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18 February 2013


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The apologists for the kill facility in Delaware talk about "No Kill extremists" all the time. We are "bullies" who "make people afraid to go adopt animals." Of course, that makes absolutely no sense. You're so right - their defensiveness does indeed show that we are winning.


I don't think defensiveness means we're winning... I've seen our side get defensive, too. It's hard not to when you're being attacked, even when the attack is unjustified or patently false.

I was, half-seriously, saying the WHININESS indicated to me we were winning. But what I mean in all seriousness is that there is an obvious attempt being made to reboot their messaging to counter us, and it's all defensive in tone even when it's couched as an attack, and THAT does mean we're winning, because getting the other side to be in reaction mode all the time is a win.

Most important, though, than some scorecard of who's "winning" is noting what triggers their defensiveness. That's their signal of an area of weakness. If we were really doing a good job of our own messaging, we'd be using that information more effectively.


Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. And as it regards municipal shelters, I tend to go just a bit futher: 1) because life-saving is supposed to be part of their job; 2) because they have a publicly funded budget; and 3) because they should be a shelter and not just call themselves that name. If they called themselves an Animal Disposal Facility, the public would be outraged.


I was using your term - "winning." One could just as easily say succeeding in our No Kill advocacy.


Oh,I knew! I was just expanding on my original thought. :)

Sue Padgett

Loved the intro to your article re the banks and the money as that was the first thing that came to my mind as well. It's about time that shelters start looking at what THEY can do to end companion pet killing and assume some of the responsibility of where we are today. Good shelters are doing so, bad shelters are blaming everyone and everything else. I worked in an animal shelter and agency for many years and am happy to see the slow changes are that are beginning to take place. It won't happen overnight, but change is in the air. Keep up your good work and thanks for all you do for our beloved animals~

mary mahoney

Always appreciate so much your thoughts... Animal Enforcement v. Animal Services seems to be at issue to accomplishing No Kill sheltering - how many Animal Control Officers are out doing adoptions, TNR, taking dogs and cats to low-cost S/N clinics or providing dog training classes? Voluteers do all that - In my opinion, sadly and disasterously, Animal control is into enforcement and not about providing services.


My questions for you as an outspoken no kill blogger: Are you vegan or vegetarian? If not, why not? As Michael Mountain said:
“The no-kill philosophy extends way beyond homeless pets. It’s a way of living that takes killing off the table – in every area once and for all. You can’t be no-kill and go hunting. You can’t be no-kill and be pro-abortion, pro-capital punishment or pro-vivisection. You can’t be no-kill and eat animals, either.”


ZOMG, Erika, it's so awesome that you asked me that, because one of the other messages I'm dissecting at present is the persistent push to pivot off topic.

There are many things we care about in this world, and different ways we fit the pieces together or our own morality and values. But let me explain to you in very simple terms that going, "LOOK OVER THERE!" as a form of distraction from the matter at hand is simply not ever going to work with me.

This issue we're talking about here is REFORMING ANIMAL SHELTERS. If someone brings up veganism, or abortion, or how can we care about animals when children are starving, or any of the other mind-numbingly recurrent subjects the anti-no kill trolls have been taught to bring up to derail this issue, it's incumbent on us as advocates to recognize what they're doing and refuse to fall for it.

I remember Wayne Pacelle once said at a town hall meeting in San Francisco that he'd make common cause with a woman in a fur coat if she'd help him fight puppy mills. We have to focus on our goal, and stop letting our opponents distract us. I want to end the use of killing of healthy and treatable animals in our nation's shelters. Trying to make this issue super big ginormous and about every humane issue ever will simply guarantee we'll succeed at NONE of them.

When I was a young activist in my 20s, there were always people at meetings of feminists, or LGBT groups, or groups fighting AIDS, who would attempt to get everyone all worked up over fair pay and the right to unionize and US foreign policy and any other issue they thought liberal lefties like us would be sucked into.

In those groups that let those people distract focus, nothing was ever accomplished, while those that said "get out" went on to change the world. And as anyone who has followed the story of Occupy Wall Street might be able to guess, most of those people were in fact sent in by law enforcement specifically to disinform, disunify, and derail those movements for social change.

Nothing's changed since then, other than the fact that the anti-no-kill forces are sent by the non-profits who are being criticized instead of the FBI, and the field is the Internet instead of a community center in the Castro District.

But nice try.


Nice try on what? I was curious about your stance on the larger issue of animal welfare. Maybe to you, issues of farm animal welfare are distractions or too far away from dogs and cats. To me, shelter reform is part of a movement toward decency for all animals including companion animals, farm animals, circus animals etc. At my city shelter we sometimes see chickens and pigs. I don’t think they should be killed or have any special privileges because they wound up in the middle of a city instead of on a farm. With regards to getting sucked into vegetarianism as a distraction, Michael Mountain is a respected member of the no kill community. He was the one that made the points about abortion and eating. I agree with him that no kill is bigger than just dogs. You clarified that your focus is pets. Fair enough. Thank you.


Correction. What I said is that the focus is reforming animal sheltering in this country, not "pets."


Hey, erika, I'm pro-choice, pro-medical progress, pro-capital punishment, and I'm an omnivore--and I'm very much a supporter of No-Kill. So, Michael might be a "respected member of the No-Kill community", but he is clearly wrong about some things. People are complicated and are perfectly capable of labeling themselves, thanks.


The only relevant question is, do we need to address tangential or related but "bigger picture" issues to accomplish our goal?

The No Kill Movement's goal is to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals in our nation's animal shelters. That goal can be achieved without addressing tangential or related but "bigger picture" issues, therefore, "gotcha" comments on blog posts or social media are distractions -- in most cases quite deliberate ones.

Therefore, when people come, as they do, to the blogs and Facebook pages and newspaper comment sections with those distractions, we do nothing but strengthen them and weaken our own message by letting them succeed in diverting our attention and our focus.

Any of us, including Michael Mountain, is free to speak out, speculate, ruminate, blog, rant, discuss, or write about how we see our own activism in this or any other movement fits into larger ethical considerations or world-views. That is an entirely different thing than trying to derail the No-Kill message with these predictable and transparent tactics.

I also have listened to Michael Mountain speak on this issue, and it's reductionist in the extreme to sum up what he says as being you can't "be no-kill" unless you hold these other related beliefs. Obviously you can, because people do.

What's he's really doing is challenging his listeners to take a broader view of the underlying issues of the No Kill Movement. This is perfectly in keeping with his own commitment, which is not primarily to reforming animal sheltering, but to a big picture philosophy about the nature of life and its inter-relatedness.

But when we are being activists and trying to accomplish a goal, we will never get anything done if we spend all our time in that "big picture" place. Nor will we accomplish anything if we establish a purity test that "real" advocates have to pass. Nor is that what I heard Mountain saying. His point was something else.

If you doubt me, then consider not only the question I started out with, "Do we have to believe these other things or take these other actions to achieve our goal?", but this other question: "Does it further our goal or hinder it if we require all No-Kill supporters to also be anti-choice and vegans?"

Which raises a follow-up question, namely: "And if our movement does go down that road, whose interests will it serve, and is it possible they are the ones behind the question?"

I think you all know the answers.


Hey janipurr. I'm also pro choice. I'm not labeling or insisting anyone must be vegan or do anything they don't want to. I was asking a question. i was quoting someone very involved in the movement who was talking about the movement. i don't think that's crazy and i don't consider it a distraction. As i said, it's all part of animal welfare to me. you define your activism differently, ok great. But if you end a blog post with the words "that's who's killing the animals" maybe you should clarify you don't mean all of them. just certain animals.

Barbara Saunders

Erika, I've got to get Christie's back here. "That's who's killing them animals," within a post about animal shelter reform, is clear in context.


Kill shelters are bloodthirsty because they justify their funding by the body count just like in the Viet Nam war.


Well said Christie and Janipurr. Trying to dictate who and what others should be will only hurt the movement. It is a turn-off to people who may want to join the cause, but may not fit into some pre-conceived notion of who an animal activist should be. I eat meat, wear leather, and tend to vote Republican, but that has not stopped me from spending more than half my lifetime devoted to caring for animals. I don't even know any vegans anymore. Those I did know, I left behind long ago, because while they were busy preaching, I was busy rescuing. I live in a large city with a horrendous kill rate in our municipal shelters. Does it really matter what I eat, what I wear, or who I vote for when I, and many others like me, can be working towards ending the needless killing of animals in our shelter system?

Dr K

I don’t know what Ericka’s motives were in posting her question, but I tend to disagree that one can only focus on a single narrow issue to be effective or accomplish a goal. I feel that one can be an avid shelter reformer and also speak out against other social injustices, be it the treatment of livestock, gay rights, adult literacy, or whatever.
I happen to be a stanch No Kill supporter, but I understand why someone might ask a blogger such a personal question, even if she came at it a little harshly. Considering the name of the movement, I think we need to be prepared to respond to such questions as humanly as possible and without sounding defensive, even though we are defending something very important. Personally, I’d like to say I’m vegetarian, but the truth is I just don’t have the willpower to adhere to that diet and I try to be honest about that.

Virginia Faubel

How is it a distraction to discuss the bigger picture? Improvements to the shelter system are necessary but those improvements alone do not address the root cause of the problem. How society views and treats its animals. Do you blame abbatoir workers for killing animals? No that would be silly.


The problem is people breeding animals, not shelters killing them.


Well, that's a very telling comment, ethically speaking. By which I mean, it's morally repugnant.


I think Erika poses a valid question that was (perhaps) taken personally by the writer. It would be hard for me to take a 'staunch no-kill supporter' seriously who isn't even a vegetarian. While I'm not trying to point fingers or be a name caller, I am wondering why the value of a dog or cat is placed higher than that of a suffering heifer or sow. I think the mere name 'No-Kill Nation' is misleading at times and I'm a pretty open minded person and one who understands the animal rights movement in depth. Erika points out the flaw of No-Kill Nation only pertaining to pets which is philosophically flawed when viewed with a deepened understanding of suffering in animal rights. Having answers to these questions, or redefining the no-kills mission as a whole, might help with the confusion. Good luck in all your animal saving endeavors! :)

Christie Keith

Evelyn, you're again distracting. I have said this isn't about pets vs farm animals, it's about reforming animal shelters. Any animal who enters an animal shelter would be helped by the reform of animal shelters. You're the one who is trying to make this about pets vs other animals.

It would be equally a distraction to challenge those trying to prevent the abuses of factory farms that they can't really care about battery hens if they aren't also down at their local shelter blockading the delivery of the Fatal Plus. All that does is GUARANTEE that neither movement will accomplish anything.

Which is, of course, the point.

If you're hanging out with your friends, knock yourself out making all the connections and looking at the bigger picture. But putting those constraints on a reform movement results in paralysis. That's the point.

Debra Young

First, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-no kill. I have very little experience with no-kill shelters as I have only worked at 1. That said, I do have some concerns. The shelter I worked did very little adoption screening. My feeling was that it was political. The more animals they adopted out, the donations and bigger donations. Also, the keeping of animals for extended periods of time. There worse things than death, like spending 2 years in a kennel. Looking for comments

Christie Keith

Hi, Debra. You may say you're not against no-kill, but it's clear you don't actually know what it is.

The No-Kill Movement isn't about no-kill shelters. It's about no-kill communities, using the animal control policies of the No Kill Equation.

Doing a crappy job with your adoptions is not part of the No Kill Equation, whether it means you don't do good matchmaking or that you don't do a good job promoting harder to adopt animals. That's just bad sheltering, no matter what the shelter calls itself.

Regardless of the fact that it's not part of the No Kill Equation, I would suggest that believing two years in a kennel is worse than death is a morally indefensible statement. And if you DO have a long-term resident in a shelter, which does happen from time to time, then it's a key component of good sheltering that you utilize foster homes (part of the No Kill Equation), enrichment and behavior rehab (part of the No Kill Equation), and creative marketing (part of the No Kill Equation) to get that pet into a home.

Megan Flinn

What a great article. I have always thought animal shelters got a bad rap. When I was a kid, animal shelters (see: Lady and the Tramp) were portrayed as doggie prisons whereas pet stores (shudder) were portrayed as happy places. (See: the movie, BOLT). No wonder people grow up to see shelters as the bad guy.

I live in southern West Virginia, where stray dogs/cat populations are through the roof. One local shelter had a euthanasia rate of about 80% only a couple years ago. Now 90% of admitted dogs find homes. Why? Not because of a no-kill movement. Because someone noticed, instigated a huge foster/volunteer network that has had newsworthy results. Putting healthy dogs down is something that SHOULD NEVER happen. But here in WV, it has to be done. It is a collective shame on us as a society of people, and it shouldn't be layed at the feet of animal shelters. So before egging shelters, I think protesters should examine what THEY are doing to solve the problem. Are they donating money to spay/neuter programs every month, fostering dogs themselves, and volunteering in their spare time? If not...well, I'm not going to be too keen on listening to their criticisms.


Interesting research means shelters need to work harder to reach more people: "Pet Adoption Survey Reveals Young Adults Are Less Likely to Adopt Pets" - http://eon.businesswire.com/news/eon/20130424005915/en/Pets/Animal-Shelter/Rescue-Pets

"The survey indicates that younger generations (ages 18-34) are more likely to purchase a pet from a breeder or pet store rather than consider adoption (46 percent young adults versus 31 percent total).

The survey also highlights the fact that while Americans almost unanimously believe pet ownership makes people happier, there are still many misperceptions about shelter animals that derail the pet adoption process, particularly among young adults.

Younger Generation Needs Adoption Inspiration..."

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