Monday, March 23, 2009

Beyond the Blue Solution of Dog Shelter Death

(We're kidding, of course.)

A recycled post from October 2007

Have you ever noticed that PETA is always there to throw blood on people wearing fur coats, but that they never protest in front of kill shelters?

A friend of mine who used to be a shelter worker explained it to me. "PETA would never show up at a kill shelter," she explained, "because if they did, the workers there would bring out all the dogs and and cats, turn over the leashes and say, 'Here, they're all yours now.'"

It's an amusing picture, but it's not quite true. You see, PETA does not protest at kill shelters because it supports the killing of dogs and cats in shelters, and it does almost nothing to try to get dogs and cats adopted out.

In fact, in 2005, PETA killed 90 percent of the animals turned over to it despite an organizational budget of $25 million a year.

If that shocks you, then consider this: most "Humane Society" shelters kill 50-80 percent of all the dogs and cats turned over to them. So too do most SPCA shelters contracted by local municipalities. And they kill even when they have empty cages and kennels, and even when they have lots of money in the bank.

In fact, shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States.

All in all, some five million dogs and cats are killed in our nation’s shelters every year by the "humane" industry.

To put it another way, the "humane" industry, which vociferously opposes hunting of deer for meat, actually kills more dogs and cats than hunters shoot deer.

How could this be occurring, even as Americans are buying large numbers of cats and dogs?

How could this be occurring at a time when more dogs and cats than ever are being spayed and neutered?

And how is it that the "humane" industry is doing all the killing?

These are the questions asked -- and answered -- in Nathan J. Winograd's new book, entitled Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America.

This is an important book. In fact, this book is so important --- and so few people are likely to read it -- that I am going to provide a long summary.  Suffice it so say that I think this book is very deserving of your dollars and reading time.

Buy the book!

The Lost Cause Meets the Blue Solution

The American "humane" movement began with the gadfly Henry Bergh, who was radicalized on a trip to Russia when he successfully stepped into the street to stop a man from beating his horse.

Emboldened and amazed at the power of moral suasion (backed up, it should be said by his 6'2" frame), Bergh decided he liked this feeling very much, and on a trip to London, he got an instruction sheet on how to do more of it from the newly-minted Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Upon arriving back in New York City, Bergh created an SPCA to parallel the work of the organization in London, and he personally patrolled the streets of New York and lit in to every horse-beating hack and street hawker he could find.

Bergh was a force of nature; he got New York to pass anti animal-cruelty laws, and he closed down the rat pits to be found at Kit Burns' Sportsman's Hall. He got horse drinking troughs installed all over the city, and he berated the New York City practice of paying people to round up (and even steal) dogs and cats in order to drown them in a huge old iron cage dunked off the end of the wharf. What harm were the cats and dogs doing, Bergh asked? Not much, but never mind; they were an inconvenience, and smacked of disorder in a city trying to enter the modern era. Stray dogs and cats had to go.

Bergh generally made such a nuisance of himself that exasperated New York City officials offered to turn over the keys of the City Pound if he would run it. In fact, they said they would pay him to do the business of rounding up and drowning all the stray dogs and cats.

Bergh would have none of it. He did not seek a job killing animals; he wanted to end needless animal suffering, and that included ending the needless destruction (as he saw it) of stray dogs and cats.

Bergh was a gadfly, but he was a principled and effective one. Without a doubt, he made life better for horses and other beasts of burden in New York City.

Soon other cities were copying the Bergh model, and setting up their own SPCAs. As a direct consequence, life got a little better for urban horses and mules all across the United States.

When Henry Bergh died, the folks that sought to fill his shoes were less principled and more oriented towards financial stability. And so, when New York City officials once again offered to turn the keys of the City Dog Pound over to the SPCA -- and even pay the SPCA to run it -- these new leaders leaped at the chance for a steady income. And what harm did it do, they argued. If the SPCA did not do the killing, then it would simply fall on someone else's shoulders.

And so, with the passing of a key and a check, the humane movement was in the mass killing business. With Henry Bergh dead, no one saw the slightest moral problem.

The SPCA was to remain in the killing business for the next 100 years, doing little more than replacing iron drowning cages with gas chambers, and gas chambers with injections of sodium pentobarbital.

For thirty years, pentobarbital has been the humane movement's "Blue Solution" to the "pet overpopulation" problem.

To this day, most SPCAs are little more than government-hired killing machines for dogs and cats. Though they never mention it on the Animal Planet television show, the New York City ASPCA, according to Winograd, kills nearly 70 percent of the dogs and cats turned over to it

Across the U.S., the typical "Humane Society" or SPCA building remains an ugly wreck located in a depressing and trash-strewn part of town. The employees there are so over-worked and underfunded, that it's all they can do to keep the killing machine going full-bore.

But they manage.

Poor infrastructure and poverty-level funding are a commonality to animal shelters across the country. This is what you get when you make a pact with City Government to become a municipality's dog-and cat-killing machine.

Municipalities know that after years of dependency on government funds, most SPCA and Humane Society shelters are in no position to turn down low-ball contract offers.

And since the shelters are located in out-of-the-way locations and have no constituency (because most do very little outreach to the community), they are in no position to bargain or raise a stink.

This is the death business, not the adoption or pet-placement business.

Out of sight is out of mind. The goal of these shelters is simple cost-effective efficiency.

And nothing is as cost-effective or as efficient as disposing of an animal in a gas chamber or with a killing overdose of drugs.

Absolutely nothing.

Dog catcher, Seattle,1921

Followship Rather than Leadership

When push comes to shove, nothing much has changed in the humane movement for the last 100 years. For over 100 years, the metric has been a simple one: How many dogs and cats can the local shelter "handle" for the race-to-the-basement sums being offered up by the city contracting for this "service."

A "good" shelter is not one that adopts out most of its cats and dogs; it's one that keeps a large number of cages empty and clean, and that consistently makes its annual budget numbers while doing so with as little negative publicity as possible.

And, oddly enough, this is still the metric being used by most of the "humane" organizations, even when those organization have millions of dollars in their bank account as PETA and some of the larger Humane Societies around the United States do.

What is going on?

The short answer, according to Nathan Winograd, is followship.

Followship is the opposite of leadership. Leadership is what happens when you break away from the herd and proceed in a new direction. Followship is what happens when organizations tell us each other that they must all pack up together and do the exact same thing.

Why do these organizations want to pack up? Simple. There is safety in numbers.

And why do these shelters crave safety? What do they fear? Simple: They fear anyone questioning their "killing for convenience" paradigm -- a paradigm that began more than 100 years ago when the SPCA abandoned the principles of Henry Bergh and took over the first municipal City Pound contract.

If everyone does the same thing, the killing for convenience solution will be easier for the public to swallow. Everyone else is doing it, so there must be no other way.

Winograd notes that followship in the humane movement has been routinely solidified by a series of conferences in which all of "the principles" in the dog-catching and dog-killing business have gotten together under the mantra of forming a "consensus" about what to do about "pet overpopulation."

And who is in the room when that consensus is sought? Not only representatives of individual SPCAs and Humane Society shelters, but also the leaders of the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (neither of which financially support local shelters), along with the national trade association of dog catchers (the National Animal Control Association), folks from the American Veterinary Medical Association, and people from the American Kennel Club.

In order to get consensus, all parties have to give up ground, which is a nice way of saying the "solutions" that are embraced at these consensus conferences have been as tepid as old bathwater.

Never mind if good ideas that could reduce the number of dogs and cats going into shelters are rejected; the organizational business interests of each group are more important than the dogs. After all, where would these dogs and cats be without the "humane" movement?

And so, there has been a general agreement among consensus conference participants to oppose subsidized low-fee high-volume pet sterilization clinics since veterinarians feared that would take away a portion of their business. Subsidize pet sterilizations? My God man, that's socialized medicine!

And, of course, there should be no criticism of the American Kennel Club's requirement that only intact dogs be eligible for showing. Nor should their be any criticism of the Kennel Club's long-standing promotion that pure-bred dogs are the "best dogs," never mind the huge number of genetic defects to be found in AKC dogs.

Instead, the parties have repeatedly agreed on a plan based on "Legislation, Education and Sterilization," or LES.

By "Legislation," the parties meant imposing more punishments on the dog-owning public.

Dog and cat licenses will be required, or the animals will be rounded up and killed.

Vaccines will be required, or the animals will be rounded up and killed.

Of course everyone should voluntarily spay and neuter their pet, but if they don't, there should be mandatory spay and neuter laws, with big fines and licensing fees. And if that does not work, then we will push to have unlicensed and unspayed dogs and cats seized and summarily killed.

By "Education" the humane movement means taking a few pound puppies to schools and lecturing kids about how horrible it is to be cruel to animals.

What will not be mentioned at these sessions is the fact that 75 percent of the healthy dogs and cats given to the pounds are killed, and that a state or city contract to kills dogs is what funds the shelter to begin with.

There will be no mention that most dogs and cats are killed after only just a few days wait, and that this killing goes on even when cages are empty.

There will be no discussion of how the humane movement has consistently opposed city- and state-subsidized spay-neuter initiatives.

There will be no mention of how most shelters discourage fostering of their overflow and consider volunteers "too much work." Nor will there be a discussion of how little community outreach is done to place or showcase dogs placed at the shelter.

Instead, the message told to the kids -- and the public in general -- will be a simple one: People are irresponsible and they are to blame for so many cats and dogs going to the gas chamber.

And as for "Sterilization," the humane movement means only "free market" sterilization at the local for-profit veterinary clinic. Whatever price they set is fine. Can't afford it? Then you are really too poor to own a cat or dog at all. Never mind that you are old and on a fixed income. Never mind that you earn only $7 an hour at WalMart. Only people with credit cards and significant home equity should own cats and dogs.

Of course, the LES paradigm has been a complete and utter failure. As Nathan Winograd notes,

“Whenever a shelter kills a homeless animal entrusted to its care, it has profoundly failed. And animal shelters fail, as general rule, 50 to 80 percent of the time. Put it another way, animal sheltering is an industry whose leadership mostly fails.”

The "humane" movement has made peace with its history of failure. In fact, the web sites of most of these organizations actually argue that killing dogs and cats is the "best outcome" for shelter dogs and cats and is much preferred to having animals held for a few weeks in a kennel situation.

This message is repeated so often that through sheer repetition it starts to sound like truth.

But what does this mean? Does this mean that the dogs in your kennel runs are better dead than being owned by you? Yes, according to most humane organizations. Does this mean that animals at the zoo are better dead than kept in cages? Yes, according to most humane organizations.

The Blue Solution is the only solution they know. Never mind if the animals they want to administer this solution to seem quite fine and happy. The humane movement knows best. Just ask them, and they will tell you.

Part of the Legislate-Educate-Sterilize paradigm is unity. Unity is important because it is only by "singing out of the same hymnal" that mass absolution for killing 5 million cats and dogs a year can be achieved.

And so, if one small group or another breaks rank, that group is denounced, ignored, marginalized, or pushed back into into the fold.

The result has been a nearly complete suppression of innovation. If a City like Los Angeles or San Francisco shows that subsidized high-volume spay-neuter clinics can work to reduce the number of unwanted pets, then those results are ignored, and efforts are made to get the program killed or repealed as quickly as possible.

If a no-kill shelter pops up, the humane organizations move to demonize it by saying that such programs "only push the killing on to the backs of other shelters."

If the No-Kill shelter actually takes ALL admissions, as does the Tomkins County shelter in New York, then that fact is simply ignored. The consensus mantra is simply repeated: "There are no such things as No-Kill shelters in this country. Shelters that claim they are 'No-Kill' are simply selecting out the easy to adopt dogs, and deflecting all the others to shelters that have to do the dirty work."

Never mind if that's not true.

Ignore the experience of San Francisco and Charlotesville, Virginia which have shown that it's possible to have open admissions and still adopt out 90 percent of all the dogs, cats, kittens and puppies.

The bizarre thing here is that the humane organizations seem completely dense. Even as they threaten to kill even more dogs and cats, they seem confused as to why the public is not eager to rush down to "the killing rooms" in order to pick out one lucky survivor from the pile.

Surely the average American is eager to drag his or kids down to the bad part of town in order to enter a kill shelter reeking of urine and feces?

Doesn't everyone want to answer their children's questions about what happens to all the other dogs and cats that are not picked?

And who could not be charmed by the indifferent (and often quite rude) staff and the short hours that the shelter is actually open?

Why would anyone prefer to simply get a dog out of the paper, or from a professional breeder, or from a puppy store?

A complete mystery.

The Needle and the Damage Done

A Better Way of Doing Business
It is possible to run a No-kill shelter? The short answer is a definitive YES.

It's been done in urban San Francisco, where for many years the SPCA took all the dogs and cats the city would relinquish to it.

It's been done in rural Tompkins County, New York where the local SPCA shelter is a pure open-admission no kill shelter.

It's been done in Charlottesville, Virginia where 92 percent of the dogs are now adopted out.

It been done in Richmond, Virginia where the SPCA says it is "proud to report that no healthy, homeless animal died in the City of Richmond in 2006."

It's getting done by the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association which has gone from an 80 percent kill rate to a 50 percent placement rate in just 7 months time, with the numbers continuing to fall.

So what has been the response of the Old Guard in the "humane" movement? Surely they are thrilled that someone has found a way to keep more dogs and cats alive?


Instead of celebrating, the quick-to-kill folks have denied that open-admission No-Kill shelters even exist. They have failed to report about the success of No-Kill shelters in their publications and on their web sites, and they have tried to explain away every success as being a unique situation that could never be replicated anywhere else.

San Francisco? Yes, it worked there, but only because that city has a lot of rich gays (according to ASPCA president Roger Caras). Plus, it's an urban area; it would never work in a rural area.

Tomkins County, New York? Yes, it worked there, but that's only because its a rural area. And it's a Northern part of the country too. A No-Kill shelter would never work in an urban area, or in the South where the rednecks don't give a damn about dogs.

Charlottesville, Virginia? Well, yes it worked there, but that's only because it's a moderate-sized city with a University. That's different.

Richmond, Virginia? Ugh ... Well, yes. I'm not sure what's unique there, but give us an hour or two and we'll figure out some way to marginalize that success too.

So how are all these No-Kill Shelters doing it?

It's not rocket science, but it does take dedicated management and a commitment to new way of doing business.

The new paradigm is not always easy for folks to get used to. If you have spent years rationalizing "killing for convenience," you are not likely to embrace a new way of doing business that involves more work.

It is a simple truth that empty cages are easier to manage than full ones. Visitors to a shelter means more paperwork and more accountability.

Not surprisingly, some shelter workers buck. Nathan Winograd says that when he first came to Tomkins County to transform their 80-percent kill shelter into a No-Kill model, he had to confront the staff and explain the world of budgets as he saw it.

The issue came to a point over a basket of puppies that were dropped off at the shelter on his first day. As he told the staff:

"Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says 'I can’t do it,' I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, 'There’s nothing that can be done,' I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?"

One can only imagine the reaction!

In fact, Winograd found about half of his existing shelter staff could not make the transition. Most were simply too lazy. Trained that killing was the only way, they could not assimilate a new order that involved actually using all of the shelter's kennel capacity, fostering out puppies and sick dogs to volunteers, and actively partnering with the community to increase the adoption rate.

Yet, these techniques worked. Today the Tomkins County shelter is a No-Kill Open-Admissions SPCA shelter with a better than 93 percent adoption-placement rate.

None of Winograd's techniques or ideas were entirely new, but no one had tried to use them all at once.

And using them all at once is what made the difference.

In the end, Winograd and others in the No-Kill movement have come up with a 10-point plan for success.

By definition, a 10-point plan is more complicated than a one-point plan. The one point plan -- the Blue Solution -- promises only death. The 10-point plan, however, results not only in a dramatic increase in adoptions of dogs and cats, but also results in more income to the shelter as the relationship between the shelter and the community begins to change.

It turns out that people who will not give money or support to a shelter that kills 80 percent of the dogs and cats that pass through its doors, are more than willing to give money and time to a shelter that actually saves lives.

Who knew?

OK, enough wind-up. What are the 10 elements of success as outlined by Nathan Winograd?

  1. Hire a compassionate director who is dedicated to measuring success by lives saved. Winograd make a convincing argument that municipalities need to look for new shelter managers outside of the current humane movement. What is needed for success, he says, is not a 10-year track record ofkilling animals, but a demonstrated ability in basic management, coupled with good people skills, enthusiasm, creativity, and a commitment to the cause of quickly and sharply reducing the needless killing of healthy dogs and cats in a shelter.

  2. A high-volume, low-cost spay-neuter program designed to get more people to voluntarily spay and neuter their pets. The biggest obstacle to spay-neuter at the individual level is not lack of willingness on the part of pet owners, but lack of money to get the surgery done. Even though research has shown that most intact animals are owned by the poor, and that spay-neuter subsidies are cost-effective ($1 invested is a $10 savings in animal control costs), the humane movement has repeatedly testified against them in order to maintain their "consesus compact" with the veterinary community.
  3. A feral cat program focused on trapping, neutering and returning wildcats to the wild. Wingograd argues that cats do fine as feral animals (they are little more than African Wildcats to begin with) and that there is no need to kill them. Simply trap, spay, innoculate, and release them. As to the notion that they might harm bird populations, Winograd dismisses these claims, correctly noting that most birds experts point to other causes of bird decline, including forest fragmentation and chemicals in the environment as more important causal agents.
  4. Use breed rescue groups. This not only frees up needed space in a shelter, but it also reduces food and upkeep costs, and improves the chance that a dog will be adopted by someone specifically looking for that type of dog. Despite the fact that pure breed rescue groups exist across the country, local shelters have often rejected overtures from these groups, claiming that making contact and setting up appointments is "too much work."
  5. Use foster care volunteers. While traditional shelters generally reject volunteers as "too much work," Winograd argues that not only are foster care volunteers the perfect answer for what to do with puppies and kittens too young to adopt out, but they are also good for sick animals that need several weeks in order to recover and look presentable. Foster volunteers not only adopt many of their charges themselves, they also serve as ready and willing outreach ambassadors to the community.
  6. Change the sales presentation. Studies show that people get their dogs from the local pound only 15 percent of the time, and that cats are even less likely to be acquired at a shelter. The trick to changing these numbers, says Winograd, is to present dogs and cats in better surroundings, to extend shelter hours, to hire friendly and committed staff, and to take animals out to where people can see them and consider them for adoption. A shelter should not be a gloomy place with the air of inevitable death about it, but a place where a father or mother will feel fine taking their kids to pick out a dog or cat that simply needs a home and a chance. People want pets. They pay large sums of money for them, and they travel to get them. A lot of people can be convinced to get an older dog or a dog that is not purebred ("It's the only one of its kind"). What people object to is not the animals in the shelter, but the shelter's look and smell and the business of killing itself.
  7. A pet retention program to work with owners who need a little bit of help in order to keep the pets they already have. Often this is simply a matter of a little problem-solving as it relates to "accidents" (don't leave a water bowl down 24-hours a day), barking, or finding a landlord that will accept a tenant with a dog or cat.
  8. Focus on medical and behavior rehabilitation. This means finding volunteers, veterinarians, and even local businesses willing to work with problem animals. Winograd suggests partnering with a veterinary college, but other good ideas include working with businesses and others who might be willing to support a fund to deal with certain conditions, such as respiratory infections or behavior problems.
  9. Public Relations means reaching out to the public and treating them as a potential solution rather than as the source of the problem. It means advertising, creating attractive web sites, networking with rescue groups, meeting with editorial boards and small business owners, and going out to places where people can get the message, see the product, and hear the pitch.
  10. Recruit and work with volunteeers. Volunteers can take pictures of dogs and cats for the web site, write up web descriptions, feed and water animals, walk animals, clean cages, put up flyers, and take animals out into the community for basic socialization. The more volunteers, the more hands, and the more hands the more positive energy will flow into the shelter -- and the more dogs and cats will flow out.

So why aren't more local SPCAs and humane societies around the country doing all of this?

The answer is that many of them are starting to. A movement is growing, and it is moving in the right direction.

That said, change is a proceess not an event. Moving from a 75% kill shelter to a 93% placement shelter requires careful staging. Do it wrong, and you will have full cages, but you will not yet have developed the capacity to cut down on admissions (thanks to cheap spay-neuter, and successful pet-retention programs) or foster out dogs, or move dogs to breed rescues, or find homes in the community thanks to a well-oiled up-and-running community outreach effort.

So the good news is that good things are happening in some locations.

Numbers That CountNathan Winograd argues that the terms "adoptable" and "unadoptable" are too easy to manipulate and subject to wide interpretation. He notes, for example, that a lot of the "temperament testing" that goes on at shelters is complete bunk practiced by ignorants and amateurs, while some shelters simply strike off as "unadoptable" all very young puppies and kittens, any older dogs or cats. Animals with even mild illnesses (such as sinus infection or kennel cough) are similarly tossed into the weste busket for killing. So what defines success? Winograd suggests that success is achieved when a shelter achieved an adoption rate 90 percent or better for total open admissions of ALL dogs and cats (including the sick, the injured, the young, the old, and those with serious behavior problems). By putting the big number in the denominator, shelters are not able to lie with statistics and "select the best and dump the rest." Is the better-than-ninety-percent goal achievable? Yes -- it's already being achieved in shelters around the country.
But not everyone is on the bandwagon. To tell the truth, some current shelter managers could not be bothered to initiate a complicated high-energy pet-placement program. This was not what they signed up for. They signed up for a death-factory job; fill out some forms, place a pet or two, administer the Blue Solution to all the others, and wash out the cages at the end of the shift. Who wants more work than that?

Another contributing factor is that municipal officials and some animal control board members are often risk-averse.

The city knows they can kill 80 percent of the dogs and cats entering their shelter without so much as a ripple in the local news media, but suppose they start doing "something different" down there at the Pound? Suppose everything is not 100-percent smooth sailing right from Day One? Or worse, suppose the folks that run the shelter want more money to do No-Kill work?

As for the board of the local shelter, they often feel captive to city and county contracts. How are they going to rationalize turning down guaranteed money? Without municipal money, how will the shelter pay for salaries, dog food, gasoline, water and electricty?

And so lack of inertia and plain-old financial fear keep the old killing-for-convenience paradigm going.

In the background, cheering on the old, failed LES strategy are folks like Ed Sayres, President of the ASPCA, who was quoted in the August 13, 2007 issue of USA Today as saying “There is no room for No-Kill as morally superior” to kill shelters.

There isn't? Not even even as a goal?

The ASPCA, it seems still prefers the Blue Solution.

So too does the Humane Society of the United States which refuses to even acknowledge that open admissions No-Kill shelters even exit.

The good news is that at the local level these national organizations do not really control too much.

The ASPCA does not actually run shelters at all -- all the local SPCAs are separate free-standing organizations. What this means is that if you have been giving money to the ASPCA for years, you have not been giving money to your local shelter. There is no pass-through money. The big boys in the ASPCA have simply pocketed your money, and used it to produce more direct mail to send to more suckers like you. Sorry.

Ditto for the Humane Socety of the United States, which also does not give a dime to support local Humane Society shelters. If you are giving money to the Humane Society of the United States, you are simply funding more direct mail asking little old ladies to give their "most generous contribution at this critical time." Silly you.

True leadership in the world of animal sheltering is not coming from the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States or PETA. It's coming from folks like Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino, who first turned the San Francisco SPCA into an open admission No Kill shelter back in 1976, and who ran it that way until 1998.

Avazino is now head of the $250 million Maddie's Fund (funded by PeopleSoft Founder Dave Duffield and his wife Cheryl) which gives out money, funds projects, creates shelter medicine programs, and acts as an information clearinghouse for what works in the No-Kill movement.

No-Kill is gaining traction.

And that's a problem for the ASPCA, PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S. After all, who wants to fund failure when success is an option?

And so the ASPCA, HSUS and PETA have embarked on a two-pronged strategy of: 1) denying that No-Kill works, even as they; 2) Claim they are leading the movement themselves.

The results of this communication stratgy are truely bizarre.

Consider this: Even as ASPCA President Ed Sayres holds a press conference in New York City with Mayor Bloomberg in order to "welcome" a $15.5 million Maddie's Fund grant to help that city transition to No-Kill (see ASPCA press release) Sayres and others are attacking No-Kill as being a complete fraud, denying its existence, and accusing it of actually doing nothing more than warehousing animals for months or even years. Truly this is Through the Looking Glass!

In fact, No-Kill shelters are as open (or more so) than other shelters, and Maddie's Fund has pioneered this type of openness. Have a few shelters transitioned too rapidly? Yes, but Richard Avanzino of Maddie's Fund and Nathan Winograd are convinced that every shelter can be No-Kill, and more and more cities are proving their thesis every day.

In fact, it is the success of the No-Kill movement that is causing paroxisms at the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the U.S., and PETA.

The success of No-Kill movement means that these organizations have been killing for years, not because the job of saving the lives of dogs and cats could not be done, but because they did not even realize that that was the job!

Here's a hint: It's called a SHELTER.

That just might mean saving lives, not snuffing them out.

It might even mean coming up with a better idea than the infamous "Blue Solution."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Order a copy
of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. I guarantee this is a book that will open your eyes.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Do you really want to explain this sign to your six-year-old daughter on the day she gets her first dog? Me either.



Anonymous said...

Did you read Christie Keith's article on Winograd's book? See
and also see Christie's responses to some of the comments.

PBurns said...

I had not -- thanks for the link. Christie does a terrific job as usual, and I cannot add more but I will anyway 'cause that's what we bloggers do and I already wrote an outline :)

A bit from Christie that sums up what this book did for her:

"Conventional wisdom tells us ... If fewer pets were born, there would be fewer coming into shelters. ... That is exactly what I always believed, too, for the nearly 17 years I've been writing about pets. And yet, after reading 'Redemption,' I don't believe it anymore."

So Christie had her mind expanded.

Without drugs.

Me too.

Redemption is a poweful book, without a doubt.

Buy it ya'll.


Pai said...

Thanks for this post (and the links in it). I've learned so much about this issue lately, that it has totally blown my mind. People are still buying PeTA and the HSUS's propaganda, and animals are dying because of it. It's horrible.

More people need to hear this message.

Fred said...

It's like you've written the Coles notes version of Winograd's book. Thanks much for the summary.

I volunteer at a city shelter and I've noticed a lot of the changes Winograd talks about wrt transitioning from a killing shop to a real shelter. The tug of war between the old way and the new way is always there but I think the good guys are starting to pull ahead, at least for now. As was in Winograd's case, the initiative to change at the city shelter came about from the hard labour of a very few determined individuals and that effort continues today amidst a sea of general indifference.

YesBiscuit! said...

Excellent book and thanks for posting the summary. Hopefully it will interest more people in reading the book.

Pai said...

PETA actually has picketed kill shelters... check out the three Penn & Teller's 'Bullshit: PETA' videos on Youtube.

They're completely oblivious to their own raging hypocrisy. It makes it's own comedy.

sassanik said...

When I went into the local shelter here and put my name down for wanting a dog that had "hair" because I have allergies. The staff basically laughed at me. Telling me that they don't normally get poodle type dogs in and that it was HIGHLY unlikely I would be able to adopt one. What a positive attitude!

Two months later, they got a litter of poodle puppies in, and I was able to adopt one.

So much for the shelter never getting poodles or poodle type dogs in.

What surprised me was that while I was waiting for my puppy to be old enough to take home, they did not want me to visit him. Why in the world? Apparently they thought that I would be in the way. So you don't want the potentional adopter of the pet to come and visit the animal?!

Though one program the shelter did have that I was great. They worked with the local womens low security prison, who helped to provide workers for the shelter. It seemed like a great idea for cheap labor that can do some real good for both the animals and the women prisioners.

Anyway I am very happy with my little poodle whom I did get from a shelter! Even if they seemed somewhat determined to turn me off to the idea of adopting from a shelter.

Pai said...

Some shelters/rescues DEFINITELY see 'pet owners' and 'adopters' more as ENEMIES than people they want to give an animal to.

They will make adopting an animal a huge ordeal, have insanely high 'standards', refuse to home an animal if someone does not meet EVERY crazy criteria, and then as they kill that animal that they worked so hard to undermine any chance at adoption for, they will bemoan how all those 'bad pet owners' are the ones truly at fault.

3Laiki said...

Thanks for recycling this post and book review.

I've had good luck (Westie, Patterdale Terrier) and bad luck (Norwegian Elkhound) with rescue organizations. While I am sympathetic to their struggles and I don't claim to have all the solutions, sometimes it seems that they shoot themselves in the foot. I know they want to place dogs appropriately but in some cases, I think it would be easier to adopt a human!

I was interested in a 4-5 year old Norwegian Elkhound neutered male. He was described as energetic, crafty, 'talkative', and destructive. Sounded to me like a hunting spitz with not enough to do! I visited him and volunteered to take him for walks etc. His social skills with other dogs were acceptable and I knew that the Trio wouldn't have an issue with him (He passed the 'Tuli-test' and the boys don't particularly care that much.) I failed as a candidate and was DENIED because (1) I didn't have an adequately fenced yard (I live in a townhouse). Ummm even if I had a large, adequately fenced yard I would NOT rely on it for sufficient dog exercise. A large yard does not a happy dog make (in contrast, it makes many dogs prisoners!) (2) My other male dogs were not castrated. Ummm because I show them on occasion and the judge expects the testicles to be there!?!?!?!

Soooo, he was returned TWICE and then an Elkhound purebred rescue thankfully stepped in and picked him up. I think of him often and hope he landed on his feet in a decent home that understood his needs. He was a neat fellow. I found it exasperating and depressing.

Unknown said...

A point of clarification-the Human Society of the United States does not run any shelters. Shelters named "Humane Society of Southern Oregon", "Indianapolis Humane Society" etc have zero to the with any central organization. Some are private shelters, some are non-profits that solicit donations. They have nothing in common except that the term "Humane Society" is part of the name. Some are horrid places, some have great programs. I think this is a point of confusion in many communities.

PBurns said...

Bev you might want to click around on this blog and see >> and the MANY other piece on this topic.


Tom said...

I'm leery of "no kill" becoming a performance trap and way too much of a slogan. I've read Winograd's book and he talks about how the Asilomar accords kind of make a mockery of the term. You could say that "they" appropriated "no kill" for their own use, which is no less than you expect anyway.

We are dealing with some seriously deranged and dangerous pieces of work in the shelter industry and in the animal rights activists who have attached themselves as parasites.

In every community there is someone who seems to invisibly control the lowlifes, school bullies, and other thugs. There are people who are willing to put holes in the hearts of the citizens of their cities to weaken them and control them. The attacks on pitbull owners are just a small part of this.

This type equates "living" with "dangerous." They always have to take the wind out of someone's sails, knock someone down a notch, suck someone's vitality out so that they are no longer strong and a danger to the prevailing social order, such as it is. They feel endangered by what they cannot control. If you have six tigers they might want you to cut back to five just so that they can make you do something, but you'd better not count on them keeping any promises or treating you fairly once you've complied.

This thing has to be treated as the sickness that it is. A lot of the animal control business is set to kill what they can kill.

Sue said...

I have the book and agree with much of it, but I have a problem with Winograd: he supports the trap-neuter-release program for cats. I vociferously disagree, and it makes me a little suspicious of the rest of his arguments. He offers no explanation or justification, nor have i ever heard one that holds water. I like cats and have one, but feral cats are tremendously damaging to the ecosystem. They kill every baby bird that is learning to fly, ground nesting birds, lizards, etc. IN Australia they have caused wholesale extinctions of small marsupials and decimated bird species like the Lyre Bird. When cat fanatics say "well, that's just natural selection" I want to scream.

PBurns said...

A couple of points:

1. Just because you disagree with some part of something does not invalidate the whole.

2. This is especially true if your core arguements are not very good either. I used to run a major program department for the National Audubon Society, and I have read all theee is about birds and cats. Most of it is pure bunk. Feral cats are no more of a problem for birds than possums, raccoon, and red and gray fox (to say nothing of squirrels, chipmunks, hawks, owls and cowbirds).

3. There is no such thing as a truely feral cat. I have walked a LOT of miles in forest and farm, and feral cats are never found more than a mile or so from a house or barn. Most den up in human structure (though I have dug a few from groundhog holes), and most get at least some portion of their food from humans (garbage, leftover food from neighbors, etc.)

4. The birds that cats do kill tend to be bakckyard "bird feeder" bird of which there is no shortage. Cats almost never take noetropical migrants (most are live feeders that live high in trees), and do almost no damage to field nesting birds (hay harvesting does the damage there).

5. Winograd argues that we need to treat feral cats like wild animals. I agree -- let's make them legal to hunt. As you can see, I am not cat hugger. By the same, token, I am no cat basher either.

6. The fact that feral cats are a problem in Australia is only a germane point if you live in Australia.