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20 November 2007


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thanks for this post, Christie. Since I am one who believes the Winograd movement's language is Orwellian and completely reject your turning that around to say that I am Orwellian because I refuse to accept your distinction between "kill" and "euthanize", I will respond.

It's time to stop being afraid of the word "kill." And to accept what it is, and what it means. As well as to understand who the enemies of Winograd's vision are, and who are not.

1) I BELIEVE in the goal of eliminating the killing of animals. Not everyone attacking the movement's use of language opposes the goal. I DESPISE the hypocrisy of PETA and HSUS in this as in so many other matters.

2) I SUPPORT Winograd's vision and strategy, but I think he and his supporters are setting themselves up for marginalization and co-option through misuse of language.

3) I believe shelters should kill NO animals because of breed, color or correctable behavior issues. I believe, as Winograd does, that SOME SMALL percentage of animals must be killed, because they are too sick or too dangerous to people. NO WHERE does Winograd say that in his vision, no animals will ever be killed for any reason. If you think so, I'll send you the link to his response at Best Friends that he thinks 90-95% is the best expectation

4) yes, I believe a dead animal is "killed". I see no value in making semantic distinctions so that one form of dead is "killed" and one form is "euthanized". THIS IS NO BETTER than the misuse of language by shelters who claim to be "no kill" because they don't kill what they call "ADOPTABLE" animals. Winograd (and you, I believe) scorn this deception because of the way "adoptable" can be used to disappear pit bulls, black dogs, older healthy dogs or dogs with curable diseases or behavior issues.

If you think shelters won't game "euthanasia" the way they do "adoptable", you're not as experienced as I understand you to be. ONLY by calling each and every dead animal "killed" can we avoid this kind of word gaming and be honest to the public.

And here's why I am so disturbed by what I see as the misuse of language.

Because while this debate is critical within the shelter/rescue world, Winograd's vision is that building a no-kill world must involve a COMMUNITY.

To the average person, "no kill" will only mean "no animals get dead". The average person isn't going to understand the subtle distinctions the shelter/rescue community wants to make between forms of "get dead", so that some forms are "euthanasia/good" and some forms are "killed/bad".

They will RESENT and TURN AWAY from a movement that lies. The public already gets to pretend that the animals they irresponsibly give up will always find another home. It's time to confront the public with the REAL fate of their pets. Yes, some of their pets will die. In the best world, they will only die if they are truly sick or dangerous. In the best world, if the pets are NOT sick or dangerous, shelters help owners KEEP them, and that's part of Winograd's vision, too.

There is nothing worse to a movement than deceiving your public, even if YOU think you're not being deceptive, but only being subtle with words. Remember "it depends on what the meaning of "is" is"?

This kind of thing lays the movement open to unnecessary and diversionary criticism, and allows the PETA and HSUS of the world to co-opt the effort. THEY are the ones who agree with you that some pets must be killed, but let's call it "euthanasia" so it doesn't sound so bad to the public. Then we can continue to collect money because we don't "kill".

The no kill movement must face up to its own reality. It DOES NOT MEAN "NO KILL." It doesn't matter if you want to sugarcoat this by calling some of the deaths "euthanasia".

I just see a bad bad future for a movement that uses the term "no kill" when it means SOMETHING ELSE (minimal kill, no kill for stupid reasons, whatever).


Do you have an alternative name in mind for Winograd's vision?


No convenience killing?

I agree that the wrod 'euthanasia' has bexcome seriously distorted.



The distinction between euthanizing an animal who's desperately ill and in pain, and killing a healthy animal for reasons of the shelter's convenience and to punish the "bad owners" isn't a subtle one, and no one outside the current shelter movement thinks it is. That you think it's a subtle distinction is part of the problem.

This kind of thing lays the movement open to unnecessary and diversionary criticism, and allows the PETA and HSUS of the world to co-opt the effort. THEY are the ones who agree with you that some pets must be killed, but let’s call it “euthanasia” so it doesn’t sound so bad to the public. Then we can continue to collect money because we don’t “kill”.

You're describing the current shelter movement's position, not Christie's, or Nathan Winograd's. And I think you know it, and expect people to be distracted and possibly intimidated by the accusation that they're siding with PETA, who want even more healthy animals killed.

You're not arguing in good faith.

Gina Spadafori

Emily ... I think I've asked you before, and I don't think you're answered: Have you read "Redemption"? Because until you have, you can't fairly (and certainly not accurately) argue against the point of view of the writer.

That said, although I agree very much with Christie's points here, I also agree that "no kill" is confusing (made more so by those fighting it), since some animals will still need to be euthanized (in the true sense of the word, as a subset of "kill").

What we need, as Pat has pointed out, is a bullet-proof description for this way of managing shelters, in which (per Winograd's writing) a "no kill" is defined as a shelter where 90 percent (plus or minus) of animals make it out again and into homes, and shelters are truly sheltering animals, not serving as slaughterhouses for the inconvenient.

Ideas, anyone?


There was another post somewhere on another thread where someone made reference to "Low Kill" shelters. It's an idea - although I'm not sure how well I like it.


A follow-up thought - I think maybe I'd prefer a name that focuses on the positive rather than the negative. I'm not suggesting this (it's clumsy) but for example - the positive side of "Low Kill" might be "High Save" or something along those lines.

Again, an acceptable "catch phrase" hasn't yet occurred to me - but it would be nice if it focussed more on the idea of *saving* lives than it did on *taking* them.

Christie Keith

I agree, "no kill shelter" is a term fraught with, well... problems.

But the "no kill MOVEMENT" is something else entirely, because it's about ending the use of killing as a form of population control, not in individual shelters but on a community-wide basis. A SHELTER can be "low kill" or "high save" or whatever they want to call themselves. But if the movement itself is the movement to end the use of killing for animal population control... well, isn't "no kill movement" the perfect name?

If shelters perform true euthanasias, that does not, in my mind, change the basic goal of the movement itself -- ending animal population control killing -- any more than it means I'm not a part of the "no kill movement" because I euthanized my dog Raven when she had bone cancer.

One last thought: Had the traditional shelter world not decided to call animal population control killing "euthanasia" in the first place, would we be having this debate? I am not sure we would be.

Still, I am always happy to discuss words and their meanings, and seeing if there's a better way to communicate an idea. The problem is, this debate is rarely really about that. There always seems to be another debate going on just beneath the surface.

For example, Emily had me until this paragraph:

The public already gets to pretend that the animals they irresponsibly give up will always find another home. It’s time to confront the public with the REAL fate of their pets.

This suggests that we need to make the public confront the reality of their irresponsibility by not giving them an "out" with terms like "no kill." I think that education is a valuable part of ending animal population control killing, but until "teaching people a lesson" is off the agenda, we're going to go around endlessly on this one.


Here's another follow-up thought - although I admit at the outset how problematic this one may be:

What if we were to reclaim the word *"shelter"* in its original context, as discussed by Winograd in "Redemption". A "shelter" would be assumed to be a safe place for animals (meeting the various functions Winograd describes) and if it did not - if it utilized population control killing - then it becomes a "kill" shelter. So we'd have "shelters" and "kill shelters" - plain and simple. A much more precise use of the terms and an accurate description of what goes on in each case.

And Winograd's overall concept would be called the "Sheltering Movement".

Hmmmmm . . . . can you "re-co-opt" a term that's been co-opted already (and for so many years)?

Gina Spadafori

Emily has made that point before, about "teaching the public a lesson."

Christie, as you and I have discussed, that's how we felt until the "lightbulb" moment of reading "Redemption."

When you see lots of "the bad people" -- in person as a shelter worker or rescue group leader -- it is hard to remember there are good people out there. We have a hard time, too, and we're just writing about this stuff!

But in fact communities can and will be mobilized on behalf of animals, if the humane industry will just get out of their mindset that most pets are better off dead than [insert unreasonable adoption demand here]. And then goes and finds the people in the community who can and will make that happen.


"if the people we have hired to shelter these animals believe that most of them are better off dead than in the hands of people who — horror of horrors — work all day,...

This is why I'm conservative and libertarian.

There is a group of people who wish to manipulate everything to construct their utopia (the Nanny state), yet they generally don't do this through accomplishment, they instead do it through dictating what others should do. They make theories that don't follow facts or logic, but to this group at least, feel good.

Those who have taken up the cause to speak for those who cannot speak (dumb friends ring a bell?) are the bottom of the barrel of their cult, since they have obviously failed the higher calling of speaking for those who can actually speak (read: metropolitan elites pandering to the "disenfranchised" and anyone who uses that word).

Being an animal crusader is easy, the animals can't tell you to shut up, so you can be just like Jesse Jackson for animals, self proclaimed paladin... and just like him, you never have to be accountable because the pets certainly didn't hire you. You can declare victory at every corner and criticize freely.

Using animals as a political crutch, a costume from which you can say and do things you can't get away with otherwise, playing off of the automatic sympathy garnered by cute animals... it's no wonder that the cause attracts so many Lorax wannabes.

I am a totalitarian nanny, I speak for the animals.

I remember those people every time someone comes up with a new law that will supposedly protect pets (or stupid people from themselves). It's just another excuse to give low level bureaucrats (and cereal killers like Dennis Raider) more power to harass and annoy.

Try adopting a pet from the traditional shelter system and you'll get a good taste of harassment, annoyance, and self righteous garbage. Doing "good" was never so difficult when it clearly doesn't need to be.


I have to ask (since rural libraries are slow on ILL requests and I haven't gotten my hands on this book yet): Does Winograd put forward any ideas about how to assist shelter workers with the stress they face?

I honestly think that, on a purely local level, the "teach people a lesson" mindset comes from shelter workers desperately wanting people to simply see what they see, in all its unvarnished glory. It's been my experience that no one wants to know, and it sets up a very adversarial, resentful situation. I know I certainly got sick of people saying they love animals and they don't know how I can possibly do what I do...or, when I mention what I do, they start telling me about how their cat just had her fourth litter and the local shelter won't take the kittens off their hands. I just don't even bother talking about my job anymore. So how do you interrupt that process of the shelter workers turning inwards on themselves because no one else will listen?

And disclaimer that I'm in a very "low-kill/high-placement" shelter situation with good community programs, universal shelter spay/neuter/vaccinate, strong ties with local and regional feral and breed rescue groups, and a fledgling low-cost public spay/neuter program. So I know I have it pretty good, but even so, I certainly see how swallowing a daily dose of anger and frustration can burn you out on humanity in a very big way; I've gone through phases of it myself.

I guess I feel that without competent and effective shelter workers, the whole argument about kill rates is pretty academic; I'm hoping that Winograd addresses the issue of attracting and retaining good staff and volunteers, because that's really the first thing that needs to happen, on a local level, in changing the animal sheltering paradigm.


The way I see it is, we have caused this overpopulation and for some reason, we have decided that they should suffer because of our mistakes. The only way we see out of this is to KILL.

We can't get around this, we are killing, and this is wrong.

I personally think our government should help with this expense. I mean they do spend a lot of our money on nothing.

I think here are a couple of things that could help people keep their little fur babies.

1. Give people ways to write off their pets on their taxes. It takes almost as much to keep our pets safe and healthy as it does children.

2. Give people cheaper ways to keep their pets healthy. I don't know about anyone else, but just taking one of my kids to the vet is no less than $50 plus. I have 10 kids.

3. Give discounts to people who have more than one animal for food and whatever else they need to keep them healthy.

I have a feeling that some times a person might give up their dog or cat is because of these expenses. That is not the only reason. But is by far one of the biggest. We need to make it less expensive so that more people will take more animals into their homes.

The biggest thing that the government can do is to ensure that every dog or cat is spayed or neutered.

They also need to shut down every puppy mill in the United States. Yeah, I know people will be shocked. How can they do that. Well as long as they are given the right to sell, there will always be pet overpopulation. Now we are right back where we started. We are now killing them because of our mistakes.



Terrific piece, Christie. This is, in my view, the kind of thing you do best: parsing language for political import. Language (witness "no kill," "pro-life") is both a powerful tool and a potentially potent weapon; those of us who decline to examine closely what our leaders are saying are fated to live our lives following agendas set by those who believe that saying it's so makes it so.

I'm a lawyer as well as a writer, and although I do not condon perjury or lying or the acts that inspire them, I do understand what Clinton meant by his “it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" comment. But the fact that this was used as evidence of guilt amounting to high crimes and misdemeanors proves only how willing we are to let others do our thinking for us, nothing more.

Language matters.


Comment by Elizabeth — November 20, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

"I have a feeling that some times a person might give up their dog or cat is because of these expenses. That is not the only reason. But is by far one of the biggest."

Well, it's number 3 (dogs) or 4 (cats) on the list:


But I suspect there would be a LOT of public opposition to tax breaks for pet owners. And vets spend just as much to go to school as doctors do - it's just that your doctor visits get subsidized by your health insurance in most cases.

So while we need to take a hard look at solutions to the problem of the breaking of the human/animal bond, they need to be realistic solutions that are likely to be embraced by the general public. (For example - working on getting more "pet friendly" housing available to address the relinquishment reason of "Moving" - #1 on the list for dogs, and #3 for cats.)

Nadine L.

Comment by The OTHER Pat — November 20, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

How about using the already understood and accepted "human" term:

*Safe House*.........versus........Shelter

The term "shelter" is merely a roof while a safe house is just that.


The biggest thing that the government can do is to ensure that every dog or cat is spayed or neutered.

Uh--Elizabeth--every dog or cat?

No, thank you. I want domestic dogs and cats to remain permanently a part of our lives.

Most "just pet" cats and dogs should be neutered, for sure, but public education plus low-cost spay/neuter programs actually accomplish that, in the areas where such programs have been tried.


I think "the other Pat" is right -- we need to come up with a name other than "no-kill" -- personally, I think it's too narrow and too close to other concepts already co-opted in the shelter world.

"High Save" and "Save House" seem to be more on the right track, but don't "ring" very well.

What about something like "community-based pet care"? It doesn't quite ring, but Winograd seems to be advocating for looking at the whole community, analyzing the problems there (whether it's feral cats, folks who hand in their dogs because they can't handle normal canine adolescence or the town just doesn't have enough pet-friendly landlords) and then making community-wide changes to make everyone's life more pet-friendly, rather than just counting how many pets are "killed" or "put down" or whatever.

It seems to me that Winograd is more about analysis and solving whatever problems in a given community are barriers to the maximum number of pets and solving those problems -- thus, the movement's name should reflect that.

Now, how does one take that paragraph and make a two word catch phrase? ;-)

Jan B.

You would laugh, or cry, that a group in Canada sought to prevent the 'suffering' of children caused by not having a father--by mandating their abortion. It lost, as I recall, by a hair.


Emily, I think your argument would carry a lot more weight if you could suggest a name that is clearly a superior alternative.

Gina Spadafori

I so totally love the discussion on this post. You guys rock.

Jennifer J

I think that the hypocrisy that bothers me the most is the fast and loose way "adoptable" is often used.

And the way that the public just accepts the word of most animal protection groups and shelters on whether the animals killed are or were adoptable or not.

The vast majority of the American public assumes that HSUS, PETA or their neighborhood animal services provider has the welfare of the individual animal as their highest priority and that they, being the experts and "voice of the voiceless" would not choose to kill unless it was absolutely the only alternative. They don't question, the press won't question and to speak against the status seems almost heretical.

The fact that many shelters kill based on breed, color, size, age is not public knowledge. The fact that healthy ferals are exterminated en masse along with their unweaned offspring is not put out there for public consumption and is a huge, shameful "secret" of many closed minded sheltering organizations. The fact that while some shelters are bursting at the seems others, sometimes only an hour or so away, may have significant numbers of open cages and runs is not advertised. The fact that some shelters relish "owner surrender" because the dog or cat can be immediately killed is certainly not put out there! (This happened to a friend who brought in a feral cat to a Ca, central valley shelter. She was told free sterilization services were available for ferals, but since she could not prove she was not the cat's owner, it would not qualify. If she left her there it would be an "owner surrender" and immediately euthanized. As a stray, they would have had to hold her as per Ca. law)

So I have no issue with the term No-Kill. Putting down an irremedially suffering or truly vicious, dangerous animal is not the same as killing for space or conveinence and I have never had anyone I have met get angry at the idea that a No-Kill facility would euthanize for these reasons.

But the great majority of people i know would be horrified and very angry to know how the term "adoptable" is twisted by the people who are supposed to be the voice of the animals in many cases


Comment by Lis — November 21, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

"Pat, anything can be 'construed as misleading', by people who are determined to do that."

True, but I think the less necessary it is to add qualifiers (as in "What I meant when I used that term was . . . . . . ") the more difficult you've then made it for those who "willfully misconstrue".

"No one is seriously going to believe that a shelter that says it’s No Kill is going to refuse to euthanize suffering and untreatable animals."

Actually - although I can't offer you specific examples - I will disagree with you on what members of the general public have been known to be willing to believe.

I will offer a couple of examples of situations where I found it hard to comprehend that a reasonable person would actually believe something, but they did:

First was a breeder I know of who was called by a panicky puppy purchaser (who she thought she had thoroughly prescreened) to come and take back their puppy right away. The caller wouldn't say why, only that the breeder needed get there as soon as she could! So the breeder rushed right over to find the outraged owner pointing at the puppy and demanding "Get that perverted animal off my property right NOW!"

The puppy's crime? He was rolling in and dragging himself across the grass on his belly (as puppies will do in an exuberance of energy) and the owner believed the puppy was "masturbating". No lie. She wouldn't hear of keeping the puppy a minute longer because "What if the children see this?!"

The second was a breeder who was contacted by an owner who was having all sorts of trouble housetraining her puppy. She couldn't understand why the puppy didn't poop when and where he was supposed to, because she was sticking matchsticks up her puppy's rectum "Just like you're supposed to do to make him go".

What had happened was that she'd read some online discussions between Obedience exhibitors whose dogs will be disqualified if they eliminate in the ring. And so, a practice followed by *SOME* Obedience exhibitors is to insert a matchstick a short way into the dog's rectum shortly before entering the ring to stimulate the dog to defecate.

This new puppy owner couldn't distinguish between a practice followed by some overly-competetive Obedience exhibitors and what constitutes acceptable day-to-day care practices by a dog owner. She believed the way to train a puppy when and where to poop was to stick matchsticks up its butt. Daily.

If I have come across these previous two examples of things people believe that you wouldn't seriously think ANYONE can believe, than I can readily conceive of members of the general public who "believe that a shelter that says it’s No Kill is going to refuse to euthanize suffering and untreatable animals."


Pat, anything can be "construed as misleading", by people who are determined to do that. Reasonable people who are listening honestly are not confused about the difference between putting down an animal who is too sick to continue, and putting down a healthy animal with minimal or no problems except that it doesn't currently have a home, simply because the shelter is too full. These things are truly black and white, not a subtle distinction that the general public won't understand.

No one is seriously going to believe that a shelter that says it's No Kill is going to refuse to euthanize suffering and untreatable animals. And no honest person is going to think they're hypocrites when they do euthanize those animals.


Okay - that's all the "Thesaurus-mining" I can take for now! LOL!

I've been "mining" Thesaurus sites with the objective of brainstorming some catchphrases which might capture the the positive aspects of Winograd's vision (high save rate) while avoiding focus on the phrase "No Kill". What follows is my own initial brainstorming session, and when brainstorming, it's important to remember the basic Brainstorming Rules (which each of you can also utilize if you wish to continue generating ideas in this vein):

Rules of brainstorming:

1. Collect as many ideas as possible with no criticisms or judgments made while ideas are being generated.

2. All ideas are welcome no matter how silly or far out they seem. Be creative. The more ideas the better because at this point you don't know what might work.

3. Absolutely no discussion takes place during the brainstorming activity. Talking about the ideas will take place after brainstorming is complete.

4. Do not criticize or judge. Don't even groan, frown, or laugh. All ideas are equally valid at this point.

5. Build on others' ideas to come up with additional ideas of your own.

First, here are some potential phrases that I came up with:

Animal Advocacy Community

Safe Animal Community

Safe Pet Community

Pet Protection Pact

Community Care

Safe Harbor

Safe Zone

Safe Haven


And the words in the following list are just various words that jumped out at me as potentially useful. Some of them directly triggered ideas (as seen above), while others just seemed right conceptually:












danger (antonym)










Anyone else want to have a go at it?


I'm going to presume here and offer what I think EmilyS's answer may be. In a completely literal sense, saying you are "No Kill" means you NEVER kill - whether it is euthanasia, or something that falls outside of that subset. And I think the core of the objection she voices is as simple as that.

And I don't completely disagree with her, although I concur that it is important to remain true to the real meaning of the term "euthanasia" when that accurately describes what is taking place.

So, calling a movement "No Kill" when lives of animals are being taken (whatever the reason) could be construed as misleading, and that is the objection I believe she is raising. And I think the point has some validity.

It is for that reason I'm inviting people to brainstorm alternate terminology that does not invite accusations of inaccuracy, and that also captures the more positive elements of Winograd's vision.

In fact, I'm in the midst of a "Thesaurus-mining brainstorming session" right now. Results to be posted shortly . . . . . . . . .

Gina Spadafori

You're right, Emily ... it's not about any of us. It's about the animals. I think we ALL agree on this, so there's a start.

You wrote:

"Some of you have your heads buried in the sand about why precisely many in the rescue community have problems with “no kill”… and it’s NOT because they’re minions of HSUS or PETA. They SHARE the goal of eliminating the unnecessary killing of animals."

I know they share the goal. I think they just can't jump the rut of entrenched ways and world view.

But I'm very interested in hearing why YOU think "... why precisely many in the rescue community have problems with “no kill."

I'm not being snarky. What's your take on it? I want to know.


Words have power. ABSOLUTELY words have power. Why else do you think they took AB1634 and gave it the name "Healthy Pets Act"? Or another piece of legislation that was the subject of a major fight several years ago - the "Puppy Protection Act". Why - if you went on record in opposition to THAT one, you got all sorts of shocked looks ("WHAT??? You don't believe in protecting PUPPIES?????"). Sure, it's "spin". But we live in a "sound byte society", and trying to pretend that isn't so would just be an exercise in frustration.

Furthermore, catchy names can be very useful in introducing a concept - assuming they are used honestly and accurately (something I DON'T believe can be said in the case of the two examples I cite in the previous paragraph). Catch phrases can engage people's attention and interest, and draw them in to want to learn more.

I'm still thinking over the idea of a name that focusses more on what the positive aspects of Winograd's vision are. I liked Nadine's "Safe House" although that didn't seem quite comprehensive enough. And another variation that came to mind was "Safe Place". Which could capture the idea of the role of the entire community rather than a single facility within that community.

Continuing to brainstorm . . . . . . .


well, Lis, speaking of arguing in bad faith: I never used the word "confused". You wrongly and dishonestly put that in quotes implying that you are quoting me exactly.

I also NEVER wrote anything like your paraphrase that implies I wrote that shelter workers kill for their own convenience or to advance a political agenda. (actually, that's a lot closer to paraphrasing WINOGRAD's position, in a caricatured way)

It's not possible to have an honest debate with someone as careless as you are about using and understanding words. And yet here you are insisting that *I* don't want words to have meaning.

Now THAT'S Orwellian.

But this isn't about me. Some of you have your heads buried in the sand about why precisely many in the rescue community have problems with "no kill"... and it's NOT because they're minions of HSUS or PETA. They SHARE the goal of eliminating the unnecessary killing of animals.

And John, I repeat: while you may be impatient with the notion that it makes a difference what words are used since we share the same goal, I disagree. Think about the uses of "pro-choice" and "pro-abortion" to describe the same position. Humans are verbally-oriented. WORDS influence action. Do you think we'd be in Iraq if not for the "war on terror"?


MaineMom- what about encouraging members of your community to adopt older animals? What about starting a group of community pet owners, and suggesting that you act as each other's safety nets? I am only 37 years old, but i have an arrangement with a friend where we help each other with our dogs when we're sick/out of town etc. We save a lot of money on petsitters and boarding, and our dogs have a lot more fun. If she dropped dead tomorrow i would take her dog.

If your community is that big I would imagine that the it could re-adopt/re-home the few dogs and cats that are left alone when their owners die- some people would already know the animals in question.

a community dog run would encourage communication and mutual aid, and familiarity with the neighborhood dogs, their needs and the needs of their owners .

i have long promised my mother that if anything happened to her i would happily take her dog for the rest of his life. Have your neighbors TALKED to their kids about this, or are they just assuming? When my grandfather died my aunt and uncle gladly took his dog- my mother would have taken her if they hadn't.

Perhaps the people in your community could include thier kids and grandkids in the selection/adoption process, so that they would feel more like "family" pets, in case the younger generation has to take over care? It seems like such a tragic waste of good homes, with owners who are presumably home most of the time.

Are you in a position to spearhead an adption movement? You could really do a lot of good.


I'm in complete agreement that we absolutely must find a way, FIND a way, to get homeless animals into homes. It's the job of people in rescue and shelter work.

However, I'm not in agreement that animals who live neglected are better off living neglected than anything else.

"if the people we have hired to shelter these animals believe that most of them are better off dead than in the hands of people who — horror of horrors — work all day, or have small children, or don’t have a fenced yard, or who own a pickup truck, or any one of the absurd rules used to protect animals from imperfect homes"

Here we run into another issue. Why is the option ONLY to send animals to homes where they're neglected (left chained up outside all day - which is illegal in many towns and cities for a reason, stuck in the back of pick up trucks - also illegal and dangerous, and so on) or kill them? Why is it not to educate pet owners towards responsible animal care AND find them responsible homes? Responsible pet owners and responsible rescue/shelter workers are the KEYS to a no kill environment. Encouraging irresponsible ownership should not go hand in hand with finding animals homes any way you/we can.


For the past 6 years I have lived in the largest age restricted community in California - 6800 homes where one resident must be 55 or older. Many of these people are hesitant to adopt animals for a variety of reasons. The cost of care is high on the list, but what will happen to the animal if/when they die is definiely up there. Most of their kids already have pets and don't want the burden of integrating mom's old cat or dog into their families. Since they are waiting for mom's money, they wouldn't be too thrilled if it went to UCD for the pets life-long care either.

If we could find answers to these issues there would be many more loving homes for "rescue" cats and dogs.


Since the word "shelter" has been so misused, what is wrong with the word "sanctuary" meaning a place animals are protected from molistaton and implying real safety?


Lis: I resent being told I’m arguing in bad faith because you disagree with me in wanting words to mean something, and I’ve explained why I believe it’s NOT a trivial point. You disagree, as is your right. But it’s rude, at a mimimum, of you to make assumptions about my motives

And this is why I say you're arguing in bad faith: because you don't want to let words have real meaning. You insist that we cannot distinguish between ending an animal's life because it is desperately sick, in pain, and its quality of life cannot be improved by whatever treatment is available, and ending an animal's life because the shelter staff feels the shelter is sufficiently full and it's necessary to punish the bad public. You say the public will be "confused" by the "subtle distinction" between the euthanasia a loving owner would give a pet in pain that can't be ended otherwise, and the killing shelter staff do for their own convenience and to advance their political agenda of punishing the bad public.

I say, the fact that you think this is a subtle distinction is a huge part of the problem. Calling one euthanasia and the other killing is perfectly clear and perfectly honest. Do you honestly believe that if a shelter bills itself as part of the No Kill movement, a loving owner will bring a desperately sick pet there, expecting that the shelter will magically make it possible for the pet to live pain-free? Or keep the pet alive and suffering? Do you really have so much contempt for the general public?

Jennifer J

A comment about punishing or confronting the "public"

I can certainly understand being angry at individuals who neglect or abandon pets. The foster I am getting on Saturday had surgery yesterday to repair five, yes five!, year old cherry eyes. The man who had him should never get another dog IMO and hopefully he wont.

But that is one individual. And for each one of him, there are usually several or many others who are horrified by what happened, love their own pets, will make a donation to his care and some one will adopt him. THEY are also the public. And that is the public we need to reach out to. Decades of "in your face" look what happens to these animals when you bad people let them come here has not endeared the shelter system to the bulk of the pet loving public. Worse, the average person who may or may not keep a pet currently and is not wrapped up in pet welfare or politics finds the whole subject depressing and dreary. Winograd has stated over and over that no matter what some people looking for a pet will not come to a shelter (hence the need for off-site adoptions) as they find it too depressing.

if we want to get the broader community involved in all the aspects of animal welfare and human social welfare and needs that can ultimately lead to high save rates, then the "two by four" approach is wrong. The kill em on TV to shock people into awareness is wrong. All this does is turn off many animal loving people like myself and it makes many of the general public think the people involved are way too intense and, frankly, nuts.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Some of the currently despised public may be able to learn how to be better owners. Many people who like dogs and cats may be able to help foster, volunteer and adopt if they feel welcome to participate instead of as though they are on trial for being interested in a pet.

The whole "people suck" "anyone who breeds or shows dogs or cats is evil" and "no one can take proper care of this pet but me" mantras are killing animals. This mind set is alienating the public, causing mistrust and even hatred on all sides and has got to stop. Think of all the energy spent fighting stupid, damaging legislation and all spent on passing it! Think of all the money. And consider what we could get done if we could get past it and concentrate on community based, public embraced, No-Kill programs

Susan Fox

I'll admit, when I first got involved in animal rescue about five years ago, I heard the term "No kill", found out that it actually only meant not killing ADOPTABLE animals, however hat was defined, and felt that the term was somewhat disingenuous, maybe even misleading, and that it was bound to be misunderstood by the public at large.

Until I read Nathan's book last week, I have often felt that I've walked into a movie part way through. It's taken some time to sort out all the embedded a priori assumptions and what the various organizations in the animal welfare movement actually believe and practice. Personally, animal rights, not going there. Another distinction I had to learn.

I have come to see the point in the use of the term No Kill, but agree that there is room for improvement. We just need to figure out what would be better. I do like The Other Pat's idea of taking back the word "shelter". Then there's the Best Friends Sanctuary's program, "No More Homeless Pets", which meets the criteria of being positive. Maybe we should work on what "sheltering" means and see where that leads. The word "compassion" comes to mind. How about "compassionate sheltering" just to have something additional to argue over.

Clearly it takes a community effort, which has made a real difference where I live. Cruelty cases are front page news. I honestly think that most people want to do the right thing and like to know that they've helped. So, the folks at the local feed store put aside bags of broken and extra biscuits for the dogs at our county shelter. They always have at least one bag for me to take when I go in. The local humane society is flooded with food and toys every December. I've learned that you've got to see the good, along with being willing to face the bad without giving in to hatred, in all of this or you can't last and stay emotionally functional.

I also don't think that the public is amenable to being "educated" as long as they are being blamed for causing the problem. Thinking of "them" as the enemy is counterproductive. After all, "they" are the ones who we want to provide homes for the animals. The movement needs to grow up and get over that kind of dualistic thinking, even though it's gut-wrenching to see animals who have been mistreated. And I've seen some pretty awful stuff in the dog holding section of our shelter, including scarred pit bulls that have obviously been fought and dogs so thin you can't believe that they are still able to stand.

Maybe it's a matter of the rescue/shelter community clearly and relentlessly communicating boundaries on how animals should be treated, not passing more laws.(And, Christopher, I'm a very socially progressive, Democratic tree-hugger :-)). The level of ignorance about basic dog and cat behavior and needs is mind-blowing and some of the worst offenders that I have met have been people who say they have had animals all their lives.

The problem with rubbing people's noses in the reality of shelter killing, for whatever reason, in my short experience, is that people avoid what makes them uncomfortable. They won't watch Animal Planet because they might see something unpleasant on Animal Precinct. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told that.

So, keeping in mind the ultimate goal of all (physically and emotionally) healthy companion animals being in responsible homes where they will be treated with kindness and compassion (there's some relevant adoption criteria!) and a community-wide intolerance for cruelty to animals, staying positive, rational and respectful would seem to be the way to go.

Nadine L.

What to call it? Nathanization. Nathanize. Nathanization Movement.

Jennifer J

If someone truly believes that being home alone during part of the day while people are working is a form of neglect, then common ground gets harder to find for certain. And ALOT of very good homes will be unavailable to pets who need them.

Many very caring pet owners work! And that lets them have disposable income to provide good care at the vet, the groomers etc... Afford premium food, toys beds etc...

Provided that the people involved are spending time with their animals as part of the family when they are home, I don't see being left home alone for a portion of the day a being a fate worse than death!

Of course being chained alone 24 hrs a day is not acceptable to most caring people, but that is not what we are talking about here. I've done rescue long enough to know that many animals, especially older adults, are very happy just being part of a family, even one where people are at work during the day as long as they get some good quality time with their people when they are home.

Common sense has to come into play. If we are going to require 24 hour attendance for people to be considered adequate homes, we will be signing the death warrant for alot of animals

Christie Keith

Here we run into another issue. Why is the option ONLY to send animals to homes where they’re neglected (left chained up outside all day – which is illegal in many towns and cities for a reason, stuck in the back of pick up trucks – also illegal and dangerous, and so on) or kill them? Why is it not to educate pet owners towards responsible animal care AND find them responsible homes? Responsible pet owners and responsible rescue/shelter workers are the KEYS to a no kill environment. Encouraging irresponsible ownership should not go hand in hand with finding animals homes any way you/we can.

Er.... please go into my post and find where I said this?

This is what I mean by a straw man argument.


So we're all in general agreement that non-euthanasia killing of animals is bad: all we're arguing about is what to call it?! Why does sanity, common sense and ethical behavior need a name and a PR agency? I don't care if it's called The Pink Dots Movement, as long as we can save a few million animals a year from a death of convenience. The whole debate is a just a wedge issue being driven by folks like Wayne Pacelle who have a vested interest in the status quo. Hey, if it needs a better name, let's take up a donation to hire some PR folks to brainstorm something snappy - but it's the GOAL that matters, not the NAME.


"However, I’m not in agreement that animals who live neglected are better off living neglected than anything else."

Where did you read that anyone here condones the neglect of animals?


Gina: yes, I have read the book and I am NOT arguing against his point of view. How do you get that?

Christie: I appreciate Winograd's insistence that shelter staff bear the burden of acknowledging THEIR role in killing. But that hardly should let the public who abandons their animals off the hook.. that goes WAY to the other extreme, and I don't read him that way in any case. It may be the shelter staff who does the killing, but it's the owner who abandons the animal. No, I don't believe in letting them off. That doesn't mean I think that everyone who abandons an animal needs to be told off by some jerk like me. But I think it's absolutely wrong to allow that person to believe his abandoned pet is going to find that perfect "home in the country with enough room to run". When for example in my town's shelter, the odds are 1 in 4 that it's going to get killed.

In fact, I think keeping some of the focus on the owner is MORE likely to engage them into thinking twice and being willing to make another effort to keep their animal. Winograd's plan INCLUDES owner counseling. If nothing else, many owners need to be counseled not to get a replacement pet after they've abandoned one. Owners treated fairly and honestly are more likely to support a community effort to eliminate unnecessary killing. Owners allowed to believe that "no kill" means " no pet gets dead" have no incentive for changing their behavior.

Lis: I resent being told I'm arguing in bad faith because you disagree with me in wanting words to mean something, and I've explained why I believe it's NOT a trivial point. You disagree, as is your right. But it's rude, at a mimimum, of you to make assumptions about my motives

OtherPat: I think you're on to something. A positive term like "high save" would be much more powerful, as well as avoiding all the language baggage "no kill" has already acquired. Surely creative minds can come up with something.

Susan Fox

Wanted to add the word "compassion" as in possibly "compassionate sheltering" to Pat's wonderful brainstorming list.


Hi Amanda, thank you for your suggestions. Our local feline rescue, Fieldhaven, does have a program in place to wave adoption fees for senior cats placed in our community. But the issues of expense and future care are more difficult to deal with - especially for elderly people on fixed incomes. This year my vet bills alone have exceeded 3K for two cats and a dog. And, yes, pets are re-adopted within the community whenever possible.

which beond many


Christie -- thank you SO MUCH for this piece! It is deeply appreciated, as these statements and beliefs must be shared and passed as far and wide as possible.

Every person who has disagreed w/ Winograd's terminology must read Redemption and his website, before criticizing. 'Euthanasia' is, by definition, killing. However, it is, by definition, mercy killing.

Unlike Christie, I was into my 50's when I felt uncertain about keeping animals alive in cages, rather than putting them down. (still, I never called that euthanasia). It was a gradual realization and Winograd helped me finalize the truth. The 'No Kill' movement has nothing to do w/ keeping animals locked in cages in order to not kill them. It has to do w/ revamping our entire attitude, shelter and animal control system.

There is, in fact, not an overpopulation of pets. There is an overpopulation of animals in shelters because too few pets are selected from shelters, as most are purchased. It is another human lie that there are too many animals.

To those who believe that Winograd's term 'No Kill' will anger people who learn that animals that are terminally ill or so damaged and aggressive that they cannot be rehabilitated are respectively euthanized/put down, I say BS. Almost NO ONE is opposed to true euthanasia for animals. And the rest don't care.

We need to support this man's work, experience and teaching, because it will make a difference and because it is the moral thing to do. When a person has made it his life's work to save as many animals as possible and place them in HOMES, it is totally unproductive to nit pick.

The only terminologies that I would bother arguing with are HSUS's blatant lies (and insult to our intelligence and morality) that 'killing is not really killing' and that the term 'euthanasia' can be applied to healthy animals.

Let us save our nit picking for societies such as HSUS who LIE and have been lying to us for years, and who proceed with their dirty deeds and corruption behind the public's back.


I like "community care" on Pat's list - it shows that caring for pets without homes is more than just what happens at one shelter.


I don't believe it's nitpicking. And I've read both the website, and the book (about 2/3 of the way through).

But I do believe in the importance and the power of language. Maybe a way to capture what I've been "exploring out loud" on this thread is to think of looking for language that focuses on *life* rather than language that focuses on *death*.

And I think that's worthwhile.


thank you OtherPat, you did indeed articulate in a few words the point I was trying to make in hundreds...! lol And you're far more creative than I am.. your ideas for alternatives are great and I think your point about focusing on LIFE rather than death is exactly exactly right.

The more I think about this, the more I'm sure that the movement needs another name. Tying the movement to a phrase that has so much baggage and is so easily/wilfully misunderstood just makes the effort MORE difficult.

Why tie yourself to continually explaining that "no, we don't mean just warehousing animals..." or subject yourself to the accusation about gaming numbers (where shelters claim to be "no kill" no matter HOW MANY animals they "euthanize" even as they "euthanize" animals that may not be too sick or too dangerous. Where "euthanized" is the new euphemism for "not adoptable").

Winograd's effort is to completely break from the current mentality surrounding the shelter system.

WHY insist on holding on to a name that is tarnished by that very system?

Laura L

Much as I agree with Winograd, Christie, Gina et al, I think Emily has a great point. But I don't think the name is the problem - the system is.

Case in point. The city where I live has an SPCA that is "no-kill." They get their animals from the county animal control shelter, which is high-kill. Basically, the SPCA goes to the shelter every couple of days, cherry-picks the pets they have room for and think they can find homes for, and leaves the rest to die. (This IS factually true; my partner does spays and neuters over there from time to time and has seen it in action.)

I love our SPCA. They do a fabulous job at finding homes for animals, and people are very positive about the environment there - it's the "no-pressure" shelter, as I like to call it. Then again, though, they only tax themselves with placing the most marketable inventory. And very few animals fit that bill.

Meantime, folks here can take pride in the happy, pretty "no-kill" shelter without ever having to confront the fact that our larger system has kill rates that are through the roof. The county kill shelter is the dirty family secret. It gets no attention, politically or otherwise, because hey - we have a no kill shelter, right?

Two of my furkids are shelter inmates who didn't make the cut and were slated for execution (sorry, that's *my* word for it.) My dog, Woody, apparently cowered in the back of the cage (shelter shock, no doubt) and so was deemed not outgoing enough. He is a neurotic little guy, fair enough, but as outgoing as you could ask for. I can't imagine a world without him. He was four hours away from the "Blue juice" when we got him.

And my beautiful boy cat Pippin was only 4 weeks when he was brought in - too small to make it, according to shelter standards. He, too, was passed over by the no-kill Angel of Life. :) Luckily, a shelter worker fell in love with him and asked us to foster him (off the books, naturally.) At 8 months now, he's 8 pounds of beautiful, fluffy, healthy Maine Coon charm.

Both of these happy, healthy, loving pets did not make the no-kill cut - not because they were dangerous or unadoptable, but because they didn't win the field on one particular day. Sorry, but that's one badly broken system. The "no-kill" shelter does good work, but it's also a way to distract the public's attention (and tax dollars) from the man behind the curtain who's holding a needle.

Which brings me back to my long-winded (sorry!) point. What shelters call themselves isn't nearly as important as what they do. If they want to say they're no kill or low kill, fine - as long as the cold math of intake versus inventory bears it out. Most folks don't and won't ask that question. It's too uncomfortable. So it takes interested, outspoken people in a community to make sure the math actually does add up. (Political pressure on a local level never hurts, either.)

Sorry so long winded, but I'm deeply conflicted about this myself. Another of my five furkids, Marley, is "helping" me write this. She's a no-kill alumna herself. I owe a huge debt to the feral-cat folks who saved her as a kitten. I guess that's part of why I'm writing this. The feral cat folks are also "no-kill," but they actually mean it. Our SPCA does great work, but what it's doing isn't truly no-kill. As I see it, calling them the same thing just isn't right.

Christie Keith

Why tie yourself to

Because it's a powerful term that appeals to many, many people who want to achieve and believe in a no-kill nation.

Besides, truthfully, even if I agreed completely with you, it wouldn't matter. It's very hard to change the name or identity of a movement when it's caught fire as this one has. The time to rename it is, I believe, past. We can talk about it using different terms... Rich Avanzino, for instance, has floated "adoption guarantee"... but I believe that "no-kill" has sort of been chosen by people's imaginations and memories.

Sometimes when I've adopted an animal, I've wanted to change their names, but their name was just a part of them, even if I personally didn't like it. My cat Daphne was Daphne forever, even though I didn't care for the name.

But my dog Colleen came to me as "Sparky," and she just wasn't "Sparky," to her or to me, so changing it was easy and right.

I suspect this will be like that.

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