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22 September 2010


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Susan Fox

Yes, you can, Jen. Any shelter director can decide in two seconds that he/she is not going to sanction the killing of healthy and adoptable pets any longer. The rest flows from that. The information on how to do it is readily available and proven to work. It's not rocket science and it's not "complex".

Why do you think it needs to be complex, anyway?

Christie Keith

Jen, what part do you think is complex? Changing the hearts and minds and actions of every single stakeholder? You're absolutely right.

I think we should skip that part, implement the proven strategies, and THEN we can all sing Kumbaya.

It is DIFFICULT, but it is, in fact, simple. If we didn't know what worked, and were still floundering around looking for the answers, I'd agree with you. But we found the answers, and we just need to DO IT.

I also would really like to know where I have "demonized" anyone. That's not me.


If no-kill were so simple, it would have been simple to implement from the start. There would be no blogs or quarreling sides. There would never have been all these years of discussion or all these days of mind-numbing debate. It would be simple human nature; "you can stop killing now, we have the answer." Everyone would have signed up.

What's up?

Susan Fox

You're kidding, right? You really have no idea how embedded the culture of "euthanasia" has been in most shelters and how resistant the directors and staff are to changing how they operate.

And how much easier everyone's day is if they don't have to clean a bunch of cages or keep hours that let working people come in or work with the community instead of blaming them for "forcing" the shelter to kill healthy, adoptable animals?

"Everyone" has the opportunity to "sign up". Too many choose to keep killing.

Your problem appears to be that you are assuming that no one in their right mind would keep killing unnecessarily if there was another choice. You couldn't be more wrong, believe me.

My limited experience suggests that there are quite a few shelter people who have no problem killing animals. It simply doesn't bother them.

Every shelter is only one director away from either killing or not killing for space. It can change that fast. It may happen where I live. And not in a good way.

Christie Keith

Joy, I'll tell you why: Because when Richard Avanzino back in the 90s in San Francisco told the rest of the shelters in the Bay Area that they didn't have to kill, they had two reactions: Whatever will we use to browbeat the public into being more responsible pet owners, and if we don't have to kill but we're killing, then you're saying we're evil and we suck. I mean, we're talking about a shelter director who KILLED KITTENS ON THE 6 o'clock news because she said she wanted to "hit people in the head with a 2x4."

I saw this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. It still happens today. It threatens them personally and it challenges their view of the universe.

Have you read "Redemption"?


Wonderful! We have a simple answer to a horrendous problem. It is not rocket science and it is not complex.

That is great!

I am ignorant about this process, so I will pose a question to you. If a municipal shelter receives a large population of unweaned kittens along with a group of FIV+ cats, what should they do? Do you consider these animals adoptable or do you think they should be euthanized. Honestly, I'm not trying to make a point here, I am really interested in how you feel about this scenario.


"Your problem appears to be that you are assuming that no one in their right mind would keep killing unnecessarily if there was another choice. You couldn’t be more wrong, believe me."

Wow...this is an intense statement. As difficult as it would be to absorb, I would appreciate proof of this statement. Do you have any?



Shelters, including municipal shelters, which are employing the No Kill Equation, send all unweaned kittens into foster care. That's what you do when you're interested in saving lives. A shelter committed to lifesaving and to treating its volunteers and the general public civilly will have the foster homes that it takes to do that. Asymptomatic FIV+ cats fall into the savable category as well:

I have proof of the statement that those in shelters continue to kill needlessly in the face of very readily available alternatives. My fellow volunteers and I got beaten bloody with that 2x4 ten years ago. 'Intense' barely begins to describe it. The shelter I once volunteered at killed my foster kittens rather than call me to take them back and I haven't been able to look at shelter killing as anything but a shelter management problem since:


Lis - I am referring to a new set of standards that is currently in the works (definitely not the puppy mill standards! god forbid…)

Okay, new standards, great. "Currently in the works"--meaning it would be kinda tough for any rescue group to get a copy and comply with right now. Whatever those standards are going to be.

And developed, just by the by, by the USDA--the same org that has give us the (largely unenforced) puppy mill standards. An agency whose assigned mission is not animal welfare, but imposing some minimum safety/quality standards on the production of food. For human consumption.

This is an important mission. It's not, however, the right one for developing standards for how animals in home-based rescues should be cared for. It's not something they know anything about. Or are supposed to. Not. Their. Job.

Let’s think about it. If this was an easy problem to fix wouldn’t it no longer be a problem?

This, along with one or two other variations you've used, is the standard cry of those resisting progress in any area--the insistence that, since they are good and dedicated people, and are the experts in how to do this, if there are sad things happening, it must be inevitable, and those who say there can be improvements are airy-headed, impractical dreamers.

Generally, they're wrong.

That is great!

I am ignorant about this process, so I will pose a question to you. If a municipal shelter receives a large population of unweaned kittens along with a group of FIV+ cats, what should they do? Do you consider these animals adoptable or do you think they should be euthanized. Honestly, I’m not trying to make a point here, I am really interested in how you feel about this scenario.

Yeah, right, you're not just trying to make a point, this is a honest question.

Okay, I'll tell you what my local shelter, which isn't even No Kill, did when they actually had this situation.

They went to the newspapers and the local tv stations, with pictures of cute kittens and lovely adult cats, and put out the call for fosters and adopters.

And even with not being on board with No Kill, they saved and adopted out all but a small number of the sickest cats.

Wow…this is an intense statement. As difficult as it would be to absorb, I would appreciate proof of this statement. Do you have any?

Here's one volunteer's experience:

One volunteer's view of a shelter's transition to No Kill

Read carefully, and then go think about it.



What standards? Where? Who is making them up and who is going to enforce them? I've been doing rescue for years and if someone is making up standards that will affect me I think I should have the right to know in advance.


It is in fact very simple to do, but very hard to get people to accept. We tried to work with shelter leadership in Austin but they were not receptive, so we had to vote out pro kill people on City Council and vote in no-kill ones. Then we got some action, the old shelter manager left, and we are speedily moving towards no-kill. The voting in part took a long time and that was the hold up here.

Despite years of discussion, WAY too many people STILL do not get what the no-kill movement is about - all I have to do is look at No Kill Nation's Facebook page to figure that out - and continue to do counterproductive things like try to make irresponsible people responsible and buy into the myth of pet overpopulation.

It's called save a few, kill the rest.

Susan Fox

Jen @ comment 57: Well, for starters, endless stories that have appeared on various comment threads on this blog for years, for starters.

Personally and specifically, for example, is a local assistant shelter manager, quite likely to take over from the current manager who was dedicated to running a No Kill shelter. The assistant, from the day he arrived five years ago, never had the slightest problem with killing animals and, at first, was quite open about it. How this situation with these people came to be would take more time than I care to spend telling it, but that's how it was.

I volunteered at the shelter for four years, but had to drop out a year ago due to career considerations. I have never heard from anyone I know who works there that anything has changed as far as his attitude. The only thing that holds him back is the director, who may have retired by now. And Hayden's Law.

He would absolutely kill for space if he could get away with it, if he still thinks the same way as he did when I was there.

Adults, young, sick, well. Made no difference. Whined to me once about what an imposition it was to have to sit and make calls to the vets to get animals in for medical care and spay/neuter. Implication clearly being that his job would be easier and more pleasant if he could just have them killed instead. Then he could go home on time EVERY NIGHT doggone it.

Dealing with the local rescuers was also clearly an imposition and inconvenience that kept him from getting his work done.

Any animal, dog or cat, which was not instantly submissive to humans, himself in particular, he described as "not nice". As in, to roughly quote, "We have so many nice animals here. Why waste time saving the ones that aren't." I kid you not. This particularly applied to cats, which he clearly didn't like or have any use for at all.

Staff fought with him constantly to get dogs with addressable behavior issues released to rescue. Sick kittens released to waiting foster homes. Scared, freaked-out, hostile cats given enough time to calm down so that staff could either establish that they were actually stressed-out house cats or true ferals and, if the latter, could they be coaxed to come around because otherwise they would be killed. Coming into the shelter was a one-way street for ferals.

One of our own cats is a tamed feral from a litter that was brought into the shelter. She was permanently traumatized by this guy as a six month old kitten because she was out of her crate and didn't want to go back in. Rather than patiently work to catch her, the assist. mgr., who was in a hurry to go home, simply cornered and catchpoled her. A staffer who personally watched this told me about it. Five years on, she is still very cautious about entering rooms with only one way out and will never, as far as we can tell, ever really relax and trust. But she's sleeping on the bed right now, which was a huge step when it happened.

He refers to the animals as "it", not "he" or "she", which suggests that he doesn't connect with them as fellow living creatures at all.

I trust I've made my point.


I remember as a child, our county shelter was a little building out by a landfill. The dogs and cats were killed in a gas chamber and dumped out in the open Florida sun. It was horrifying.

And I recently found an old article about this same place and it included a grainy, black and white photograph of the entry to the fenced shelter property; no kidding, the shelter staff had placed a skull on the fence post and a big hand-painted sign that read "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here".

That extremely depressing photo will forever be stuck in my mind; it just seems to have said it all about how entrenched this community once was in the hopelessness of killing pets as population control.

But nowadays, this very same shelter has a state of the art facility in town. From this same county-funded shelter (and long before "no-kill" meant anything) grew our community's first nonprofit foster/rescue group. Today, this shelter is an active part of our community's no-kill plan and works in partnership with over a dozen nonprofit rescue groups. Underage puppies and kittens are fostered out, veterinary care and rehabilitation are provided to the sick and injured, wildlife and exotics are placed with appropriate nonprofits and feral cats are TNR'ed, not sheltered.

Nowadays, people around here actually have a choice between several progressive free and low-cost spay/neuter programs. There are multiple adoption events every weekend as well as nonprofits with their own buildings and regular hours of operation with weekday adoptions. All the veterinary clinics around here showcase cats and kittens for the rescues, there are foster home clubs and adoption reunions, huge community fundraisers and an enormous amount of awareness about the plight of homeless pets and ways people can help.

Yes, all of this took years and years to change from what it was but, to me, it seems everyone WANTED the change and, when presented with the opportunities and knowledge, jumped on board without hesitation. Maybe that's why its hard for me to fathom that there really are communities out there that genuinely don't want to change. Its just really hard to imagine someone choosing to stay the same rather than to tear down their fences and gas chambers when presented with a better way. ya know?


Joy--I think that there are people in every community who want shelters to be shelters, not killing centers, and it doesn't take a majority to make it happen--far from it. The resistance comes from the entrenched "shelter" establishment, not from the community at large.

Christie Keith

Here's one, Joy:


Are there any good articles out there that discuss the roles of elected officials and voters in the endeavor to make changes in a city or county shelter?

Gina Spadafori

Lis and Elaine say it perfectly.

No-kill isn't about handing pets over willy-nilly to anyone. It's about making the idea of shelter pets a first-choice option for people who are turned off by the "people are bad" outlook of the shelter industry, making pets more adoptable through fostering, training and medical care, and then bring a) good people and b) good pets together to make forever homes.


You can use the basic principles of retailing without promoting or allowing "impulse buying." Many shelters don't do a whole lot of screening anyway, but they can still do what screening they do, and make the shelter and the shelter pets attractive rather than scary and depressing.

The rescue group I'm involved with has adoption days at Petco, at feed stores, at public parks. We don't do same day adoptions; everyone has to fill out the app and go through the normal screening process--but we've gotten a lot of adoptions nevertheless, by bringing the pets to where people are, and letting them see and interact with the pets. People meet a pet they want to adopt, and then the screening and the adoption fee seem a lot more reasonable to them.

There's no virtue in having a dark, dank "shelter" with hours impractical for working families, and refusing to do off-site adoption events. It doesn't help them land better homes; it is an obstacle to their finding homes at all.


Jill said "Seems to me that precisely this kind of consumer behavior is the problem — it’s what lands dogs and cats in the shelter in the first place…and I remain entirely unclear about how promoting, fostering and engendering MORE of the same kind of consumer habits of mind/body is going to be the solution."

I think a major difference is that pet stores generally sell to all comers, and most shelters have at least some qualifying criteria. Many shelters offer perks to folks that buy their pets there - training classes, referrals to related services, pre-altered pets or discounts on the procedure, and so on.

There is a "think about this" opportunity with the purchase of a shelter pet that isn't part of the equation in places where your signature on a check or credit account is all it takes to become a pet owner.

One of the most effective ways to improve the live release vs. euthanasia rate is for a shelter to be accessible to the community - starting with people knowing it's there and has animals for sale.


For me, this paragraph frames the consumer conflict perfectly: "it uses principles of retailing to improve the image of shelter pets and ramp up adoptions, relying on advertising, discounts, special events, and retail basics like changing hours and making sure the adoption area is well-lit, clean and pleasant."

Seems to me that precisely this kind of consumer behavior is the problem -- it's what lands dogs and cats in the shelter in the first place...and I remain entirely unclear about how promoting, fostering and engendering MORE of the same kind of consumer habits of mind/body is going to be the solution.

Merchandising puppies in the pet store window is bad. Offering discounts, and promoting impulse buying, etc is bad. But using the same principles of retailing, and merchandising puppies in the shelter showcase is good because someone believes the motive is more...can I say it..."Redemptive"?

Christie Keith

People also have good, kind, loving and charitable impulses. If someone is a good home, they're a good home, whether they decided to adopt on the spot when they fell in love with a particular animal, or after six months of careful pre-planning. I find this whole attitude pointless.

Carolyn Enders

Christie Keith, you missed another group. The No-Kill Crazies (NKC). These are not true No-Kill advocates (honorable and respectable people), but the people who identify themselves as part of the No-Kill movement, however do nothing constructive to further it.

The NKCs qualify themselves under the No-Kill Movement guise, but their real agenda is to bully, harrass and even threaten the board members and staff of the Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, NJ. They even have a Facebook page (Animal Advocates Uncensored) entirly devoted to abusing LHS and lying about the events that led to its current situation in order to con people into "liking" their page and cross-posting their libelous slander to thousands of animal lovers. The goal is to deter LHS' efforts and successes, and to discourage supporters and donors from contributing. All under the guise of "raising awareness" about LHS' "atrocities."

The truth is, the moderators of this site are former disgruntled employees who almost succeeded in running the shelter into the ground. I won't even get into the horrendous and painfully cruel state of the "hoarded" animals found at LHS before the current admin took over. They are fueled by anger and hatred, and even though they are less than a dozen in number, they are mostly unemployed so they seem to obsessively work day and night to cross-post on Facebook to get their followers to grow. They play on the emotions of other obsessive types and/or well-meaning animal lovers with alarming links titled, "Please help us stop this shelter, they are killing adoptable animals!" If you read between the lines you will find their true agenda is to punish the LHS board.

LHS is dedicated to helping animals. They have some of the most dedicated and caring staff and volunteers around. But they are also innundated with the realities of trying to run an inner city shelter that cannot by law, turn away thousands of (mostly pit bull) animals that are dumped and delivered there every year. They need help by way of donations and volunteers. But the NKCs selfishly and zealously prey on peoples' sense of compassion to blindly believe they are supporting a noble cause. What they are really doing is helping to perpetuate lies created by the NKCs and undermining a struggling shelter and hurting their efforts of helping innocent animals.

All so the disgruntled NKCs can get their revenge after being rejected by LHS.

The first two groups you wrote about may have different philosophies, but they both work tiressly to help the welfare of animals. This third group work to hurt people. And hurt animals in the process.


To the point: No Kill shelters do NOT hoard pets? Why? Because they LOVE and CARE for pets, thus their No Kill stance. KILL shelters, on the other hand, who do not care whether one lives or dies, logically, and obviously, dont care whether someone lays in their own poop, or if they are hoarded.

Summary: KILL shelters and the major "animal welfare" corporations who support/tolerate them are why hoarding exists. No kill advocates care too much to be cruel...that's why they dont murder cats and dogs like kill shelters do....because they treat cats and dogs with LOVE and REVERENCE. If they are willing to go the extra mile, sometimes 75 miles, to save a life, does it make sense that they would be lazy, indifferent, and thus mistreat and hoard cats and dogs? No. Only kill shelters do that.

P.S. If people had a No Kill shelter down the block, they wouldnt feel the need to hoard in order to save lives to begin with.

They'd know that the cat/dog would be saved.

Whereas the kill groups and "shelters" like PETA, etc. TELL people: "we'll find them a good home", and then IMMEDIATELY proceed to take the individual in the back room and murder them, thus the reason why some people feel a need to keep more cats and dogs than they can handle: because they are afraid of KILL "SHELTERS" doing what they do: KILLING the innocent souls in this world.

Summary: pro kill "shelters" and the fraudulent groups who support them (PETA, HSUS, ASPCA, etc)and the cowardly 'diplomatic' groups who tolerate killing, are responsible for hoarding.

The nazi like propaganda of the nazi like killers should be ignored. Listen to those who truly care: No Kill supporters.

Chris Advocate

'Hoarder' appears to be a divisive term being thrown around by fear mongers in favour of defending the status quo, much the same as any other derogatory term used throughout history. (Think about it.) I believe hoarding is a mental disorder that requires diagnosis by a professional mental health expert, not the media, the HSUS or Animal Control.

If animals are found living in poor conditions, call it what it's always been called - abuse or neglect.

What I truly hate are the double standards where the conditions at the animal 'shelter' are far worse for animals than in homes where the number of pets exceeds some meaningless arbitrary number (determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle).

Compassion should be encouraged, not punished.


This is a beautifully written post, and as you point out, what people fail to realize is that the shift in culture is as simple as being a turn to marketing and brand experience driven methods. It's the essence of anthropology in marketing too - creating a culture. This is what modern integrated marketing and communications studies are made of. Creating relationship experiences and promotions. It's so simple yet so hard to get off the ground in most cities.

Thanks for such a well written item!

kristin lee

False! No-Kill organizations, (many of them)are some of the worst offenders when it comes to warehousing animals. I have seen it too many times because people are so freaked out by the idea of euthanasia (as we ALL are!) but the difference is, many no-kill advocates insist on keeping a caged animal alive no matter what, even with NO funding for vet care, adequate space, or staff to clean and care for the animal, so they sit there in hell for months. In these cases, euthanasia is the kindest option. Sorry!

Christie Keith

First, you really missed the point of this post. But even setting that aside, your point is baseless. There are more than 50 no-kill communities in this country. Please name which one or ones are "hoarding" and "warehousing," and your evidence for that accusation.

Mary Tully

"The real difference between the no-kill movement and the traditional sheltering model is that the no-kill movement is based on the belief that people are the solution to the death of animals in shelters, while traditional sheltering is based on the belief that people are the cause of the problem."

Well, not exactly. The difference is that the open admission shelter movement acknowledges that there is a companion animal overpopulation crisis, and the limited admission shelter movement doesn't. It's true that the limited admission shelter movement stops short of blaming a public that its breeder friends hopes to retain as customers, however. I'm with you on that one, for sure.

I'm also a little blown away at the audacity of the writer to redefine a recognized mental illness. Randall Lockwood, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President
Forensic Sciences and Anti‐Cruelty Projects
ASPCA states that rescue hoarders (as differentiated other types of animal hoarders)believe that they have a unique ability to care for animals, which is both their impetus for acquiring animals from shelters, and for not seeking adopters for them. Dr. Lockwood states that animal hoarders see shelters and humane societies--not the public--as the enemy. According to Dr. Lockwood's descriptions of rescue hoarders, rescue hoarders have a lot more in common with the limited admission movement than they do with open admission shelters.

I get why the writer would like to put rescue hoarders to work for them (in a new capacity), but no one here is qualified to redefine rescue hoarding, the writer of this blog piece included. Let's leave defining mental illness to the professionals.


Did someone declare this "straw man Monday" and not tell me?

First, I made the distinction between actual mental illness and this discussion, in which we're talking about language and its philosophical underpinnings. You have to REALLY WANT IT to not get that -- certainly the other 26 people who commented on this post didn't have this problem of comprehension.

Of course, since you apparently DO "really want it," your comment is now exhibit A of exactly what I'm talking about.

Which leaves me with the suggestion, which I actually find interesting, that the real difference between the traditional and no-kill sheltering models is that one "believes in" pet overpopulation and the other doesn't.

I would argue that in fact, a belief in "pet overpopulation" in the face of the fact that there are more people adding a cat or dog to their home each year than there are pets entering shelters is simply a subset of the "blame the public" concept, so more an example of what I'm discussing than a competing definition.


Possibly the best sentence ever written about No Kill:
"The real difference between the no-kill movement and the traditional sheltering model is that the no-kill movement is based on the belief that people are the solution to the death of animals in shelters, while traditional sheltering is based on the belief that people are the cause of the problem."

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