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20 March 2008


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Gina Spadafori

Running ANY non-profit can be lucrative, in case you haven't been paying attention. Check out the IRS filings -- Sayres' salary was more than matched by shelter directors that are as far from supporting community no-kill solutions as can possibly be imagined. Here's a little bit of information, a list of non-profit animal advocacy groups salaries from 2004, many of which were in excess of $250,000.

The rest of that article you link to is interesting, however.


These no-kill operations can be very lucrative.


"While earning $200,000 a year in salary and benefits, Sayres created new executive positions that cost the shelter hundreds of thousands of dollars more in compensation than was spent during Avanzino's tenure. That might not have seemed like such a big deal in 1997, when the nonprofit was taking in several million dollars more in donations from the public than it was spending to cover operational expenses."


Comment by Carol — March 20, 2008 @ 11:37 am

"Have not read Winograd’s book and hope he is not directing his comments toward the large number of organizations who operate on a strictly volunteer basis. The ones I deal with have caring individuals and never enough time, money, or volunteers."

Carol, hopefully you will find an opportunity to read his book so that you can learn about the entire philosophy rather than selected "sound bytes". But in the absence of that, let me emphasize this very important point - Winograd's overall vision talks about a No Kill *Nation*. The idea that NO shelter, or rescue group, or pound, or whatever works in isolation from the others. That ALL those working on behalf of the welfare of homeless animals in their community need to adopt an attitude of working TOGETHER - each group focussing on the area where they can make the most difference, and being willing to share the load with other groups without worrying over who get's "the credit" since that's far less important than how many animals' lives can be saved.

Hence, you see Winograd's vision include letting rescue groups take animals out of shelters without shelters getting all up in arms over whether or not they're taking the "most adoptable" animals. You see his vision include having shelters utilize foster homes even though the administrative logistics of doing so are a bit harder than just keeping all the animals in cages on site. You see Winograd's vision include shelters being okay with shipping animals to other shelters in other areas of the country if the demographics of adoptions in the second shelter are more favorable to the type of animals that are perhaps languishing in the first shelter for lack of homes. And so on.

By broadening the view much, much wider than any one shelter or organization, Winograd's vision becomes possible. But that is a basic shift in perspective, and human beings are notoriously resistant to such fundamental changes in their worldview.

Hopefully, the groundswell is taking hold, and we will see all these things begin to change for the good of the animals.


so tell me Gina: how do I prevent my neighbor’s cat.. or the various stray/owned cats in the neighborhood… from coming on my property, digging up my garden, peeing on my plants, harassing my dogs and otherwise being an unwelcome presence? If I wanted cats, I would OWN a cat.

I've lived all my life near feral cat colonies and, when I was younger, with free-roaming owned housecats as the norm. Somehow I've never experienced all this destruction the cat-haters seem to experience

Yeah, if they were skunks or raccoons, or rats… I’d have the right to trap/kill them.

Not here, you wouldn't. Here (I'm in Massachusetts), the law and regs say that the animals have the same right to be here that we do, and unless they are an actual danger to human beings, they cannot be killed or moved.

When my club had a skunk move into the basement, it could not be killed; it had to be humanely trapped and moved. When woodchuck took up residence out in the rear of my little mini-development here, it could not be killed or removed (it was outside where it belonged, and it wasn't a threat to anyone who didn't try to bother its babies.) We got to watch a showdown between Mama Woodchuck and Big Bad Possum, who thought the babies looked like Dinner.

No poisoning the raccoons, either. We keep an eye out for coyotes, and it's not recommended to leave small dogs out in the yard unattended, because we have hawks, too. (I'm living in the heart of an urban area, by the way.) All of these these are a lot more, um,challenging than the feral and indoor/outdoor cats in the area. The cats, after all, concentrate most of their hunting efforts on actual pests--mice and small rats.

Yeah, they get the occasional bird, sometimes. The hawks get a lot more of them. As well as the larger rats, of course. You take the good with the bad.

In the case of raccoons, the last time I had a problem, I was told I HAD to bring them in to be killed, because of the rabies potential (luckily I wasn’t faced with that; my problem was possums, which I was able to relocate)

Would not have happened that way here. Animals that bite someone are brought in and killed if possible, to test for rabies, but not otherwise.

If feral cats are “wild”, why can’t I do that to them?

Two things. One, here, you wouldn't be allowed to do those things to any other wild animal, so why cats in particular.

Two, since TNR is much more effective than killing at actually controlling and reducing the number of feral cats in an area, and their environmental impact, why on earth are you so determined to see them die? If the problems you cite are the real reason for your dislike of them, wouldn't you rather do what's most effective in reducing their numbers?


I'm surprised at the venom directed to cat owners on this issue. Have had many cats - mostly indoors but a few both indoor/outdoor. They did not tear up people's property or do any of the nasty things mentioned here. Don't make the assumption that all outdoor cats are destructive to your property.

I too don't like to see birds killed by cats but that is nature and not likely to change! My neighbor complained about one of my cats killing birds. I personally never witnessed this and never received any "gifts". I put up a taller fence in my yard, yet this same neighbor refused to let me replace the side facing her house as it would disturb her plants.

Have not read Winograd's book and hope he is not directing his comments toward the large number of organizations who operate on a strictly volunteer basis. The ones I deal with have caring individuals and never enough time, money, or volunteers.


The relative effects of humans and animal on wildlife and the degree to which they can be prevent varies by setting.

But ultimately, if my neighbor is a murderer does that mean I'm allowed to be a mugger? Negative impacts should be understood on their own terms not by comparision, and if ultimately one person doesn't care about the animals the cat is killing--well, understand the bird watcher has a valid basis for disagreeing. One advocates for cats, the other for bords. That's good because neither can speak for themslves here.

The consensus of society has to balance these things sensibly, somehow. Probably by making everyone a little bit unhappy. ;)


p.s. cats eating birds is nature. The density of cats and the existence on most continents is artificial. I liek cats by my country has 1/3 of the endanger bird species in the world despite being just a few islands. In that case the birds are in greater need, on the whole. In the suburbs where the native birds are already instinct or adapted, that's different.

There is not one solution, but there are the same set of consideratiosn to be weighted.


Emily S- Thank you for making that point. I agree with you fully. As a biologist I've seen the damage and read scientific articles that point out the damage cats can do. It's not just songbirds. Small mammals and reptiles are also affected. Not every rodent they catch is a non-native species. It's not that I don't like cats, I just feel that cats running free should not have such a high cost to the environment and on property owners. Denial of these things does not mean the problem doesn't exist.


We had a snake drag a dead baby bunny up to our house a little while back but then left it there. A friend who raises pet chickens had a snake kill one of hers and then abandon it because it was too big to eat. A pack of ownerless dogs who roam my neighborhood tore a cocker spaniel apart right in front of my house. One of my dogs snatched a baby bird from another of my dog's

My point being - animals (wild, domesticated, semi-feral) prey on each other but the damage caused is way *way* less significant than the damage caused by the human animal. If you care deeply about the environment and/or birds, small mammals, etc, there are ways to contribute towards saving them that would make a significant impact well beyond the effect of containing cats.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Good catch, Christie. It's a joy to see that Redemption's still generating what I consider excellent press.


Good article. The problem is multi-faceted, but Nathan isn't unreasonable in expecting organizations that call themselves "shelters" and "humane societies" to actually step up and do the job, rather than using an Orwellian cover for a garbage disposal mandate.

Gina Spadafori

"Denial of these things does not mean the problem doesn’t exist."

No one's denying the problems don't exist. They're pointing out that: 1) People are a much bigger problem, through deforestation and building in sensitive habitats; and 2) Trap-neuter-release is a better control method all around than extermination, because when feral cats are exterminated, others simply move right in.

As for "property rights," I always love this one. Do you want wildlife exterminated, too, so they won't dare to poop on your property either?

I absolutely do favor keeping pet cats contained -- I really do want my cat to stay out of my neighbor's yard, because I am a good neighbor (that's another reason for Clara's Secret Garden)-- but I also favor trap-neuter-release and management of feral colonies. The exception: Feral cats in truly sensitive ecological areas should be relocated.

Someone's suburban backyard isn't anyone's idea of a sensitive ecological area.


sorry about leaving my first paragraph in mid-sentence. I'm - you know - *working*. ; )


so tell me Gina: how do I prevent my neighbor's cat.. or the various stray/owned cats in the neighborhood... from coming on my property, digging up my garden, peeing on my plants, harassing my dogs and otherwise being an unwelcome presence? If I wanted cats, I would OWN a cat.

Yeah, if they were skunks or raccoons, or rats... I'd have the right to trap/kill them. In the case of raccoons, the last time I had a problem, I was told I HAD to bring them in to be killed, because of the rabies potential (luckily I wasn't faced with that; my problem was possums, which I was able to relocate)

If feral cats are "wild", why can't I do that to them?

If they are "pets", why can't I demand that the owners keep them on their own property? Well, I could try, but give me ONE example of a cat owner who would comply. I never have. There aren't many cat owners like you.

Habitat destruction/climate change may be the biggest factors in wildlife disappearance. But to conclude that the damage domestic animals, including cats, do, is insignificant and can be ignored, is just plain wrong.

And TNR advocates hurt their cause by this attitude.

If piping plovers have the right to exist without being harassed by wild/feral/stray cats, why don't *I* have the same right?


Indeed. A small off shore island can have every cat removed. But our mainland communities do better with feral managed than not managed. It seems obvisou to em but a large group seem to think killing every animal they see is acheiving something. :(


Here are some links about the effects of cats on wildlife.



Species that live in suburban areas are valuable to many people. I enjoy having birds come to my bird feeder. The bird numbers decrease as the number of cats in the neighborhood increase.


I'm a big supporter of Winograd's vision, but

1) he needs to STOP using SF as an example of a "no kill" city.. it is a FAILED no kill city. "No kill" only existed there when there was a strong committed advocate.. now they kill with abandon (http://btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2008/03/bslmsn-in-san-f.html). "No kill" (i.e. "low" kill) certainly is possible... but it is apparently fragile.

2) he (and other TNR supporters) need to STOP belittling/denying the damage feral and stray cats do to wildlife (it is just ridiculous to claim that a " no cat is a match for a healthy bird") and to the property rights of people.


I think the SF example actually bolsters his point - that it is KEY to have a committed shelter director in order to make No Kill work. I don't think SF's changed status shows that "No Kill" is fragile nearly as much as it shows that No Kill needs strong, committed leadership. And that's been a central part of his message all along.


Feral cats aren't an environmental disaster everywhere. But they are troublesome in more places than you'd think. I agree that habitat destruction is the leading cause of species endangerment, but that doesn't negate the effects of predation on top of habitat loss. Species are even more vulnerable now because of habitat loss. I just don't think TNR is the solution everywhere.

As far as property rights go, if a raccoon poops on my lawn nobody is responsible for it. But I do mind if a neighbor walking their dog lets the dog leave a deposit on my lawn. I just feel that domestic animals should have someone responsible for them. And it's not just poop, it's the scratched car paint, the all night yeowling under windows, the colonies acting as disease reservoirs for my well cared for cat, etc.

Gina Spadafori

I guess I missed the news bulletin that people are as endangered as the piping plover. And you're both missing the point that TNR is a humane solution that REDUCES the number of feral cats. We all want that, yes?

Killing feral cats does not reduce overall numbers, no matter how much you would like to do so out of righteous indignation over their trampling of your sacred property rights and your right to see songbirds at your backyard feeder. Kill them all, and more cats will simply move in if the place where the other cats were killed remains overall hospitable and community-wide low-cost neutering programs aren't in place.

Again (and again and again), I am completely in favor of people keeping their own cats on their own property, through the use of enclosures, cat-fencing, etc. However, I continue to believe based on years of spittle-soaked hate mail that people who want to shoot cats, poison cats, put bounties on cats, etc., etc., are mostly indulging their dislike of these animals and giving a pass to the more complicated and hard-to-solve reasons why birds are disappearing because it's easier to blame cats.

There is common ground, and I think it's getting people with "owned" cats to keep them safely contained while using managed TNR programs to keep feral numbers down (and while relocating ferals from ecologically sensitive areas).

It would also help if cat-haters would take the sticks out of their asses long enough to realize that we all have to put up with a certain amount of transgressions from the world around us. There are a lot of things my neighbors occasionally do that annoy me, but I let a lot of it go. Yes, even though it occasionally interferes with my own precious "property rights" while I work with my neighbors to resolve and solve the issues.

Honestly, when people who are "fighting for songbirds" are pressed and start adding a laundry list of complaints including such things as cat paw prints on their cars, they've revealed their true colors. It's ain't about birds. It's about control. Honey, if cat paw prints on your car is your worst problem in life, you got it easy.

Gina Spadafori

"The consensus of society has to balance these things sensibly, somehow. Probably by making everyone a little bit unhappy."

I so agree! But I doubt the cat-haters who e-mail me ever will accept anything but dead cats as a solution.

For me, the compromise is aggressive community spay-neuter outreach and managed TNR colonies to dramatically reduce feral cat numbers and with that the problems caused by cats.

~Barb, AnimalResources

Regarding links or studies about cats and wildlife or cat predation, see also:

Addressing “The Wisconsin Study” and others on:


For readers of Winograd’s 2007 book Redemption, have you read the 1998 book Save Our Strays: How We Can End Pet Overpopulation and Stop Killing Healthy Cats and Dogs by Bob Christiansen?

Regarding salaries for animal organizations, they were published annually in Animal People News. The most recent are here:

2007 Editorial: "Who gets the money?" feature is merged into expanded ANIMAL PEOPLE Watchdog Report on Animal Charities


2006 Individual Compensation

(Chief executives &/or top-paid staff & consultants)



While I've never had it, cats in gardens is a fairly common problems and many gardening groups/websites have a list of tips which are effective in convincing the cats to go elsewhere.

Most of them involve putting down scents that cats don't like (vinegar, blood meal, etc) or making the surface unfriendly for pooping on (sharp sticks, sharp stones, broken crockery, fencing, etc). Try whatever fits your garden scheme and talk to other gardeners on the Web.


Thanks for that link! I did suspect that there were quite a few big salaries and don't want anyone doing work in this field to be poor, but I appreciate the disclosure. Also I noted that the president of a no-kill sanctuary I get 'good vibes' about is not drawing a salary at all.

Not that that makes her noble just because she has another income source, but she could still justify a salary from the organization if she wanted to.

I don't have much money to donate, so I like an efficient group.


In my experience, feral cats that are well-fed by their caretakers don't kill much of anything. My small colony (inherited from the former owner of the house who *wasn't* managing it) spend most their time sleeping in the yard and sitting on the porch waiting to be fed. Since they are all now "fixed", they don't wander much to destroy the neighbors' yards, nor do they destroy our yard. A bit of digging here and there, yes, but I find buried cat poop in my back yard MUCH less offensive than the piles of dog poop in my front yard from my neighbors' dogs (who let their dogs roam free despite leash laws in my city)... the same neighbors who just love to set traps for the ferals and have animal control take them away to be killed...when we first moved into this house, there were 17 ferals who were accustomed to being fed by the former owner. We now have 5 that we care for and that will not be reproducing. Sadly, an outdoor / wild cat's life is short and brutal (though our cats are healthy, they are preyed upon by coyotes, hawks and owls - and yes, we live in the city!) - and there are only two cats that have survived the entire three years we have lived here. I always find it so sad that people sorely misunderstand the wisdom of properly caring for a feral cat community...

Gina Spadafori

May we please turn down the heat a little? Lis and EmilyS, no one is doubting either of your credentials as animal-lovers.

It WOULD be nice if people who don't like cats, love gardening in poop-free beds, want their bird-feeder left for the birds, etc., didn't have to deal with roaming cats, whether owned or feral.

But it would also be nice if my neighbor's teenage son didn't have an electric guitar. Point being, we all have to work together to get along.

Now ... the "take-away" points I would like from this discussion:

1) For the safety of cats and for getting along with the neighbors, we (we=PetConnection)recommend that cats be kept indoors, preferably with free access to a cat-fenced yard or something like Clara's Secret Garden (rabbit optional).

2) For feral cats, everyone agrees the fewer of them, the better. That's for the good of the cats, their prey, and people who don't want to deal with wild cats in any way. However, we (we=PetConnection) believe that trap-neuter-release and management of feral colonies gets closer to those goals than killing cats does. This may be counter-intuitive to many, which is why we encourage people to find out more about TNR programs, why and how they work, and how they fit in to community-wide solutions to reduce the numbers of unwanted pets. Exception: In environmentally sensitive areas with endangered species, feral cats likely need to be relocated.


yeah, I'm so much of a "cat hater" that I take care of my neighbor's cat when they're gone.. the one who just the remains of a her latest victim.. a bluebird.. in my yard.

The gulf between those who want to enjoy their hard won rights (evidently a foreign concept to some of you) and those who believe that cats have greater rights is evidently insurmountable.


Humans are the biggest problem when it comes endangered species. I frankly don't care which of you is a better animal lover. I'm hoping neither of you fight over killing humans.


yeah, I’m so much of a “cat hater” that I take care of my neighbor’s cat when they’re gone.. the one who just the remains of a her latest victim.. a bluebird.. in my yard.

The gulf between those who want to enjoy their hard won rights (evidently a foreign concept to some of you) and those who believe that cats have greater rights is evidently insurmountable.

So, then, why are you so committed to the idea of killing feral cats, which does not reduce the numbers roaming and hunting in the area, rather than pursuing a policy (Trap-Neuter-Release) which does effectively and steadily reduce both the numbers of feral cats, and, if the feral cat colony is fed, the amount of hunting the individuals in the colony do?

What, other than cat-hating, explains a preference for dead cats over an actual reduction of the problem that you say is the reason the cats should be killed?

And, please, remember, at least here, you're not arguing with people who think that owned housepets should be allowed to roam freely. The last cat I ever had who was allowed outside the house was my first cat, nearly forty years ago. Every cat since then has been strictly indoors. So the issue here is not that I think my cats should be allowed to destroy your garden. The issue here is why you think it's better to kill feral cats, even though that's ineffective in solving what you say is the problem.

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