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25 July 2007


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p.s. I don't know if you saw the episode when the NYC animal cops rescued more than 50 poorly treated, neglected and abandoned terriers ... the episode included the story about "Chanel," a blind dog thought to be about 14 years old with non-functioning hind legs (believed to be a congenital defect) who had been kept in a cage all his life and had probably never been outdoors. The rescue and veterinary team paid him special attention and took extra care of him, even found a 'walker' for him ...

I still well up when I see that episode--what a great and gentle spirit, and how excited he was at his first outing. He was a little love-bug and cuddler, with no malice whatsoever toward humans or others. In a follow-up episode, he had been adopted by a family with a big backyard and lived another year before passing on.


Andrea, I'm glad to hear about the happy ending for the cat at the no-kill shelter. Try as we may, we humans are usually not very good (or all too slow) in figuring out what animals need or want. I keep trying, though, as I know many of us do! :-) Sandy


GREAT post. Now, can you delve more into SF's methods and tell us exactly how they achieved this? I'm curious!


Excellent post. Find success and replicate it; that's what it should be all about. You ail it on the head!


Andrea 2CatMom

Sandy - its really a shame about the dog with the missing jaw. If the animal wasn't in pain, someone probably would have adopted him. There are folks (G-d bless them) who are drawn to the more difficult cases and don't mind extra effort if the dog has a nice temperment. I'm often amazed at how quickly some of the disabled animals do get adopted - there are people in this world with really good hearts.

The biggest problem I see are cats being returned for litter box issues. The no-kill cat shelter I mentioned earlier had a wonderful little 11 year old male cat. He had some pretty bad dental issues but was sweet and as playful as a kitten. He was adopted out three times to experienced adopters and even though they really worked with him, he would not use a litter box. Everytime he was returned to the shelter he'd go back to using a box no problem. The staff finally decided that he wanted to stay with them at the shelter, so he is now one of the official greeter cats (along with another cat with similar issues). He's as happy as can be and he will have a good home and medical care for the rest of his life.

Jennifer J

here is a link to the latest no-kill newsletter that adresses the 90% rule.

here is a link to the no kill advocacy center


And you *know* someone would have taken in that little dog with part of his/her jaw missing and treated him/her very well, making sure he/she received proper and adequate nutrition as well as play and love.

Trudy Jackson

Thank you Christie, and that's what i'm going to do. Tomorrow I will call the shelters and ask about the numbers. I'll get back to you on that. thanks again.


Hi Andrea,

Good points, thanks. And promoting collaborative rather than competitive efforts within communities would surely (one would think) help the situation.

By the way, that situation I mentioned was either at the Miami or Houston site ... I can still see the second attack by that one dog after he had been through weeks of behavioral training to reduce his aggression: the animal control guy, with bandaged-wrapped arm from the prior attack, met up with the dog in a park. The initial greeting was okay, then the dog lunged at the guy, knocking him down and taking another big bite. ouch! But the guy continued to assert that he was going to make sure that dog would be saved at all costs. It was very strange in the balance.


Andrea 2CatMom

Christie, you nailed it. Instead of working together for the good of the animals, too many shelters spend their time trying to compete with other shelters rather than work cooperatively. I've mentioned before how happy I am that several shelters in my town have finally joined together as a coalition to share resources and ideas.

I have a good friend that used to manage a shelter in town. She never had a good word for anyone else in the rescue business. She did a very good job, but you couldn't say that there weren't issues at her facility as well. Anytime she'd say something negative about another shelter (generally another pretty good one), I'd reply "everyone is working towards the same goal, so let's focus on that and not on each of our defects".

And Christie you are so right about the manipulation of adoption figures. How many placements you have is not, in itself a measure of how good a shelter is. If you take the cute puppies an kitties your job is going to be a lot easier than placing middle aged or special needs animals. There is one true no kill shelter here that finds homes for almost 300 cats a year - the shelter holds only about 100 cats - to me that's pretty amazing. And they have a fair number of cats who have lived at the shelter for years - some that can't/won't be adopted out and some that haven't found their forever homes.


Just went and read the column, which I didn't realize discusses methods of harm reduction in great detail. Very good reading.

Christie Keith

It's also important not to talk only about A SHELTER, but look at communities. I was at first taken aback by Maddie's Fund's policy of giving grants only on the community level, but now I understand it perfectly. While one shelter changing can trigger a region-wide transformation (which is what happened in San Francisco), real change happens much more quickly and extensively if the entire community is involved.

A lot of the anti-no-kill rhetoric is aimed at "selective facts," such as looking at one shelter that doesn't take in strays or owner surrenders and saying "well, that's why they don't have to kill animals," but you can't just look at ONE shelter, you have to look at the entire region and what different niches can be filled by different organizations with different resources and philosophies.

The problem is when you get into the trenches, those with a PETA perspective don't want to give any credibility to groups that, say, work with breed rescue, and breeders don't want to work with groups who are trying to pass legislation that restrict them, and the best interests of the animals get lost.

I've been in shelters that refuse... absolutely refuse... to let breed rescue groups into their kennels. I've had a director of a shelter look me in the eye and tell me that feral cats are BETTER OFF DEAD than living as barn cats. "The lucky ones die under the wheels of a car," she said.

Some shelters won't even let their own excess pets be taken to shelters that have room and better adoption opportunities, EVEN THOUGH IT MEANS KILLING THOSE ANIMALS, or others to make room for them, all because they are philisophically opposed to "no kill" as a movement.

Every time I come across a shelter where everyone is demoralized and they have high kill rates, and few volunteers, and a hidebound staff who insists they are already trying everything and their area is just too... big, urban, rural, southern, scattered, suburban, mobile, whatever ... to change, I also see a shelter director and sometimes board that would rather cling to their failing strategy than try something new, something that challenges their current belief system.


Christie, I really appreciate your insight, comments, and articles about the problems with Shelters and also your take on solutions.


Thanks for this important post! With rare exception, it seems that the determination of whether an animal is adoptable or not is purely arbitrary and subjective. The many "animal rescue" series on Animal Planet have provided an interesting look into how various jurisdictions across the country make these determinations. I don't want to discount knowledge and experience, but it's amazing the lengths one group will go to "save" one rescued animal while choosing to euthanize others.

In general, I do believe that concerted efforts are made even in very difficult situations. However, I've never been able to get out of my mind one episode in which a dog that repeatedly charged, attacked, and seriously bit (several times) an animal control officer (broke the skin and more--it was extensive) was determined to be saved at all cost, while in the same episode a sweet, playful little toy dog with a partially missing jaw was put to sleep because it was alleged that it would be too difficult for the dog to have a good quality of life (mind you, they didn't indicate that the dog was in pain, and he/she seemed very playful and sweet). That really, really pissed me off. A lot.

Well, my two cents for the moment. Time to check the local numbers (again).


Charlottesville/Albemarle is at 92% (open admissions and provides AC services for the community.)


excellent post. thank you.


Excellent post! Concentrating on the live release rate helps when I get confused while reading the different, and somewhat opposing, philosophies of the No Kill Advocacy versus Peta and HSUS. While reading thru the NO Kill website and Peta's website, I was surprised to see Peta and HSUS writing against No Kill shelters - at least the closed admissions which they claim pushes the owner to do something drastic if they cannot admit the animal to the shelter. Counseling would be an important part of the equation if you turn away admissions.

Trying to sift through the opposing viewpoints takes time and energy, but as long as I keep the "live release rate" as the goal, I can work towards deciding which strategies I want to align my time and money towards. I'm happy to see Sally's post about the shelter at Charlottesville/Albemarle being open admissions AND having a live release rate over 90%. This is a problem that has bothered me since dumped dogs crawled up to me as a child many years ago. I've always been "part of the solution" by taking in strays, but I'm sick of hearing about tens of thousands dying yearly in my state and I want to part of a REAL solution -- 90% or higher live release.

Andrea 2CatMom

Sandy: I have the same issue with the Animal Cop shows.

Houston seems to be the worst, but it may be because they cover such a large area and don't have space/money for long term rehabilitation. They bring in a starved animal and if he's food agressive a few days later they put him to sleep. Hey if I were starved, I'd be food agressive too.

New York seems to have the time and money to deal with this type of issue. They appear to have full time behaviorial experts on staff which I haven't seen pictured at the Houston facility.

It may also be how the organizations see their role. Our community 'dog catchers' used to be a one way ticket to euthanasia. Now they work with other shelters and encourage them to take animals with potential for adoption. That's not a no kill situation, but a lot better than it used to be.

There's actually a been a lot of progress with various shelters working with each other to find the best place for an animal. Not so long ago, it was a competitive relationship, with the largest humane organization cherry-picking the most adoptable and then euthanizing the rest. I still think they are still too restrictive on what they consider adoptable, but at least they are working with other shelters to find places for animals that may take longer to adopt (older animals, or animals with disabilities).

Many of these other shelters are strictly no kill - no animal is put down due to age or disability, as long as the animal is not in pain and is not suffering. Of course how you define pain and suffering is open to debate.

Andrea 2CatMom

Sandy - I don't think I've seen that one. Lots of times I start watching an episode, but I get so emotional I have to turn it off.

I meant to add one additional comment about the little male cat - to me that's what 'no kill' means. If you can't place the animal he has a home at the shelter for the rest of his life.

And don't worry, its a cageless shelter so he gets to run around all day and play, play, play.

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