« Regime change at Memphis Animal Shelter | Main | Memphis: It doesn't have to be this way »

13 August 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


YES! Thanks. If we all say it and repeat it over and over again, maybe more will hear it and believe it?!? Here's hoping...


right on!


If we all just change our Facebook status to "SPAY & NEUTER" and add like 25 exclamation points and then we all click "like" on each others' statuses, we could become a no kill nation, some year.


Amelia - the thing is, how many of those cats are owned? How many of them are feral?

Statistics show that the vast majority of pets ARE altered already- something upwards of 75% for cats, IIRC. The litters aren't coming from irresponsible pet owners at this point- they're coming frmo strays and ferals.

Mary Murray

very good piece Christie...will be cross posting it.

Another Christie

Nice piece... really demonstrates the difference between those actively involved in animal rescue, and those who advocate for shelter reform. The point of spay/neuter is to decrease shelter intake, so there aren't as many animals needing rescue or rehoming. I suggest that all these shelter reform advocates get involved in some proper animal rescue--pulling animals from shelters, arranging transport, vetting, fostering animals, working adoption fairs, etc.--to help them understand the realities of animal welfare.


"That’s because spay/neuter is always “someday.” It does nothing to save the lives of animals already born, nor those in the shelter right now. This means people put all their effort and energy into something without any immediate reduction in the suffering and death of their community’s animals. It’s demoralizing."

Demoralizing? I would guess you aren't involved in any community S/N efforts. The satisfaction comes from knowing that there won't be any unwanted litters of kittens and frantic emails being sent around rescue groups, begging for help. If you want demoralizing, have a look at the shelter listings for some of the CA central valley shelters, full of unfixed cats, pregnant mothers and kittens.

Shelter reform is important but a longer term view is also crucial (and given that a cat can get pregnant at 6 months, it doesn't even need to be *that* long term). Unless you cut down the number of animals going into the system, you will be forever fighting a losing battle. Ideally there would be no need for shelters at all, but until the flood of unwanted animals is stemmed, this will not happen. We need accessible low/no-cost spay/neuter, and we need legislation against high volume breeders, i.e. puppy and kitten mills. "No Kill" shelters can go back to killing, as I'm sure you know; we should be looking to decrease the numbers of animals going into the shelter in the first place.

I'm sorry if you feel animal rescue should give instant gratification, but a longer term view is vital if you want lasting change.

Christie Keith

"Ideally there would be no need for shelters at all..."

I hate this concept. We'll always need shelters. I love the idea of animal shelters -- real ones, not slaughterhouses bearing that name -- places people in trouble can always go to get help and shelter for their pets, or assistance with behavior problems, or whatever resources they might need to help their pets. Animal sheltering is a beautiful service, and one that we'll always have in our society for the same reason we'll always have shelters for people, tutoring centers for children, and clergy who counsel and support their flock: BECAUSE LIFE IS SOMETIMES ROUGH. That's never going to change.

This "someday when everyone is perfect" fantasy that so many in animal welfare have is counter-productive and just makes us believe that our problem is insurmountable without a wholesale moral makeover of every living person. So instead of working our asses off on programs that WORK, we're wasting our time and our energy and money and community good-will on things that will never pay off, or won't do so for years.

"I’m sorry if you feel animal rescue should give instant gratification, but a longer term view is vital if you want lasting change."

I'm sorry that you don't understand how groups of people are inspired, motivated and kept from burn-out over the long-term. If you don't grasp that tangible life-saving is extremely motivating to donors, volunteers, rescuers, the media and the entire community, you'll remain mired in a failed paradigm forever, or until the Great Moral Makeover happens and all the shelters close because suddenly no one will ever need help with a pet again.

Excuse me, my unicorn needs her dinner.


What I'm reading is that spay/neuter is ONE PIECE of the pie that needs to be in place to achieve a decrease in the numbers of animals entering a shelter.

And, yes, it is demoralizing to volunteers to see the precious cats and dogs who die daily because there is no room. Spay/neuter might/should help in the future, but right now we have to deal with the already born and stop thinking that preventing more (while it IS terribly important) will help them.

We also need to quit arguing among ourselves and recommit to working together to make things better for the animals.


Wow, Amelia - way to miss the point completely. I used to be one of those "evangelizers" yelling about spay and neuter (and sort of yelling AT people), until I realized that I was pissing off people and making them not want to listen to me about anything else I said. After I closed my mouth for a bit, and opened my ears for a bit longer, I calmed down and admitted that the issues with shelters and the animals in them cannot even be looked at sensibly by only looking through one knothole in the fence. That kind of view is far to restrictive - it's myopic, actually - and it will NOT solve the problem of the animals who are already alive and for many different reasons, end up in shelters. There are a few shelters around the country that SAVE most of the animals that end up in them, while the rest have put forth varying efforts (and some that don't try at all), and those shelters need more options for the LIVE animals that enter their doors. Yes, duh, when an animal enters (after a sincere effort is made to locate an owner), it pretty much shouldn't leave intact, but if all that happens is that it gets killed - either before or after it's neutered - that's not helping anyone. Please take the monocular spyglass away and really look at the big picture with both eyes and listen with both ears.

Christie Keith

Another Christie, I'm really sick of this whole sanctimonious "you need to go work in a shelter and do rescue instead of talking about shelter reform." First, I've done rescue and so has, to the best of my knowledge, EVERYONE on this blog. Additionally, most, if not all, of the leaders of the no-kill movement either DID run shelters or are doing so so now. This is a completely false accusation that I'm sure makes you feel superior and keeps you able to think that the spotlight advocates are shining on shelter abuses and failures is really just ivory tower idealism, but that's not the case.

All any of us wants is openness, transparency, and adoption of proven programs that save lives. It's happened all over the country and in other countries, and it can happen in your community too. You just have to DO IT. And THAT, Another Christie, is the "reality of animal welfare."

Another Christie

Christie, I am really sick of the sanctimonious attitude of "No Kill" advocates, and their methods of DOING IT, which seem to consist of vilifying the shelter and its staff with no consideration of the impact upon the animals. The debacles at MDAS and MAS have shown that "No Kill" advocates are certainly good at rallying support... unfortunately they use it to fuel campaigns of hatred, instead of trying to build a community and support network for the animals at the shelter. What stands out about communities like Reno and Austin is the cooperation between shelters and rescues. How is that going to happen when "No Kill" advocates are so busy stirring up hatred?

H. Houlahan

I am really sick of the sanctimonious attitude of “No Kill” advocates, and their methods of DOING IT, which seem to consist of vilifying the shelter and its staff with no consideration of the impact upon the animals.

I think this translates into "Ixnay on the itchinbay, or they'll JUST GET MAD AND KILL SOME MORE OF THEM."

True, as far as it goes, but does tend to miss the point.

Christie Keith

"Another Christie" wrote: "What stands out about communities like Reno and Austin is the cooperation between shelters and rescues. How is that going to happen when “No Kill” advocates are so busy stirring up hatred?"

EVERY word you've just said was said about activists in Austin, when they finally got THEIR shelter director to quit. And you'd have thought we'd signed up for the Apocalypse when Washoe County hired Bonney Brown.

Something else you're not taking into account, which Austin is also a great example of: Different people play different roles. Insisting that the ONLY job is doing rescue doesn't fix things. There is a place for activists, agitators, watchdogs, and journalists; those roles were primarily filled by the organization FixAustin.org, while Austin Pets Alive was the powerhouse behind rescue/spay-neuter/adoption efforts. That's how they won. It's a great model, and believe me, it involved a lot of criticism of their shelter director and the high kill rate and poor practices at their city shelter.

If Memphis has a weak rescue structure, then that needs building and strengthening. But there's no conflict between doing that at the same time that bloggers and other journalists investigate and expose, and activists go to public meetings, buy billboards and petition their government for change. You have to do it all, or change doesn't happen.


The poster in question is "Another Christie" not "The Other Christie". I would prefer not being confused with her, thank you.

Christie Keith

Imagine how *I* feel, LOL.

Noted and edited.


Thank you!

social mange

If this is a repeat, I apologize, BB hiccup.

Good blog post.

I've heard that "rescue is the only way" mantra of Another Christie's before, and it strikes me that attitude is more about ego than the animals.

Who is "stirring up hatred", BTW? Not moi, not the people I talk with. Seems to me that the hatred is fomented by those who oppose positive change.

In the MAS situation, the city administrators seem hellbent on preventing any positive change. It's THEIR behaviour and attitude that have to change. They have to stop accepting or implementing such a low standard, and the taxpayers have to stop accepting excuses and waste of their hard-earned tax dollars.


As the former director of an open admission shelter with an animal control contract that went from killing about 70% to saving 86% of all animals coming in and did it in an old antiquated shelter with air for a budget, I feel I know a little something about sheltering and animal welfare. This article hits it right on the head. Spay/neuter is important, but it is not the only thing on which to focus. Let's face it, for leadership of many shelters it is far easier to plead hopelessness, to blame the public for not altering their pets, over-population, yada, yada. The truth is that far too many communities lack really sound low cost /no cost s/n. That is a problem. But so are all of the other issues mentioned in this article and far too many shelters make excuses rather than find solutions.

Linda S.

I don't know of anyone who is a No Kill advocate who has opposed good spay/neuter programs and promotion. Duh! But I know many, many (in fact, too many) spay/neuter proponents who oppose any other way. How do you put down the signs and cooperate with opponents like that?

Another aspect is that while the general, uninvolved public (and some media, apparently) may see it as "all of a sudden, overnight, people are taking up signs!" the reality is that after a decade and more, of politely requesting meetings, offering many and varied suggestions and even unpaid consulting and outright HELP and TRAINING, *NOW* many people are resorting to demonstrating in the streets. Just because you were not there at these first talks doesn't mean that they have not taken place. One local pound manager I know of makes certain to overpromise in PRIVATE. This quiets his critics, subdues them for a while, and by the time they realize they've been "had," no one else is paying attention to the issue. I have to admit, it is brilliant strategy. I would hope that good journalists would be familiar with it and not be taken in.

David S. Greene

Tammy commented:

far too many shelters make excuses rather than find solutions

I'd like that statement bronzed, with a big plaque and a 24/7 spotlight on it, so the point is crystal clear. The minute someone starts pointing fingers at the populace and leaping to the defense of a facility that would make Dante nauseous, I know we're on the right track. Heaven knows Ryan Clinton encountered this in Austin. If Austin can do it, so can Memphis. And Miami. It requires courage, imagination, and the commitment to reframe the discussion to a simple question (as Nathan put it in Washington) "What happens when you take killing off the table?"

You find new solutions.

Jess @InStyleDog

Fantastic post & I totally agree. S/N is important and it's important to have low-cost S/N opportunities b/c while S/N doesn't save the living, it can certainly prevent more animals from needing to be saved in the future. Which is also why TNR is a big deal because as stated somewhere above, many of these litters are coming from strays and ferals.

That being said, yes ... it is time to shift the focus from S/N to rescuing the living creatures in shelters and pet stores and abusive homes and anywhere else the poor little things are living. That doesn't mean we need to STOP S/N efforts, just that they don't need to be the main focus right now.

Getting communities involved with their local shelters, getting them to be active foster parents, getting them to help drive interesting and effective adoption events ... THAT'S what needs to be the focus right now. And in the communities where that IS the focus, it's working. Communities are saving over 90% of the animals they take into shelters. It can be done. It is being done.

And we can do it, too.

Another Christie

"Who is “stirring up hatred”, BTW? Not moi, not the people I talk with. Seems to me that the hatred is fomented by those who oppose positive change."

Check out the Yes Biscuit blog, and now the campaign to hound Mathew Pepper out of New Mexico, too. It's no longer about animals (if it ever was) - it's about persecution and blaming one person for a community-wide failure. And, quite frankly, it's disgusting.

Christie Keith

I think it's about people in New Mexico not wanting a shelter director with a bad track record of lifesaving taking over one of their shelters. If they were considering hiring him in my community, I'd be down there moving heaven and earth to stop them, too.

"Community wide failure"? Seriously? Was "the community" on the city payroll and tasked with doing animal sheltering?

Another Christie

"“Community wide failure”? Seriously? Was “the community” on the city payroll and tasked with doing animal sheltering?"

Did the shelter conjure the animals out of nowhere?


And do you understand the definition of the word "shelter"?

Christie Keith

That is what shelters are FOR, taking care of animals. Of course that includes effective, innovative programs to reduce shelter intake, but if all you have is, "Stop making work for us" instead of "Here are better ways to get our job done" -- then you're doing a crappy job.

Another Christie

KB & other Pat, despite being pro-spay/neuter, I do not think it is necessary and sufficient for solving the pet problems of the land; it is one of a set of strategies, including those in the NKE and others.

As for "downplaying", I would point you to this blog and to YesBiscuit, specifically blog entries posted at and since the No Kill conference (esp. http://yesbiscuit.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/no-kill-conference-wrap-up-1/). Downplaying is a relative concept, and those who are unable to grasp that someone can support S/N *and* shelter reform will be unlikely to understand.


"those who are unable to grasp that someone can support S/N *and* shelter reform will be unlikely to understand."

Comment by Another Christie — August 23, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

Thanks for answering my questions - oh, but you didn't! And, right - I should apologize for being too stupid to agree with you, I mean "unable to grasp". Because oddly enough, I see "it is one set of strategies" being the exact same as what the No Kill peeps are saying here. I've yet to see ANY No Kill supporter be anti-S/N - in fact, I see them constantly promote low-cost and readily-available S/N as a major goal of any good shelter program.

I guess I really am unable to grasp your meaning.

{insert eye roll here}

Another Christie

I believe that the notion that shelters are for "taking care of animals" must have been widely misinterpreted as meaning a more permanent sort of "taking care"...

Why are you and other "No Kill" advocates are downplaying the importance of spay/neuter and legislation to curb high volume breeders, and emphasizing shelter reform as more important? Is there a reason for it or is it based on some sort of intuition? Has there been a cost-benefit analysis done of the Miami-Dade situation?


Another Christie, I've been following this thread, and one of us has a comprehension issue.

Can you please point out to stupid lil ole me where the No Kill advocates are "downplaying the importance of spay/neuter"? Because I could swear to dog I've read they all agree on it's importance, but that it's not a one-card hand - that it goes along with many other things to reduce unnecessary killing.

Also, can you please point out a community that has a low kill rate that follows only the goals you are proposing? Do you have evidence to support your arguments, or, um, is it based on some sort of intuition? Has there been a cost-benefit analysis done on said community (one must wonder what the benefit is to killing 70+% on animals in ones care, but whatever, right?).


Comment by Another Christie — August 22, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

"Why are you and other “No Kill” advocates downplaying the importance of spay/neuter and legislation to curb high volume breeders, and emphasizing shelter reform as more important?"

Really? I'd like you to go to http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/nokillequation.html and tell me what appears as the SECOND ITEM on the list of MANDATORY programs and services required to implement the No-Kill Equation.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

The comments to this entry are closed.