The No Kill Advocacy Center announces the 2012 recipients of the Henry Bergh Leadership Award, honoring the top No Kill advocates in the nation. The award is given to those who are working and succeeding in their effort to end the killing of animals in U.S. shelters.

It should be noted that the awards given to these individuals take nothing away from the amazing work of all those working to make a lifesaving difference in their communities and saving lives through rescue, protest, or advocacy; people like those in Kansas City, Missouri who have brought their municipal shelter to the cusp of No Kill; Joe Lentol, the Chair of the New York State Assembly Codes Committee, who stopped the ASPCA’s Quick Kill Bill; Douglas Cooper who wrote a series of exposes on PETA and HSUS in the Huffington Post bringing No Kill and No Kill’s opponents to a wider North American audience; Sabine Smith-Stull who has ended the killing of all puppies in Columbus, Georgia; the rescue groups saving animals their local shelters refuse to; and all the shelter directors in over 80 communities across the country now saving in excess of 90% of all impounded animals. Thank you to them and to others, and we honor them as well.

But the six recipients this year have really pushed the envelope. And it is both fitting and proper that we celebrate their achievements in keeping with the theme of this year’s No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C. of “reaching higher“; of going above and beyond—I’m going to say it—the “status quo” of today’s No Kill movement.

The 2012 winners are:

Denise Jones, Shelby County Animal Control, was not only key to creating the first No Kill community in Kentucky; in 2012, when officials announced they would start killing again after four years as a No Kill shelter, her rescue group stepped in to save the animals. To prevent similar crises in the future, she became the shelter’s animal control/protection officer and she didn’t waste any time. As part of her training for the position, Jones saved healthy cats scheduled to be killed at a state-sponsored “euthanasia” training class and brought them back to Shelby County for rehabilitation and adoption.

Karl Bailey, Seagoville Animal Services, took over as head of the animal control facility in 2011 and abolished the gas chamber and ended the killing his first day. Fewer animals lost their lives all year than used to be killed in one week. And while most shelter directors would have rested on their laurels with a 97-98% save rate, not only is Seagoville, Texas on its way to an even better save rate in 2012, Bailey went on the road to help other communities do the same.

Holly Henderson, Chippewa County Animal Shelter, had a 93% save rate two years ago, a 95% save rate in 2011, and is striving to do even better in 2012. Under her leadership, Holly has redefined transparency and collaboration in Michigan, not only embracing the community but giving community members unprecedented access in order to help her save lives by giving them keys to the shelter.

Mike Fry, Animal Ark, not only is working towards No Kill in the Minnesota Twin Cities and runs a shelter with one of the highest save rates in the nation; in 2012, Fry asked shelters across the country to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals on June 11 in order to create a No Kill nation for Just One Day. Roughly 800 organizations answered his call, saving 9,000 animals, erasing one day’s worth of killing nationally. While many of us are working to create a No Kill nation, Fry statistically created one, albeit for one day. But for those 9,000 animals, most of whom would have been killed in years past, it made all the difference in the world.

Kerry Clair, Pets Alive, was not only instrumental in defeating legislation which would have rolled back the clock on animal protection in New York State over 40 years; she promoted alternative legislation to save roughly 25,000 animals a year. In 2012, she has helped redefine what it means to be an “adoptable” dog, saving the lives of dogs most other shelters, including most other No Kill shelters, would define as not adoptable, while also saving thousands of other animals every year. When I wrote Redemption, most shelter directors said I went too far. Kerry was the only one who has ever told me I did not go far enough and she was right.

John Sibley, In Dog We Trust, not only campaigned extensively for rescue rights legislation in New York State; he worked hard to defeat a bill which would have eroded vital protections for shelter animals. He also ran a hospice-based foster care program. For dogs with leukemia and other diseases, animals even No Kill shelters would define as not savable, John has been a shining light, giving them the love and affection for the final months of their lives that they deserve and which is their birthright. His blog, In Dog We Trust, is the definitive voice of the No Kill movement in New York City.

Henry Bergh was the 19th Century animal advocate who launched the humane movement in North America. He gave the first speech on animal protection in the U.S., incorporated the nation’s first SPCA, and enforced anti-cruelty laws with passion. Every night, Bergh would patrol the streets of his native New York City looking for animals in need of protection.

To those who opposed Bergh’s attempts at saving the lives of animals, he was known as “The Great Meddler.” The recipients of the No Kill Advocacy Center award named in his honor epitomize the unwavering commitment of Bergh to save lives.

Learn more about Henry Bergh by clicking here.

To see last year’s winners, click here.


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