Why are you here?
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?