Monday, February 23, 2009

Advances and Hope in Nation's No Kill Sheltering

I received a comment from an anonymous person regarding No Kill and saying you are in the think of things in this struggle. That's how I feel as well, and I am not sure why we have not met if you are in this area. I'd love to hear from you directly; feel free to e-mail me at

You ask what I feel my greatest accomplishment is so far. Well, though there are days I feel like I'm living in the Twilight Zone in trying to advance the ideas and philosophies of No Kill to not only the general public but also other animal-welfare activists and volunteers, I can honestly say that now many people I work with do "get it" and understand there is another way to deal with the animals left behind by the irresponsible public. It's a start for our community, though the progress is slow.

Just two years ago

When I sometimes start going down the road of defeatism, I think to the nationwide accomplishments of this No Kill revolution, and I draw strength from that. I also remind myself that any and all revolutions, even peaceful ones, do not see complete success overnight.

I think back to myself two years ago, and I was much like many animal-welfare people I work with today. I used to think that shelters did the best they could with the enormous job they face and the numbers of animals they deal with. I made excuses for our system and didn't see any alternatives to the mass killing, though I was saddened by it and also understood why that love-hate relationship exists between the shelter and the general public. I didn't think that a paradigm shift could change things for the better for all involved.

My path toward progressive thinking came from a great amount of research I did for my own education and benefit and because this subject, for some reason, touched a deep chord in me. I was drawn to the story of sheltering and the strides of progress with each and every resource I got my hands on, and my eyes were opened to the possibilities of change. It made perfect sense to me that standard sheltering was geared toward killing in the face of alternatives, and sadly, most shelter leaders at this time are still stuck in that insane loop of doing things the same way but expecting different results and lashing against the very animal-loving public they should be embracing.

My transformation started with reading Nathan J. Winograd's "Redemption" as well as many hours of online research. If I could convince all people who care about companion animals to read one thing, it would be this book. But, No Kill information is also widely available online via the links I provide at right. It's all there for anyone to read and learn from ... information from The No Kill Advocacy Center, The No Kill Nation, Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie's Fund, etc.

I am reminded, too, that it was in April 2007 that "Redemption" was first published and released, and in two short years, more than a handful of communities in the United States have dramatically turned their shelters around by following this model of sheltering. As those stories are shared and success spreads, more communities will follow. I agree with Winograd that nationwide change is inevitable ... the question is will our community be in on the transformation sooner or later. Any community can ask itself the same question, and there are No Kill advocates nationwide fighting for these changes in their neck of the woods.

For current success stories, look to the online community of The No Kill Nation. A shelter near Shreveport, LA, is the current story posted here. This community (Caddo Parish), smack dab in the region of the country that saw the worst of Katrina, was progressive enough to ask Winograd's No Kill Solutions for a review of their operations in 2006, and they were wise enough to follow through with the recommendations. In just a few short years, they are seeing dramatic improvements; read about it here:

Caddo Parish No Kill Success

In Virginia Beach, VA, a shelter director job has been announced from within a police/AC department that clearly calls for a No Kill director to lead efforts to save every healthy and treatable animal in their system. Looking at what led to this change are reports out of that local government that are refreshing and inspiring. It stared with a City Council resolution, which was then supported by community-wide input from all animal-welfare stakeholders and a report that looked to other success stories in the nation to develop a plan of action, and the decision was made that this community would follow this model of sheltering. Those reports and documents can be found via this website:

Virginia Beach's Road Toward No Kill

Lastly, inspiration in this struggle comes most from Winograd himself, the revolution's tireless leader. In a recent blog posting where he talks about a shelter in Minnesota putting healthy and treatable cats to death from a hoarding case in spite of offers from area no kill shelters and others to take the cats, Winograd said of this tragedy:

"It is a time of anger and great despair for cat lovers in Minnesota. But it should not be a time of losing hope. We must never say, "What's the point? They will never change." Because quitting ends hope. Quitting fails the animals. And we must focus on the progress that has been made. There was a time in our history and not so long ago, when there would have been no controversy over AHS' decision. But there is now because we have found our voice. And we have discovered that we speak for the masses when we speak out against such atrocities because the public supports our cause. As one Minnesotan wrote,

[I]n my state of anguish I forgot to consider how the tragedy is compounded by wasting the public's good will. As many animal advocates are aware, when the public learns of a specific need they do rise to the occasion. If the AHS refuses to change their philosophy concerning this group of homeless cats and they choose not accept the help that is offered to them, the blood of these cats and kittens will be on their hands."

Winograd continues:

"Voices like this prove that our work is not as burdensome as we once believed, when we blamed the public and thought our challenge was to make the multitudes care as we do. In reality, we know they share our cause. And our goal, therefore, while at times seemingly insurmountable is, in reality, inevitable. Today, there are only a few thousand shelter directors like the one in Minnesota holding back the will of over 100 million dog and cat lovers in the United States. And we only need to point out—loudly and with conviction—the hypocrisy of organizations which claim with their rhetoric that they champion animals, but demonstrate, time and time again through their actions, how little concern they truly have for our animal friends. In short, we need to bring public scrutiny to them and place their actions in the open light for all to see and judge for what it truly is. To quote the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with its ugliness exposed to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

We will win because, regardless of the social cause, those who champion compassion always do. Gandhi once said, When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants … and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall. Always. And so there can be no doubt: If we continue to demand it, those who ordered the killing at AHS will be forced to change or they will be swept aside. So speak up loud and strong Minnesotans. Make your voices heard. You will carry the day."

Change will come when more speak out

There is a distaste these days, even in these great United States of ours, against those that speak up against the status quo. I see it here when we are at supposed public-input meetings regarding animal welfare. Anyone who gets up to say anything critical, even if factually-based and well-founded and constructive, almost gets their heads cut off. Any shelter volunteer that dare ask questions or try to address issues is either fired or made so uncomfortable that they fear sharing their views and the truth. Personalities trump logical conversations or exchanges of ideas and solutions, etc.

It is also true that many in animal welfare are also still mired in the philosophies and views of the past or cannot themselves see around or past their blaming of the irresponsible public. Many smart and dedicated people that I greatly admire still say and think that our shelter is doing the best it can--despite the continued level of killing, despite the spending that has exponentially increased, despite news or stories to the contrary, etc.

Until more speak out and until more are outraged into speaking up and demanding better for our shelter and animals, we will still be administering the status quo of animal sheltering and killing the majority. I challenge each and every person who cares and wishes our community did not kill 70%+ of our homeless animals each year to open your minds up and take some time to learn about the No Kill revolution. I know it is time-consuming; it has become my passion, and I have spent countless hours learning about it. I would not trade those hours for anything now that I have seen the light. We need your help and voices so that we can collectively push for these changes in our community.

1 comment:

SanDiegoDogMa said...

I've just discovered your blog and love what I've read so far. I think your blog may be just what I need to win over my dog-friends to the idea of No Kill. Thank you.