All posts by Nathan J. Winograd

Killing Shelter Dogs: A Story of Violence

A story in the Boston Globe by Amy Sutherland is making the rounds on social media. It’s called “Saving Shelter Dogs: A Love Story” and it’s an example of how to emotionally manipulate people into accepting wrong opinions. It can’t even be called a fluff piece because it is more than fluff. It’s actually harmful. But people are loving it, some calling it “excellent,” many crying after reading it, and apologists for shelter killing are using it to throw up their hands and conclude that the problem of large, exuberant dogs in shelters is “unsolvable.” It isn’t.

The article tells the story of three dogs the author worked with as a volunteer at the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL), which is billed as a shelter willing to go the extra mile, willing to do whatever it takes to save dogs, including surgery. But the reality, according to the author, is that dogs deteriorate at the shelter and after a few months, dogs are killed for their own good because no one wants them. People are irresponsible and dogs, like Happy — a “joyful,” “confident,” and “curious” dog who was passed over too many times until he started acting out and lunging at people, once nipping someone on the hand — are paying the price:

As the steely January skies roll in, the staff take Happy into the auditorium for a game of fetch one morning. They feed him a cheeseburger. Then, seven months after he arrived, seven months from when he thought pigeons were fun and women with big purses were terribly interesting, they put Happy down. No one knows what could have been done, but everyone, volunteers and staff, is filled with remorse.

If we are to believe the author, there are no solutions. Why? People surrender dogs for trivial reasons. They won’t open their homes to many of these dogs. And after a few months in the shelter, they deteriorate to the point where they are “no longer shelterable” and ultimately no longer “homeable” and must be killed. And the people who plunge them full of poison? They are, of course, the heroes who would leave no stone unturned if it meant an animal lived instead of died. They simply do not have the money, the time, or the ability to do so because “No one knows what could have been done.”

She’s wrong. But before I explain why, I do not want to give the impression that the author is being dishonest. A shelter volunteer who provides badly needed socialization for dogs facing death, the author is an eloquent advocate for shelter dogs who are ultimately adopted and clearly believes what she writes (and she writes beautifully).

She could spend her free time doing whatever she wants and thinking only of herself. Instead, she chooses to care for shelter dogs. And not just any dogs; dogs her shelter has tagged for potential killing. That is admirable. And because of the work she and others do, two of the three dogs in the story, the majority the ARL takes in in fact, are “saved.”* And helping save dogs is the work of love.

But that doesn’t make her a subject matter expert on the ones who aren’t saved or why they are being killed, especially if her experience is limited to ARL. And it doesn’t make her piece any less dangerous for dogs who are in shelters that aren’t really willing to go the extra mile or who are looking for reasons to kill dogs. And just because she just doesn’t know what she doesn’t know doesn’t mean we have to pull punches.

Dogs are being killed. And that killing is being excused. And the reasons she offers as to why are wrong. Here’s what the author doesn’t say.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston Is Immensely Wealthy Despite Its Poor Performance

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is not just one of the wealthiest small shelters in the country. It is arguably the wealthiest. It takes in over $23,000,000 per year and has cash assets of about $100,000,000. And yet it only takes in 3,000 animals a year. It’s a “limited admission” shelter so it isn’t burdened by a constant flow of animals. It has all the money in the world for these dogs. It has all the time in the world for the dogs in its care. And, if it chose to, it has the ability to save these dogs. In other words, ARL has no excuse for killing dogs like Happy.

How is it that there are municipal, open admission shelters saving 98% and even 99% of dogs (and cats) — some taking in over five times the number of animals — on a fraction of the ARL’s budget and with a constant flow of intakes, but the wealthiest, limited admission shelter in the country, with all the time in the world only has a live release rate of 83% (and only 80% for cats)?

The answer as to how other shelters are able to succeed where ARL does not is simple: These other shelters aren’t making excuses. They are putting in place all of the innovative and dynamic initiatives that have redefined sheltering over the last decade. And they don’t blame the public for their failure to do so. For example, Austin, TX’s municipal shelter saved 99% of dogs last month (98% for all of 2016) through a combination of playgroups, rescue partnerships, comprehensive adoption marketing, and a behavior protocol that focuses on solutions, rather than excuses. Like Happy, a small number of dogs have been there for some time, a few over a year, but they weren’t killed by being labeled “no longer shelterable” and ultimately no longer “homeable.” It also took in 9,395 dogs to ARL’s 893.

To get away with it, ARL has to pretend shelters like Austin do not exist. The ARL calls killing for population control necessary because the public is to blame and — without the slightest hint of irony given its own immense wealth — shelters don’t have the resources to do more. With this kind of excuse making, it is little surprise that Boston is not despite that it is home to the two wealthiest, local agencies in the nation: ARL and the equally wealthy but half-hearted Massachusetts SPCA which not only has the largest veterinary hospital in North America, it takes in more money annually ($61,000,000) and although it has fewer total cash assets, it is still a whopping $87,000,000.

Behavior Rehabilitation Can Occur Quickly

Austin’s success is no surprise. A review of the literature on resilience in humans and applied to dogs through the pioneering work of the No Kill Advocacy Center, bioethicist Jessica Pierce, and Dr. Karen Overall, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, demonstrates that dogs are incredibly resilient, that there is no such thing as “irremediable psychological suffering” in dogs, and that all dogs with behavior trauma can be appropriately rehabilitated and/or placed through criteria that depends on the severity of the trauma.

In addition, successfully rehabilitating dogs suffering from even severe behavior problems doesn’t take as long as conventional wisdom would suggest. In one study of shelter dogs with behavioral challenges, including barrier reactivity, fear-based aggression, resource guarding, kennel stress, prey drive, and bite history, 40% of the dogs were in foster care for up to one week before being placed, 48% were in foster care between eight days and one month, and the remainder were in foster between one and eight months. In other words, 88% of the dogs were in foster care 30 days or less before shelter staff determined they were ready for adoption and some of the dogs even had secondary issues including extremely high energy, possible dog aggression, dog selectivity, fear of men, undersocialization, separation anxiety, and reactivity. And yet, the author claims no one will foster dogs who are “fearful” or “skittish” and no one will adopt them. Wrong. Something can’t be impossible if it has already been achieved.

Even in more severe cases, such as dogs facing profound trauma from physical abuse, dog fighting, hoarding, and puppy mills, the average amount of time for rehabilitation in dogs taken in by another shelter was only 12 weeks. That doesn’t mean some dogs don’t take longer. It also does not mean there are not challenges, even immense challenges, to placement. Some of these dogs spend a very, very long time in treatment before they are adopted.

But what it does mean is that dogs are incredibly resilient, we can build resilience in traumatized dogs, and we can—and eventually will—end the killing of all dogs for behavior reasons. In fact, the path to do so is now clear. Doug Rae, the director of the Humane Society of Fremont County in Colorado, is instructive. The Fremont Humane Society runs the animal control shelter for seven cities under contract. Rae also previously ran a private shelter in Rhode Island and “open admission”/municipal shelters in Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, including those taking in as many as 30,000 animals per year. Says Rae:

Over the years, I have rarely seen a truly ‘aggressive’ dog. The vast majority are simply scared. I was speaking with a Board member for a shelter on the West Coast … and she said that her shelter saves 96-97% of the animals and that 3 or 4% are dogs who are aggressive and need to be killed. In my experience, the percentage of truly aggressive dogs I have seen in small to very large shelters is well under one quarter of 1%.

In fact, if Doug Rae is correct, and the most recent scholarship on the issue would indicate he is, less than 1% of dogs fall outside our ability to rehabilitate right now and for them, long-term protective placement such as a sanctuary is a viable option. For the rest, cohousing, playgroups, redesign of shelters, foster care, basic training, improvements in rehabilitation regimens (i.e., moving toward true behavior modification and away from rudimentary concentration on either negative punishment or positive rewards in a way that is nothing more than stimulus control operant conditioning), drug therapy, and other techniques would allow shelters to ultimately place them. And for the ¼ of 1% of dogs who do require longer term care in a sanctuary? ARL can afford to provide that care.

All this is well and good, the author might say, but that kind of rehabilitation isn’t possible in a shelter because it’s the shelters themselves that are “the central problem.” As one shelter leader put it to me,” she writes, “it’s not a question of if a shelter dog will deteriorate. It’s a question of when.” She is wrong here, too. Austin proves that.

Dozens of other shelters saving 98-99% of dogs prove it (as do the few who save 100%, but this is less interesting as eventually, every shelter will get an animal who is truly irremediably suffering). And so does the scholarship.

Kennel Stress Is Not an Inevitability; It Results From Poor Sheltering Protocols

It will surprise no one that many “dogs experience fear and anxiety immediately upon admission” to a shelter. These are dogs who are used to living in homes or even on the street and then find themselves kenneled in a strange, loud, often dirty, and stressful environment, separated from the home or place and people with whom they are accustomed.

But what is surprising is that the same is not necessarily true for long-term kenneling. Conventional wisdom says that the longer a dog stays in a shelter, the more likely he or she is to become “kennel crazy.” The author certainly believes so. A study of dogs across a dozen shelters in the U.K., however, found that dogs who are given “mental and physical stimulation, time out of the kennel and close interaction with people” are not stressed and the longer they are in the shelter, the less stressed they become.

The study also found that dogs should be able to see (and I would argue, interact) outside their kennel in order to “reduce frustrated attempts to see what is going on beyond their kennel.” Most shelters are designed so that dogs can’t see people and other dogs in neighboring kennels in the hopes that this will reduce barking. Where there is glass, it is usually opaque. Where there are adjoining kennels, they are usually concrete. Where there are fences or bars, they usually face a wall (and include a “do not touch the animals” sign for people walking by). These are mistakes as they are not conducive to dog welfare or their intended purpose of reducing frustration. In fact, they exacerbate it.

Fifteen years ago when I directed the construction of a shelter in Central New York, I worked to make sure the environment we created to house dogs met their needs. It was built with clear glass so dogs could see outside their kennels, added sniff goals so dogs could smell and touch, and added windows and sniff holes between kennels so dogs could also interact with their doggy neighbors. We took in as many animals as the Animal Rescue League on a fraction of their budget. ARL can clearly afford to do this, too.

A better and ethically consistent future in animal sheltering inevitably awaits us if the No Kill movement can continue to do what it has always done until every last animal entering our nation’s shelters—whatever the species, whatever the challenge—no longer faces killing: overcome the flawed but mutable traditions we have inherited from prior generations.

We won’t do so, however, as long as we continue to offer excuses, especially prettily written, lyrical, golden tongued excuses that emotionally manipulate people into viewing the killing of a healthy dog as a fait accompli as opposed to the immoral, egregious betrayal it actually is. And that is what this story is — a more eloquent way of offering the same excuse pounds have been offering for a century and the No Kill movement has proven false: there are too many dogs, not enough homes, people are irresponsible, shelters are no place for dogs, and the people who have to kill these dogs are kind hearted animal lovers doing the public’s dirty work.

Romanticizing Violence

Unfortunately, the author does not stop there:

When people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” or tell me, “I’d adopt all the animals in the shelter,” I joke, “Then you would be an animal hoarder.” But what I think is You don’t know the half of it. When I signed on to work with the red dogs, I unwittingly agreed to work with the ones most at risk of being put down for their behavior. I agreed to step into a shadow, to give my heart to dogs I might never see again for the most final of reasons. Of course the staff have made the same choice, though I wonder if some of the young women who take shelter jobs understand exactly what they have signed up for. I don’t know how they give their hearts away. I don’t know how I do, either. All I know is that we do.

Suggesting the alternative to killing is warehousing, even in “jest,” can only be done by ignoring the protocols of shelters which have truly achieved No Kill. And it can only be done by ignoring their results. At the open admission No Kill shelter I ran, for example, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of approximately 2%, we reduced the disease rate by nearly 90% from the prior administration, we reduced the intentional killing rate by 75%, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and over 95% of dogs were saved. That was 15 years ago. Today, even higher live release rates are possible and have been achieved. Once again, something can’t be impossible if it has already been achieved.

It is tempting to see this article as tragic, rather than dangerous; tempting to feel sorry for her (and the dogs), rather than angry at her (for justifying their needless killing). But that would be a mistake. Because on top of all the other erroneous conclusions, long disproven, she now also resurrects the ugliest one of them all, the one which was designed to defend killing by painting the alternative as darker. She tells us we have to choose between shelter killing and animal hoarding. People who think otherwise simply don’t know. And people who do are giving their hearts.

To her eloquence, I’ll offer something plain spoken: a person who loves dogs, who wants what is truly best for them, would recognize they no more want to die than she does, and anyone truly committed to speaking on their behalf and representing their best interest would reject the impulse to use such an unmistakable tragedy as an opportunity to wallow in sentimental, self-indulgent, and ill-informed cliches. The death of Happy calls for righteous indignation at those who killed him and the furious search for solutions, not normalization, capitulation, and romanticization.

With a few quick Google searches, she would have come to realize that ARL had a choice. And, in the end, so did she. She could use her column to inform her dog-loving readers that a better way has been already been found, that Happy died in vain at the hands of people too committed and too complacent with antiquated ways of running a shelter to live up to their stated mission and solemn responsibility to the animals in their care through innovation. Instead, she chose to add her name to the many that have come before; those who have sought to reconcile our society to that needless killing by misportraying it as a necessity borne of public irresponsibility. Tragically, when presented with that fork in the road, she chose the road most travelled, and for dogs like Happy, that has made the difference between life and death for far too long.

The Boston Globe calls it a “love story” but for dogs like Happy, it is anything but. There’s simply no way to torture the definition of the word love to encompass the intentional killing of dogs, because killing an animal — an animal who is not irremediably suffering — is not an act of love. It is an act of violence.

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For most animals entering and then leaving shelters alive, however, the term “saving” is a euphemism. If an animal has been hit by a car or is suffering from a serious disease and enters a shelter which provides that animal with veterinary assistance that prevents death, that animal has been saved by a shelter. Likewise, when a rescue organization takes an animal from death row at a pound, that animal has also been saved because the rescuer intervened to prevent the animal from being killed by someone else. But when the term “saving” is used to describe a pound choosing to adopt out an animal instead of killing that animal, killing is implied to be a natural outcome of animal “homelessness” that must be overcome, which it is not. Homelessness is not a fatal condition—or at least it shouldn’t be. Moreover, the vast majority of animals who enter pounds are healthy and treatable and not in danger of dying but for the threat the pound itself poses. Pound employees cannot accurately be described as having “saved” an animal when the only threat the animal faced was the one that the pound itself presents. In short, if someone was threatening to kill you, and chose to let you live instead, would you describe that person’s actions as having “saved” you?

Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd

Demonizing Cats

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, ‘Cats smell, they are a nuisance, make too much noise, are a public health and rabies threat, transmit disease and parasites, including “roundworms, hookworms, and even plague,” and “terrorize and kill” 15 billion other animals a year.’ The only thing missing is a claim they are in league in witches.

Why is PETA demonizing cats? They are trying to stop Camden County, NJ, officials from embracing TNR even though doing so would improve their lives and save the cats from the threat posed by killing at the pound.

Instead, PETA is telling Camden County officials to do what they themselves do: round them up and plunge a needle full of poison into their bodies.

PETA may be a hypocrite by calling itself an “animal rights” organization when they “do not ‘advocate right to life’ for animals,” but they do practice what they preach. Not only does PETA itself kill roughly nine out of 10 animals it takes in every year, including healthy kittens. Not only does PETA itself round up to kill animals (sometimes illegally). But PETA functionaries specifically target healthy community cats for destruction.

In 2015, for example, PETA staff rounded up cats in the neighborhoods surrounding its Virginia-headquarters and took them to local kill pounds. Among those killed in Virginia Beach were community cats as young as six weeks old, two six-month old kittens in “good” health, an eight-month old kitten in “good” health, and a 10-month old also described in “good” health. Eleven of the 17 cats killed were one year old or younger, five were between two and three years old, and the oldest was only six years old.

The same occurred in Norfolk, VA. Among those killed were two months old, three months old, and four months old kittens who needed socialization, but were otherwise healthy and had their whole lives ahead of them.

When you donate to PETA, you not only pay to round up and kill animals, you pay to demonize cats and undermine efforts to save their lives.

Note: In my response to Camden County freeholders, I provided them with studies that show community cat sterilization programs reduce intakes, reduce killing, save money, allow shelters to do more to help animals without increasing staff, reduce DOAs and overall numbers, reduce rates of illness in shelters, reduce perceived “nuisance” complaints, and are supported by Health Departments across the country.

I also told them that given PETA’s history of illegal and unethical conduct, including the fact that they kill over 90% of animals while only adopting out 1%, no one interested in saving lives should be listening to them.

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Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd

Study: Shelter Dog Killing Drops Below 1 Million

But the conclusions the funders of the study are drawing from it are not only wrong, they’re pernicious.

A new study, by researchers at Mississippi State University, claims the number of dogs killed in U.S. shelters is down to 776,970 (with an upper range of 866,377). If true, this is incredibly good news. The latest data available from the No Kill Advocacy Center’s review had put the number at about 1.1 million, 22% of all dog intakes. It would represent the first time in the modern era that dog deaths dropped below 1 million.

But there are several reasons to view this study with a grain of salt. This was an industry funded study by groups such as Petland, the American Kennel Club, and the Pet Industry’s lobbying group, PIJAC. These groups aim to thwart restrictions on their industry, including the growing trend of banning the retail sale of commercially bred puppies. They are apparently using the study to thwart those efforts and to get policy makers to embrace commercial breeding by claiming that there are not enough dogs to meet demand. The old admonition to “follow the money” would therefore warrant close scrutiny of the study’s methodology and its subsequent results. According to the Center for Accountability in Science, industries “can design research that makes their products look better. They can select like-minded academics to perform the work. And they can run the statistics in ways that make their [conclusions] look better than they are.”

Funding bias, according to Wikipedia, “refers to the tendency of a scientific study to support the interests of the study’s financial sponsor. This phenomenon is recognized sufficiently that researchers undertake studies to examine bias in past published studies.” It has led to tainted studies involving sugary soft drinks, tobacco, and drugs. It can apply to the commercial breeding industry.

Admittedly, that alone is not reason to discard it as industry funding does not, in and of itself, mean there is funding bias or that the study’s conclusions are erroneous. Plus, I want it to be true. It would be good if it was true. If it was true, it would mean more than 300,000 fewer dogs are being killed that previously thought. And that is news we should all celebrate.

But, in fact, there are problems with how the study was conducted. First, the authors use the “capture-recapture” method (used for counting wildlife) in a novel context (shelter killing) and for it to be accurate, the number of shelters they surveyed have to be truly representative of the whole. That means they have to be evenly distributed in terms of geography, size, services, and population. They do not seem to be. For one, the authors only heard from 14% of the shelters they surveyed from 49 states. Put another way, 86% of the shelters did not respond, nearly nine out of 10. Moreover, it is not clear that the responding shelters were representative given self-selection bias: the responding shelters may be those who keep good data, are generally responsive and therefore atypical, and/or are proud to share their data. Our most poorly performing pounds tend to be poorly managed, unwilling to keep good records and averse to transparency. In fact, laws forcing shelters to make their statistics public are often required and when introduced, meet fierce opposition, suggesting that those killing large numbers of dogs would be the least likely to share their data with outsiders if they do not have to.

The study also does not indicate which state they excluded, but a large state could add hundreds of thousands to the total. In addition, a state like Delaware, with a statewide live release rate of 91% for dogs but which does not accept family-relinquished dogs, would skew it down, given the small sample size.

Study authors also excluded foster-based shelters and rescue groups and while that is fine to determine how many dogs are killed in brick and mortar shelters, it is not fine with determining the number of dogs available and therefore the conclusions they want to draw from the study.

For example, the study authors started with 10,890 shelters and rescue groups. Of these, they removed 114 duplicate listings and 40 additional agencies which did not shelter dogs. That left them a sample size of 10,736 organizations. They then also excluded 7,649 rescue groups and foster-based agencies. And they also excluded shelters which refused to do adoptions (which means greater killing, meaning they took out those shelters that would push the numbers killed highest).

Of the 10,736 organizations (excluding duplicates and those who did not shelter dogs), they drew up a list of 3,064 shelters to review, 29% of the total. Of those, they reduced it even further to 2,862 (from 49 of 50 states) based on various problems. And of those, only 413 responded, 14% of their sample size, but only 4% of the overall total of organizations.

By contrast, the No Kill Advocacy Center looked at reporting data from all mandatory reporting states including, but not limited to, California, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina, a database of over 1,000 shelters, and the databases of other organizations captured via self-publishing and Public Records Act results to get 1.1 million. But assuming for the sake of argument that the industry funded study is the more accurate of the two—and because it means over 300,000 additional dogs are spared, I want theirs to be true—it still wouldn’t lead to the Pet Industry’s conclusions about it. In fact, you could take the exact same study and the exact same results and conclude the opposite: that with 776,970 dogs still being killed in shelters, creating more dogs that would compete for homes with those facing death is immoral. I certainly would.

The industry group which funded the study has side-stepped this conclusion by claiming that the vast majority, if not all, of the dogs killed in shelters are non-rehabilitatable. They are not. Looking at the results of the best performing shelters in the nation and pioneering research in behavior and shelter medicine, 99% of dogs in shelters are not irremediably suffering. Of the 5,532,904 dogs who entered shelters, only 55,329 dogs would meet the definition for true “euthanasia.” That means that over 720,000 dogs are still losing their lives in shelters but for adequate efforts to find them homes (almost 800,000 at the upper range).

Add to that all the dogs being cared for by rescue groups, dogs in high intake jurisdictions that could be transferred to higher demand jurisdictions, community dogs, dogs available from individuals through neighbors, friends, work colleagues, and newspaper ads, dogs in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that need homes, and once we saved all of those, dogs in countries on or near our borders still dying or living on the street, and as I told a Washington Post reporter writing about this issue, we’re nowhere near concluding that breeding would be required to meet public “demand” for dogs.

In short, there is no existing or coming dog shortage. The conclusions drawn from the study are a classic example of a “solution” in search of a problem. To be sure, we do not have to kill dogs as shelter supply is outstripped by demand. But we do not have to breed them either.

Ignoring this, some of the groups which funded the current study have made two additional, disingenuous arguments. First, they argue that people do not want the dogs currently dying in shelters; that they want puppies. Second, they argue that the remaining dogs dying in shelters are dangerous. Neither stands up to scrutiny.

Despite more widespread and affordable sterilization, puppies are in no danger of disappearing from the U.S. And, of course, we can do a better job of marketing the ethics and benefits of adopting young adult, adult, and mature animals to change community preferences. Given the increasing success of the movement, the cliché that no one will adopt out certain breeds, adults, or animals with impediments has been thoroughly debunked.

While the vast majority of dogs entering shelters are young (the average age is two years old) and healthy, even those who do are finding homes in those cities were the shelter has embraced a culture of lifesaving. Animals are being saved and finding homes, regardless of perceived “breed,” whether they are young or old, healthy or sick, unweaned, injured, or traumatized.

Moreover, a recent study adds to a growing body of literature that should put to rest, once and for all, the false notion that dogs in shelters are in shelters because there is something wrong with them: “Nothing in the prevalence estimates we reviewed suggest that overall, dogs who come to spend time in a shelter (and are not screened out based on history or behavior at intake or shortly thereafter) are dramatically more or less inclined toward problematic warning or biting behavior than are pet dogs in general.”

Given that far less than 1% of pet dogs bite people, the conclusion is inescapable: shelter dogs are not dangerous. In fact, looking at bite rates that require hospitalization, only 0.001% of dogs (or roughly 1 in 10,000) bite with enough force to cause an injury.

These studies mirror the findings of the most progressive and successful municipal shelters (and those running “open admission” shelters under contract) in the country: those saving 99% of dogs. Doug Rae, the director of the Humane Society of Fremont County in Colorado, is instructive. The Fremont Humane Society runs the animal control shelter for seven cities under contract. Rae also previously ran a private shelter in Rhode Island and “open admission”/municipal shelters in Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, including those taking in as many as 30,000 animals per year. Says Rae:

Over the years, I have rarely seen a truly ‘aggressive’ dog. The vast majority are simply scared. I was speaking with a Board member for a shelter on the West Coast last week and she said that her shelter saves 96-97% of the animals and that 3 or 4% are dogs who are aggressive and need to be killed. In my experience, the percentage of truly aggressive dogs I have seen in small to very large shelters is well under one quarter of 1%.

Ironically, research into dogs from Commercial Breeding Establishments (CBE) shows the opposite; that these dogs show deep psychological scarring as a result of the trauma they experience at the facilities. Compared to shelter dogs, commercially bred dogs exhibited more fear, nervousness, health problems, compulsive behaviors, house soiling, and sensitivity to touch. In some cases, significantly more. Many of these dogs experience “regular and often persistent fear or anxiety, even after years in their adoptive households” as a result of stress-induced psychopathology and inadequate socialization. These dogs have been psychologically damaged. And their offspring may also suffer:

Offspring of pregnant animals exposed to [these kinds of..] stressors have been documented with neurohormonal dysfunction… impaired ability to cope with stress; exaggerated distress responses to adverse events; impaired learning; abnormal social behaviour; increased emotionality and fear-related behaviour; and fearful behaviours that increase with increasing age; increased susceptibility to pathophysiological outcomes when further adversity occurs during adulthood; and behavioural deficits and molecular changes in the offspring similar to those in schizophrenic humans. (Citations omitted.)

A subsequent review of the literature compared the behavior of dogs obtained from pet stores and/or born in breeding establishments and compared them with dogs from other sources to determination causes of behavior problems that occur disproportionately in pet store/CBE dogs. A review of studies over the last two decades finds, “that dogs sold through pet stores and/or born in high-volume, commercial breeding establishments (CBE) show an increased number of problem behaviors as adults.”

The findings included:

  • Aggression to people was more than twice as likely in dogs acquired from pet stores compared to those acquired from shelters;
  • Dogs acquired from pet stores were more likely to develop social fears (of strangers, children, and other dogs) than from all other sources
  • Dogs acquired from pet stores were more likely to be separated from their mothers at a young age and these dogs had a four-fold increase in destructive behaviors
  • Dogs acquired from pet stores were more excitable, less trainable, had increased separation-related behaviors, escape behavior, and sensitivity to being touched;
  • Dogs acquired from pet stores were more likely to house-soil.

Why? There were several potential causes: Genetics, prenatal developmental stressors impacted by the experiences of the mother in the puppy mill, stressors as a result of early life in the CBE, early maternal separation, transport stresses, lack of adequate socialization early in life, pet store experiences, and the number of relocations early in life. The study was not able to pinpoint specific causes to individual dogs because all the pet store dogs were subjected to “high number of stress-related factors” which impact behavioral development.

In layman’s terms, CBEs engage in systematic neglect and abuse toward animals, causing severe emotional scars on the victims. The former breeding dogs living with those scars are a testament to that fact. Not only do one in four have significant health problems, many of them are psychologically and emotionally shut down, compulsively staring at nothing.

Even if we accept the industry’s argument that there is a difference between “puppy mills” and “responsible commercial breeders,” dogs and puppies are not commodities. At the very least, they shouldn’t be. Not only because the trade in sentient beings is unethical, but because there’s a supply chain that can never fully be. When there is a profit to be made on the backs of dogs, those backs are strained and often broken.

The Washington Post article is available by clicking here.

If you would like a copy of “the study,” please contact the No Kill Advocacy Center.

For further reading:

Factory Farming Dogs

87 Million Missing Puppies?

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Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd

Naysaying 16 Years Later

By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd

Pit bull adoption bans do not reduce dog bites or dog severity, but they do kill a lot of dogs (and, according to an article in the Washington Post, are likely motivated by racism). They are, however, supported by Merritt Clifton. Indeed, a columnist for The Huffington Post called Clifton “the academic impostor behind the pit bull hysteria”.

This summer will mark 16 years since the achievement of our nation’s first open-admission animal control shelter for all animals, including cats, dogs, rabbits, reptiles, birds, hamsters, gerbils, horses, mice, rats, and others; 16 years since a kinder, gentler and more effective form of animal sheltering was created that not only upended half a century of conventional wisdom in the animal protection movement, but in so doing, sparked a revolution that has since spread like wildfire across America.

From the heartland of Texas where dozens of cities now claim live release rates between 90% to 99%, to the shores of the Great Lakes where over 50 of Michigan’s 80 sheltered communities have likewise done the same, causing killing to plummet and adoptions to skyrocket, and all points north and south, east and west and in between, virtually all marks on the compass now point in the direction of an American shelter which has replaced the killing of nine out of 10 animals with humane, life-affirming alternatives. In doing so, these communities are relegating to the dustbin of history, as never before, the tired cliches and disproven dogmas that once schooled us to believe that the best we can ever do for our nation’s neediest of animals is to adopt a precious few and simply kill the rest.

Before this profound and life-saving innovation began to touch the hearts and inspire the imaginations of a generation of shelter directors, not a single American could claim the honor of living in a community where over 9 out of ten dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals at their local shelter were protected rather than harmed. Today, over 10 million Americans can claim that privilege. Sixteen years ago, the average shelter director turning to our nation’s large animal protection groups for guidance on how to best serve the animals in their care would find neither encouragement, nor motivation, nor lifesaving innovation, but rather lessons on the necessity of killing, classes on how to perform that killing, and Orwellian talking points on how to deflect blame for doing so. But that was another place and another time. It was another America.

Today as never before, the animal protection movement is increasingly rejecting its historic enabling of shelter killing. Gone is the stalwart resistance to programs that replace killing. And disappearing forever under the crushing weight of evidence and experience are the myths and misperceptions that formed its foundation: pet overpopulation, or the notion that there are simply too many animals and not enough homes; and that because of this imbalance, shelters cannot adopt their way out of killing. Today, not one, not two, not three, nor even a handful of cities have proved just how wrong this calculus is, but many, many hundreds of cities, and the numbers continue to grow. In fact, the millions of lives saved and the inspirational stories by shelter directors who threw off the twin shackles of dogma and defeatism to radically transform their shelters for the better are enough to excite and warm the heart of any true animal lover. Looking to our nation’s best performing shelters for reassurance and inspiration, it is no longer naive, wishful thinking to imagine a not-so-distant-future in which shelter killing will be remembered as a cruel anachronism of a less compassionate but thankfully bygone past.

Yet not everyone who claims to be a part of the animal protection movement celebrates this good news or the hope that it represents for the millions of animals still entering shelters that have yet to embrace a culture of lifesaving. Not everyone who claims to be a part of the animal protection movement wants our shelters to move boldly into this better and brighter future. Tragically, motivated by a superannuated ignorance and a deliberate desire to mislead others, there are still those who cling to and perpetuate the dead language of the past that enables shelter killing. In a desperate bid to drag us back into the isolated darkness where they continue to dwell–a place where facts hold no power, experience no relevance, and the lives of animals no value but where their reputations remain unthreatened by a movement that has since left them behind and rendered their “expertise” irrelevant–there are those who don’t want an end to the killing, who continue to argue to other activists, to public officials, and anyone else who will still listen that saving animals instead of killing them is the darker of the two options. Merritt Clifton is one of these people.

Like clockwork, Merritt Clifton–who a columnist for The Huffington Post called “the academic impostor behind the pit bull hysteria”–has recently published his annual article claiming “we can’t adopt our way out of killing.” Just like last year’s, the new one is once again making the rounds. This time, perhaps tired of people pointing out the obvious: that when it comes to evidence, Clifton is a pioneer of what Stephen Colbert once called “truthiness,” well before “fake news” and “alternative facts” came onto the national consciousness, he enlists Jeff Young, a surrogate to do his dirty work in order to remind all of us who have forgotten him that he is still there and believes his dated and disproven views on this issue still matter.

Rather than data, rather than experience, rather than any kind of evidence, we’re treated to a series of circular arguments, ad hominem attacks, cliches, and verbal tantrums straight out of a time machine, dragging us back to the 1990s when “” was in its infancy and the large, national groups were threatened by its power. No Kill shelters mean “being warehoused” and “can be far worse than death!” Rescue groups are “set up by self-gratifying little chieftains” and nothing more than hoarders (“collectors”) in disguise. Spay/neuter is the one and only answer. And of course, that we can’t adopt our way out of killing. As to the latter, how do we know? Because Young and Clifton say so: three times, with exclamation points, instead of evidence, following each statement to corroborate their apparent veracity.

We’re told in the title: “We cannot adopt, warehouse or rescue our way out of dog & cat overpopulation!”

We’re told in the text: “First, you must understand that you cannot, and I repeat, cannot adopt, warehouse or rescue your way out of overpopulation!”

And we’re reminded again later in the text: “We cannot adopt, shelter, warehouse or kill our way out of dog and cat overpopulation.”

If you are waiting for the actual reasons why–the actual evidence–you’ll be disappointed. This is received wisdom. It is so because they say it is so. And because they repeat that they say it is so. And then repeat it again. And again.

The tragic thing about Clifton and Young’s desperate bid for relevance is the consequences. Anyone wanting it to be true, any pound director needing absolution for killing in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives they simply refuse to implement, any official who wants to justify the wanton killing of pit bulls as a matter of policy, will find in Clifton a ready resource for their deadly policies. And lives will be lost.

Of course, while not providing facts to buttress an argument may not in itself be proof of their falsehood, facts which contradict such claims certainly are. So here, for the umpteenth time and in the service of any animals whose very life might depend on the decisions made by anyone who might be misled by Clifton and Young’s errors of fact, judgment, and ethics, is a point by point refutation of each of their erroneous claims. But for those who have read it all before, are working at shelters that have achieved lifesaving success, or live in such a community, and do not want to join me in my time travel back to the 1990s, suffice to say that the bottom line to Clifton’s latest salvo is two-fold.

First, for Clifton and Young to be right, they must prove that there are not enough homes for the number of animals who enter shelters that need them. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. In fact, something cannot be impossible if it has already been achieved.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, is the timeless admonition that those like Clifton and Young who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are busy doing it.

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We cannot adopt, warehouse or rescue our way out of dog & cat overpopulation!

Putting aside that warehousing has nothing to do with No Kill sheltering, yes, our shelters can adopt out and work with rescue groups to replace killing, and many hundreds of shelters already have. Something cannot be impossible if it has already been achieved. And not only do the experience of shelters that have done precisely that prove the viability of such a statement, so does the math, math that proves is that there is no pet overpopulation.

Roughly seven million animals enter shelters every year. Can we find homes for that many shelter animals? The good news is that we don’t have to. Some animals need adoption, but others do not. Some animals, like unsocialized community cats, should never enter shelters in the first place and should simply be sterilized and released. Others will be reclaimed by their families. Some animals will go to rescue groups. Others are irremediably suffering or hopelessly ill. And many more can be kept out of the shelter through a comprehensive pet retention effort. About 2.6 million dogs and cats will be killed in pounds and shelters this year, of which 2.57 million will be killed for lack of a new home. Can we find homes for those animals? Yes we can.

Using the most successful adoption communities as a benchmark and adjusting for population, U.S. shelters combined should be adopting almost nine million animals a year. That is over three times the number being killed for lack of a home. In fact, it is more than total impounds, and of those, almost half do not need a new home. But the news gets even better. There are 10 times that many potential adopters each year.

In fact, there are communities with extremely high per capita intake rates which have achieved live release rates as high as 98% and 99% and it didn’t take them years to do it. The majority of communities achieved it in six months or less and some did it overnight. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the other programs and services of the No Kill Equation aren’t crucial. They are. Some, like foster care, keep animals alive long enough to be adopted because, quite simply, some animals are not ready for adoption when they first arrive at the shelter. But, in the end, all these animals found loving homes.

Even, assuming for the sake of argument that we really can’t adopt our way out of killing, shelters nationally are killing roughly 40% of all incoming animals. If I can borrow from an overused sports analogy: that puts us at the 40-yard line. And although the evidence is overwhelming to the contrary, let’s say that we can never cross the goal line because of “pet overpopulation.” What is wrong with moving the ball forward? If all shelters turbocharged their adoption programs and achieved the kind of success that communities saving 98-99% of the animals are saving, we can save millions of additional lives nationally, regardless of whether we ever achieve an entirely No Kill nation. Even if people do not believe, as I do, that a No Kill nation is inevitable, that is worth doing and worth doing without delay. Because every year we delay, indeed every day we delay, the body count increases. It is indefensible for anyone to rail against a programs that would dramatically lower death rates because they lack the belief, despite all evidence to the contrary, that those programs can eliminate killing entirely.

For more info: We Can Do It. See also nokilladvocacycenter.org/statistics.html.

If humane groups are truly interested in solving overpopulation, then their primary focus must be on spay/neuter.

I am an advocate for sterilization, it is a core program of the No Kill Equation I champion, and when I ran shelters, we performed a lot of it. But sterilization ignores the needs of the animals that are already in the shelter and under an immediate death threat, leaving them with no protection from killing of any kind. To be sure, sterilization continues to play a very important role in sheltering and is one of the reasons the No Kill movement has been so successful. In the 1970s, for example, shelter intake was estimated at well over 20 million and as high as 26 million. It is as low as six to seven million today thanks, in large part, to a significant investment in sterilization. Clearly, the availability of high-volume, low-cost sterilization was a game changer. But we may be facing the law of diminishing returns regarding sterilization. In fact, several studies have shown that even years of high-volume, low-cost sterilization within a community have less of an impact on shelter death rates than other programs of the No Kill Equation.

Second, continued promotion and availability of high-volume, low-cost sterilization is a means to help a community reach stasis in its shelters where adoptions equal intakes, making the achievement of No Kill even easier. This is important because the lower the intake, the easier it is for even unmotivated, ineffective, and uncaring directors (in short, your average kill shelter director) to replace killing.

Moreover, if sterilization allows a community to drop intakes significantly enough so that local demand for animals can no longer be met, the community can begin importing animals from high-kill rate jurisdictions, saving those lives, too, as some shelters in No Kill communities are currently doing. Until all communities become No Kill, this is yet another means of reducing shelter killing.

In the end, however, the most we can say is that sterilization reduces intake rates, but not necessarily rates of killing. That depends on other programs. In fact, a comparative study of North Carolina shelters found that the primary factors accounting for the decline in death rates were partnerships with rescue groups, increased emphasis on adoptions including offsite adoptions, quality of the staff, marketing and public relations including use of social media, and improved operating procedures. In other words, the programs and services of the No Kill Equation that Clifton and Young downplay. In short, neither the problem of, nor the solution to, shelter killing is as simple as “spay/neuter” and communities with high per capita intake rates, and without comprehensive sterilization programs, have been able to achieve save rates well in excess of 95% and as high as 99%.

Lastly, spay/neuter does not address the needs of animals already in a shelter, and without alternatives in place to killing for these animals, they will continue to lose their lives. Shelters are supposed to be the safety net for the neediest animals in a community, and given the inherently uncertain and changing nature of life, there will always be a need for animal shelters in the same way there will always be a need for public service agencies that care for orphaned abandoned or needy children, regardless of how many spay and neuter surgeries are done in a community. The No Kill Equation as a whole addresses the needs of existing animals already in shelters, not just those who have yet to be born.

To continue to reduce every issue to a failure to sterilize is exactly what the regressive shelter director which fights No Kill want animal activists to do: point the finger of blame anywhere but on those who are actually doing the killing. Those who love animals must stop giving them the luxury of this out. We don’t need animals to disappear from the Earth before we can do right by them. Instead, we should be demanding that those we pay to care for homeless animals with our tax and philanthropic dollars provide them the care, kindness, and a loving home that is their birthright.

For more info: The Lie at the Heart of the Killing. See also The Spay/Neuter Solution Has a North Carolina Problem.

I believe ‘no-kill’ shelters are the most inhumane trend in animal welfare. The trend toward every shelter trying to become a ‘no-kill’ shelter has allowed for hoarding, collecting, and warehousing sick and dying animals to become widespread norms.

At the open admission No Kill shelter I oversaw, the average length of stay for animals was eight days, we had a return rate of less than two percent, we reduced the disease rate by 90 percent from the prior administration, we reduced the killing rate by 75 percent, no animal ever celebrated an anniversary in the facility, and we saved well over 90 percent of the animals (over 95% using comparative save rate calculations). In short, we brought sheltering into the 21st century. Many other No Kill shelters have similar lengths of stay. The average length of stay at open admission No Kill shelters is roughly 14 days or the length of time a dog or cat might spend at a boarding facility while their family is on vacation. But even if it was longer, it doesn’t matter. A few months or even a year in a shelter that offers nutritious food, medical care, socialization, and plenty of love and attention, is a small price to pay (and often no price at all) for a lifetime of love.

By denigrating the movement to end shelter killing as akin to warehousing and abuse, and by ignoring the protocols of shelters which have truly achieved No Kill, these naysayers not only do so to provide political cover for their own killing but in order to embrace a nation of shelters grounded in killing—a defeatist mentality, inherently unethical and antithetical to animal welfare. To imply that No Kill means warehousing, therefore, is a cynicism which has only one purpose: to defend those who fail to save lives from public criticism and public accountability by painting the alternative as even darker.

For more info: No Kill 101.

Practicing ‘no-kill’ sheltering while either neglecting animals or turning away animals in need does not mean you love animals.

No Kill shelters can be public or private, large or small, humane societies or municipal agencies. A No Kill shelter can be either “limited admission” or “open admission.” And there are plenty of No Kill animal control shelters and thus No Kill communities which prove it. Said one: “We figured out how to save over 97% of ALL our animals in an open admission city pound. By doing so, we have tons of donations, tons of volunteers, and tons of happy adopters… In my experience, animal advocates arguing that we ‘have to kill’ animals (followed by the usual excuses…) is false… Kill shelters are on the way out. Modern, high achieving shelters are going to make sure of that.”

An “open admission” shelter does not have to—and should not—be an open door to the killing of animals. In fact, using the term “open admission” for kill shelters is misleading. Kill shelters are closed to people who love animals. They are closed to people who might have lost their job or lost their home but do not want their animals to die. They are closed to Good Samaritans who find animals but do not want them killed. They are closed to animal lovers who want to help save lives but will not be silent in the face of needless killing. And so they turn these people and their animals away, refusing to provide to them the service they are being paid to perform.

Ironically, kill shelters are so enmeshed in their so-called “open door” philosophy that they are blind to any proactive steps that might limit the numbers of animals coming in through those doors, like pet retention programs, or that might increase the numbers of animals adopted, like comprehensive marketing campaigns. “Open door” does not mean “more humane” when the end result is mass killing.

For more info: Wish You Were Here.

There’s more in the article to debunk, such as the ad hominem attack against rescuers, but I’ve addressed them before and my response is already bordering on a book (for more information, see the links throughout). Suffice to say that while it is the animals who pay the ultimate price when they are killed, but they are not the only ones who suffer. Many rescuers do what they do out of sheer love and concern for the well-being of animals. When animals are killed, it can take a heavy emotional toll on that rescuer, leading to feelings of anger, helplessness and despair. As a society, we owe a particular debt of gratitude to people who voluntarily offer a helping hand to the needy and that includes our nation’s homeless animals. Animal rescuers and shelter volunteers are compassionate people who open their hearts and homes to provide a safety-net for animals others may have abandoned and whom our dysfunctional shelters betray even further by killing. And yet those who should be celebrating them as heroes, like Clifton and Young, instead denigrate and malign them, paradoxically equating them with some of the cruelest people there are. That in itself is cruel.

For more info: The Sheltering Crisis Hurts People, Too.

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Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd

Kindness is a Two Way Street

A new study looked at the killing of dingoes as a method of protecting people and found that it doesn’t work. In fact, it found that it makes things worse. Killing wild dogs led “to social instability and diminished territorial integrity in the dingo population, resulting in both increased human–dingo and conspecific conflict, heightened stress, elevated breeding rates and fatal dispersal of poorly socialised juveniles into neighbouring pack territories.” The study’s author suggests that “kindness” might be the “solution” to perceived “conflicts with wild dogs.” And not just dingoes, but “other species” also, “from wolves in Alberta wilderness to coyotes in suburban California.”

It’s not the first study to reach that conclusion. In fact, a meta-analysis of every study published on lethal intervention against animals and plants to allegedly protect another plant or animal finds that lethal methods don’t work and cause great harm.

We see that with community cats and community dogs. Across the globe, killing cats and killing dogs to reduce their populations or reduce encounters with people has proven ineffective (in addition to being immoral), while the most humane methods often yield the greatest results in terms of desired outcomes. The outcome with cats is well-documented. And data from communities and countries that sterilize community dogs show the same results: a decline in the number of dog bites, with “officials point[ing] to a variety of factors: the obvious effect of sterilization on dog behavior, including behaviors associated with mating, reduced numbers of dogs and reduced home range of individual dogs resulting in fewer chance encounters with humans, an increased respect and thus kinder treatment towards dogs due to the positive role model of rescuers, and the impact of community education by rescuers that often accompanies these efforts. Whatever the cause, the positive impact on public safety has been proven and is profound, causing public officials, including those from agriculture and health departments, initially opposed to the idea of sterilizing community dogs, to embrace it.”

Indeed, while the causal methods may be different, the results are the same if we extrapolate to killing “pit bulls.” Since Ontario banned “pit bulls” in order to “reduce dog bites,” nearly 1,000 dogs and puppies have been “needlessly put down” according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. At the same time, “Toronto’s reported dog bites have been rising” and “reached their highest levels this century” even as “pit bulls” are being exterminated.

It is the same in terms of “shelter” killing. Given that this is what we’ve been collectively doing for a 100 years or more, and given that this is all some communities still do, if we could kill ourselves out of the “problem” of animal homelessness, we’d have been a nation a long time ago.

Killing — whether it is dingoes, community cats, community dogs, “pit bulls,” animals in “shelters,” or any number of plants and animals humans are in the process of chopping down, poisoning, shooting, or exterminating by other methods — doesn’t solve problems. It makes things worse. And it’s cruel.

Since the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, why not try something different? Science is increasingly proving that being kind to others is the most effective thing we can do not just for others, but for ourselves.

The study, “Managing dingoes on Fraser Island: culling, conflict, and an alternative,” is here.

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Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd

Bringing Shelters Into the 21st Century

Help needed to get Florida shelter reform legislation passed.

It is the most powerful piece of shelter reform legislation ever introduced. Short of a ban on killing, its passage would be a game changer not only in Florida, but across the nation. It is more sweeping than California’s Hayden Law which increased rescue transfers by over 350% (over 45,000 animals a year) and arguably saved over 1,000,000 animals since its passage. It is more comprehensive than Delaware’s Shelter Standards Law which reduced killing statewide by over 60% (over 90% for cats), allowing the state to finish with a 91% live release rate for dogs, 92% for cats, and 96% for other animals.

Employing provisions that are responsible for live release rates of over 98% in municipal shelters like Austin which currently employ them, HB 515, the Florida Companion Animal Protection Act would prohibit “shelters” from killing animals, even after the mandatory holding period, unless and until:

  1. They notify rescue groups and give them the opportunity to save the animal;
  2. They notify the prior “owner” (so long as there was no indication of neglect or cruelty) and give them the opportunity to take back the animal;
  3. They notify the finder and give them the opportunity to take back the animal;
  4. They notify community shelters to see if they have room;
  5. There are no empty cages, kennels, or other living environments in the shelter, including space to set up temporary living environments;
  6. The animal cannot share a cage or kennel with another animal;
  7. The shelter has made a plea to foster homes and a foster home is not available;
  8. The cat is not a healthy cat who can be sterilized and then released; and,
  9. They post the animal’s photo and information to the internet to facilitate redemptions and adoptions.

In addition, HB 515 establishes a holding period for both stray animals and those surrendered by their families, it gives the person surrendering the animal the ability to change their mind and reclaim the animal, it bifurcates the holding period to incentivize adoptions and rescue transfers, it allows “shelters” to transfer animals to rescue groups right away to free up cage and kennel space thus reducing costs while increasing lifesaving, it mandates prompt and necessary care and environmental enrichment, and for those who are irremediably suffering, rigorously defined, it puts in place a mechanism to end their lives in as kind and compassionate a manner as possible and one that meets the dictionary definition for “euthanasia.”

In short, it brings “shelters,” many of which continue to operate under a 19th century “catch and kill” mentality (or who have raised live release rates not by doing their jobs but abandoning animals), into the 21st century.

And, of course, it is not likely to get support from groups whose mission it is ostensibly to defend animals. PETA will fight to kill it. HSUS will remain cowardly neutral so as not to offend its animal control allies. The ASPCA will be nowhere to be found. The state animal control association which defends an industry based on convenience killing will predictably oppose it. And local pounds, who simply do not want to do the work of saving lives when it is so much easier just to kill the animals, will lobby for its demise.

As such, it cannot pass without the public’s help, without a public outcry that the status quo is untenable and the animals deserve so much more. If you live in Florida, now is the time to make your voice heard. Contact your state legislators and ask them to cosponsor HB 515, the Florida Companion Animal Protection Act.

Not in Florida and want to bring a similar law to your state? Check out the No Kill Advocacy Center&8203;’s — my organization’s — model law and guide to getting legislation introduced.

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Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd

PETA Promotes Cruelty and Killing in Lake County, Florida, and Elsewhere

advocates across the nation were thrilled when Lake County, Florida Commissioners recently announced plans totransition the municipal animal shelter to No Kill. Naturally, people who care about animals are thrilled, especially since local advocates in that community have painted a pretty terrible picture of the animal care at that facility. Look at the video below, for example, from a Lake County animal advocate to get a sense of where things have been there.
The video above does not appear to be an isolated case. Advocates there also state that the way the so-called “feral” cats are currently handled is downright inhumane. Any cat deemed feral, even though it might be a terrified house pet, is put, into a group into dog kennels in a noisy room just off the main dog ward. There, the cats are held, according to local rescue groups, terrified, for 24 hours and then killed. The fact that the County Commissioners have committed to taking over the shelter, and reforming it, with the help of No Kill advocates, should be seen, therefore, as nothing but great news. But, true to form, for the attention-seekers at the so-called animal rights organization known as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the exciting announcement was an opportunity to stir up trouble to try to derail the reform effort.
Inan article in the Daily Commercial, PETA is quoted making multiple false and derogatory statements about No Kill, while advocating for mandatory spay/neuter (MSN) laws.
Before saying more, we have to be perfectly clear: low-cost and no-cost spay/neuter programs are a critical component of theNo Kill Equation. Mandatory spay/neuter laws, however, are not, because they do far more damage than good.
What many people have thought of as “pet overpopulation” over the years has become to be better described as “shelter overpopulation.” When shelters take in animals they don’t need to take in, and when they also fail to adopt sufficient numbers of animals, or release them to rescue, or return them to their owners, overcrowding in the shelter is the natural byproduct. This dynamic is well explained in this article by Mike Fry titledPet Overpopulation: Myth, Meme and Zeitgeist.
What MSN laws do is give animal control yet another reason to seize or impound animals, leading toincreasedshelter intake.At the same time, these laws make it more difficult for people to reclaim their pets, because they need to pay the costs of spaying or neutering in addition to the costs of impoundment, etc. That results inreducing live outcomes. Increasing intake and reducing live outcomes leads to increased killing, not less.
It is, however, understandable when people outside the field of animal welfare don’t immediately understand the link between MSN and increased killing in shelters. Animal advocates have been, after all, reflexively shouting “spay/neuter” whenever the topic of killing in animal shelters comes up. That is, therefore, what our elected officials hear and are likely to focus on, when people in their communities complain about animals being killed in shelters.
MSN laws are, at their core, a way of shifting responsibility for failed shelter policies and practices from the shelters themselves to the pet owning public. The underlying message really is, “If you people would just spay or neuter your pets, we would not have to kill any.” Not only is that a way of deflecting from failed shelter operations, MSN has never been effective at ending killing in animal shelters.The communitiesthat have ended the killing of healthy or treatable have done so by changing their shelter protocols and embracingNo Kill programs, not by further punishing pet owners.
While it is understandable that County Commissioners might not understand that initially, there is no excuse for PETA to continue promoting MSN, while also actively working against important reforms at this and other shelters around the USA.
PETA, for shame.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Nation Posted by:

No Kill – A Path to Walk and a Destination to Reach

The coming of the new year has left me reflective of the decades of work that have passed since since my family first became involved in advocacy and shelter operations. Those years have been a journey that began in 1977 when my mother helped found what became Minnesota’s first No Kill animal shelter, and that is still unfolding today. Looking back at all of those years I am struck both by how long it has taken to get to where we are now and, ironically, how fast it has come.
That is because in my early days of activism I was naive. I innocently believed that getting my state to No Kill status was a realistic five year goal. Logistically, I was right. Politically, I was way off the mark, because I underestimated the weight of the stagnation created by the group think in animal shelters of the times. The group think was that shelter killing was a necessary evil and there was massive resistance by animal shelters, therefore, to do anything about it. Another thing I underestimated was the amount of public education that was needed on the topic.
In the late 1990’s I was shocked to discover, for example, that the majority of people in my own community had no idea that most of the shelters were killing the majority of animals they took in. In those days starting a No Kill movement was like trying to form a snow man with powdery snow that wouldn’t stick together. The shelters believed killing was necessary, and few people knew what was going on behind the scenes at their local shelters. But, some bits did stick and over the years the snowball that is the No Kill movement has grown larger and stickier and it is getting a lot bigger a lot faster these days.
Once considered a fringe movement, No Kill is now on the radar screen of nearly every shelter in the USA and beyond, with hundreds of No Kill communities onthe No Kill Map, and more government officialsopenly talking about making the leap to No Kill. The growth in the No Kill movement in general has also been reflected in smaller aspects of the movement as well.
Several years ago, for example, I was honored to have conceived of, and hosted,Just One Day, the first national day of No Kill in the United States. It was a great success, with waiting lines for adoptions, shelters ending the day empty and about 10,000 lives saved. Each year since that event has grown. But, more importantly, there are now multiple national days of No Kill hosted by others at other times of the year. At the same time, growing numbers of animal shelters are hosting their own mass adoption events throughout the year, because they have come to realize that every day is Just One Day and every day they can commit to saving every savable pet in their care. (Likethisandthis.)
In all of that, one of the things that I have learned is that No Kill is, in one way, a destination. A shelter or community arrives there once they commit to saving all healthy or treatable pets. Getting to that place often requires No Kill advocates to walk a sometimes bumpy and lonely road. Furthermore, once No Kill is achieved, that work never stops, because No Kill is a daily commitment to live by certain guiding ideas that need to be lived through countless daily decisions and actions on the part of shelter leadership. It is a complex set of policies and practices that need to be implemented and staff managed to ensure they are following. In that way, it is path that must be walked every day, one day at a time.
Furthermore, what No Kill looks like the first day it is achieved might be very different than what it is in the fourth or fifth year. That is because, with practice, shelters can learn to save some animals that were previously not savable for them. As a result, shelters that initially achieve No Kill status with save rates of 91% or 92% can begin reaching 95% and higher in following years. The path of No Kill is one of continuous attention to individual lives and ongoing improvement of shelter practices.
For all of those reasons, in 2017 I am expanding my service offerings to help more people in more communities get on the path to No Kill, and to sustain it once they have reached it. These include, but are not limited to:
A dramatically expandedlist of consulting servicesavailable to shelters, rescues and advocates to help them achieve or sustain No Kill in their own communities.
A newGrowing Leadership Online courseto help individuals or organizations assess and develop critical leadership skills.
New technology solutions viaRescueSuite Softwareto help shelters and rescues manage animal records, do fundraising and market adoptable pets.
An even bigger and betterJust One Dayevent on June 11. Stay tuned for details.

Shelter design recommendations for new construction or renovation.

Together we can all work to make 2017 the best year ever on the path to a No Kill Nation.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

The World Needs Dreamers

Michael Eckert, Editor
The Times-Herald
911 Military St.
Port Huron, MI 48060

Dear Mr. Eckert,

The Editorial Board of The Times-Herald recently published an OpEd claiming that achieving in the county shelter is a “fairy tale” for “dreamers.” (Editorial Board, Don’t leave dreamers to run animal shelter, The Times-Herald, Dec. 15, 2016.) The Board urged local officials to ignore the “Bambi-talk” and continue killing animals. They also urged the police department which runs the pound to continue to ban “dangerous breeds such as pit bulls.”

The evidence is clear: banning dogs by the way they look doesn’t make anyone safer, but it does kill a lot of dogs. It is also motivated by discrimination, not science. (See, e.g., Balko, R., The dirty secret behind banning certain dog breeds, Washington Post, Oct. 26, 2016.)

But that aside, admittedly there was a time when No Kill was a dream. We dreamed it anyway. And because we did, it no longer is. We now have a solution to shelter killing and it is not difficult, expensive, or beyond practical means to achieve. Unlike the “adopt some and kill the rest” form of animal sheltering that dominates in counties like St. Clair, MI, and is responsible for the needless killing of millions of animals every year, No Kill communities are saving upwards of 99% of all animals entrusted to their care. By working with people, embracing lifesaving programs, and treating each life as precious, a shelter can transform itself.

There is perhaps no better example than in Michigan itself. In 2007, Michigan shelters were killing close to 120,000 animals. In 2015, it was about 27,000. Out of 80 counties with shelters, over 50 are now saving at least 90%. Michigan now has more communities saving over 90% of the animals than any other state. Chippewa County, MI, for example, saved 98% of dogs and 98% of cats. Midland County saved 99% of dogs and 98% of cats. Roscommon saved 100% of dogs and 99% of cats. Marquette saved 97% of dogs, 96% of cats, and 97% of rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, and other animals.

This mirrors results across the country. Nationally,

  • 1,000,000 people live in communities where the municipal shelter is saving at least 98% of the animals;
  • 10,000,000 people live in communities where the municipal shelter is saving at least 90% of animals; and,
  • 40,000,000 live in communities saving at least 80%.

These communities cut across every demographic in the U.S. Some are large, taking in 20,000 animals a year, and some are smaller, taking in a few thousand. Some are in the North and some in Southern states. Some are relatively affluent, with high per capita median incomes, and some have higher rates of poverty. Some urban; others rural. But despite their differences, what they all have in common is a rejection of the status quo, a passion for saving lives, a “can do” attitude that finds solutions rather than hides behind excuses, and the process they all used to get there—the cost-effective programs and services of the No Kill Equation.

Quite simply, something cannot be impossible if it has already been achieved. But even if it was, even if No Kill remained a mere “dream,” we must still not give in to cynicism. What kind of society would we be living in if our forebears gave in to the defeatism and short-sightedness of the Editorial Board of the St. Clair Times-Herald?

Thanks to people who refused to give up on dreams, in just a few generations we ended monarchies and replaced them with democracies. In a short time historically, we went from the Pony Express to the Internet, and from a slave-based society to one that elected an African American as our President. We outlawed child labor as well as segregation, we prohibited gender discrimination and granted marriage equality. And now, we have found a solution to the tragedy of shelter killing.

The only thing that stands in its way in those communities which have yet to embrace it—communities such as St. Clair—are antiquated, uninformed voices breeding hopelessness and encouraging complacency with a wholly unnecessary, and deadly, status quo.

Rather than discouragement, the Editorial Board should be celebrating the animal loving dreamers of St. Clair, people who have every right to demand from their taxpayer funded shelters the same protection, care, and respect for the lives of St. Clair’s homeless animals as is already afforded to those in No Kill communities. For if there is one thing history teaches us about moral progress, it is this: that thanks to the dreamers, what is regarded as “impossible” by one generation becomes inevitable to the next.

Very truly yours,

Nathan J. Winograd
No Kill Advocacy Center

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Original Link: POST From the Blog of Nathan Winograd Posts Posted by: Nathan J. Winograd