The first post I wrote on this blog was about the televised killing of a dog by a “shelter” in New Mexico, a depraved publicity stunt that echoed a depraved publicity stunt by a “shelter” in California twenty years previously–the one which was recounted in the opening paragraphs of Redemption.
Many people were outraged by Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock’s televised killing of the golden-haired dog (which was apparently the second such stunt for her) and her blaming of the public:
“I’m sure the public is tired of hearing this problem but unfortunately, it is a community problem – it is not a shelter problem, Vesco-Mock said.
It also came out that she’d briefly directed a Georgia shelter, but was fired after a dog was left in a hot animal control vehicle and died.
At the time of the televised killing the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley had a 70% kill rate–significantly higher than the national average of about 50%. Appalling, when you consider that we have known how to achieve 90+% save rates for over 10 years.
The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley and Dr. Beth Vesco-Mock are in the news again today, this time for doing a free pit bull adoption event for the month of October. According to the news article, the shelter will still use its usual screening procedures, the only difference being that there will be no charge to adopt pit bulls. In addition, the dogs will be neutered already.
Now, I have a natural tendency to be skeptical, and I don’t think that this shelter director suddenly turned into adoption promo queen Bonney Brown, but, could this be progress? Is she really going to do it and do it right? I sure hope so. The fifty-six pit bulls currently at the facility, the other dogs, and the cats and other animals, are depending on progress.
Free pet adoptions are not aimed at people who otherwise couldn’t afford a pet, and that’s not primarily who they attract. Just as Nordstrom holds special sales only for its best and, presumably, wealthiest customers, just as car dealers and appliance stores and luxury hotels have special promotions, shelters and rescue groups who do free adoptions know that the “free” part is a marketing strategy, not a hand-out.
Free and special price promotions are designed to be attention grabbers. They also serve to focus people on pet adoption not in a “someday when I get around to it” kind of way, but in a “better go this weekend because it’s exciting, fun, and I’ll save money!” kind of way.
And just as wealthy people look forward to the Nordstrom annual sale because it’s an event, because it makes them feel special, and because they enjoy the idea of saving money, pet adopters respond the exact same way.
These days, people like to brag about having a rescued pet. Adopting a pet is a good deed and becomes a positive part of someone’s identity, and adoption promotions make more people into adopters of rescued pets because they combine a good deed with saving a few bucks.
I doubt that most of the people who are so upset at the prospect of pit bulls being adopted out for free know that the last time this facility made headlines, it was for killing a dog on television. I doubt that most know that at that time, its kill rate was 70%. And wherever kill rates are high, they are generally even worse for dogs labeled ‘pit bulls’.
Shelter killing creates a toxic climate of fear, leading to a willingness to believe the worst about people, and the long tradition of blaming the public means that the people whose support is essential to saving lives–”the public”, is, after all, your pool of potential adopters–is viewed with suspicion rather than courted. Innovation is suspect.
Is this shelter director committed to making this event a success? I don’t know. I sure hope that she is. What I do know is that the animals deserve a successful adoption event, and many more in the future. Animal advocates should do what they can to make this event a success, because we need to leave the bad old days behind.
If you were a pit bull, which would you choose: 15 minutes of fame for getting killed on the evening news or 15 years of life with a family who adopted you for free?
If someone had told me twelve years ago today that I would one day see the above video, I would have thought them insane.
The transformation that took place to create the nation’s first No Kill community created a bigger gulf between then and now than did the passage of time, and it didn’t take years to do it. To those who haven’t been on both sides of that gulf, what is now, was then inconceivable; what was then, is now inconceivable.
That’s what it is.
We live in a cruel, crazy world, one in which shelter killing is a habit, and getting to not killing requires a crisis.
We live in a beautiful world, because we can make the killing stop.
I believe in miracles.
They happen every day.
Now may be your chance to adopt a creature so rare, few have ever seen one. Only a handful of these creatures come into existence each year, and how they do so is is a mystery. They are so rare, that some question that they exist at all.
Here’s a picture of the animal in question:
You may be thinking that I’ve lost my mind. ”That is a black cat. My local shelter and rescue groups have dozens of black cats available for adoption,” you say.
Ah, yes. Midnight, if she is even real, is different. Very, very different.
Midnight is apparently being offered for adoption by PETA.
Yes, PETA, the folks who brought you the Piggly Wiggly Dumpster Incident in 2005. The ones who brought you the Woo-Hoo You’re Gonna Kill Again! Gift Basket Incident last month. The ones who support continued killing and viciously attack No Kill efforts. The ones who have killed nearly every pet they have gotten their hands on in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.* They’ve killed over 25,000 healthy and treatable pets in the past ten years, and they show no sign of intending to slow down or stop. Some consider PETA to be a destructive cult.
Given this backdrop of death, untrustworthiness, and downright craziness, you’ll have to excuse me for being a bit skeptical.
So, I have a few questions:
But, hey, you never know. If you are a cat lover with a penchant for cryptozoology, you might want to adopt
Now Midnight is settling in at PETA’s Norfolk, Virginia, headquarters and is waiting patiently for the right adoptive family. She will be microchipped and spayed before adoption. If you are ready to make a lifetime commitment and give Midnight the safe, loving home that every cat deserves, please e-mail Adopt@peta.org.
If you succeed, or if you know anything about this cat, I’d like to hear from you.
*Oddly, the 2009 stats don’t appear to be properly posted on the VDACS site (maintained by the state of Virginia where PETA is headquartered). They are available in the article to which I linked, however. A word about the numbers reported:
You’ll notice that there are a lot of animals listed in the categories “others” and “reclaimed by owner”. Those are animals that were brought in for spay-neuter surgery. They were never taken in “for purposes of adoption” and so should not be included in these statistics, but they are, because PETA wants to conceal the true gravity of its statistics. The pertinent numbers are in the columns “surrendered by owner” and “euthanized”. You’ll notice that these two numbers are very similar. That’s because PETA kills most of the animals it takes in “for purposes of adoption”.
You can compare PETA’s statistics to those of other agencies in Virginia by changing the agency identification number in the url (i.e. …fac_num=157… identifies PETA). In keeping with the ‘license to kill’ theme, let’s try ‘007’. That gives us the statistics for an organization called SOS-SAFE, or Saving Animals from Euthanasia. How about that? You’ll find that their numbers are quite a bit different from PETA’s.
Next year, the No Kill Advocacy Center, No Kill Nation and Sagacity Productions will release a feature-length documentary about animal sheltering and the No Kill movement. At last year’s No Kill Conference, I was interviewed for this documentary. We saw this trailer as part of the closing remarks of this year’s Conference. The trailer begins with Henry Bergh, founder of the once-great ASPCA and then moves to the contemporary No Kill movement, telling the story through interviews with various players in this unfolding movement. You’ll see some familiar faces–Nathan Winograd, Ryan Clinton, Mitch Schneider, Ellen Jefferson, Bonney Brown–and some you’ve never seen before, but who made all the difference in the world.
Nathan Winograd literally wrote the book on the No Kill movement, created the first No Kill community in the country, has called out more liars and killing apologists than anyone else and is the acknowledged leader of the movement. Ryan Clinton led the fight for No Kill in Austin, one which had to defeat the ASPCA, which supported continued killing. Mitch Schneider’s approach to animal control is a key component to Washoe County, Nevada’s success. Dr. Ellen Jefferson’s organization Austin Pets Alive! has used a systematic and ever-improving approach to saving as many pets as possible, crucial to Austin’s success, and Bonney Brown turned the Nevada Humane Society around with turbocharged adoptions, volunteers and innovative programs. All of these individuals have shared their considerable knowledge and skill with others and inspired them to work towards No Kill communities of their own, creating a ripple effect that keeps on expanding exponentially.
All of their stories are compelling, but the one closest to my heart is one told by some people you’ve never seen before, one whose names you don’t know, the core group of volunteers who never gave up no matter what the shelter staff and board dished out. I owe a personal debt of gratitude to all of them that I could never repay if I had 10 lifetimes in which to try. It is because of them that a shelter so shamelessly steeped in the killing mentality that it had sunk to the depths of killing a volunteer’s foster kittens rather than picking up the phone was transformed into something beyond our wildest dreams. It is because of them that my personal despair at the killing of two nameless kittens I’d cared for for a month became part of a much larger story, and an inspiring one.
There is nothing more meaningless than meaningless death, and there is nothing more meaningful than stopping it.
We were an engineer, a retired school teacher, a librarian, an archivist, a newscaster, a lab technician, a veterinarian, a retired secretary, a few grad students, a paralegal, an Army reservist, a couple of future veterinarians, a Schutzhund enthusiast, and more. I look back and marvel at how badly we were treated despite the considerable skills we collectively possessed and everything we had to offer. Shelter killing makes for some insane situations, and a disregard for basic human decency is one of them. I also marvel at how what looked like small acts of kindness–tiny pebbles, perhaps noticed by only a privileged few at the time–have had their own ripple effect, affecting people far away and years later, long after the moment had passed. Anyone who has seen a shelter’s transformation will have their own collection of moments of compassion and turning points. They’ll know who the heroes, both sung and unsung are, and the villains too.
What if Brian Gold, and Bob Wise and Dr. Claudia Haferkamp-Wise hadn’t organized that first volunteer meeting? What if they and Allison Myers didn’t persistently talk sense to the Board? What if we didn’t have a foster program or offsite adoptions? What if we didn’t have Lorna, Pam, Sara, Nathaniel, Dana, Jason, Amy, Melissa, Joan, Joy, Marcia, Erica, Laurel and all the rest? What if someone even crazier than we were didn’t get hired as the new Executive Director? I’d hate to think what would have happened. Everyone should have a team that good. The animals and all of us deserve no less.
You’ll meet a few of these people in this video, but not everyone. As of now, there are 52 documented No Kill communities in the country, and an unknown number making varying degrees of progress towards that goal. By my calculations, that’s a lot of unsung heroes, and a great many inspiring stories.
How many animals’ lives have been saved in these communities? How many people have had their lives bettered by adopting a pet? How many lost pets were returned to their families? How many people had their lives enriched by a positive volunteer experience? How many idealistic new shelter employees got to keep their idealism, and their jobs? How many tragedies didn’t happen?
In 2000, there was not a single No Kill community in the country, and then on June 11, 2001, there was one, and the rest, up til now, is history. In August 2000, an ordinary bunch of volunteers at a shelter no one in their right mind would have pegged as the first place to end shelter killing, got together and wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We had no idea what the future held, just a determination that it would be better than what it was, and a certain clarity of vision that the way things were was utterly unacceptable.
That we could end the killing, and right away, never occurred to me. It came as a complete surprise.
When we first got together in the Wise’s living room all those years ago, we were just a bunch of people who wanted to save dogs and cats and bunnies and to be treated like human beings while doing so. Little did we know that was tantamount to fomenting revolution. We truly do live in a cruel, crazy beautiful world.
When the shelter sincerely committed to the animals and the community, when it removed the obstacles to success that it had created, there was a foster home for every litter of kittens, every injured dog, every animal in need. There were businesses that rallied to the support of the new attitude at the shelter. There were even wealthy benefactors who donated to build a new state-of-the art shelter. What may have at first seemed like a leap of faith into a yawning abyss turned out to simply be a lot of hard work with a lot of people pitching in to do their part.
We now know that the future holds genuine shelters for animals, places that serve the communities as they should, but before that, many more unsung heroes, a great many inspiring stories, and a huge amount of hard work (which is actually a lot easier than having your soul destroyed).
“It was like the sun had been behind a cloud for years, and it came out…” Bob Wise’s words at the conclusion of the trailer bring back the wonder and pain of that struggle.
The trailer is now available to be shared far and wide, so please do so.
Here’s the link: The No Kill Revolution in America
Share it with your friends. Write a short cover email to accompany it, and send it to your local government officials, your legislators, media, business people, celebrities–anyone who makes things happen needs to see this.
Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. ~Talmud
We explained that it is the movement to end the killing of animals in shelters. He said, “Well, what about people?”
People aren’t rounded up and killed simply for being lost or homeless. We explained that 8 million lost and homeless pets enter American shelters every year and 4 million are killed, even though a lot more than 4 million people are looking to adopt pets. Some animals are even killed when rescuers are on their way to save them. Some places, like certain counties in Georgia, have kill rates of 80%, 90% or even more. They don’t even try to find homes for animals. I told him about my experience at Tompkins County, how we ended the needless killing there, saving thousands of animals as a result.
He replied that it was “a beautiful story.” Not only that, he wanted to learn more and asked me to write down some website urls for him. He even expressed interest in attending next year’s conference.
Sometimes, when you’ve spent too much time trying to convince killing apologists to grow a brain, a soul, and a heart, you can forget that we really do have the support of the public on our side.
The animals need us to make sure that everyone knows that this movement exists.
Wear it with pride and never, ever pass up an opportunity to educate someone.
You’ll be doing the animals, the movement, and the person you educate a favor.
No Kill means hope for all.
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?
Speaker John Sibley has been blogging since 2004, starting as a humor blogger, but his blogging has evolved into more writing and advocacy on behalf of New York animals. His writing was instrumental in killing the ‘Quick Kill’ Bill in New York.
First, tech stuff–Blogger (from Google) is quick and easy and you don’t need to know tech to use it. If you know something about HTML, self-hosting WordPress [this blog is self-hosted with WordPress] is a great way to go. It is versatile and powerful. Avoid Examiner.com, a blogging network disguised as a newspaper. I know others may disagree. Don’t take ads. You won’t make any money and some ad services will give you ads you don’t want, like puppy mills!
Content and style–write what you know best. Explain what you are an expert on and give it to someone with no knowledge of the subject and ask if they understand your point. Be clear and engaging.
Always be gathering new information. You must use Google Alerts! You can get a lot of info from watching Facebook, especially other advocates, and following up on it. RSS Readers draw together multiple blogs that you subscribe to. It is an old technology compared to FB, but very useful.
Be active in your chosen community, constantly on the search for new information. Attend meetings, lectures, protests. Personal contact means a lot! Use 3rd party sources when necessary (ie when shelters won’t let you in). make sure your readers can contact you directly–email, FB , twitter, etc. You will get spam. A different attitude to privacy. FB feed is public, but comments are restricted to those he knows due to time constraints.
FOIA requests: you have the right to view many government documents. Christie Keith and Yesbiscuit! know a lot about this subject.
Screenshots of important data that is likely to disappear. Collect puzzle pieces over time to make a complete picture. Rarely will you get something actionable all at once.
Calling someone out publicly depends on whether they are a public figure and the degree of their wrongdoing. Use personal ethical guidelines, and protect sources that do not want to be identified.
Blogging is not journalism! It has an overt opinion, it presents a point of view. It is dishonest to present opinion as fact.
Think about your style. The must-read Yesbiscuit! mixes news and sarcasm and does her own investigations (sometimes of distant shelters) using FOIA requests, emails and contacts with her dedicated fan base. Read what other people are writing–Christie Keith, this blog, Kathy Pobloskie, Brent Toellner (best at analyzing stats that we have).
Avoid common pitfalls:
“Spewing”/ constant negativity. Getting very emotional, can be a turn off for many, including me–show, don’t tell.
Don’t rely on shocking or very graphic photos or techniques. But before/after pics of Patrick are an example of effective pictures.
pay attention to grammar and spelling–use Word if necessary.
Avoid unnecessary detail. Only include details that further the story. Short and to the point.
Anonymity–you need people to trust you. This is hard if they don’t knwo who you are. Understandably, you may be afraid of losing access, but people cant build a relationship with you if they don’t know who you are.
If you have a blog and you are the head of a nonprofit, your blog will be associated with that organization. People should find out your associations from you or it will look like you are hiding something.
Check the bylaws. You can disclose your association in a disclaimer. If you are an employee of an organization, and you are writing about a topic related to what they do, you need to let them know. There should be a policy.
Know your target audience!
Posts should stand on their own and be free of excessive jargon. Include links to backstory, for further exploration.
Comment policy: if you are writing about controversial topics, you need to think about and possibly post a comments policy so that people know what is/is not appropriate. Personally I advocate an open but moderated discussion. You are not obligated to provide a forum for crazy. Know how to block people/IP addresses but don’t do it often.
Expect pressure–it is a sign of success. In 2009, HSUS tried to get me fired for a piece of commentary on a video that was unflattering to HSUS. They called my boss who told me to take the post down. Now I work in a different industry, HSUS could not exert that kind of influence. I didn’t take it down and kept my job. Today a similar incident would simply provide me with tons of material.
Get the word out. People need to find it to read it–use social media. FB is king. Also RSS, twitter. twitter attracts power users. Things can go viral very quickly on FB. FB great for reaching people directly.
PARTICIPATE in FB and twitter communities, not just for self-promotion. Be a regular part of the community. Submit your posts to No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution. If they pick it up, you can get a lot of readers. Some posts have only local interest, though.
Many people are annoyed by email. Google+ has much lower traffic.
Christie Keith–we should all get G+ accounts and post to it at least one a month to keep it active. It improve Google ranking.
Are your posts FB friendly? You get a thumbnail, title, a couple of lines (unless mobile) and it must be compelling or it won’t get shared. You need to control your metadata.
Use pics as much as possible. When you publish your blog matters less than when you announce it on FB and twitter. 9am-6pm M-F is best for social media. If you publish at 3 am, announce during peak hours. Don’t announce on Sunday.
Make it easy for people to share your posts. Sociable makes plugins for sharing on social media.
Post titles–be the New York post, Not the Wall Street Journal.
Example–Anthony Weiner’s image rehab in People
WSJ: Weiner won’t rule out a run
NYP: Weiner shows off his little one
Have a relationship with your readers, but also other writers/bloggers/power users. They can help you with stories, technical issues, sources, tips, etc. Read them, link to them, comment and participate. ALWAYS make time for reporters. Be a source. Give them independently verifiable data. Be a reliable source of information.
I have had 3 reporters come along on rescue pulls with me.
1. Gloria and the ASPCA–story started with photo of cage card “Left at ASPCA Mobil clinic” Why was the wealthy ASPCA bringing animals to NYCACC? They are where lost animals are taken, but a welfare group should have a hard time taking animals there.
Wrote about Gloria and another cat Benny (rescued by ECC) posing question of why she was taken to ACC by ASPCA.. Thought that was the end. Then she was put on kill list. Sent to pull her. Cool to meet her. It was clear something was wrong with her, not just URI, really wrong with her.
X-Ray revealed severe leg fracture. ASPCA knew about this and brought her to NYCACC and told them about fracture. NYCACC did nothing in 3 weeks. 2 medical exams failed to note the fracture. The break was a month old. We had the records to prove it. Continued to write about the case as it unfolded (with permission of Pets Alive, the rescue he pulled her for).
Usually the ASPCA ignores you and never apologizes. Kerry Clair of Pets Alive called her contacts in ASPCA. They were horrified. Uncharacteristically, the ASPCA quickly apologized and said they’d reexamine their policy.
Gloria had to have the leg amputated and was adopted by a friend.
If the ASPCA would apologize and fix things more often, they would get more respect.
2. NYCACC New Computer Rescue System–costly and flawed, leading to animal deaths
An example of needing to protect source–redacted identifying info from screenshots supplied by NYCACC employee
Screenshots showed failure of the system. Picked up by the NY Post and Daily Mail, which needed photos of the animals in question in 45 minutes. Also News 4. A very successful story.
NY has been very dysfunctional for a very long time. Reporters and editors feel the story has been done to death.
This story started with a reader tip, then the employy sent 15 screenshots.
3. Killing the Quick Kill Bill
The ASPCA’s attempt to derail shelter access law in NY
Who reads legislation?
2/10/12 Nathan published a piece detailing the A’s plan to introduce a trojan horse bill in partnership with the Mayor’s Alliance and the Animal Law Coalition
2/11/12 The Quick Kill Bill, promoted by Amy “Quick Kill” Bill is born, complete with cheeky graphic after the Kill Bill movie poster–went viral quickly.
Her FB page was innundated with opposition. 2000:1 opposed. She dug in her heels and would not respond to reason.
Mounted campaign. Loosely organized coalition of people doing their own thing–no one was particularly in charge. There were online and offline components.
In Dog We Trust served as info clearinghouse. Nathan took out newspaper ads which got a huge response. A sticker ended up on Paulin’s office door (with photographic documentation).
Sent postcard mailers to all of her constituents in wealthy Scarsdale–targeting her financial base. This got a big reaction. Cost of postcards $2200. Raised money quickly online.
This was a great example of changing the terms of the debate–reporters, legislators and staff referred to it as the Quick Kill Bill.
Petitions are often useless. People often not targeted correctly. Easy to ignore. Best way to stop something is to flood their office with angry phone calls–must be overwhelming.
Nathan wrote a post about Paulin’s love of pen certificates, urging readers to send her a pen.
Got custom syringe pens with her name on them, and gave them out at an adoption event in her district. She came to the event in an effort to rehab her image.
Met with Kerry Clair and dropped the bill.
Contact info: John Sibley
First, a brief intro by NW: Why do shelters kill? Basically, it cones down to failure. Failure of accountability, failure of care, etc. Shelters blame the public for failure to s-n or failure to be responsible.
At HSUS Expo a few years ago, a national “expert” denied that shelters killed-actually said that they are not killing when the “take their life”, “humanely, destroy” (she could barely get the last word out–NW played a tape of the quote), etc Denial and blame the public underlie the sustained killing paradigm.
We are living the movie Groundhog Day–the story is the same, though the names of people and places change. Wherever there is killing, there are directors who refuse to change, national organizations that defend the killing and the shelter, and ordinary people who need to take up the fight whether they like it or not. The keys are available to everyone. We have known how to do this for over 10 years.
Your info packets have guides to advocacy, No Kill economics and other aspects of No Kill.
Panelists: Kelly Jedlicki of Shelby Co KY No Kill Mission–95%+ save rate for dogs and cats. Larry Tucker from Austin, former Chair of Austin Commission, fought for NK, including the ASPCA. Peter Masloch walked into the Allegheny Co MD Shelter and said “There will be no more killing in the shelter!” One year later they are saving over 90%. Michael kitkoski of Rockwall Pets saw the shelter was not doing it’s job. Did marketing, adoptions, achieving 95%+ save rates.
MK: We are shape-shifters, started as a couple of naive volunteers who wanted to help. Had 501c3. After taking the same few dogs to Petco every week and seeing all the empty cages, he realized they were killing most of the dogs, not even trying. Asked for a month of no killing and he’d take responsibility for failure–96% save rate. Shelter is now privatized (after a fight which the shelter started) and required by contract to be No Kill.
LT: Was chair of Animal Advisory Commission. In TX, cities beyond a certain size are required to have such commissions. Had to ask City Council to expand their scope when.
PM: Founded organization after his famous statement. Didn’t even know about NW when he started, but soon found out. Started NK Allegheny Counted. Organization is growing.
KJ: Took a different approach–saw email pleas as a volunteer. Approached County saying “look what I can do for you”. Rural area NK Mission is small group of about 20 volunteers. The group fills in the gaps not covered by the shelter–spay-neuter, offsites. They are the workhorses and all have full-time jobs.
NW TO MK: The most important thing a shelter can do to stop killing is adoptions, and that is what your group did. How would someone go about doing what you did?
A recent newspaper article said that 74% of people don’t want tax dollars used for killing animals. The shelter was annoyed about our referring adopters to the shelter. We did offsites and increased adoptions. We found a back door.
How did you partner /someone hostile–you did their job and they didn’t appreciate it and even filed harassment suits against you?
They became afraid of us, oddly enough. Afraid of publicity.
NW to LT: Why should everyone create a NK Plan like Austin? How did you get the AA Commission to be NK?
Lightning rod moment was when shelter said feral cats should not be relocated –too stressful, even from a construction site that was going to be blasted!
Shelter Director complained about ads for pet adoption–too many ppl came in to adopt–took too much employee time! I decided to run ads weekly rather than monthly.
Passing a moratorium on empty cage killing was a pivotal moment. Getting the Commission to No kill was a Battle Royale. ASPCA and other pro-kill types wanted seats on the Commission. The council would not utter the term No Kill.
Candidate forums were key. It was a huge fight.
NW to LT; What advice do you have for ppl in an apparently hopeless situation?
Never stop. Have many meetings. Brainstorm. have frequent meetings. Run full-page ads (standby rates) they are expensive but essential. Reject defeat. Change course when necessary. The ASPCA opposition was enormous. NW did a lot of work behind the scenes.
NW: I admit that I like to fight.
LT: ASPCA sent high level speakers to say that NK was a threat to success. We gave shelter director many opportunities to get on board. As she was about to be fired, she finally admitted that NK was working, and that she wanted to quit when the killing moratorium was initially passed.
We had weekly public meetings. We had to prove that it would work. Not just that we thought it would work. had to compile report about places like Reno with NK success (available at City of Austin website).
Once the shelter director was fired, success was immediate.
NW to PM How did you do it? they didn’t just listen to you when you walked in and said the killing must stop.
It was a typical rural shelter–off in the woods, no published stats,l most staff was on leave for some reason or other. What I read about it was against my morals. we told County we could take over operations, naively. Went in back to a small room. Shelter was designed to kill not care for animals. Small room was “euthanasia room”. I decided we didn’t need that. Got rid of that big table to make space for cats, also got rid of office furniture to make room for cats. Who has time to sit anyway? volunteer numbers grew. Had no manager Nov 2012-Apr 2011. Needed to partner with other groups. brought animals to vet, much to vet’s surprise–old shelter never brought animals in.
Community support was great–ppl donated food and cleaning supplies. We did not plan ahead. We kept it going. We did not know how to run a shelter. just cared for the animals.
NW to PM: You had opponents, including thew local Humane Society, and ppl who testified against saving animals at commission meetings. How did you deal with them?
I sat down with the new Commissioner and talked with him about the NKE and what we were trying to do. He said it was great. I didn’t trust him at first, but found that he meant it. I gave 5 min report at the weekly commission meeting. Some ppl did not like that but the commissioners didn’t listen to them. They knew that the public was behind saving animals.
NW to KJ: you work full-time and live in a different county and commute to the shelter. How did you manage to do this?
I started out volunteering for a limited admission HS and getting email pleas. At the county shelter, cats were housed singly unvetted. sick and injured animals were killed. Few animals were rescued. Director held many titles –fire chief, EMS, judge etc-not at shelter.
What to do? Read Redemption, which made sense. Was on HS Board. Approached them with her idea, approached the senior ACO and he skimmed it. Approached Shelter Director with plan. SCNKM would be under HS, would do all the work. Rely on donations. Wouldn’t cost County anything, would improve County image. They wet for it.
Got blindsided at HS Board meeting–they wanted to put SKNKM “on hold” becasue they wanted to build a sanctuary and did not want to compete for funds. I moved to break from the HS–motion approved. What had I done? People stepped up–Tompkins County webmaster built a website, others did other things. Got rid of “blue room”. Office is now mother/baby kitten room. Now lobbying to make one of the bathrooms into animal housing.
What if it isn’t the shelter director that is your problem, what if it is the mayor or some other higher-up?
LT: The movie Schindler’s List comes to mind. Schindler wanted to appear powerful–didn’t yet have agenda of saving lives–made himself known to powerful people. I’d talk to important people–small talk without an agenda and follow up with an email mentioning that I wanted to get on Animal Advisory Commission.
NW In Austin, there was a good cop and a bad cop. Larry was the good cop–offered to get FixAustin and critics off their back.
How do you deal with a nonprofit that is not required by contract but does take in and kill cats? The guy in charge is a national figure.
MK: Look for a back door. Would they let someone pull cats?
KJ: Who donates to them? Do those ppl know what is going on.
LT: Take the Feral Freedom model to the media.
NW: Use paid advertising to get the word out if they aren’t picking up your press releases. you can influence public opinion another way–a “Lover’s List”– people of influence and affluence–clerks, aides, elected officials, local celebrities, movers and shakers. Once or twice a year, send them a short (2 pages max) white paper explaining the situation. Do not ask permission. Do not ask for money. Just send it. Give them something to talk about on the golf links, etc.
What happens when you are getting stonewalled when you try collaboration? When do you start to fight?
MK: use your instincts. At a certain point you will have a community behind you. What we did wrong was have Rockwall Pets do everything. When we criticized, we got backlash. You need someone separate to fight. Austin did it right.
What about LA County?
NW; No Kill LA is a marketing scam–a way to kick the can down the field. It doesn’t take 5 years. it can be frustrating if the kill rate goes down but slowly. NYC is making no progress. Where do you focus your energy? 10 years is not acceptable. What is the day-to-day plan. LA is on its 3rd 5 year plan.
What is you opinion of limited admission shelters?
NW I focus on reforming animal control.
What if you have an incompetent director and volunteers arepersecuted for speaking up?
PM; go to the media.
NW: It is illegal for a shelter to retaliate against volunteers and rescues–it violates your constitutional rights. See the document ‘Section 1983 to the rescue”. You can sue the county and the shelter director as an individual. The Guide in your packet “The NK revolution starts with you” has step-by-step strategies for reforming animal control. The biggest failure in reforming AC is expecting it to be easier than it will be and giving up too soon.
What if your group’s lawyers tell you not to get involved in politics?
NW: You don’t need a group. You have the right to freedom of assembly. You can start a new group, get letterhead, etc. and lobby for change.
Maryland recently had a dangerous BSL ruling. How do you deal with BSL?
PM: We were told we can’t adopt out pit bulls. We are hoping that the House will reverse the ruling.
NW: To each speaker. State one key lesson.
MK: We were stupid and you can only be naive once. It can be a good thing. Please do not keep your mouth shut. We are now consulting with nearby counties and they are saving 80% and improving. Get the ball rolling. IN OUR LIFETIMES, WE WILL BE A NO KILL NATION!
LT: We spent way too much time on collaboration. We thought the ASPCA might come on board, that their leader might have a soul. We didn’t listen to Nathan at first when he said it would be a fight. It was a huge fight.
PM: Never give up. you may become the most hated person in your community, but it is a matter of life and death.
NW; Would you re-create that moment?
PM: (stands) THERE WILL BE NO MORE KILLING IN THE SHELTER!
KJ; One person can make a difference. I never thought that I would do this. You need to toot your horn. Have people out front tooting your horn.
NW: The session is officially over, but the speakers are hostage to your questions.
What if the mayor and city officials take credit for the work of the volunteers and rescues and the media takes their side and they don’t want to be told what to do?
LT: That happened in Austin–ASPCA leader was promoted based on Austin success! Media is different today. A wel-written keyword-optimized press release can be picked up by bloggers.
NW: there is also tabling, lover’s list, etc.
How do you combat lies, like when a shelter claims that it’s 73% kill rate is for “medial reasons”?
LT: Our ordinance defined the medical reasons.
KJ: We tell the public about the animals we treat, and explain to people that you don’t see amputees, ringworm etc at other shelters because they just kill them.
My shelter has no SOP, and I’ve gone over heads to talk to ACO’s supervisors, elected officials to get input into writing SOP, should ACO be able to writ it herself?
NW: Not a conflict of interest to have ACO write manual. There should be public input. An Animal Advisory Commission like Austin would be a good start.
What more can my coalition be doing to advance No Kill?
NW: You need to take the issue to the politicians, hold them accountable for abuses and killing at the shelter. Make it a political issue and get the media interested in the story. If you say the media isn’t interested, you are doing it wrong. They need to sell papers. Scandals sell papers.
Is it better for the shelter to report directly to the mayor or through another department.
PM: It is different in different communities.
NW: I differ. If a shelter is under Health, they will view animals as a health risk. Under Police, dogs are viewed as a public safety risk. Under Sanitation, they are treated like trash. While not a panacea, it is better if they are a separate department.
LT: To project a new image to the public we changed ACO to Animal Protection Officer, changed the logos, etc.
I understand that we need to project a professional image, but some of our group get emotional and make outrageous statements.
NW: Don’t be in that group. Be the rational one. Be the good cop who offers to get the crazies off the officials’ backs.
My hiatus from writing is now officially over and I will soon be off to No Kill Conference 2012 in Washington, DC. This will be my 3rd time attending the conference and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. The conference organizers have dramatically increased the number of available tickets over last year, and last year seemed so much bigger than the year before, with an almost overwhelming level of positive energy. There will be over 800 attendees this year, and I expect that the energy level will be off the charts. Many of the speakers have only been part of the No Kill movement for a few years, some even less than that, but the No Kill movement attracts quick studies with a can-do attitude.
The theme of No Kill Conference 2012 is “Reaching Higher”. No Kill communities save 90% or more of all homeless pets–the ones that fall into the “healthy or treatable” category. Some are expanding the definition of “healthy or treatable” and saving 98-99% of all homeless pets. Conventional animal control kills 50% of all homeless pets, on average. Some kill nearly all of them, including those that people are on their way to rescue, and puppies and kittens (reaching lower?).
I will be blogging from the conference (live-blogging, barring any internet connectivity problems) so that those unable to attend will still be able to learn something from some of the distinguished lineup of speakers. If you are unable to attend, do check out the conference website, this blog, and follow the twitter hashtag #nokill, which attendees will be using to tweet from the conference. Conference organizers will be making a wealth of materials available for free download on the conference website, as they have done in the past, so be on the lookout for that.
This is going to be an exciting and educational weekend, and I look forward to seeing some old friends there, and to meeting some new ones, especially if you are from Georgia or elsewhere in the Southeast.
If you can’t make it to the conference or you are new to the No Kill movement or to this blog, check out the “Best Of” list on the sidebar (especially “I was there”), read Nathan Winograd’s book Redemption, watch the short video “Strayed”, keep up with the movement on Facebook at No Kill Revolution and No Kill Nation and stay tuned…