who were involved in animal neglect are still employed; and, supervisors who allowed it to continue and/or then subsequently covered it up have received promotions. Meanwhile, those who sought to report it have been threatened with termination; and citizens who have answered the call to help the Council fix the broken shelter system have been smeared.

The move is likely to be welcome news for homeless animals in King County, but don’t expect a fix to our nation’s housing problems anytime soon.

Building a No Kill Houston
Houston, TX March 28, 2009

Sponsored by No Kill Houston.

Come to the all day seminar which has been called “a prerequisite for rescue groups and organizations that are serious about changing their communities to No Kill.” Workshops include:

Building a No Kill Community: Cost-effective Lifesaving Programs
In 2003, the open door animal control shelter in Tompkins County saved 100% of healthy and treatable animals, and 100% of feral cats. Over nine out of ten dogs and cats were saved, without big bucks and without a big shelter—a reduction in the kill rate of 75%. At the same time, the agency went from a $120,000 a year deficit to finishing the year with a surplus, raising more money than it spent. Using the same model, the open door animal control shelter in Charlottesville, VA saved 92% of all dogs and cats, while Washoe County, NV reduced the death rate by over 50% in one year. Since then, other municipalities have achieved similar success. Learn what programs and services help save lives.

Big Dogs, Shy Cats & All the Rest: Finding Homes for All of Them
Pit Bulls, Rottweillers, big black dogs, shy cats and cats with attitude. Learn the strategies to increase adoptions, effectively market shelter animals, and find loving, new homes for all the healthy and treatable pets in your shelter, including those hard to place ones. Using this model, a community that takes in tens of thousands of dogs and cats annually increased dog adoptions by nearly 60% and more than doubled cat adoptions (104%) in less than one year.

Saving Shelter Dogs: Evaluation, Socialization, Treatment & Placement
Some shelters have adopted the rhetoric but not the programs of No Kill. As a result, they are using “temperament testing” to deem dogs unadoptable and make their statistics look better. Saving shelter dogs is as much about fair and proper evaluation, socialization and stimulation in the shelter, treatment and rehabilitation strategies and marketing, as it is about adoptions. You’ll learn strategies from evaluation to placement from a pro-life No Kill perspective.

Feral Cat Care & Advocacy
Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) is not only humane, it’s effective. But beyond the basics of trapping and spay/neuter, a comprehensive program to save the lives of feral cats and reducing the number of kittens coming into the shelter involves resolving neighbor disputes, working with the media, dispelling myths about predation and public safety, and changing the attitudes of your health department and animal control agency. This workshop will give you the tools you need to effectively do that.

Reforming Animal Control: A Guide to Citizen Action
How do you get animal control to shift from a reactive, public health model of sheltering based on killing, to a proactive one which balances its animal control and animal care responsibilities in order to maximize lifesaving? This workshop will provide strategies for helping animal control change on its own when it is willing, will debunk the “open vs. limited admission” myth, and provide strategies for forcing animal control to change when it is resistant to doing so.

For more information, go to

To register, go to

Proceeds benefit No Kill Houston.

Help Spread the No Kill Revolution with BOGO Free
Buy One Get One (for a local shelter) Free!

From now until March 31, buy one copy of Redemption from the No Kill Advocacy Center for you or a friend and get a second one sent to the manager or director of your local animal shelter free.

How it works: Purchase Redemption from the No Kill Advocacy Center for the cover price of $16.95 (tax and shipping included). As a thank you and to help spread the No Kill revolution, a second copy will be sent to the shelter of your choice with a gift card saying that the book is a gift from you (can also be anonymous!)

Help spread the No Kill revolution with the book which is being called “powerful and inspirational,” “ground-breaking,” and “a must read for anyone who cares about animals.” Winner of USA Book News Award for Best Book (Animals/Pets), a Best Book Muse Medallion winner by the Cat Writers Association of America, a Best Book nominee by the Dog Writers Association of America and winner of a Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, the book shatters the notion that killing animals in U.S. shelters is an act of kindness.

Go to and click on “What’s New” for more information.

No Kill Conference 2009
May 2-3, 2009 in Washington D.C.

While supplies last, the next 20 people who register will receive a free author-signed copy of The Pit Bull Placebo, a gift from the National Canine Research Council.

The No Kill Advocacy Center is teaming up with the Animal Law program at George Washington University Law School to bring together the nation’s most successful shelter directors and the nation’s top animal lawyers. They will show you how to create a No Kill community and teach you how to use the legal system to save the lives of animals.

Learn from animal control/shelter directors who are now saving over 90% of all animals using the building blocks to No Kill success—programs and services that have had results in both urban and rural communities—to increase adoptions, reduce length of stay, increase redemption rates, rehabilitate animals, and much, much more.

Learn from animal law experts who have challenged our legal system to help animals: Whether it’s drafting model laws, fighting breed specific legislation, filing impact legislation, or protecting condemned dogs, learn how to use the legal system to save the lives of animals.

Learn from activists fighting entrenched and regressive shelters in their own community as they show you how to launch successful campaigns for reform.

For more information, including speakers, workshops, registration, and more, go to or click here.

You must register by February 28 to receive the early bird discount!