Tag Archives: RescueSuite

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

If You Have a Problem With This You May Be Part of the Problem

Photo: Waiting lines for adoptions at Front Street Animal Shelter, in Sacramento, CA
Courtesy ofThe Sacramento Bee
Just before Thanksgiving a remarkablestoryappeared inThe Sacramento Bee. A real estate business woman decided to sponsor every pet adoption from the Front Street Animal Shelter, operated by the City of Sacramento. The response to the offer was described as “epic,” “unbelievable”, and “inspiring.” It was a real-life holiday story to rival “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” all rolled into one. People were camping out on the sidewalk in hopes of being the lucky family to take home a pet from the municipal animal shelter that they had found on the agency’s web site. People waited in line for hours. And, after the first days of insanity, people kept coming. The shelter emptied of all available pets, so they brought in more from other surrounding shelters. In the first days of the promotion, hundreds of pets found new homes. And more continue finding homes today.
The story is enough to make an animal lover’s heart fill to the brim, especially if they understand a bit about animal shelter adoptions and the success of these adoption promotions.
For example: many years ago, shelters often avoided these kinds of promotions out of fear that low-cost or free adoptions would result in  the “wrong” people coming to adopt. But research into this topic has proven those fears to be unfounded. There is no correlation between the price a person pays for a pet and the quality of the care the pets receive afterwards. Furthermore, it has been proven over and over again that when shelters charge too much for pets, or if they are too restrictive about who can adopt, the end result is that those same shelters end up needlessly killing pets. This has been known for many years.
Yet, when the above story broke, and it was shared on Facebook, many people who call themselves advocates for animals felt a need to weigh in and share their displeasure. Here are a few worth sampling…
One category of complainers assumed that because people were lining up for free adoptions means they cannot afford a pet, like this commenter on the Nation Facebook Page.

I find it ironic that I am writing this blog on Black Friday, when people are lining up for cheap deals on everything from TV sets to iPhones; yet, some people feel a need to complain that people are also lining up to help save lives?
Another category of complainer falsely suggested the shelter was not screening adoption applicants (hint: they are) without bothering to check before commenting.

That last one about shelters not screening applicants was particularly troubling, given that nearly every shelter I know of screens adoption applications. It is also worth noting that people interested in obtaining free animals for nefarious purposes can do so any day of the week without standing in line, filling out an application, or even showing an ID. The likelihood, therefore, that the waiting lines outside the Front Street Animal Shelter are filled with serial killers seems unlikely and unsupported by anything other than uninformed emotional distress.
Animal advocates who cannot celebrate record-setting life-saving at their municipal shelter for irrational and emotional reasons are part of the problem in animal welfare. They are, no doubt, well-meaning. But, in this case, they sound like they would be hanging out outside George Bailey’s house in “It’s a Wonderful Life” saying, “all those people donating to help a man who probably stole the money.”
On that note, I will close with a huge Thanksgiving thank you to the generous donor who sponsored all of these adoptions, and to the creative and innovative staff at Front Street Animal Shelter for doing the hard work of bringing her vision to life. Thank you all and happy holidays!
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by:

The Cat is Out of the Bag: No Kill Pretenders Signs of No Kill Progress

Reflecting back on my 20 or so years of advocacy, one thing keeps coming to mind: Shortly after the movement began gaining steam, when impromptu No Kill groups began popping up around the USA, and when more communities began achieving No Kill success, a friend and coworker made an interesting prediction. That prediction came from Beth Nelson, co-host and producer of the Animal Wise Radio program. She suggested that the people involved in the No Kill Movement should be prepared for a wave of “pretenders” who would likely swoop in to try to claim it for their own, or take it off in a different direction. She turned out to beabsolutely right about that. Many people I know are frustrated by that fact. Yet, I find it interesting, and oddly inspiring.
Let me explain…
When any movement is formed, it is formed from a small, tightly knit group who are in nearly 100% agreement about practically everything. As the movement grows and evolves, a broader range of voices come to the table. And, ultimately, folks from the sidelines begin offering their own commentary, even though they may notreallyunderstand what they are talking about.
From that perspective, the pretenders and the sidelines commentators, though arguably frustrating at times, are also a sign of how far the movement has come and how much progress we have made.I say, celebrate the fact that they are here. The fact is, there have been pretenders in the fieldall along. It is certainly now getting easier to identify who they are.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

FDA Study Finds "Euthanasia Agent" in Pet Foods

The following was originally published in March of 2002. Recently, more talk about this topic has been stimulated on social media after an EPA document was uncovered that showed that “euthanized”pets from animal shelters were being used in pet foods. We are, therefore, republishing it to help pet owners better understand the issues and to help animal shelters make better choices about which pet foods they use, sell and promote.
Advocates working to end the killing of healthy and treatable dogs and cats should also understand that, because dogs and cats destroyed in animal shelters are very inexpensive meat sources, a large network of businesses benefit financially from the killing that takes place in animal shelters. This includes pet food manufacturers, pet stores, veterinarians and even animal shelters themselves.
We have updated the original article slightly, and provide recommendations at the end for avoiding foods that may contain sodium pentobarbital (“euthanasia” solution).
In June of 2001, I first reported ona studyconducted jointly by the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The study took samples of pet foods and tested them for the presence of sodium pentobarbital, the agent often used to end the lives of dogs, cats and other animals in animal shelters and veterinary hospitals. Since 1998, consumers have been waiting to know the results of the study. In March of 2002, the study was finally released. We are providing this overview of the study results in order to help make pet owners more aware of the significant issues surrounding many commercial pet foods.History of the studyFollowing growing reports that dogs and cats were becoming increasingly resistant to sodium pentobarbital the FDA and CVM sought to determine whether or not euthanasia agents used to kill companion animals could survive the rendering process. While an earlier study at the University of Minnesota concluded that sodium pentobarbital would survive rendering, this study was undertaken in an effort to shed more light on the subject by actually detecting the presence of the drug in commercial pet foods purchased in retail stores.About the StudyTwo sets of surveys were conducted, the first in 1998 and the second in 2000. In the initial survey, samples were simply tested to determine whether or not they contained sodium pentobarbital.  During the 2000 survey, additional testing was performed to determine the amount of the drug present in each sample.In total, 150 samples were tested. Data was recorded regarding manufacturer, brand and formula of the pet food. Additionally, lot numbers for each sample were recorded.This study sought to answer several questions concerning the presence of euthanasia agent in pet food. The first, and to many, the most significant finding of the study was the surprisingly high percentage of pet foods that tested positive for sodium pentobarbital. Of the 150 samples, there were 49 which had no result, or for which the results could not be determined. These samples could neither be classified as positive or negative. Of the remaining 101, 54 samples (53 percent of the formulas from which results could be determined) contained sodium pentobarbital.As a follow up to this study, the FDA performed sodium pentobarbital tests on Beagle subjects in an effort to determine what effect this drug might be causing in companion animals. To make this determination, the FDA isolated one liver enzyme to use as a benchmark in their analysis. Different daily oral doses of sodium pentobarbital were administered to different test subjects. Blood was then drawn and the level of this liver enzyme was evaluated to determine if it had increased.How Euthanasia Solution Gets into Pet FoodIn recent years, it has become widely known that companion animal carcasses from animal shelters and veterinary hospitals make their way to rendering plants where they are processed for pet foods.  Some estimate that billions (Yes. That is billions, with a “b”) of pounds of companion animal carcasses are disposed of in this manner each year in the USA. The majority of these animals have been killed with sodium pentobarbital. Surprisingly, there is no law that prohibits the use of companion animals in pet food. There is also no law that prohibits toxic agents, like sodium pentobarbital, from entering pet foods.As part of this study, researchers developed tests for dog and cat DNA which might be present in the foods.  According to the researchers, their test are capable of detecting as little as 5 pounds of dog and cat in a sample of 50 tons of finished feed. In their tests, they found no evidence of dog or cat DNA. This result has surprised many people, since the use of dogs and cats in pet food has been widely documented in recent years. There is speculation that other possible sources of sodium pentobarbital may include horses or other livestock that have been killed by lethal injection.Problems with the ReportWhile we applaud the FDA and the CVM for looking into this issue, it seems unimaginable that sodium pentobarbital was first discovered in pet food in 1998, and that nothing has yet been done to eliminate this substance from the food supply of our companion animals. Had sodium pentobarbital been found in human foods, according the FDA, there would have been an immediate recall and production stopped. Rather than taking this common-sense approach, the FDA chose to avoid any real action, by, instead, conducting the liver enzyme test.While the desire to measure the possible long-term effects of sodium pentobarbital exposure is understandable, the study conducted was inadequate to meet that goal because:1)  To determine whether a dose of drug was having a measurable effect on dogs in the study, the FDA measured a single liver enzyme. They then sought to find the minimal daily dose that did not elevate this enzyme. While it may be true (no one knows) that this enzyme is a good indicator of the overall effect this drug has on the body, it certainly is not the only potential indicator. Clearly other effects could be occurring that would not be measured by this one enzyme.2)  It is unclear what life stages the test animals included. If they included young puppies, pregnant dogs or geriatric pets, would the tests have been different?3)  The FDA tests did not check for possible interactions with other drugs.4)  They did not test for possible interactions with other common chemicals found in pet foods.5)  The FDA acknowledges that they do not really know what possible impact the pentobarbital may have at the levels found in the study, yet they have concluded they are “probably” safe.6)  The FDA acknowledges that had these levels of drug been found in human food, an instant recall would have been mandated and production of the food stopped.7)  The overall number of samples was quite small and the results inconsistent.  Given the varying amount of drug detected, it is reasonable to assume there are products that contain higher levels than were found by this limited survey.
8) DNA experts have stated that dog and cat DNA would be unlikely to survive the rendering and pet food manufacturing process, which is almost certainly the only reason dog and cat DNA was not found.It is also worth pointing out that given that this study was initiated due to an observable reaction to the drug (i.e. increased tolerance to it). It therefore does not seem at all rational to conclude the drug is not having an impact on the animals consuming foods contaminated with sodium pentobarbital.ConclusionsAccording to the study, there is a direct correlation to products containing certain ingredients and the presence of drug. The study indicated that pet food product that contain ingredients derived from unidentified animal sources, like “meat and bone meal,” “animal tallow” or “animal fat” appear to be much more likely to be contaminated with this drug.
We believe that consumers should seek out pet foods that do not contain these ingredients, or that are labeled “USDA Certified Organic” because the inclusion of these ingredients would render (pun intended) pet foods ineligible for this certification.
Furthermore, we believe that animal shelters should take great care to ensure they are not contributing to the contamination of the pet food supply. They can do this by eliminating all unnecessary killing and by refusing to send the animals that have been euthanized to rendering plants.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

More than a Decade After Hurricane Katrina, "Rescued" Animals Still Not Safe

Beware of disaster profiteers

Today marks the 11 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking New Orleans. And, as I type this, another flood of epic proportion has left people and animals in Louisiana in desperate need. While some things have changed in the animal welfare system, one thing remains the same: Not all of the “rescuers” should be trusted.
Profiteering During other Disasters
The first time I learned about disaster profiteering was actually in another disaster sixteen years prior to Katrina. The year was 1989 and the disaster was the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, which released more than 10 million gallons of highly toxic crude oil into Prince William Sound, some of the most beautifully pristine waters on Earth. The devastation to wildlife and habitat was horrific and made even worse by people professing to be helping to deal with the aftermath.
I was volunteering at the Sea Otter Rescue Center in Seward Alaska, where leaders from around the globe cameto get their pictures taken to demonstrate their compassion and concern for animals and the environment. The center hosted dignitaries, figure heads and policy makers. I even had the chance to meetSam Skinner, Secretary of Transportation under George H. W. Bush.

In advance of Skinner’s arrival to the otter center the place became its own sort of disaster. A team of PR experts and Secret Service agents swept the place, removing any signs or other materials that might possibly be offensive. A sign, for example, pointing to a bucket where feces-contaminated towels were to be dumped, and that read “Toxic Waste” had to be taken down. As did the volunteers favorite wall hanging: a beach towel – one of thousands of towels donated from around the world to help with the efforts – that depicted a cartoon drawing of a naked “Queen Thelma of Utkovia.”
This photo opportunity, it seemed, was less about documenting the otter center and the work we were doing. It was mostly so that Skinner could get his picture taken talking to the volunteers to show how much he cared.
As annoying as that was, it was worse because the chaos created by this event put many of the otters into a panic. The otters were, after all, freshly caught wild animals, terrified of humans and were in a very strange and frightening situation. To help them adjust, the center was a quiet zone. Speaking above a whisper was not allowed. Calm, slow movements around the animals was required or they would become stressed and begin biting at the netting on their enclosures.
I don’t know if the rules for being around the otters were never given to Skinner and his PR entourage or whether they simply disregarded the rules because they did not care. Either way, it was a bad day for the otters. Skinner spent a few minutes with the volunteers and got his picture taken before being whisked away via helicopter to an awaiting aircraft carrier. Mission accomplished. Photos of his sanitized visit appeared in newspapers the following day as proof that the George H. W. Bush administration was doing everything it could for the oil spill. It was all for show and no substance.
Skinner’s management of the Sea Otter Rescue Center photo op was annoying. However, much of the behavior of others was much darker. For example, shortly after we arrived to volunteer at the Sea Otter Rescue Center, we discovered it wasn’t really a rescue center at all. It was a huge research project funded by the oil industry in partnership with the captivity industry. Only about half of the oiled otters were being washed to have the toxic oil removed. Blood samples were being taken to check organ function in both the washed and unwashed otters.
To get the research done, they needed as many otters as possible. They decided to pay fisherman, whose boats were largely useless for fishing during the spill, for each oiled otter brought to the center. That created much opportunity for abuse. Some fishermen began catching unaffected otters and oiling them themselves in order to collect on the bounty. This was not subtle, because otters with different kinds of oil on them were admitted to the otter center.
The profiteering off the spill, and the otters specifically, was wide-spread and systemic, and included the agencies running the otter center itself. Three baby otters were deemed “abandoned” by their mothers and sold to marine aquariums to the tune of $50,000 each. While management insisted the pups had been abandoned, behavior records documented by volunteers showed the pups had been meticulously cared for by their mothers. They also documented the mothers clinging to their babies and screaming as they were being taken away. Additionally, medical evaluations of the otter pups showed them to be very healthy, fat and robust immediately after having been taken.
Profiteering off the Valdez oil spill took many other forms as well. Price-gouging, for example, was commonplace throughout southeast Alaska as people strove to get the most off of all of the people who came to help.
Interactive slide show of otters at the Sea Otter Rescue Center
Story continues below
Profiteering During Hurricane Katrina
Given the general tendency of many or most people to try to leverage each situation to their own benefit and given my experiences at the Sea Otter Rescue Center, I was not shocked to see widespread profiteering by so-called “rescue” agencies in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. What did surprise me were the creative forms it took. There were shelters promoting “Katrina Survivor” adoption events with pets that were not rescued from Katrina. There were shelters who claimed to have Katrina rescue operations going on, when they didn’t. Similar to my “Sam Skinner” experience at the otter center, there were national animal welfare agencies who clearly set up dramatic photo ops at strategic disaster sites so they could appear to be doing far more than they actually were.
A commonly reported scene as described by many in the affected area would go something like this:
We were there working to save pets from a newly flooded area. We would be tired, after having worked for hours or days. Suddenly a van or multiple vans would appear and a bunch of people wearing identical t-shirts boldly displaying the logo of a big, national organization would get out, followed by cameras as they “worked” the area for an hour or so. Then, they would disappear as fast as they had appeared and we would be left with all of the work. A couple of days later, you would see the footage shot packaged into a fundraising video, that made it look like that organization did all of the work, when they had actually done hardly anything.
Interactive slide show of post-Katrina rescue efforts
Story continues below
Today in Louisiana
Fortunately, some things have changed since Katrina, the most important being the passage of the PETS Act, which requires emergency agencies, like FEMA, and others responding to disasters, to accommodate peoples’ pets. That was not the law during Katrina where emergency responders frequently forced people, sometimes at gun-point, to leave their pets behind when evacuating. That was a practice that did not just cost pets their lives, it cost people their lives, too. For more on that,read my tribute to Goldie, a Katrina foster we took into our house, and David, his human “dad” who lost everything.
One thing that has not changed, however, is the fact that opportunistic people and organizations are working to make the most out of the floods in order to line their own pockets. Without a doubt, the worst offender in that department has got to be People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who has made a big deal out of “rescuing” 60 animals from the Louisiana floods andbringing them back to their Norfolk, Virginia shelter, which has maintaineda kill rate of about 90%for years.
Tips for Disaster Response Giving
Beyond a doubt charitable giving during a time of disaster is essential. However, giving to the wrong agency can mean your money is not being used in the way that you think. Follow these tips to help make sure you are giving to a trustworthy agency.
Give locally. Whenever possible, give to smaller, local organizations that are in the disaster area. They are nearly always the ones who need the funds the most, and that have the hardest time getting a message out to a large audience.Give only to charities that transparently report their financial records and their animal outcomes statistics. Any agency that fails on either count is likely not worthy of your hard earned money.Give to agencies that have a long-term, proven track record
Following these simple guidelines can help you make sure you are not enabling a disaster profiteer.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

Remembering Goldie and His Dad

On the eve ofthe eleven-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I have been thinking about a Katrina survivor and his family, who forever changed my view of animal rescue. It is an especially important story to remember, given that many parts of Louisiana are currently under water from another epic flood. Goldie is the golden-colored Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix pictured above. He came to live with us as the result of a surprisingly large rescue effort I was leading in the wake of that disastrous storm, which left much of New Orleans, and many surrounding areas, under water.
During Katrina evacuations, many residents were forced, sometimes at gun-point, to leave their pets behind. That would turn out to be a key part of Goldie’s story, which demonstrates the power of the love people have for their pets. Goldie’s story would change our lives forever in ways we could not have anticipated.
At the time, I was the Executive Director for an animal shelter in Minnesota, which was a 2,400 mile round trip to a Hurricane Katrina pet rescue center set up in Tylertown, Mississippi, where Goldie ended up. That was also the rescue center where my staff and volunteers made twice per week trips for a six month period in order to bring supplies and volunteers. And back to Minnesota we brought pets that had been devastated by the storm.
When our team first arrived in Tylertown we were overwhelmed by the scope of the problem and the number of animals needing care. I sent word out to our local network that we hoped everyone would take in some Katrina survivors, in hopes of reuniting them with their families. In spite of our already full house, my family committed to taking two fosters. Those fosters ended up being Goldie and Chico. Chico is still with us. We will probably never know his history. We did learn Goldie’s after we connected with his family, and ultimately reunited them. It is a story that touches me deeply and that I think about on this anniversary each year.
Goldie’s human dad was named David, who lived with 3 daughters and 3 dogs in one of the areas hardest hit when the levees failed. David, his girls and the dogs were home when the levee near them broke. Within minutes, their home was engulfed in water. To reach safety, David and the girls brought the dogs up the stairs and ultimately into the attic of the home, where they became trapped.
Eventually, they managed to break their way through the roof of the home to free themselves. After a day or two of being stranded on the roof, a small row boat came by saying they were bringing people to the levee wall, where a larger boat was going to rescue them. David, the girls and the dogs all got in the boat and made it to the levee wall. But, when the rescue boat arrived, the dogs were not allowed.
With nothing left to do, David got into another small boat and took the dogs to a nearby apartment building, where the upper floor was partially dry. There, he stacked furniture and mattresses in the living room to make an island for the dogs. He left them there with food and water and then evacuated with his children.
When the water receded, David returned to get the dogs. But, they were gone, rescued, but lost in an over-worked, overwhelmed rescue system that could not possibly keep up and that was made up of organizations that refused to share information about the pets they rescued.
David’s story was ultimately told to me by his mother who explained that he, after having lost his home, his job, his car and his dogs, and after trying for weeks to find the dogs, ultimately gave up and hanged himself from a tree in her front yard. She continued the search for the dogs and, ultimately, found all three, spread between Minnesota and California. We reunited Goldie with David’s mom a couple of weeks later and every year about this time I think about them as a reminder of how deeply and profoundly we are linked to our pets, and how our policies and actions about pets have huge impacts on people.
Important update: Since Hurricane Katrina, the PETS Act became law, ensuring that people evacuating during emergencies will not be forced to leave their pets behind.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

Technology Tip: Microchip Pets On Arrival

It is hard to believe that in this day and age advocates for animals still need to work hard to convince animal shelters and rescue organizations to microchip their pets prior to adoption. The reasons for doing so are many, most importantly doing so strengthens the safety net available for each pet. Additionally, given that animal shelters and rescue organizations universally encourage microchipping, this practice helps align their deeds with their words. And, let’s face it, there are few things more annoying than people or organizations who don’t practice what they preach. Beyond all of that, ensuring that each pet adopted has a microchip that is automatically pre-registered to the new owner is simply better customer service. It can also generate significant income.
So, absolutely, yes. Every pet adopted should be microchipped and registered before going to their new home. I, however, take that philosophy one step further. I recommend microchipping every pet on arrival, unless doing so is not possible for medical or behavior reasons. In those cases, I recommend assigning a microchip to be implanted at a later date, like, for example, during a pet’s spay or neuter procedure. The benefits of doing this are many and significant and can dramatically improve data collection and critical record keeping.
Medical records, for example, can be linked to a pet’s microchip number so that if a pet is adopted and then returned two years later, re-entering the pet with its microchip number can automatically pull up all of the past medical records. It also makes it easier to track animals that have been returned multiple times, animals that have frequently been roaming at large, or that have been involved in other kinds of incidents, even if those incidents have happened while the animal has been living with different owners. Without a microchip, tracking these things can be very challenging, if not impossible. A dog, for example, could be adopted, then sold or given to someone else, its name changed, and if it is then brought back to the shelter the intake staff might have no way of knowing it had originally been adopted from their shelter. If that pet had been vaccinated, or received other medical care, or if it had specific behavior issues the first time it was at the shelter, all of that critical information could be lost in the system. That could result in pets being given unnecessary vaccinations, or important behavior information being missed.
Not all shelter management software systems have been designed with that level of functionality in mind.RescueSuite Softwareis one that has been.
Given the importance of microchips, and the benefits they offer to shelters and rescue groups, there is simply no excuse for not microchipping each pet on arrival. Feel free tocontact mefor more information about getting started with this kind of microchipping and fundraising program.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

The Undeniable Link Between Cops Shooting People and Pets

Note: Between the time that I wrote this piece and the time it was published, two more police shootings have occurred. In WYNNEWOOD, OK, a police officershot and killed a family petin front of a group of children who were celebrating a birthday party. In Miami,cops shot an unarmed black manwho was providing comfort to an autistic patient. The man was not only unarmed, be was laying on his back with his arms in the air. Consider that as you read this piece.
When I watched two recent videos relating to cops fatally shooting two different victims in different states I did so through a very unusual filter. In my day job, I advocate for No Kill policies in our nation’s animal shelters and I consult with animal shelters working to achieve No Kill status. In those roles I frequently rub elbows with police or government officials that oversee police departments, because municipal animal shelters are often run by, and nearly always work closely with, police departments. In addition to that, my work has required me over the years to watch a significant number of videos of police officers shooting and killing innocent family pets. Without a doubt, this work effected how I view the videos of the recent police shootings.
Before I go on, I have to say that by mentioning cops killing dogs, I am not equating killing dogs with killing people. However, these very different events share striking similarities. Both have common causes and follow similar patterns.
The shootings of dogs by police have largely resulted from the widespread demonization of dogs that many people refer to as “pit bulls” even though that term does not actually refer to a specific breed of dog. People use the phrase to refer to any kind of strong dog with a blocky head. American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are some of the breeds most likely to be labeled “pit bulls.” It is worth noting that the United Kennel Club does recognize a breed called the “American Pit Bull Terrier” that is really just an American Staffordshire Terrier (as named by the American Kennel Club, or AKC) under a different name. Some people like to throw several other breeds into the so-called “pit bull” category, including Douge de Bordeau, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and many others.
Suffice it to say that when someone refers to a dog as a “pit bull” it is impossible to know what breed they may be referencing to. The conversation around this non-breed of dogs escalates to the point of absurdity when mixed breed dogs – which make up the majority of dogs – get factored in. Because they are strong and often have blocky heads, it is not uncommon for Boxer/Labrador Retriever mixes to be labeled “pit bulls” by popular media, but usually only if they have done something wrong.
The fact that there is no single breed that is referred to as a “pit bull,” or that no one really knows what anyone is talking about when they mention the term, has not stopped a plethora of urban legends about so-called pit bulls from being popularized. Here are a few of the most ridiculous:
Put bulls have locking jaws. No. None of the breeds most often called pit bulls have locking jaws.Pit bulls can exert 1,800 pounds per square inch of jaw pressure. No. Bite pressure tests indicate that most large dog breeds, including those mistakenly called pit bulls, have bite strengths of about 320 PSI.Pit bulls are born to be mean. No, again. All of the breeds commonly called pit bulls have historically been bred and raised to live in close proximity to people and children. Prior to the widespread demonization of these dogs, they were some of our national treasures. Think Pete from Spanky and the Gang.Pit bulls are more likely to bite or attack. False again. Organizations that test dog behavior consistently rate the breeds most commonly called “pit bulls” as being some of the most trustworthy of dogs.
America has demonized dogs that look a certain way through the repeated telling of these and other urban legends, and then by falsely sensationalizing dog bites by labeling dogs that bite as pit bulls. Once we decided there was this separate category of dog, that was unlike other dogs, our popular media began reporting on them differently. If a dog labeled as pit bull even barks at someone, it may be reported as a “pit bull attack.” The entire false narrative gets spun out of control. The Associated Press recently reported on a fatal dog attack by a Shar Pei. They described the Shar Pei as “a pit bull mix.”
Ultimately, the demonization and irrational fear of these dogs leads to police needlessly shooting them. When a dog they think is a pit bull approaches cops, the officers are more likely to panic, draw their weapon and fire, even when the dogs are doing nothing wrong.
Ironically, the shooting of these innocent dogs is strongly connected to systemic racism directed against African Americans. One of the ways so-called pit bulls have been demonized, in fact, has been by linking them via popular media to black culture. They have been portrayed as the dog of choice for inner city gangs. In this way, the term “pit bull” has become equivalent to “thug dog.” It is a derogatory term laced with racist overtones. The racist link to the term “pit bull” is proven by the fact that some animal shelters have chosen to kill these dogs, rather than make them available for adoption, even if they are happy, friendly dogs. Part of the “reasoning” for doing so is that the dogs might attract “undesirable” people to the shelter.
In my work of nearly twenty years advocating for No Kill animal shelter policies I have become all too familiar with the typical scenario that plays out when an officer panics and shoots an innocent dog because of fear driven by ignorant stereotyping and urban legends. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would link those events to cops killing people for similar reasons. That all changed the day I watched the video of the killing of Philando Castile by a Falcon Heights police officer, just a few miles from my home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The video, live streamed on Facebook by Castile’s fiancé, does not show the actual shooting. The recording begins immediately after it occurred. You can’t see the face of the officer involved. He is standing outside the car, gun still drawn, and shouting. His voice sounds as though he is in a panicked state of mind, practically unhinged compared to Castile’s fiancé, Lavish Reynolds, who is sitting in the car and filming as Castile slumps over dying in the seat next to her. Her voice is eerily calm relative to the officer who shouts, “I told him to put his hands up! I told him not to reach for it!”
Reynolds calmly responds, “You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license.”
How does a cop go from asking someone to reach for their ID, to shooting them because they did so in a split second? The only logical explanation is panic, a common characteristic of the videos I have watched of cops using lethal force against innocent dogs. What is the most likely cause of the panic? Ignorance and systemic racism are the most likely explanations.
We have, after all, set up a predatory economic system that has, via widespread, institutional racism, pushed humans with dark skin to the bottom of our nation’s economic pyramid. Our history is filled with examples of how we have done this. Slavery and Jim Crow were big and obvious ones, but there have been plenty of others. The disproportionate distribution of funds from the GI Bill between whites and blacks, is another that stands out. The redlining of neighborhoods, which is still going on today, is yet another. Collectively, this systemic racism has created communities of color that are economically disadvantaged and places of poverty that breed violence, because economically oppressed communities always breed violence.
Like a never-ending feedback loop, the violence leads to more racial profiling. Cops disproportionally pulling over African Americans for minor traffic offenses. These further enflame relationships between cops and people. Just like how the media reports on so-called “pit bulls” differently, it also tends to report differently when talking about “black crime” when compared to “white crime.” On and on it goes.
Into that potential powder keg, add about 200 million guns that are largely unregulated and that have been marketed by instilling a host of public fears, including myths, urban legends and racism
We have created a toxic environment in which police are more likely to panic and use excessive force and do so disproportionally against non-whites. They are also more likely to get away with it because police departments tend to maintain highly fraternal, “protect our own” attitudes.
We like to say, “All Lives Matter.” But, the fact is that All Lives Won’t Matter in practical terms until Black Lives Actually Matter. That can’t really happen until we make amends for the wrongs that have been done and we implement changes so that people of color are no longer generally relegated to the lowest levels of our economy. Until those things happen, platitudes like “I support cops” or “all lives matter” mean absolutely nothing.
We need to get busy enacting meaningful gun regulations and doing other things to keep cops from flipping out in the line of work. And, cops need to do a much better job weeding out the ones that are ill suited to the challenges of the job. But, more importantly, we need to drop the myths, stereotypes and rampant racism that feeds the fear that drives the dysfunction in the system. We won’t solve these problems until we do those things.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

The Undeniable Link Between Cops Shooting People and Pets

Note: Between the time that I wrote this piece and the time it was published, two more police shootings have occurred. In WYNNEWOOD, OK, a police officershot and killed a family petin front of a group of children who were celebrating a birthday party. In Miami,cops shot an unarmed black manwho was providing comfort to an autistic patient. The man was not only unarmed, be was laying on his back with his arms in the air. Consider that as you read this piece.
When I watched two recent videos relating to cops fatally shooting two different victims in different states I did so through a very unusual filter. In my day job, I advocate for No Kill policies in our nation’s animal shelters and I consult with animal shelters working to achieve No Kill status. In those roles I frequently rub elbows with police or government officials that oversee police departments, because municipal animal shelters are often run by, and nearly always work closely with, police departments. In addition to that, my work has required me over the years to watch a significant number of videos of police officers shooting and killing innocent family pets. Without a doubt, this work effected how I view the videos of the recent police shootings.
Before I go on, I have to say that by mentioning cops killing dogs, I am not equating killing dogs with killing people. However, these very different events share striking similarities. Both have common causes and follow similar patterns.
The shootings of dogs by police have largely resulted from the widespread demonization of dogs that many people refer to as “pit bulls” even though that term does not actually refer to a specific breed of dog. People use the phrase to refer to any kind of strong dog with a blocky head. American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are some of the breeds most likely to be labeled “pit bulls.” It is worth noting that the United Kennel Club does recognize a breed called the “American Pit Bull Terrier” that is really just an American Staffordshire Terrier (as named by the American Kennel Club, or AKC) under a different name. Some people like to throw several other breeds into the so-called “pit bull” category, including Douge de Bordeau, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and many others.
Suffice it to say that when someone refers to a dog as a “pit bull” it is impossible to know what breed they may be referencing to. The conversation around this non-breed of dogs escalates to the point of absurdity when mixed breed dogs – which make up the majority of dogs – get factored in. Because they are strong and often have blocky heads, it is not uncommon for Boxer/Labrador Retriever mixes to be labeled “pit bulls” by popular media, but usually only if they have done something wrong.
The fact that there is no single breed that is referred to as a “pit bull,” or that no one really knows what anyone is talking about when they mention the term, has not stopped a plethora of urban legends about so-called pit bulls from being popularized. Here are a few of the most ridiculous:
Put bulls have locking jaws. No. None of the breeds most often called pit bulls have locking jaws.Pit bulls can exert 1,800 pounds per square inch of jaw pressure. No. Bite pressure tests indicate that most large dog breeds, including those mistakenly called pit bulls, have bite strengths of about 320 PSI.Pit bulls are born to be mean. No, again. All of the breeds commonly called pit bulls have historically been bred and raised to live in close proximity to people and children. Prior to the widespread demonization of these dogs, they were some of our national treasures. Think Pete from Spanky and the Gang.Pit bulls are more likely to bite or attack. False again. Organizations that test dog behavior consistently rate the breeds most commonly called “pit bulls” as being some of the most trustworthy of dogs.
America has demonized dogs that look a certain way through the repeated telling of these and other urban legends, and then by falsely sensationalizing dog bites by labeling dogs that bite as pit bulls. Once we decided there was this separate category of dog, that was unlike other dogs, our popular media began reporting on them differently. If a dog labeled as pit bull even barks at someone, it may be reported as a “pit bull attack.” The entire false narrative gets spun out of control. The Associated Press recently reported on a fatal dog attack by a Shar Pei. They described the Shar Pei as “a pit bull mix.”
Ultimately, the demonization and irrational fear of these dogs leads to police needlessly shooting them. When a dog they think is a pit bull approaches cops, the officers are more likely to panic, draw their weapon and fire, even when the dogs are doing nothing wrong.
Ironically, the shooting of these innocent dogs is strongly connected to systemic racism directed against African Americans. One of the ways so-called pit bulls have been demonized, in fact, has been by linking them via popular media to black culture. They have been portrayed as the dog of choice for inner city gangs. In this way, the term “pit bull” has become equivalent to “thug dog.” It is a derogatory term laced with racist overtones. The racist link to the term “pit bull” is proven by the fact that some animal shelters have chosen to kill these dogs, rather than make them available for adoption, even if they are happy, friendly dogs. Part of the “reasoning” for doing so is that the dogs might attract “undesirable” people to the shelter.
In my work of nearly twenty years advocating for No Kill animal shelter policies I have become all too familiar with the typical scenario that plays out when an officer panics and shoots an innocent dog because of fear driven by ignorant stereotyping and urban legends. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would link those events to cops killing people for similar reasons. That all changed the day I watched the video of the killing of Philando Castile by a Falcon Heights police officer, just a few miles from my home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The video, live streamed on Facebook by Castile’s fiancé, does not show the actual shooting. The recording begins immediately after it occurred. You can’t see the face of the officer involved. He is standing outside the car, gun still drawn, and shouting. His voice sounds as though he is in a panicked state of mind, practically unhinged compared to Castile’s fiancé, Lavish Reynolds, who is sitting in the car and filming as Castile slumps over dying in the seat next to her. Her voice is eerily calm relative to the officer who shouts, “I told him to put his hands up! I told him not to reach for it!”
Reynolds calmly responds, “You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license.”
How does a cop go from asking someone to reach for their ID, to shooting them because they did so in a split second? The only logical explanation is panic, a common characteristic of the videos I have watched of cops using lethal force against innocent dogs. What is the most likely cause of the panic? Ignorance and systemic racism are the most likely explanations.
We have, after all, set up a predatory economic system that has, via widespread, institutional racism, pushed humans with dark skin to the bottom of our nation’s economic pyramid. Our history is filled with examples of how we have done this. Slavery and Jim Crow were big and obvious ones, but there have been plenty of others. The disproportionate distribution of funds from the GI Bill between whites and blacks, is another that stands out. The redlining of neighborhoods, which is still going on today, is yet another. Collectively, this systemic racism has created communities of color that are economically disadvantaged and places of poverty that breed violence, because economically oppressed communities always breed violence.
Like a never-ending feedback loop, the violence leads to more racial profiling. Cops disproportionally pulling over African Americans for minor traffic offenses. These further enflame relationships between cops and people. Just like how the media reports on so-called “pit bulls” differently, it also tends to report differently when talking about “black crime” when compared to “white crime.” On and on it goes.
Into that potential powder keg, add about 200 million guns that are largely unregulated and that have been marketed by instilling a host of public fears, including myths, urban legends and racism
We have created a toxic environment in which police are more likely to panic and use excessive force and do so disproportionally against non-whites. They are also more likely to get away with it because police departments tend to maintain highly fraternal, “protect our own” attitudes.
We like to say, “All Lives Matter.” But, the fact is that All Lives Won’t Matter in practical terms until Black Lives Actually Matter. That can’t really happen until we make amends for the wrongs that have been done and we implement changes so that people of color are no longer generally relegated to the lowest levels of our economy. Until those things happen, platitudes like “I support cops” or “all lives matter” mean absolutely nothing.
We need to get busy enacting meaningful gun regulations and doing other things to keep cops from flipping out in the line of work. And, cops need to do a much better job weeding out the ones that are ill suited to the challenges of the job. But, more importantly, we need to drop the myths, stereotypes and rampant racism that feeds the fear that drives the dysfunction in the system. We won’t solve these problems until we do those things.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry

Our Culture of Killing

I confess up-front that this blog post is going to be confusing for some people. It is not going to be my normal animal-shelter-related commentary. It will, I swear, connect directly to animal sheltering, but not in the way that I typically talk about it.
I will also say that I am writing it at a time when I am very angry and sad. If my emotions spill out in the writing, I apologize up-front. I am not as upset as I was yesterday, but nonetheless I’m very much needing to consciously focus on good things around me to keep from being overcome by the negative feelings.
Yesterday I watched the video of a Louisiana cop shoot and kill Alton Sterling. Sterling was being held down on the ground by other cops and unable to move. The cop who killed him, pulled his weapon and fired several shots into Sterling’s chest. Sterling’s “crime” was selling music CDs outside a music store, with full permission of the store’s owner. Then I watched the video live streamed on Facebook of Philando Castile’s death as the result of several shots being fired into his chest at point-blank range by a cop in Minnesota. Philando’s crime was reportedly having a busted taillight.
I admit that I watched the videos through a very specific and unusual kind of filter: one of an advocate for animal shelter reform who, over the last few years, has watched far too many videos of cops shooting and killing innocent family pets. In case you are unaware, yes, that is a thing that has become increasingly common –cops shooting people’s dogs, often right in front of the owners, and when the dogs are doing nothing wrong.
To be clear, before going farther, I have to state that I am not going to equate killing dogs with killing people. I am absolutely not going to do that. I am, however, going to make the case that the culture that accepts one is almost certain to accept the other, especially if it is filled with pervasive bigotry. I am also going to make the case that the underlying problems that cause both kinds of shootings are the same.
The other filter through which I watched these videos was as an admitted racist myself. Let me explain…
I first became aware that I was a racist in about the mid 1990’s. I was working as a software developer in the particularly white suburb of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. I was alone in the elevator on my way to work when three young black men got into the elevator with me. I was immediately uncomfortable, so much so that I noticed that I was immediately uncomfortable, and so much so that I had to ask myself, “what the heck is that feeling all about?”
Upon reflection, that was really hard question to answer. Looking back at my personal history, I had never experienced any kind of negative encounter with a person of dark skin. So, from where in the world did that feeling come? I couldn’t explain it, so I kept looking and asking.
I eventually concluded that the irrational feeling of discomfort I felt that day was the byproduct of my own racism that was the result of being born in a culture that is jam-packed full of racism, only some of which is easy to detect and ignore because it is overt. The more subtle racism in our society, I have come to believe, is the worst and most insidious kind. The language the press uses, for example, when talking about “white crime” when compared to “black crime” is totally different. I came to realize that I was like a fish swimming in a sea of water that it can’t see. But, the water around me was racism and it was not keeping me alive. It wasn’t even healthy.
After traveling around the world a bit more, I also came to realize that my home state of Minnesota, considered by many to be a model of progressive values, was also one of the most segregated states in the USA. In those days, in that area of St. Louis Park it was very rare to see a person with dark skin. I came to realize that on the elevator that day, it was like I had a little Archie Bunker living inside my head shouting, “black people out of bounds!” It was a voice programmed by the culture into which I was born.
The most overt racism I have personally encountered happened just a couple of years ago, and it happened in an intensely, frighteningly, official way.
I was called to serve on jury duty and got assigned to a criminal case involving a 16-year-old African American defendant, who was being tried as an adult for a very serious offense.
The “crime” for which the defendant was initially stopped by Minneapolis Police was failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, before making a right turn. The arresting officer described it in court as a “rolling stop,” you know the kind we have all done, where you slow way down, but don’t quite come to a full stop before moving into an intersection?
Neither the prosecution nor the defense ever explained why what happened next happened. For some reason the cops decided to search the entire car, the driver and a passenger in the car, even though neither had any prior criminal records. In searching the vehicle, they found a gun that had been stolen a year and a half previously, in a very different part of town.
In listening to the prosecuting attorney’s opening statement, you would have thought it was an open and shut case. In fact, in her opening statements she said it WAS an open and shut case. She promised to bring forward a string of DNA experts to testify and that she would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, the driver of the car, had stolen the gun.
By the end of the trial, I felt like the prosecution had lied to me. She did deliver on her promise to bring forward a string of DNA experts. None of them could put the defendant’s DNA on the gun. Additionally, it turned out, the car did not belong to him, was not a car he regularly drove, and the gun was in a place in the car where he could not possibly have seen or reached it.
The gun had actually been stolen from a truck in Fridley, many miles away. The white gun owner, who the prosecution tried to paint as a “responsible gun owner” had left the loaded gun in his unlocked truck in a strip mall parking lot while he went on a week-long fishing vacation with his buddies.
Nothing other than the gun connected the two scenes. Nothing connected the gun to the defendant, other than it was present in a car he happened to be driving. The prosecution could not prove he knew the gun was there, much less that he had stolen it a year and a half previously. Yet, the charge he was facing was theft of a deadly weapon.
There were many other gaping holes in the prosecutor’s case. No testimony was given about who the owner of the car was or what his or her explanation of the gun being there may have been. There was no other information about how many other people may have had access to the car, or who regularly used it. In other words, the prosecution didn’t prove the defendant ever had possession of the gun, much less that he had been the one who had stolen it 18 months before.
When the jury went to deliberate, the judge gave very explicit instructions, which she repeated twice. She told the jury that the defendant had a presumption of innocence that we must abide by and that it was the prosecutor’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. If the prosecutor had not proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, we were to return a verdict of not guilty.
I figured it was an easy decision, so asked the other jurors if we could take a simple vote for guilty or not guilty, before really deliberating, just to see if we all agreed and we could all go home. To my utter shock and horror, it was about a 50/50 split.
Over the course of the next couple of days jurors began moving from “guilty” to “not guilty” by saying things like, “Ok. Sure. I still think he is guilty but there is really no evidence to prove it.”
By the end of the second day, there was one, final holdout arguing for a verdict of “guilty.” As more jurors had switched to the “not guilty” side, she had grown increasingly agitated and emotional.
We pressed her by re-reading the judge’s instructions and asked her to explain the evidence or facts that prove to her beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty. At that point, she screamed, “Obviously, he is guilty. Just LOOK at him!”
After that was finally said out loud, the bigotry in the jury room was finally fully exposed and everyone could see it and even she could no longer support a verdict of guilty. We delivered a verdict of not guilty.
Throughout the trial, the defendant’s three younger sisters sat quietly in chairs right behind their brother. They were beautiful, perfectly-behaved kids. They even maintained their composure when the verdict was read.
After the jury was excused, we all gathered out by the elevators to leave. As we stood there, the girls came into the area just as an elevator arrived. The other jurors looked uncomfortably at the elevator. Maybe it was because we weren’t supposed to have any contact during the trial. But, the trial was over and the no contact order was done. I was the only other person who got into the elevator with them. They were clustered around a cell phone that was on speaker and were talking to their mom. Tears were streaming down their faces. They were jumping up and down.
“Your baby is coming home!” one of the girls shouted.
“What? What?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked urgently.
“Not guilty! NOT GUILTY!” the girls cheered now jumping up and down with joy.
Then, all of a sudden the youngest one who was about six-years-old, who had been holding the hand of the middle sister, looked over at me. She let go of her sister’s hand and walked across the few steps that separated us and looked me straight in the eyes, tears steaming down her face. She simply smiled and said, “Thank you.”
That moment touched me deeply. I still tear up when I think about it, not only because it was such a sweet, tender moment, but because I also am painfully aware of how it could have gone.
That trial gave me a glimpse of what it might be like to grow up black in my own city. I believe everything about the case was handled differently because the defendant was a young black male. From pulling him over, to the searching of the car, to the prosecution, to the fact that a number of jurors were ready to convict him based on, at best, extremely flimsy evidence – it was all, in my opinion, a load of systemic, overt racism. I can’t help but wonder what it is like for kids like that to grow up in a system like that. I almost have no experience to compare it to.
I say almost because there is something I can kind of compare it to from my own life: growing up gay. In high school I was picked on and bullied a lot. For my daily survival I needed to learn which areas of the school to avoid during certain times of the day. I needed to learn which faculty members were likely to look the other way when the bullying was going on. Everything was difficult; even something as basic as finding a restroom that was safe to use was a challenge.
In my adult life, I don’t experience much of that anymore. But, truth be told, when my husband and I travel, we go out of our way to avoid certain towns or states where we might not be safe.
As bad as that may seem, it pales in comparison to what life must be like for young black kids growing up today – even in a progressive city like Minneapolis. That makes me really sad. And that sadness is yet another filter through which I watched the videos of cops needlessly killing young black guys.
Because of my work advocating on behalf of companion animals, and the number of innocent family pets that are shot by cops each year, I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the complex dynamics involved that lead to these tragic events. And, again, I don’t believe cops shooting dogs and cops shooting people are the same. I do, however, believe that the causes of both are largely the same.
It begins with ignorant, biased profiling that is hyped and inflamed by our media. It is exacerbated by the hyper-masculine, ultra-macho police culture that often mixes toxically with America’s irrational romanticizing of guns and power. The fact that many cops are former military, who may have come back from our seemingly endless wars suffering mental and emotional damage for which they get little or no help adds more fuel to the fire. The cop culture of “protecting their own” also gives too many cops a license to behave in ways we would never tolerate from any other group of people.
And, lastly, our culture is losing its sense of the value of life. That is fundamentally at the core of all of this, our perpetual wars, cops shooting dogs and people, and yes, even animal shelters that routinely destroy the pets they are supposed to be serving, you can wrap it all under the banner of “humans not valuing life.” That is what creates our culture of killing, in all of its forms. Recognizing our interconnectedness and the value of life is the only way to correct it.
Original Link: POST From the Blog of No Kill Learning Posted by: Mike Fry