Why are you here?

Valerie Hayes
One of the kittens from that first foster litter.

One of the kittens from that first foster litter.

In the (very few) quiet moments I’ve had since arriving in DC for No Kill Conference 2012, I’ve been thinking about why I’m here.

When I was eight years old and I found out that homeless animals were killed at the pound simply for being homeless, that knowledge preyed on my mind until, finally, one night I just broke down crying and couldn’t stop until my parents agreed to take me to the pound to adopt a dog.  Saving one dog brought   some relief, and I would be a completely different person had I not grown up with Muffin at my side.

But, basically, I’m here because I was there, because the shelter I volunteered at killed two of my foster kittens, and with them the illusion that I had that nobody would kill healthy, adorable kittens that had a place to go.

No way to un-ring that bell.

Painful and glorious, that experience was two object lessons.  Physics tells us that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Two lessons so diametrically opposed cannot either, but they came rapid-fire, so very close together, that they were almost simultaneous.  The ugliest and best of humanity can  exist side-by-side, at least for a time.

Lesson 1:   “Nobody wants to kill” is the biggest damn lie in animal welfare.   The current sheltering system is so mired in gratuitous killing and abuse that only a complete fool could possibly argue that it could fix itself, even if it wanted to, which, in general, it does not.  Why would someone kill two healthy, adorable kittens who were wanted by someone who they knew personally and saw every week?  How could she?  How dead does your soul  have to be to choose the needle over the telephone?   I have had twelve years to ponder this.  Those kittens lived with me for a month and I will remember them forever.  Of the millions of animals killed in shelters in 2000, or before or since,  none were any less worthy of life than my kittens.   The current “sheltering” model is abusive and degrading to all involved, to all humans and animals that come into contact with it.

Lesson 2:  Normal people do not tolerate this crap.  We are human beings, not doormats.  We unapologetically demand to be treated like human beings.  When people reject this affront to their humanity, they can make some pretty amazing things happen.  Thousands of animals are alive and Tompkins County is a much better place for people and animals because a couple dozen ordinary people rejected the lies and the abuse.  The sea change of 2001 was more and faster than anyone dared hope.

A new documentary on the No Kill movement will be  released this fall, and Nathan Winograd showed a trailer of it as part of his closing remarks at the conference.  Of course, it includes the story of Tompkins County.

When asked what it was like when the killing stopped, Bob Wise (whose stalwart advocacy was a crucial factor in making the transition happen) said that it was like we’d been living in darkness and “the sun came up.”

What made you a No Kill advocate?


No Kill Conference 2012 logo

The theme of No Kill Conference 2012 is ‘Reaching Higher’. Lifesaving success offers a new vantage point from which to see ways to expand the safety net for shelter pets–the ‘expanded possible’.


4 Responses to “Why are you here?”

  • Bonnie Carollin Says:

    Choked up and in tears – after 34 years of practicing TNR and no-kill-
    I have hopes of seeing this in my lifetime becoming the standard for how we treat
    Our animals.
    I woke up from almost asleep last night remembering a regional head of a
    National organization killing a severely dehydrated dog because it growled at
    an inexperienced volunteer they brought to walk the dogs after Hurricane Katrina.
    As I am screaming for them to stop that the dog was NOT
    Dangerous- (I had just been in his kennel earlier to give him
    more water and he nuzzled his head against me)they shot him full of the death drug- I was two minutes too late and I will NEVER forget!

  • Leanne Tucker Says:

    In May 2010 the local SPCA branch I had volunteered at for 8 years decided they were going to kill all of the animals in their care due to an alleged ringworm outbreak. My friends and I called the media and protested outside the shelter until the plans to cull the shelter were stopped. Unfortunately, all of the small animals in the shelter lost their lives. An independent review was subsequently undertaken and the results showed that there was no ringworm outbreak. The individuals at the OSPCA head office who were responsible for this travesty are still in their positions and this particular shelter still has not allowed volunteers back. I subsequently learned their kill rate is in the 50-60% range. This lead my to Nathan Winograd and the No Kill movement. I now volunteer at my local animal control which saves 97-98% of the dogs it takes in and 77% of the cats. It is 1/2 hour from this OSPCA branch.

  • Karen Josephson Says:

    I came to No Kill to meet Nathan Winograd and to hear the speakers and the presenters…to meet the people in our country who want to orchestrate change in animal welfare and who are actively working to do so. My Father was a boxer breeder. His brother a Black Lab and Chocolate Labe breeder. I’ll never forget them drowning puppies that were “not quite right” because they would bring down the name of the Kennels (hence the $$$) I was 10 years old. Being raised in a very small rural community in Wisconsin – agriculture and hunting and fishing are a way of life. It never fit me – even though I participated until High School – until I had my first Ecology course. I’ve been rescuing and searching and educating ever since.

  • Valerie Hayes Says:

    Making shelters be shelters in deed, not just in word, is something that we can accomplish in our lifetimes, and one that will go a long way towards stopping the sorts of violence towards animals (which also causes trauma in humans). Thank you all for commenting.

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