Saturday, April 25, 2009

No Kill Conference is next weekend!

No Kill Conference Online Updates

The nation's biggest No Kill event of the year is taking place next weekend, on May 2 and 3, in Washington, D.C. I will be there along with a few other local advocates. I'll be reporting on what we learn and experience at the conference via this blog next Saturday and Sunday and also via
The No Kill Nation's national forum. Others will also be posting their reports to this forum, including one of the featured speakers at the conference and founder of The No Kill Nation--shelter director Susan Cosby.

Everyone who is anyone in the area of No Kill will be speaking and presenting at
this conference, led by Nathan J. Winograd, the director of The No Kill Advocacy Center and author of "Redemption". Other speakers and presenters include Richard Avanzino, president of Maddie's Fund; Bonney Brown, executive director of the Nevada Humane Society; and Karen Delise, the director of the National Canine Research Council and the leading expert on fatal dog attacks and bites.

When we return from this conference, we hope to hold a public panel discussion about No Kill and share the materials/ideas we bring back with us. As soon as I know the date and time for this meeting, I'll post it here as well.

Apache Memorial

A memorial will be held in honor of Apache, the wolf-hybrid that was owned by Rev. Scott and was a local staple at our farmer's market. Last year, Apache's owner suffered a great loss when she came home to find her dogs had gotten out of the yard and Apache was implicated in a dog bite incident. Because he was considered a wild animal that was not legally allowed in the City, the dog's owner was forced to put him down.

Friends of Apache are holding a memorial in the dog's honor at Pioneer Park on May 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. If you'd like to pay your respects or show your support of Rev. Scott and her impending case against the City over this tragedy, please come out. Learn more about the alternatives to how this case could and should have been handled and help advocate for more progressive approaches to animal care and control. There are more modern, common sense ways to guarantee public safety and health while also protecting and caring for animals at the same time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

APA Starting Pet Food Bank

ACTion Programs for Animals--APA--is being converted into a non-profit whose mission will be bettering the lives of pets and their guardians. Our first project will be the launch of a pet food bank, which we hope will help people who are struggling financially to feed their animals and not have to give up a member of the family because of hard times. At first, we will be distributing food once a month on a set day/time, but we hope to grow this bank into one that can partner with other groups already administering people food banks and other assistance so that we can reach all segments of the population in our area in need.

APA will also be looking toward the day we can offer other items that pets need, such as dog houses, cat litter boxes and litter, leashes, collars, ID tags, alternatives to chaining dogs, etc. Other future plans are establishing wellness clinics to get pets vaccinated and microchipped at a low cost. All the while, APA will be working on outreach and respectful education to the public so that every pet guardian can learn how to provide for their pet's basic needs and beyond -- helping people see how much of a special bond they can develop with their dogs and cats.

If you are interested in helping in these efforts, contact APA at We need help from businesses and other locations that will allow pet food donation bins or jars at their locations as well as individual volunteers to pick up food and take it to storage locations and help with the monthly distribution. Also, part of this work is learning which organizations/groups are already administering help to people so that we can partner in future efforts to include pets as part of the families being given assistance. Lastly, if you run a store that can offer pet food donations directly, please let us know.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Exciting week for animal welfare

This has been a whirlwind week in the world of animal welfare--both locally and nationally. Here are some highlights and links for more detailed information/differing viewpoints.

ASCMV mission statement in the works

Our municipal animal shelter's oversight board had a working meeting this past week to start the process of writing a mission statement for the facility. I had submitted a suggested mission and vision statement to the chairman of the board for consideration in late March, and this draft of the mission statement was selected as their starting point.

Here are the two statements I submitted, which are consistent for any shelter working toward No Kill. This is not to say the statements are perfect as written, and revisions by the shelter's management and the ASCMV board are underway. I think they are only looking to write a mission at this time, not a vision.


The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley (ASCMV) is a municipal animal welfare organization and shelter that provides a safe environment for the lost, abandoned, and homeless animals of the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County and strives to place them in good homes or with other organizations. We set a standard of excellence and leadership in animal care, humane education/public outreach, and progressive animal welfare programs and services.


The ASCMV is working diligently toward the day every healthy and behaviorally-sound companion animal entering our facility is saved. We also want to do our best and exhaust every possible option to save all dogs and cats that are medically treatable and can be behaviorally rehabilitated. We want to set the modern sheltering standard for our region and the state of New Mexico. In order to do so, we will strive to develop constructive relationships with Animal Control departments, nonprofit organizations, and other individual and group/business stakeholders in order to advance our mission community-wide.

HSUS to revise policy about fighting dogs

I am hopeful, even if guardedly so, about the slow change at the HSUS from old-guard thinking to progressive animal-welfare models shown by organizations like Best Friends Animal Society and others--in the area of animals confiscated after fighting busts. One can also say that the opportunities of survival and care given to the Michael Vic dogs are having lasting impressions and repercussions. These changes are ones No Kill advocates have been fighting for for many years.

The ultimate goal of No Kill is equitable, individual treatment and fair assessment for each and every animal entering our animal-welfare system, including those confiscated from organized crime rings, such as dog fighting and cockfighting. The old-guard view followed by many Animal Control agencies is led by the biggest name in animal welfare--the HSUS. In court testimony after testimony, the blanket approach of the past and too much of the present is to recommend the extermination of all animals "rescued" from these cruelty cases ... an irony that has been challenged more and more in recent years when even puppies in foster homes are ordered back to the shelter to be killed months-to-years after the court cases are finally resolved. Those that care for these animals are speaking out about the good nature of many of these victims of organized crime and the potential for rehabilitation and subsequent adoption.

A very important meeting between the HSUS, Best Friends, Bad Rap, the National Animal Control Association, the ASPCA, and many others last week in Las Vegas has resulted in a promise from the HSUS to change its policies regarding these crime victims and the opportunity for more fair assessment and possible rescue (at least for dogfighting victims). This is a huge shift in animal welfare, and even the training manuals the HSUS publishes on the subject are to be re-written. A working group from all these various groups is supposed to come up with a new working policy and plan for animals confiscated in these cases.

A recent example in our community was the big cockfighting bust this past week, where more than 600 roosters were put down within a day after the owner relinquished the birds to authorities. Maybe the new HSUS policies will allow for thorough testing of birds in these cases and opportunities given to national farm sanctuaries to provide rescue for the birds instead of this blanket killing policy. It is not clear from the meeting in Las Vegas whether the new policy will apply to other animals besides dogs. In the case of these 600+ healthy birds that might not have been suitable for entry into a regular farm system due to suspected drugs in their systems, it cannot be said that the birds were euthanized to spare them from irremediable suffering or poor health prognosis (especially without a thorough medical assessment), so let's hope more and more of these cases can have better outcomes for the victims of these crime rings as well.

To read more about the meeting in Vegas and its outcome, see the following links. Contact the HSUS to applaud this decision and urge them to do the most possible to not only bust criminals but to provide some resources for rescue of their victims. The HSUS raises many funds to support their fight against cruelty and dog fighters, and there is no reason why some of these funds cannot be used to help the victims of the crimes as well.

Best Friends: Tails Wag for New HSUS Policy
Best Friends: A Victory for Canine Victims of Violence
The No Kill Nation: Cautious Optimism About New HSUS Policy
The No Kill Blog by Nathan J. Winograd: Las Vegas, Round 3
BAD RAP Blog: No more excuses - Bust dogs are on the bus

Finding common ground on TNR

Going back to the ASCMV board's working meeting this week, one person in the public was arguing against No Kill on the grounds that TNR/community-cat programs are detrimental because loose cats are a nuisance and kill/torture birds and for reasons of public safety/rabies risks. The woman was very obvious in her near hatred of homeless cats.

I find it interesting that both TNR proponents like myself and opponents like this woman do agree on some bottom lines: there are too many homeless cats in our nation, cats can be a nuisance to some, unvaccinated loose cats can pose a public risk, and cats are natural predators whose victims are sometimes birds and other small prey. Where our viewpoints diverge is in the approach to this complicated issue. Those who still fight against TNR seem to be very misinformed or in denial about how the decades and decades of things going their way -- trapping and killing all visible loose cats -- has failed miserably. The proof is in the current numbers.

There are an estimated 80+ million cats in homes in the U.S. at this time. Cats have surpassed dogs as the most popular companion animal. But, the next number is the one that shows how our old approaches to controlling cat populations have failed. Aside from these 80 million cats with homes, there are an estimated 70-80 million MORE cats that are homeless/feral and running loose in our nation. In some communities, cats are still gunned down in the streets by police officers (sometimes only wounded and suffering great torture and a slow death)--yet as a whole, these resilient animals survive, thrive, and grow in number each year because for every cat killed, there are others hiding. If we could catch and kill them all, we would have done so already.

Only TNR has shown success in lowering the population of these loose cats. It may not be a perfect solution or system, but no other effective ideas have been offered. TNR helps mitigate some of the nuisances for people via caretakers and dispute resolution. What is most troublesome is that people who care about birds alone cannot see that in controlling cat populations via TNR, more birds will be saved--at least those killed by cats. Studies have shown time and again that birds' greatest enemy is human beings, not cats or other predators. Overall, we are responsible for torturing/killing the most birds with our urban sprawl, high-rise buildings in place of natural habitats, and pesticide use (for deliberate, unnatural torture of birds, what about boys with pellet guns?). Lastly, the rabies threat drops dramatically as well with TNR, which includes vaccination of cats that would not otherwise be given any shots. And, over time, that 70+ million feral population will slowly and naturally die down.

The bottom line is that it has taken decades for us humans to create this mess. Cats are unique animals in that they can survive as wild animals and thrive--unlike dogs. Therefore, it is going to take many, many more decades of human effort to fix the problems associated with free roaming cats. There is no easy, fast answer.

To read about some innovative cat programs, see the
Best Friends campaign for feral cats. For those of you still opposed to TNR, maybe it is time to join the rest of us in the reality of our times and get up-to-date on this issue. There is a reason why the HSUS and National Animal Control Association also finally came around and changed their policies regarding ferals ... contact them or visit their websites to find out why the last of the hold-outs could no longer ignore the facts.

Apache's owner to sue the City

Rev. Scott, the owner of the wolf-hybrid (Apache) that was implicated in a biting incident in December 2008 and ordered to be immediately put down as a "wild" animal, is beginning the process of suing the City of Las Cruces over the wrongful death of her beloved companion, family member, and a well-known dog in the community that was a staple at our weekly farmer's market. Ultimately, the owner hopes that no one else ever has to go through the same fate with their family pet in the future and that the City will be more mindful and throughtful in any future case like this. Read the story about this in today's paper.

In the past, all an owner could hope to recuperate in suing over the wrongful death of their pet was the value of the "property", which is not a high dollar in our legal system. However, as pets become more and more a part of our family units and the bond is respected more by our legal system, damages are now being awarded for the emotional suffering incurred as a result of the owner's loss. But, the point of bringing such a lawsuit against a municipality or shelter is not to collect money -- it's about the principle; it's about fairness; and it's ultimately about changing a very broken system.

A memorial event is in planning at this time for Apache. It will take place at Pioneer Park on May 17th. The time has not been set, but I will post a notice about this event when more information is available. Please come out and show your support for Rev. Scott and her beloved dog.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Upcoming Conferences - HSUS and No Kill Advocacy Center

HSUS Conference in Vegas - April 6-9

The HSUS's Animal Care Expo is happening now,and let's hope this is one instance where what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas! I know it is very hard for most animal-welfare people to understand how the HSUS offers political cover and support to shelters that are mired in the unnecessary, systematic killing of animals, but this sad reality is true. What HSUS does is often ignore those communities and shelter directors who are showing that things can be done differently because they are too busy covering up for those that kill in the face of alternatives.

However, this is the first year at one of these expos that the HSUS is bringing down a bit of that wall--if just a bit. For those arriving early and willing to pay an extra fee, they can attend the Maddie's Fund day at this conference, where staunch No Kill shelter directors Bonney Brown (of the Nevada Humane Society) and Suzanne Kogut (of Charlottesville's SPCA) will be presenting. This is very exciting--this slight shift in allowing No Kill directors to have a say at the HSUS conference.

Also exciting this week is the meeting of the minds between HSUS and Best Friends, Bad Rap, and many other organizations struggling to offer pit bulls confiscated from dog fighters at least an opportunity for individual, equitable assessment so those that can be taken in and saved have the same opportunities afforded to the Michael Vic dogs, many of which are in homes now and some of which are even therapy dogs! Let's hope these talks go well so that HSUS will stop their courtroom defense and call for the killing of all these fighting dogs, even puppies born after the adults are impounded. It's time to realize there are shades of grey in every situation and circumstance.

No Kill Advocacy Conference in DC - May 2&3

This conference is sold out, so the best way to track its progress is via The No Kill Nation -- a national forum I highly recommend to anyone interested in what No Kill is when put into practice. Myself and others in the No Kill movement will be offering daily updates about what we learn and our experiences at this conference.

Just last night, I was half-asleep and dreaming that it was less than a month away before I peronally get to hear my heroes and sheroes speaking ... everyone from No Kill powerhouse Nathan J. Winograd and Maddie's Fund president Richard Avanzino--who is also the first shelter director to lead a community to No Kill back when he was the director of the San Franciso SPCA in the 1990s.

I will also be blogging daily here as well from that conference, so stay tuned!