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21 April 2010


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Ark Lady

It must be a rant day...

You are so right that it has to be a community effort.

Unfortunately, there will be a ton of people that will always argue and opposing opinions moved into action always result in change...

...with kicking and screaming the whole way.

Thanks again--much to quiet around cyberspace today!


Cue arguments mentioned in article to be posted in comments here.

Christie Keith

LOL, undoubtedly!


No-kill must be explained at every opportunity. We must first be clear of what no kill means--it does not mean never kill. Then we must go out into our community and educate even the educated. I recently spoke to our local Rotary. They were surprised to hear that we kill about 3.5-4.5 million companion animals in our US shelters annually(most healthy & adoptable), yet each year nearly 8 million dogs and cats are brought into homes as family pets, mostly purchased from retail. So why not promote not killing shelter animals and instead grab part of that 8 million market share by "retailing" our adoptables.

mary frances

Oh Christie Keith - your writings always brighten my day - thank you for this and all the updates on the wonderful Rawley...No Kill is going to happen - no doubt..but of course I want it now. Good people like yourself help me to keep the faith and keep chuggin' along with what I can do and do do - thanks sounds so trite but sincerely thanks.


By the way Christie, I was so excited & impressed with the Bark Magazine article that I made sure every one of our board members had a copy available to read. It was a great article and don't let anyone try to rain on our no-kill parade.

Tammy Zaluzney

Great article. Every word rings true. I find myself constantly trying to convince folks who are so hugely compassionate and have all of the right intentions, but just don't get it, that blaming irresponsible pet owners will not save lives. Real program that solve real problems at measurable levels. That is what works. How do I know. As the ED of an open admission shelter with an animal control contract, we went from high kill to having an 86% save rate. Nathan, Rich and the fine folks at Best Friends were our mentors and teachers.


Sorry Christie... I believe it is possible to have no kill the same way I believe it is possible to stop slavery and child pornography. We have to keep walking the path and trying, but the goal is further ahead in time than I am able to see. When I live near a shelter that POSTS they sell animals to animal research and people still drop their pets off there, when I get pictures of dozens of senior dogs dumped into rescue... it isn't that I don't think no-kill CAN work, I just think the people who care are so overwelmingly outnumbered by those who don't, we are a long long way from getting there.

Christie Keith

And yet, Debra, so many communities, and more all the time, ARE no kill. Do they not exist? Are they ALL so exceptional and unlike everywhere else that they simply don't "count"?

Or are you just saying no kill can work everywhere but not in your town?


LOL Lis, who is judgmental? Your made up vision of me... lol

>>And yet, Debra, you’re very judgmental about people who surrender pets, and about people who don’t care for their pets exactly the way you think they should. You use the existence of extreme perversions as evidence that the average person doesn’t care.<<

No, it isn't "exactly the way you think they should" it is what most pet lovers consider not okay. We aren't talking about not taking to obedience classes or optional things, I am talking about basic care of their pets.

As for caring, caring is a word. It is a meaningless word unless actions follow it. I'd say 90 percent of people SAY they care, and considerably less actually do. I think someone once told me my CARE for animals was stupid, that she believed in "benign neglect" for anything other than humans. That they were put here to serve mankind, they are food, but little else. Yes, she is the extreme. But those who dump pets are not the extreme. The STATISTICS on how many pets go from litter to a forever home is proof of that.

But yes, H.H. I give you things have greatly improved. They have, I don't deny that. Please tell me where you got that I said that? But the progress is SLOW. And that is the point in my post you are all missing. You all keep wanting to make me have said "no kill will never work, it doesn't exist." I haven't said that at all. I have said it should be the way, we have to work to make it the way, but it sure as hell is far off before it is the norm. And if you are so intolerant of that opinion as to ascribe my thinking into things YOU make up, well, what can I say. That's not my problem.


"...I just think the people who care are so overwelmingly outnumbered by those who don’t..."

Comment by Debra — April 21, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

I tend to think the opposite - that most people really do care about their pets and want the best for them. They may not be aware of as many issues as those of us who follow animal news regularly but they don't want bad things to happen to their pets. Remember that some people surrendering pets at the animal shelter believe they'll be cared for until adopted - not killed. Others surrender only as a last resort after they've exhausted all other options they know of, and hate to do it. I think we need more kind-hearted education, more understanding and less judgment.


>>Do they not exist? Are they ALL so exceptional and unlike everywhere else that they simply don’t “count”?

Or are you just saying no kill can work everywhere but not in your town?<< They are exceptional, but that doesn't mean they don't COUNT. Dear lord that's like saying because Rosa Parks was exceptional she didn't count. Every STEP in the right direction COUNTS. But you seem to want to say that either something thinks it is going to happen TODAY or else they say it can never happen and isn't starting.

I am saying it is a very faint START, the right start, the path we should follow, but it is a hell of a long way from becoming even close to the norm.

Don't get me wrong, I love your optimism about people. Yet IMNSHO, 80 percent or more of the people I see with pets don't care for them in a responsible way. They let them roam outside, they tie them out, make outside dogs with minimal contact and shelter, they byb or "accidentally" let have have litters then give away at walmart parking lot or dump at shelter (and to THEM that is responsible since, hey, they didn't throw in river with rocks).

Although my friends agree about animal care, I truly don't think for the average person it is a lot more than lip service. They'll agree animals shouldn't be abused, but they'll dump their pet the first time they have to move and won't put the effort into finding a place that takes pets. For crying out loud, we can't get people to put an end to online sites that let you pick out a child and what you want to rape it (ie animal or person) and pay to view. Do you really think humans are going to quickly change the kill mentality with animals?

So yes, I agree no-kill communities are growing. I agree they exist. But again, I think it is a very early start, not going to be the norm any time soon, and accusing people of SAYING that of then being no-kill haters is disingenuous. You know me well enough to know my heart is with it and I want it and believe in it.


>>I tend to think the opposite - some people surrendering pets at the animal shelter believe they’ll be cared for until adopted << Really? I have been in a lot of shelters over the last 20 year. Many here have HUGE SIGNS saying surrendered dogs will probably be euthanized. Some post the percentage. I have seen shelter workers beg people not to leave them because the dog they are leaving is not adoptable and will almost 100 percent likely be euthanized. I have seen people turn in dogs with the sign about lab research. Yes, some people take to shelters when they have exhausted all the options THEY know. But truly, most haven't done much. We have trainers volunteering free time to help rehab if an owner says it is a behavior issues. In almost 8 years.. do get this? EIGHT YEARS, I and the 4 others I know on the list have never gotten one single call. The shelter stopped even giving them the flyer.

Then you look at this guy in FL. One man has created about 70 dogs in rescue. One man. Some in such bad shape the shelter put down before allowing rescue to get involved. Will BRAT do what it takes to rehab and get all those poor animals into loving homes? Yes. But ONE MAN has used up massive resources. Sorry I guess I am feeling rather overwhelmed this week.




And yet, Debra, you're very judgmental about people who surrender pets, and about people who don't care for their pets exactly the way you think they should. You use the existence of extreme perversions as evidence that the average person doesn't care.

Over my lifetime, the number of dogs and cats dying in shelters has plummeted, asking the neighbors who's had a litter recently as a way of getting a new pet has declined dramatically and in large parts of the country disappeared as a realistic option, the arrival of a new pet in the family automatically sparks questions from neighbors and friends about when, not whether, the animal will be spayed or neutered, and the popularity of obedience classes and behavioral consultations has exploded.

And you think that 80% don't care, and that there are only a few lonely points of hope. You have no sense of how much change there has been in the last forty years, and how much the problems you see have already improved. In fact, part of your sense that things (and people) are Horrible, Horrible! comes from the fact that our standards for pet care have been raised so much higher than they were forty years ago!

H. Houlahan

I'm glad I don't live in the town in Debra's mind.

Rural Central Appalachia is not exactly Shangri-La for pet dogs and cats, but boy, things are improving all the time. Even through a recession, things gradually get better.

Just as cops can cultivate a jaundiced view of human nature, and create a world in their minds where every man beats his wife, everyone is a liar, every poor black person is a crack addict and every poor white person is a meth-head, shelter workers and rescue volunteers can become bitter and misanthropic because of their sampling bias.

If all you deal with every day is "dumped" pets, well then everyone is a pet dumper. Nevermind all those people who come to adopt -- they eventually become just potential pet dumpers in the burnt-out minds of the "rescuers."

Here's a perspective. My associates and I have spent the last year and half cleaning up the mess caused by ONE horrible, abusive owner. We're not done yet, and it will be years before everything is "settled," probably fifteen years before our obligations to the dogs we placed are released by the universe.

It took hundreds of adopters, scores of foster volunteers, scores of animal-care volunteers while the victims were in custody, scores of rescue volunteers and transport personnel, and hundreds of donors -- from corporations who donated food and begged to remain anonymous to schoolkids who made dog toys and sold them online to raise money. And not to forget the law enforcement personnel, the prosecutors, the politicians, the journalists who got behind this expensive and painful effort.

Probably over a thousand people to rescue over 200 special-needs dogs (and three cats and six cockatiels).

So that's a ratio of let's say 1000:1 between great human beings who care about animals and animal abusers.

I like those odds.


Imagine two shelters side by side: one has a banner outside that reads "this shelter kills pets" and the other a banner that reads "this is a no-kill shelter". Honestly, don't you know that the vast majority of people surrendering pets (whether their own pet, an injured foundling or a stray) ARE going to opt for the no-kill shelter?

To be a no-kill community, you have to eventually offer the public the option of a no-kill shelter. And if you offer that option, it will be utilized and less pets will die unnecessarily.

And I think that's the biggest hurdle for some people in the rescue/sheltering community. They are bitter and truly believe that the majority of people simply don't care about pets - so why create more work for themselves with a no-kill option that just lets all these "uncaring, irresponsible idiots" off the hook?

I believe a lot of rescue/shelter people are just so angry that they truly want to punish the people they feel have caused all the pet suffering they see. I've heard it a thousand times "I wish I could force these idiots to stand in the euthanasia room while we kill their pets". Maybe that would teach 'em. But it wouldn't. Never has. The public blames the shelters and shelters blame the public. Isn't their some way to move past that shifting of blame?

I think sometimes there is this idea that no-kill options are going to shift responsibility to the rescues and shelters instead of keeping it with the public like we have for so many years. That's an uncomfortable thought but - think about it - if you want the power to choose life....then build a safe place for the unwanted, receive them gladly and then keep them alive.

It's like a standoff...."the public has to change before we will"...but maybe that's not really true. Maybe we can be the first to change and the public will learn from us. I don't know, is that too idealistic?

Gina Spadafori

Be the change you want to see.

Great comment, Joy.



We just started a trial program at our open-admission, city shelter. Our volunteers are calling the owners who dropped off their pets at the shelter, who are now going to be killed.

We've been doing it for about a month and haven't gathered statistics yet. But anecdotally, our volunteers say that almost everyone with whom they make contact is coming back to reclaim their pets.

We have huge signs in our shelter warning people about the kill rate. The shelter requires people dropping off a pet to sign something acknowledging our kill rate.

They do all this, but when we call them and tell them the news, they are shocked and come back.

One woman found a neighbor who trains dogs to help her. Another man (who had found the dog), broke the lease at his apartment, which didn't allow pets, and found a new apartment that did.

We think that people just tell themselves that their pet will be one of the lucky ones - that the only pets who are euthanized are vicious or really sick.

Christie Keith

Gretchen wrote: "We think that people just tell themselves that their pet will be one of the lucky ones - that the only pets who are euthanized are vicious or really sick."

That is true in many places already, and it's how it should be everywhere.

I think one of the big problems in many shelters is they try to do intervention at the shelter desk. If you look at one of the most successful no-kill communities in the country, Washoe County, NV, their programs are PROACTIVE. They address the reasons people might need to give up their pets (which many are obviously doing reluctantly) with a help desk, with assistance to the homeless and their pets, with food banks, with behavior help... and with messages aimed at people who might be facing foreclosure or the loss of their homes on how to retain their family pets.

The problem is that once the family makes the painful decision to give up the pet, they've usually shut down and it's the worst possible time to offer them help in keeping the pet. You have to get to them BEFORE THAT POINT, when they're still open.

That's what I mean about creative, people-positive strategies. We have to stop thinking of pet owners who bring their pets to shelters as bad owners, or "dumpers," or whatever. Most people think shelters for animals are appropriate places to get help. I mean, that's what we told them when we encouraged them not to just abandon them in the street or in a park or the country, right? And they believed us and now they turn to the shelters to help their pets, and we think they suck and are creeps and idiots.

And of course, some of them are because that's how the human race is, about EVERYTHING in their lives, not just pets. That's why we have shelters, to care for the pets owned by jerks and for the pets owned by good people who need help.

We have to stop demonizing people who turn to shelters. And we need to start making our shelters places of haven and support, not death houses and guilt factories.

mary frances

Over the week-end I watched a powerful news segment about how President Jimmy Carter and the work of The Carter Center have almost eradicated Guinea worm disease from an estimated 3.5 million cases in Africa and Asia - its a hideous parasite in drinking water - can grow up to 3 feet long only in humans - has to be painfully pulled out by hand and can take up to a month of pulling - Just horrible.

Anyway Jimmy Carter has nearly eliminated the disease and in an interview he said it would be the biggest accomplishment in his life - Guinea worm is an ancient affliction and no one has been able to get people to change their behavior - people have to be educated and take low-technology measures - The Carter Center has provided fine-mesh cloths that fit over clay pots to filter the water so people don't drink the larvae (basically that's it because there is no medicine or vaccine)

Now how does this relate to No Kill for shelter animals? Well, when asked how he accomplished eradicating Guinea worm when no one else has ever been able to...President Jimmy Carter responded that he treated the people with respect and then he got in return full enthusiastic collaboration - in the past people with guinea worm were treated with a condescending attitude and it completely hindered any cooperation. This is a comparison in my mind how conflicts with animal control (and others) against the public have led to hardened hearts.

I'll keep Jimmy Carter and his work in my mind - with respect for one another, cooperation and hard work I know No Kill will succeed.

H. Houlahan

Change is always slow, you say?


Ask a random twenty-year-old what he thinks about marriage equality. Most likely you'll get a "Well duh!"

When I was his age, not SO very long ago, the question was so outrageous, it wasn't even on the table.

Ask a random twenty-year-old what he thinks about interracial marriage. Be prepared for the stink-eye -- the question is so outrageous, why are you asking it?

When my Mom was his age, most Americans wanted it to be illegal.

One of the last refuges of the reactionary is the claim that some absolutely necessary reform is not do-able, that "people" will resist it, that "the country isn't ready for it."

Yes, decades from now we will integrate the military (race, gender, sexual orientation, religion -- take your pick), provide healthcare for all, elect a black President, and commit to stop killing homeless pets. "Not ready" can be code for "over my dead body" or merely "I think very little of my fellow humans."

Gina Spadafori

To me, it seems no-kill's approach to the "tipping point" has been remarkably fast.

In the lifetime of this blog (four years or so), we've seen huge nat'l organizations (PETA and HSUS) take a ton of heat for shelter killing and for fighting TNR for feral cats. HSUS has backed down from some of its positions, and PETA has ramped up its stand and made itself largely irrelevant to the debate as it keeps killing, killing, killing.

Things are changing, and damn quickly for social change, which is typically glacial in pace.

mary frances

Also Comment #8 "..I live near a shelter that Posts they sell animals to research..." Me too except they don't post it.


Add my voice to the chorus of "we've come a long way, baby." I think it's important, really important, to focus on what we HAVE achieved.

Things I don't see in my particular community anymore:

- People dumping their cats in the park in order to "give them a chance" because no-one went to the shelter to get a cat. No-one HAD to. They went to their neighbors, or picked up a "free kitten" from an ad or in front of the store, or a stray came to them. Now most of the cat owners I know have at least one shelter cat.

- Adult cats get adopted, even senior cats.

- Spay/neuter. When I was a kid, my mom insisted on spaying and neutering all our family cats and dogs. She was a *rarity*, let me tell you - all my little friend's pets had at least one litter. Now, litters are rare ("oopsie" litters happen, but not often).

- People don't let their dogs roam (again, when I was a kid, you'd see loose dogs everywhere). People scoop their dog's poop (well, usually!) because it's frowned upon to let Bowser's duty just lie on the sidewalk.

I could go on, and yes, I do live in the San Francisco Bay area which is ground zero for the No-Kill movement. But we're so, so far ahead of where we were even 10 years ago. Now it's more or less mopping up in many areas. If all feral cats were fixed, the problem of back-yard-breeder bully breeds solved, and everyone who wanted a pet would adopt at least ONE from a shelter instead of buying (there are more than enough owners to soak up the amount of sheltered pets) we'd be just about there.

You get what you give. Treat people as if they mean well and want to do the right thing and chances are they will.

Barbara Saunders

Debra writes, "I believe it is possible to have no kill the same way I believe it is possible to stop slavery and child pornography."

I don't think the comparison holds analytically. And I think there is a rhetorical battle going on that warps our perceptions of reality.

Underneath their words, what no-kill opponents are defending are poor practices at shelters and in animal control departments: failing to put efforts into returning lost animals to families, failing to have appropriate medical protocols, mismanagement of money and personnel, failure to maximize opportunities to reduce things like unwanted births and cruelty to animals.

This is comparable to arguing against child pornography LAWS on the grounds that people are going to do it anyway. Or arguing that the way to deal with slavery is to find people being held as slaves and killing them.

No-kill is not about stopping all bad things that happen to animals. You're right, that's not possible. It's about changing the philosophy and practices of the entities that respond to the bad things that happen to animals.

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